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AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: MONEY TRUMPS MORALITY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 18, 2018 at 12:03 am

Once again, the self-righteous cry of “American exceptionalism” is being taken up by members of the United States Congress.

That is: Americans prize morality over money in international relationships.

It’s a myth the historical record won’t support.

The reason for the self-righteous outrage: The disappearance of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.  

He had worked in the Saudi embassies in Washington and London, establishing himself as an unofficial spokesman for the Saudi royal family.

His independent streak and empathy for the Western perspective made him a uniquely important, well-liked contact for foreign journalists and diplomats seeking to understand the royal perspective.

Then, in 2017, Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, and quickly consolidated power over the kingdom.

Khashoggi’s independent streak made him unwelcome there, so he moved to Virginia and became a columnist for The Washington Post.  He also became the crown prince’s chief critic in the West. 

On October 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document.

Khashoggi’s marriage had ended under the strain of his voluntary exile from Saudi Arabia. He had since become engaged to a Turkish woman. He thus needed to obtain a document attesting to his divorce from the Saudi authorities so he could remarry in Turkey. The wedding was scheduled for the following day.  

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 Jamal Khashoggi

[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish authorities have released video footage of Khashoggi walking into the consulate; they say there is none of him leaving it. The Saudis insist that he left the consulate safely, but have not offered any evidence to support this claim.

Turkish officials speaking anonymously say their government has detailed evidence to prove the following:

  • That 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on two private jets.
  • The airline company has close ties to the crown prince and Saudi Interior Ministry.
  • The agents waited for Khashoggi inside the consulate and murdered him within two hours of his arrival.
  • The assassins used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s corpse. 

These reports have ignited an explosion of “American exceptionalism” among members of Congress—including Republicans.  

“I believe the Trump administration will do something,” Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio said. “The president has said that. But, if he doesn’t, Congress will. That, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty.” 

And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said: “I think one of the strong things that we can do is not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen led by the Saudis.”

Fueling Republicans’ declared outrage: President Donald Trump’s heated defense of the Saudis—with whom he’s long had a financially profitable relationship. 

“They buy all sorts of my stuff,”‘ Trump said in July 2015. “All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.”

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Donald Trump

Among those “toys”: 

  • In June 2001, he sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million, according to a publicly filed deed for the transaction.
  • In August 2015, two months after he launched his presidential campaign, Trump registered eight limited-liability companies that appeared tied to possible deals in the country, according to public records. All of the companies contained “Jeddah,” the name of a Saudi Arabian port city, in their title. 
  • In 2015, Trump’s daughter Ivanka told Hotelier Middle East, “Dubai is a top priority city for us. We are looking at multiple opportunities in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia, so those are the four areas where we are seeing the most interest. We haven’t made a final decision in any of the markets but we have many very compelling deals in each of them.”

Of course, Trump is now claiming a higher motive for siding with the Saudis. He doesn’t want to scuttle a major defense deal he made with Saudi Arabia in May, 2017:

“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” 

And the next day, Trump said he had spoken with Saudi King Salman: “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. … It sounded to me like these could have been rogue killers, who knows?” 

This is comparable to Trump’s refusal, during his first debate with Hillary Clinton in September, 2016, to admit Russian hacking of the 2016 Democratic National Committee: “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

“Here we go again with you know you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that,” said Trump on October 16.

“We just went through that with [Supreme Court nominee] [Brett] Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Factual note: Although confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Kavanaugh was not proven innocent.  The FBI was not allowed to interview Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of attempted rape 36 years ago. 

THE MYTH OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 17, 2018 at 12:21 am

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

No one should be surprised that Putin came out strongly against an American air strike on Syria.

Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is, after all, a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and  dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

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Putin, of course, is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

He grew up under a Communist dictatorship and clearly wishes to return to that era, saying publicly: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

So it would be unrealistic to expect him to view the current “Syria crisis” the same way that President Barack Obama did.

(A “crisis” for politicians is any event that can be exploited to increase their own status—and thus power. Few politicians really care about the “human rights” of other nations—unless promoting this issue can empower themselves and/or their own nation. 

(President Ronald Reagan, for example, often wailed about the Soviets’ oppression of the Polish union, Solidarity—while firing hundreds of unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike.)

(A “crisis” for the media is any event that can be exploited for higher ratings.)

In his September 11, 2013 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • It was used by “opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

But it was the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Vladimir Putin

This is the belief that the United States is unlike other nations. That it is unlike other nations in its innocence and steadfast dedication to human rights above all else.

Citizens of nations whose governments have been overthrown by the United States—such as Chile, Iran and Nicaragua—and replaced with brutal dictatorships would strongly disagree.

Referring to then-President Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

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President Barack Obama

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”  As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”?  Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa once made an observation that clearly applies to this situation.

Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of meaning, focusing on the relation between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that when a person hears a message, he has four ways of responding to it:

  1. Accept the speaker and his message.
  2. Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  3. Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  4. Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 in the recent case of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

LIES HURT, BUT THE TRUTH HURTS MORE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2018 at 12:45 am

September 11, 2018, marked the 17th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.

Inevitably, this was a time to remember the 3,000 Americans whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it also should have marked a time to remember those who made this atrocity inevitable—by refusing to acknowledge and address the impending threat from Al-Qaeda.

For Republicans, it’s taboo to hold President George W. Bush accountable for this atrocity. That’s why Donald Trump’s daring to note that it happened on Bush’s watch was greeted with a Right-wing outcry.

And Democrats have been too cowardly to state this truth—a major reason for their losing the 2004 Presidential election.

But British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled the arrogance and indifference of those officials in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that during the first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Richard Clarke, the national security adviser on terrorism, was forbidden to brief President Bush, despite the mounting evidence that al-Qaeda was planning to strike.

Richard Clarke 

Even more vexing for Clarke: During his first eight months as President before September 11, Bush was on vacation 42% of the time, according to the Washington Post.

Clarke was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the USS Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States—either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject.  Then she insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” 

Wolfowitz insisted that bin Laden couldn’t carry out his terrorist acts without the aid of a state sponsor—namely, Iraq. Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.  

Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues. 

He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

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Osama bin Laden 

And Clarke added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisers treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending Al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Condoleeza Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Apparently Rice couldn’t imagine such a scenario, because she took no action to prevent it. Nor did she urge anyone else to do so.

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors—and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor.

These are practices the Republican Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

It’s an admission that no other Republican has been willing to make. And it remains an indictment that no Democrat has had the courage to assert.

LIES HURT, BUT TRUTH HURTS MORE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 15, 2018 at 12:12 am

You don’t ever have to frame anybody, because the truth is always sufficient.
–Willie Stark, in All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

When one politician wants to truly hurt another, the weapon of choice is not lies. It’s the truth.

And on October 16, 2015, then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump used that weapon to take down his opponent, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

Trump was being interviewed by Bloomberg TV’s Stephanie Ruhle when she asked: Would you be able to comfort the nation in the event of a mass tragedy like 9/11 or the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut?

And Trump, who always claims to be smarter, tougher and richer than anyone else, had a ready response:  “I think I have a bigger heart than all of them. I think I’m much more competent then all of them.”

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Donald Trump

So far, just what you would expect from Trump. Then:

“I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”

“Hold on,” said Ruhle, “you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

“He was President, okay? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President,” Trump said. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

Three thousand Americans died during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. 

But holding Bush accountable for 9/11 is taboo for Republicans—and avoided by cowardly Democrats.

Whereas Republicans spent four years blaming President Barack Obama for the deaths of four Americans killed in an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Immediately after Trump’s remarks, the Right exploded.

Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, said that no one saw the 9/11 attacks coming and that blaming the former president was a cheap shot.

Speaking on Right-wing Fox Radio, King added: “I think Donald Trump is totally wrong there. That sounds like a Michael Moore talking point.”

And Jeb Bush rushed to his brother’s defense on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”

Of course, “my brother” didn’t keep safe those 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Nor did Jeb mention that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, George W. Bush was on vacation 42% of the time.

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has brutally laid bare the facts of this needless tragedy.

Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his 2010 book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius. 

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first 12 Caesars of Imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy—who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

(Hamilton’s book appeared before Donald Trump reached the Oval Office—and made George W. Bush look like a statesman.)

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.And this arrogance and indifference continued—right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

The only major administration official who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued in the same role under President Bush—but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

These proved to be the officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States. 

After 9/11, they wrapped themselves in the flag and posed as America’s saviors.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”  [Italics added]

 

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2018 at 1:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, wrote that there are three periods of danger in a conspiracy:  

  • Dangers in organizing the plot
  • Dangers in executing the conspiracy
  • Dangers following the execution of the plot.   

The first two were covered in Part Two of this series.  Now, as to the third:

Dangers following the Execution of the Conspiracy: There is really but one—someone is left who will avenge the murdered prince. These can be brothers, sons or other relatives, who have been spared by negligence or for other reasons. 

But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, the most certain and fearful is the attachment of the people to the murdered prince. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. 

An example of this occurred in the case of Julius Caesar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them.  

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Julius Caesar 

Machiavelli closes his chapter “Of Conspiracies” with advice to rulers on how they should act when they find a conspiracy has been formed against them.  

If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, strive to learn its nature and extent. And they must measure the danger posed by the conspirators against their own strength.

And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have amassed sufficient force to crush it. Otherwise, they will only speed their own destruction. They should try to pretend ignorance of it. If the conspirators find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

The foregoing was taken from Book Three, Chapter Six, of Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses on Livy, which was published posthumously in 1531. But elsewhere in this volume, he notes how important it is for rulers to make themselves loved—or at least respected—by their fellow citizens: 

Note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to her laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course. 

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Marcus Auelius did not require the Praetorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate.

On the other hand, neither the Eastern nor the Western armies saved Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and so many other wicked Emperors from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.  

In his better-known work, The Prince, he warns rulers who—like Donald Trump–are inclined to rule by fear:

A prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.

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Donald Trump

* * * * *

If Trump is aware of Machiavelli’s warnings, he has shown no signs of it.

Most Presidents have sought to make themselves seem friendly and caring toward their fellow Americans.

This held true even for Richard M. Nixon, when he made an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial and engaged in a rambling dialogue with Vietnam war protesters. 

The encounter happened around 4 a.m. on May 9, 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia. Nationwide outrage had exploded on college campuses, climaxing in the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4.  

So young Vietnam antiwar protesters who had descended on Washington, D.C. were startled when Nixon suddenly appeared in their midst.

Even more startling: He had come with only a small number of Secret Service agents and his devoted White House valet, Manolo Sanchez.

Nixon, in his awkward way of trying to establish rapport, asked some of the students where they were from. When they said they attended Syracuse University, Nixon replied that it had a great football team.  

But Nixon and the protesters were separated by too many differences–in their views on sexuality, civil rights, dissent and war—to find common cause.

Still, Nixon at least made an effort to understand and reach an accommodation with his critics.

Since taking office on January 20, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Held a series of “victory rallies” with his Right-wing followers—which comedian Bill Mahrer calls “hillbilly Nurembergs.” 
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges who struck down his travel ban on Muslims.
  • Called the nation’s most prestigious news media “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Slandered truthful stories about his staffers’ ties to Russian Intelligence agents as “fake news.”
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 45% of Americans approving of his performance—while 52% disapprove. 

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy: “When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2018 at 12:19 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

For conspirators, there are three ways their efforts can be foiled:

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may—through courage and stubbornness—be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all. For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone 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. 

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

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

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Adolf Hitler

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

But that evening he 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.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2018 at 12:01 am

In the 1973 movie, The Day of the Jackal, a methodical assassin devises an ingenious plan to kill French President Charles de Gaulle.  

Despite the best efforts of French security forces to entrap him, he eludes them time and again—and comes within an ace of assassinating de Gaulle.

Day of the Jackal 1973 Poster.jpg

The Day of the Jackal is fiction, based on a 1971 novel by Frederick Forsythe. In real life, most would-be political assassins lack the skills and sophistication of Forsythe’s anti-hero.

Take the case of the man who, on March 18, 2017, jumped over a bicycle rack outside the security perimeter of the White House. Within two minutes, agents of the U.S. Secret Service had tackled and arrested him.

Then, hours later, a motorist drove up to a White House checkpoint and claimed to have a bomb. Secret Service agents immediately arrested him and seized the stolen 2017 Chevrolet Impala. After a careful search, no explosives were found.

Both men will face criminal prosecution—and probably years in prison.

Even if they had been armed, President Donald J. Trump would not have faced any danger.

For the fifth time since taking office on January 20, he was in Florida, vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

That does not mean, of course, that future assassins will prove so inept.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, offered sound advice for would-be conspirators—and for rulers seeking to thwart conspiracies.

Niccolo Machiavellil

Niccolo Machiavelli: When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing the prince is widely loathed. 

A prince, then, should avoid incurring such universal hatred….

By doing this, he protects himself from such vengeance-seekers. There are two reasons for this:

(1) Men rarely risk danger to avenge a wrong; and

(2) Even if they want to avenge a wrong, they know they will face almost universal condemnation because the prince is held in such high esteem.  

So much for Machiavelli.  

Now consider some of the tweets of “White House Staffer,” a self-proclaimed member of the Trump administration who claims 160,000 Twitter followers.

Since January 27, 2017, he has blasted a series of short, information-crammed tweets about daily life in the Executive Mansion.  

[NOTE: Although I can’t confirm the legitimacy of his status or his tweets, I believe they are real. They contain too many small, intimate secrets of life in a paranoia-laced White House to not be genuine.]  

March 1, 2017: Well the good times didn’t last long here. POTUS is back to flipping out on us.

March 13: POTUS [President of the United States] is thinking about suspending daily press briefings until the media “learn to be nice.” [Steve] Bannon [a top Trump adviser] is pushing for it.

March 16: Sean Hannity was asked to be Press Secretary last week. He turned it down because he didn’t want to take the pay cut. [Sean] Spicer survives.

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

Niccolo Machiavelli: He who is threatened, and decides to avenge himself on the prince, becomes a truly dangerous man.

Anger is most likely aroused by injury to a a man’s property or honor. A prince should carefully avoid injuring either, for such a victim will always desire vengeance.  

White House Staffer – February 25, 2017: The President keeps saying we’re a finely tuned machine. If that’s true why has he been fricking screaming at us all week? He’s losing it.

February 27: [Steve] Bannon is the scariest person here. He’s broken so much White House stuff by throwing it in anger. Plates, phones, chairs, etc.

February 27: It’s one thing to swear but [Steve] Bannon does it in front of the women here. C**t this, c**t that. He can’t finish a sentence without it.  

Machiavelli draws a distinction between plots and conspiracies. A plot may be formed by a single individual or by many. The first isn’t a conspiracy, since that would involve at least two participants.  

A single plotter avoids the danger faced by two or more conspirators: Since no one knows his intention, he can’t be betrayed by an accomplice.  

Anyone may form a plot, whether he is prominent or insignificant, because everyone is at some time allowed to speak to the prince. And he can use this opportunity to satisfy his desire for revenge.    

On the other hand, says Machiavelli, the dangers of assassination by a trusted intimate are slight: Few people dare to assault a prince. Of those who do, few or none escapes being killed in the attempt, or immediately afterward. As a result, only a small number of people are willing to incur such certain death.  

Those who take part in a conspiracy against a ruler are “the great men of the state, or those on terms of familiar intercourse with the prince.”

These are men who have access to him. Julius Caesar, for example, was stabbed to death by members of the Roman Senate, who feared his assuming dictatorial powers.

And Adolf Hitler was conspired against by colonels and generals of the German Army. He was in fact holding a war conference when a briefcase bomb exploded, killing three officers and a stenographer, but leaving Hitler only slightly injured.

THE GOOD GUN MAKES US WHAT WE ARE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Eight days later, on February 22, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, attacked those he held responsible for the series of massacres plaguing American schools.

Image result for Images of Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre

And it wasn’t crazed gunmen armed with automatic weapons designed for military use. 

With funerals still being planned for some of the victims, LaPierre blamed “the elites,” “saboteurs” and “new European-style socialists” for this and other gun massacres.

He did so at the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment,” said LaPierre, like an Old Testament prophet addressing his fanatical congregation.

“They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they have also revealed…their true selves.

“The elites do not care about America’s schoolchildren. If they truly cared, they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. 

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

His C-PAC congregation gave him a wild ovation. 

He then outlined his solution for protecting America’s schoolchildren: Turning schools into virtual concentration camps patrolled by heavily-armed security guards. 

And he accused the Democratic party of being “infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it.”

These “saboteurs” were “new European-style socialists.”

Which was ironic: In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump—who fiercely defends Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, NSA and CIA.

But perhaps the highlight of LaPierre’s speech came at its close: “And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.

“It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Anyone who’s seen the 1970 sci-fi movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, remembers the final scene: Where seemingly normal underground dwellers strip off their human face masks and reveal themselves to be radiation-scarred mutants.

They wear white robes, and stand silently during a sermon or shout “Amen!” in what is clearly a dark parody of a religious service. It’s immediately clear what they are worshiping: An atomic bomb standing upright.

Image result for Images of bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

And they pay tribute to the engine of obliteration that has destroyed human civilization and brought about a world ruled by apes.

Their leader, Mendez, chants:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. 

“His sound has gone out to all lands, and his light unto the end of the world.

“Almighty and everlasting Bomb, who came down among us to make Heaven under Earth. Lighten our darkness. O instrument of God—grant us thy peace!”

Reading Wayne LaPierre’s eulogy to the Gun and his passionate invoking of God, it’s easy to re-imagine his giving a slightly altered version of the sermon offered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s also easy to imagine this taking place during an NRA convention.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The heavens declare the glory of the Gun. And the body-count showeth His handiwork.

NRA CONGREGATION: His sound is gone out to all lands; and his Light unto the end of the world.

WAYNE LAPIEREE: He descendeth from the outermost part of Heaven; and there is nothing hid from the lead thereof. There is neither speech nor language after His voice is heard among them.

NRA CONGREGATION: Praise Him! Praise Him! My Strength and my Redeemer!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Glory be to the Gun, and to the Holy Bodycount! As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, massacres without end. Amen!

NRA CHORUS: Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Almighty and everlasting Gun, who came down among us to make Heaven unto Earth. Lighten our darkness with your muzzle flashes. O instrument of God, grant us They peace.

NRA CHOIR: Almighty Gun, who destroyed all men—to create corpses! Behold His glory!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Behold that Truth that abides in us. To reveal that Truth unto that Maker.

WAYNE LAPIERRE AND NRA CONGREGATION:  I reveal my inmost self unto my God.

NRA CHORUS (singing): Unto my God!

NRA CONGREGATION (singing):

All guns bright and beautiful. All creatures dead with lead.

The good Gun makes us what we are!

He takes out eyes to see with, and lips that might yet speak. How great the Gun Almighty, who has made all things dead. Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: May the Blessing of the Gun Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Bodycount descend on us all, this night and forevermore! 

* * * * * *  

In 2012, a psychotic gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, at least 1,862 mass shootings have erupted nationwide,with at least 2,071 killed and 7,852 wounded.

WHY RIGHT-WINGERS HATE ABORTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2018 at 8:43 am

Republicans—at state and Federal levels—hate welfare for mothers too poor to support their families. But they love fetuses.

And to make sure there are plenty of them available, Republicans have launched an all-out war against a woman’s right to abortion—and even birth control.

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism? Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag. 

Every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc. And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women. 

They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control—or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do. They see this as a personal rejection. Perhaps it reminds many of them of their own failures in romance/marriage.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males. And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban. 

They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe. 

Third, many “pro-life” fetus fanatics hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.

Their attitude is: “She shouldn’t have had a child if she couldn’t support it.”

Fourth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites. 

For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.  He also agreed that his wife should have two abortions.

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do. And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fifth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions—especially if these resulted in pregnancy. 

And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did. Some of these people are well-intentioned.

Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others—regardless of what those people may need or want.

Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals. 

On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.” That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman. That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion—even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy. 

This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor—here or abroad—to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.” 

They totally oppose abortion under most—if not all—circumstances.  But they also fully support: 

  • Making military-style assault weapons available to the mentally ill.
  • Capital punishment.
  • Going to war for almost any reason.
  • Wholesale massacres of wildlife.
  • Despoiling of the environment; and 
  • Even nuclear war.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.” For fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses. Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have the right to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians. They condemn Muslims—such as those in Saudi Arabia—for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors (black veils) or burqas (garments which cover a woman’s body from head to foot).

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while evangelical Christians condemn Islamics for their fanatical intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches. Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. 

Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” A man should have the right to make a woman pregnant, but she should be powerless to prevent it. 

* * * * *

It’s time to face the blunt truth: A “Conservative Victory,” as Sean Hannity put it, would impose an anti-women Taliban on America.

Thus, a woman who seeks to control her own destiny would be insane to vote for a Right-wing candidate. Just as it would have been insane for a Jewish citizen to give his vote—and his life—to Adolf Hitler.

THE REALITY OF REAL ID

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2018 at 12:11 am

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States got more complicated. But not necessarily safer.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security. And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope? The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

But, as one New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license. A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”  

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer. 

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

What passengers didn’t know was that the Guardsmen carried unloaded assault rifles.

Consider this advice posted on the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles website:

“A valid California driver license or ID card can be used for federal purposes, including boarding a domestic flight and entering military bases or secure federal facilities, until October 1, 2020. After that date, only a REAL ID card or other federally approved documents will be accepted, such as a valid U.S. passport, passport card or military ID.”  

To apply for a REAL ID card:

  • Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a DMV field office.
  • Provide proof of identity, such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.
  • Present proof of your Social Security number, such as an SSN card, W-2 or paystub with full SSN.
  • Show a California residency document, such as a rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill or employment, medical or school document.
  • An original or certified copy of a name change document, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may be required.

How does showing a “utility bill” document prove your integrity? 

No doubt Mohammed Atta—the ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks—faithfully paid his utility bills—right up to the day when he highjacked American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

And what does a “school document” reveal about the character of the person? 

That s/he attended school? So what? 

Theodore Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington—before embarking on his career as a burglar, kidnapper, rapist and serial killer.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this security theater ritual assume: “The guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522. 

Not exactly a salary geared to attract “the best and the brightest,” is it?

Or suppose you want to report a crime to a field office of the FBI. 

A secretary asks why you’ve come.

If she considers your reason legitimate, she requires you to show your driver’s license or State ID card. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then you must fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your: 

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Reason to speak with an FBI agent

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But demanding so much private information just to report a crime will almost certainly decrease the number of people willing to do so.

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