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Posts Tagged ‘NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics on February 8, 2016 at 12:15 am

On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department announced a major change in the application of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly known as “Obamacare”:  

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively…We have listened to your feedback.  And we are taking action.  

“The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin.” 

[Boldface in the original document.]  

In short: The administration allowed employers an additional year to refuse providing healthcare to their employees–or to face fines for not doing so.  

And how did Obama’s self-declared enemies react to this effort at compromise?

On July 30, 2013, House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against the President–for failing to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement.

“That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

John Boehner

Thus, Boehner intended to sue the President to enforce the law that the House had voted 54 times to repeal, delay or change.

Obama Mistake No. 5: Believing that public and private employers would voluntarily comply with the law.  

The ACA requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week. Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and have thus limited part-time workers’ hours to 29 per week instead.  

Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give [employees] health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with The New York Times.  
  • Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.  
  • In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period.  

President Obama and those who crafted the Act may have been surprised at what happened.  But they shouldn’t have been.

Greed-addicted officials will always seek ways to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it. And what goes for public employers goes for private ones, too.

The Act doesn’t penalize a company for failing to provide health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.  

The result was predictable. And its consequences are daily becoming more clear:

  • Increasing numbers of employers are moving fulltime workers into part-time positions; 
  • Refusing to provide their employees with medical insurance; and
  • Avoiding fines for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:

  • The prices of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • He will pass along these costs to his customers.  

 John Schnatter

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” he told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”  

If President Obama were truly a student of Realpolitick, he would have predicted that most businesses would try to avoid compliance with the ACA.  

And the remedy would have been simple: Require all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.  

This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.  

The reason: Employers would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”  

If the President ever considered the merits of this, he decided against pressing for such a requirement.

Obama is one of the most rational and educated men to occupy the White House. So why did he fail to expect the worst in people–especially his self-declared enemies–and arrange to counter it?

Niccolo Machiavelli provides a shrewd insight into the repeated failures of the Obama Presidency.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Writing in The Prince, his classic work on the realities of politics, Machiavelli states:

…He is happy whose mode of procedure accords with the needs of the times, and similarly, he is unfortunate whose mode of procedure is opposed to the times….

If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of this procedure. 

Put another way: A conciliator will prosper so long as he works with others willing to compromise. But facing uncompromising fanatics, he will be defeated–unless he can exchange conciliation for confrontation. 

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 5, 2016 at 12:08 am

President Barack Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.  

But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction. At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved or feared, or feared more than love. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain.  

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote.  But when it approaches, they revolt….

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

Moreover, Machiavelli warns that even a well-intentioned leader can unintentionally bring on catastrophe.

This usually happens when, hoping to avoid conflict, he allows a threat to go unchecked.  Thus:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary, for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

For Obama, such a moment came in 2011, when House Republicans threatened to to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless the President agreed to scrap Obamacare.  

Obama, a former attorney, heatedly denounced House Republicans for “extortion” and “blackmail.”  

Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys. Among those crimes: Extortion. 

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.” 

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” 

And if President Obama believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11. 

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism. Among the behavior that is defined as criminal: 

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were legally in place.  President Obama could have directed the Justice Department to apply them.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed–and then prosecutions. The results of such action could be easily predicted:

  • Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would have first had to lawyer-up.
  • This would have imposed huge monetary costs on them, since good criminal attorneys don’t come cheap.  
  • Obsessed with their personal survival, they would have had little time to engage in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would have only made their convictions more likely.
  • Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have feared; “I could be next.” This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.  
  • The effect on Right-wing Republicans would have been the same as that of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers: “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”

It would no doubt have been a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–at least, while Obama held office.  

So: Why didn’t President Obama act to punish such criminal conduct?

Obama Mistake No. 4: He allowed himself to be cowed by his enemies.

In The Prince, Machiavelli laid out the qualities that a successful ruler must possess. There were some to be cultivated, and others to be avoided at all costs. For example:

Niccolo Machiavelli

He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute–which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger….  

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude. As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.  

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 4, 2016 at 12:10 am

One of the major differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton lies in their views about what should be the future of “Obamacare.”  

Sanders, the longtime independent Senator from Vermont, wants to scrap The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a single-payer plan.  

Clinton, the former Secretary of State, wants to make “incremental” changes in the Act.  

The Sanders plan promises greater simplicity and comprehensiveness in providing benefits to those millions of Americans who previously could not obtain medical insurance.  

The Clinton approach promises to keep the best features of “Obamacare” and improve those that need changing.  

But neither Sanders nor Clinton has directly addressed certain unpalatable truths about the ACA.  

These stem not from any intended evil on the part of its chief sponsor, President Barack Obama. Instead, they spring from his idealistic belief that reasonable men could always reach a compromise.  

As a result, much of the Act remains seriously flawed. Here are the six reasons why.  

Barack Obama is easily one of the most highly educated Presidents in United States history. He is a graduate of Columbia University (B.A. in political science in 1983).  

In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude–“with great honor”–in 1991.  

He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year.

President Barack Obama

He then taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years–as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004.  

So where did he go wrong? Several ways:

Obama Mistake No. 1: Putting off what people wanted while concentrating on what they didn’t.

Obama started off well when he took office. Americans had high expectations of him. This was partly due to his being the first black to be elected President.

And it was partly due to the disastrous legacies of needless war and financial catastrophe left by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama entered office intending to reform the American healthcare system, to make medical care available to all citizens, and not just the richest.  But that was not what the vast majority of Americans wanted him to concentrate his energies on.  

With the lost of 2.6 million jobs in 2008, Americans wanted Obama to find new ways to create jobs. This was especially true for the 11.1 million unemployed, or those employed only part-time.  

Jonathan Alter, who writes sympathetically about the President in The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, candidly states this.  

But Obama chose to spend most of his first year as President pushing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–which would soon become known as Obamacare–through Congress.  

The results were:

  • Those desperately seeking employment felt the President didn’t care about them.  
  • The reform effort became a lightning rod for Right-wing groups like the Koch-brothers-financed Tea Party.  
  • In 2010, a massive Rightist turnout cost the Democrats the House of Representatives, and threatened Democratic control of the Senate.  

Obama Mistake No. 2: He underestimated the amount of opposition he would face to the ACA.

For all of Obama’s academic brilliance and supposed ruthlessness as a “Chicago politician,” he displayed an incredible naivety in dealing with his political opposition.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the Florentine statesman and father of modern politics, could have warned him of the consequences of this–through the pages of The Prince, his infamous treatise on the realities of politics.

Niccolo Machiavelli

And either Obama skipped those chapters or ignored their timeless advice for political leaders.

He should have started with Chapter Six: “Of New Dominions Which Have Been Acquired By One’s Own Arms and Ability”:

…There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.  

For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.  

This proved exactly the case with the proposed Affordable Care Act.

Its supporters–even when they comprised a majority of the Congress–have always shown far less fervor than its opponents.  

This was true before the Act became effective on March 23, 2010. And it has remained true since, with House Republicans voting more than 60 times to repeal, delay or revise the law.  

So before President Obama launched his signature effort to reform the American medical system, he should have taken this truism into account.  

Obama Mistake No. 3: Failing to consider–and punish–the venom of his political enemies.  

The ancient Greeks used to say: “A man’s character is his fate.”  It is Obama’s character–and America’s fate–that he is by nature a man of conciliation, not conflict.  

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his 2009 book, Renegade: The Making of a President. He noted that Obama was always more comfortable when responding to Republican attacks on his character than he was in making attacks on his enemies.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S SAVIOR: THE NRA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 at 12:26 am

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

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

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

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

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

Wayne LaPierre by Gage Skidmore 2 (cropped).jpg

Wayne LaPierre

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

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

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

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

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

Without knowing it, Wayne LaPierre came up with a solution to the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics.

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

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

The latest of these attacks came on November 27, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. An anti-abortionist shot and killed a police officer and two civilians.  An additional five police officers and four civilians were injured.

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

Image result for Images of Robert Lewis Dear

Robert Lewis Dear, Jr.

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

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

“The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves.

Joann Windholz.jpg

Rep. JoAnn Windholz 

“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. [Italics added.]

“Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: YOU STOP THE VIOLENCE INSIDE YOUR WALLS.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

By doing so, Planned Parenthood would be following the example set by New York City after 9/11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 2, 2015 at 12:17 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

But two setbacks prevented the conspirators from succeeding.

First, Hitler survived the bomb blast.

Second, the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed.  Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.  Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians–who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945–could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance or disappearance of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald August 19 (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump

Since declaring his candidacy for the Presidency on June 16, Trump has been the first choice among the Republican base.

At first, he was dismissed as a bad joke–by Republican Presidential candidates as well as Democrats.

Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

Yet from the outset Trump dominated the field–and a series of Republican debates. The other Republican candidates watched him with envy–and desperately tried to steal some of his limelight.

Making made one inflammatory statement after another, he offended one group of potential voters after another.  Among those groups:

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delighted his white, under-educated followers. But they alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

While some of those offended are unlikely to respond with violence, others have powerful motives–and means–for doing so. Among those groups–and the insults Trump has leveled at them:

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Illegal aliens: Trump has threatened to forcibly deport millions of mostly Mexican and Central American residents.
  • Blacks: At a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama, he was interrupted by black activist Mercutio Southall, who repeatedly shouted: “Black lives matter!” Trump ordered his removal, and several of his supporters beat and kicked Southall. Later, Trump said: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
  • Trump retweeted an image of a masked, dark-skinned man with a handgun and a series of alleged crime statistics, including: “Blacks killed by whites – 2%”; “Whites killed by blacks – 81%.”  The image cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco”–an agency that doesn’t exist.
  • Muslims: Trump has boasted he would revive waterboarding of terrorist suspects. He would require Muslims to register with the Federal Government. And he would close “some mosques” if he felt they were being used by Islamic terrorists.
  • Islamic terrorists: Trump has bragged that he would “bomb the hell” out of oilfields controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): “I would absolutely cut off their source of wealth, which is the oil.”
  • Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman:  Referring to the Mexican drug lord in a tweet, Trump wrote: “Trump…would kick his ass!” Trump hurriedly called the FBI after he received a death threat from a Twitter account associated with Guzman.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warned against hurling threats and insults: “For neither the one nor the other…diminishes the strength of the enemy.

Niccolo Machiavelli

“[Threats make] him more cautious, and [insults increase] his hatred of you, and [make] him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

But Trump revels in insulting anyone who dares to challenge him.

In 1935, Louisiana U.S. Senator Huey Long intended to occupy the White House in 1936 and unseat then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  His “Share Our Wealth” program was hugely popular among millions in Depression-era America.

On September 8, 1935, he was shot and fatally wounded by Carl Austin Weiss, an idealistic young doctor.

His motive: Long had gerrymandered Weiss’ father-in-law, a district judge, out of his district and spread vicious rumors about his ancestry.

Writing about Long’s assassination, historian William Manchester noted: “Huey Long was one of the very few men of whom it can be said that, had he lived, American history would have been dramatically different.”

If the same fate removes Donald Trump from the 2016 Presidential race, future historians may write the same about him.

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 1, 2015 at 12:01 am

On July 20, 1944, a one-eyed, one-armed man tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).  And he had been seriously wounded in its service.

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a foothold in Germany.

But Stauffenberg wanted him dead: A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?

Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel.

Adolf Hitler

But his single greatest protection–he claimed–was an instinct for danger.  He would often suddenly change his schedule–to drop in  where he was least expected.  Or to suddenly depart an event where he was scheduled to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life.  He had been set to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers.

Sixteen years earlier on that day, in 1923, Hitler had led them in a disastrous attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government.  Police had put down the effort, killing and wounding about a score of storm troopers in the process.

Hitler himself had later been arrested, tried and convicted for treason–and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

But instead of proving to be the end of Nazism, the “Beer Hall Putsch” turned Hitler into a national celebrity.  And it launched his career as a legitimate, ultimately successful politician.

So Hitler was expected to speak to his longtime supporters for a long time that evening. Instead, he suddenly cut short his speech and left the beer hall.

Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar–before which Hitler had been speaking.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler.  All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode.  In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off.  He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg.  He would carry his bomb–hidden in a briefcase–into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb–also rigged with a time-fuse–would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup–“Operation Valkyrie”–would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans–both Nazi and anti-Nazi–knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it–appropriately enough–“Wolf’s Lair.”

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session.  He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler–who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table.

Then Stauffenberg excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted.

But the Third Reich didn’t come to an end–because, as if miraculously, Hitler had survived.

Hitler shows off the site of the explosion

What had happened?

First, the conference location had been changed–from a wooden building to a concrete one.  The concrete absorbed much of the blast.

Second, owing to the summer’s heat, Hitler had ordered all the windows–about ten–opened to let in a breeze.  This allowed much of the force of the blast to be dispersed.

Third, and perhaps most important: Stauffenberg had carefully placed his briefcase near Hitler, who was standing next to a heavy oaken support of the conference table.

But after Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, who stood next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs.  So he moved it–to the other side of the heavy oaken support.

When the bomb exploded, Hitler was partially shielded from its full blast.  Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2015 at 12:03 am

The ad opens with ominous music–and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.”

The voice belongs to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force–and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

It’s a video produced by the 2016 Presidential campaign for John Kasich. Kasich, the governor of Ohio, has been peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.

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John Kasich

But he remains far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month–from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, is backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich has decided to take off the gloves.  He’s invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continues Moe.

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one.

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one.

“And you might not care of Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this:

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you.  And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”

Click here: Trump’s Dangerous Rhetoric – YouTube

The above is indeed a paraphrase of a famous quote by Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984), a prominent Protestant pastor. Although he had been a U-boat commander during World War 1, he became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union. But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom.

Martin Niemöller (1952).jpg

Martin Niemoeller

For his opposition to the Third Reich, Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps. With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed–and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947.

During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But Trump is furious.

“I will sue him [Kasich] just for fun,” said Trump, if he can find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

So says the man who has called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and born outside the United States.

The Kasich ad is by far the darkest attack so far made against Trump by any candidate–Republican or Democrat.  And it raises a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump is America’s Adolf Hitler, who will be its Claus von Stauffenberg?

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943 when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world–and they feared the worst.  This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg–more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “1,000 year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans–even members of the Wehrmacht–were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

For Stauffenberg, arresting Hitler wasn’t enough.

Stauffenberg wanted him dead. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?

JAMES BOND VS. REAL SPYING

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm

James Bond, the legendary creation of novelist Ian Fleming, routinely bedded femme fatales–and sometimes killed them. But he never faced indictment for romancing them.

That’s the difference between Bond and real-world spying.

And David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, should have known this better than anyone.

Movie poster for Thunderball (1965)

In January 2015, the FBI and Justice Department decided to bring criminal charges against Petraeus for sharing–as CIA director–classified information with his then-mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.

FBI agents found classified information on a personal computer Broadwell used–and determined that Petraeus had supplied it.

As an Army General, Petraeus had successfully led U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and was thought to be a potential candidate for president.

In 2011, he won appointment to CIA director–which ended abruptly in 2012 with the revelation of his extramarital affair with Broadwell.

Petraeus is one of the most highly educated men in the United States:

  • Alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–graduating among the top 5% of his 1974 class.
  • Earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
  • Served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy

David Petraeus

And Paula Broadwell is one of the most highly educated women in the United States:

  • Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1995, majoring in political geography.
  • Earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies in 2006.
  • Earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.

In addition, Petraeus, as director of the CIA, knew the importance of secrecy in keeping clandestine affairs (military and personal) out of sight.

So did Broadwell, having earned a reputation as an expert on counter-terrorism.

Paula Broadwell

Yet they both violated the most basic rules of security.

They exchanged emails using a cyber trick known to both terrorists and teenagers: Sharing a private email account, or “dropbox.”

In this they composed drafts to each other in order not to directly transmit messages to one another.  Each could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there.

By doing so, they flagrantly left a cyber-trail of their infidelities. (Broadwell was also married.)

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, who warned: If you don’t want it known, don’t write it down.

More than 500 years ago, in his masterwork, The Discourses, he warned:

Niccolo Machiavelli

…You may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting….

Nor were Petraeus and Broadwell the only ones guilty of thumbing their noses at this most basic of precautions.

General John Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, exchanged thousands of emails  with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite.

Although charged with directing American military efforts against the Taliban, Allen found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 pages’ worth of emails with Kelley between 2010 and 2012.

The scandal began when Kelley began receiving harassing emails from an unidentified woman.  So she complained to the FBI.

The emails allegedly came from Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was trying to move in on “her man”–Petraeus. Apparently, Broadwell didn’t feel similarly threatened by Holly, Petraeus’ wife.)

The FBI investigation ultimately led to the discovery of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair.

There are several lessons to be learned from this behavior by Petraeus, Broadwell, Allen and Kelley:

  • They believed they were so privileged–by education, status and/or wealth–that conventional rules of morality didn’t apply to them.
  • They believed they were so clever they could violate the most basic rule of security and common sense–and get away with  it.
  • They were so caught up in their illicit passions that they threw caution to the winds.
  • David Petraeus, a highly disciplined man, clearly expected Paula Broadwell to behave in a similarly disciplined manner–and do nothing to compromise their lives.
  • Petraeus felt so confident about the secrecy of his affair he had his wife and mistress present when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011 to become CIA director.

General David Petraeus’ CIA confirmation hearings. His wife, Holly (in white) and mistress, Paula Broadwell (in black).

  • Petraeus didn’t imagine that Broadwell suspected another of his admirers–Jill Kelley–of having romantic designs on him.
  • And he was utterly surprised when her harassing emails to Kelley led the FBI to uncover his illicit relationship.

In March, 2015, Petraeus agreed to plead guilty in federal court to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.  On April 23, 2015, a federal judge sentenced Petraeus to two years’ probation plus a fine of $100,000

Thus does hubris meet its punishment in Nemesis.

SHUT DOWN THE BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Fascism is a lie told by bullies.
–Ernest Hemingway

In 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless their budgetary demands were met.

Yet President Barack Obama could have ended that threat via the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Had he done so, he would have prevented the 2013 shutdown of the Federal Government over Republican demands that he de-fund “Obamacare.”

He would have also pre-empted current Republican demands to shut down the Government over continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

Passed by Congress in 1970, as Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968, the goal of the RICO Act was to destroy the Mafia.

Originally, RICO was aimed at the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates.  But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied as well to legitimate enterprises being operated in a criminal manner.

After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.”

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with Republicans’ extortion attempts, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were now legally in place.  President Obama needed only to  direct the Justice Department to apply them.

  • President Obama could have directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether actions by Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—broke Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.
  • Holder, in turn, could have ordered the FBI to conduct that investigation.
  • If the FBI found sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder could have empaneled criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Criminally investigating and possibly indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

In short: Obama could have replaced the law of fear with the rule of law.

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most dangerous crisis of his administration.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis–most notably, a blockade of Cuba.  Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience:

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party–by explaining to the American people:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call for action by the American people:

“We stand on the edge of economic disaster.  Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide–whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: President Obama had to choose between timidity and confrontation.

He chose timidity.

He would get contempt and obstruction at every turn.

FICTION AS REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 8, 2015 at 12:15 am

On August 17, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump outlined his strategy for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He would order American forces to take over the oil fields that ISIS has seized in Iraq.

Trump outlined his plans for future military operations against ISIS on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd.

Trump said he never advocated a U.S. war with Iraq, but it happened, and “it was a big mistake” because it “destabilized” the Middle East.

“Now we’re there, and you have ISIS….And ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil in certain areas of Iraq.

“And I said, you take away their wealth. You go and knock the hell out of the oil. Take back the oil. We take over the oil, which we should have done in the first place.”

After taking over the Iraqi oil fields, said Trump, “we’re going to have so much money.

“And what I would do with the money that we make, which would be tremendous, I would take care of the soldiers that were killed, the families of the soldiers that were killed, the soldiers, the wounded warriors that are–see, I love them.”

Actually, Trump’s idea forms the plot of The Profession, a 2011 novel by bestselling author Steven Pressfield.

The Profession

Pressfield made his literary reputation with a series of classic novels about ancient Greece.

In Gates of Fire (1998) he explored the rigors and heroism of Spartan society–and the famous last stand of its 300 picked warriors at Thermopylae.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he entered the mind of Alexander the Great, whose armies swept across the known world, destroying all who dared oppose them.

Finally, in The Afghan Campaign (2006) Pressfield–this time from the viewpoint of a lowly Greek soldier–refought Alexander’s brutal, three-year anti-guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

But in The Profession, Pressfield created a plausible world set into the future of 2032.  The book’s own dust jacket offers the best summary of its plot-line:

“The third Iran-Iraq war is over. The 11/11 dirty bomb attack on the port of Long Beach, California is receding into memory. Saudi Arabia has recently quelled a coup. Russians and Turks are clashing in the Caspian Basin….

“Everywhere military force is for hire.  Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.

“Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order.

“Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East.’

Salter appears as a hybrid of World War II General Douglas MacArthur and Iraqi War General Stanley McCrystal.

Like MacArthur, Salter has butted heads with his President–and paid dearly for it.  Now his ambition is no less than to become President himself–by popular acclaim.  And like McCrystal, he is a pure warrior who leads from the front and is revered by his men.

Salter seizes Saudi oil fields, then offers them as a gift to America. By doing so, he makes himself the most popular man in the country–and a guaranteed occupant of the White House.

And in 2032 the United States is a far different nation from the one its Founding Fathers created  in 1776.

“Any time that you have the rise of mercenaries…society has entered a twilight era, a time past the zenith of its arc,” says Salter.

“The United States is an empire…but the American people lack the imperial temperament. We’re not legionaries, we’re mechanics.  In the end the American Dream boils down to what? ‘I’m getting mine and the hell with you.’”

Americans, asserts Salter, have come to like mercenaries: “They’ve had enough of sacrificing their sons and daughters in the name of some illusory world order.  They want someone else’s sons and daughters to bear the burden….

“They want their problems to go away.  They want me to to make them go away.”

And so Salter will “accept whatever crown, of paper or gold, that my country wants to press upon me.”

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

 Niccolo Machiavelli

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli issued a warning against relying on men whose first love is their own enrichment.

Steven Pressfield, in a work of fiction, has given us a nightmarish vision of a not-so-distant America where “Name your price” has become the byward for an age.

Both warnings are well worth heeding.

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