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A PRIMER FOR CONSPIRATORS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2017 at 12:35 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.  

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: 

Niccolo Machiavelli

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.

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–like Adolf Hitler addressing his fellow Nazis at Nuremberg. 
  • 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 37% of Americans approving of his performance–while 58% disapprove. 

Trump’s approval rating is lower than that of any other President at this point in his first term in 72 years. Barack Obama’s rating at this point in his Presidency was 60%.  

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.”

A PRIMER FOR CONSPIRATORS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2017 at 12:14 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.  

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. 

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.

A PRIMER FOR CONSPIRATORS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2017 at 12:08 pm

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, 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 133,000 Twitter followers.

Since January 27, 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.]  

White House Staffer: 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.

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

Donald Trump official portrait.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 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.  

February 25: 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.

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.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 15, 2017 at 12:22 am

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year. 

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its funding would expire on February 27, 2015.

With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force President Barack Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

Finally, just as DHS’ funding was about to expire, House Republicans capitulated. They approved a bill the Senate passed to fund DHS without any added conditions. 

In 2009, the top goal of the Republican party became to block passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–informally known as “Obamacare.”  Its purpose: To provide all Americans–and not simply the richest 1%–with healthcare insurance.  

Despite this opposition, the ACA passed the House and Senate–and was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. 

And from then on, Republicans’ foremost goal was to repeal “Obamacare”–which they damned as “fiscally irresponsible.” 

In 2003, President George W. Bush had lied the United States into a needless, bloody war in Iraq–which has cost the nation more than $2 trillion.  

But Republicans fully supported that expense–and still do. 

George W. Bush

Even after the Supreme Court affirmed its Constitutionality in 2012, House Republicans voted–unsuccessfully–more than 60 times to repeal or alter “Obamacare.”

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to pressure Obama into de-funding his signature piece of legislation, in return for their re-opening the government.

Facing pressure from voters unable to receive basic government services, Republicans backed down.  

Their attempted putsch had failed.

Fast forward to 2017. 

Republicans still hold the House and Senate–and now the Presidency under Donald J. Trump.

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald J. Trump

And they are mounting an all-out effort to strip millions of poor Americans of their only access to medical care.  

On March 9, Trump met at the White House with leaders of conservative groups to push his own plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

A major provision of this plan will allow insurance companies to adhere only to the regulations of the state they’re located in. The predictable result: The majority of companies will relocate to the state with the most lax regulations.

Intriguingly, Trump–who has put his name on 268 of the 515 entities he owns–has said he does not want the “Obamacare” replacement plan named after him.

It’s possible he fears it will prove highly unpopular–and that he will be stained by its infamy.

Nevertheless, the press has already started to call it “Trumpcare.” 

At the White House meeting, Trump attacked groups–such as the Heritage Foundation and Tea Party Patriots–for calling the House GOP proposal “Obamacare lite.”  And he warned: “You are helping the other side.”  

And he made it clear to conservative leaders that he had a fallback plan: If “Trumpcare” proves a failure–that is, fails to pass Congress–he will allow the ACA to fail and blame the Democrats.

Thus, Trump admitted that he is prepared to allow the American healthcare system to collapse and let millions die for lack of medical care–all for his own political gain.  

As William Henry Harrison put it: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.”

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man–Albert Speer–finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order.  Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. 

Their avowed goal–as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”

Literally during Obama’s first Inauguration, they agreed, in a secret meeting, to block every effort he made to repair the economy ruined under the George W. Bush administration.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 14, 2017 at 12:06 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, America would begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.” 

Warren Buffett

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be achieved.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years.

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect.

This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And this threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love: 

  • In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget.
  • The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.
  • For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

In October, 2014, for the first time in United States history, the CDC faced an unexpected outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus.  

To Americans’ horror, the agency initially seemed unable to deal effectively with the threat.

Moreover, the Nation was confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General–thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.

President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position. But the Senate still hadn’t approved Murthy.

And support for him declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

At the same time, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa–and the danger it posed to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

But then a new Republican-inspired crisis threatened America.

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

President George W. Bush had created this agency to safeguard the country against terrorism. But he didn’t imagine that his fellow Republicans might willingly jeopardize the security of the Nation.

President Obama had requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS through fiscal year 2015. But Republicans ensured that its funding would end on February 27.

Why?

Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 elections. And then they gained control of the Senate with the 2014 elections.

With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, they intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

It is Homeland Security that was charged with implementing those changes. And Republicans intended to strip it of funding to do so.

And if that meant allowing DHS to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind” (to use a phrase made infamous by the Nixon administration) while Republicans played out their latest power-game, so be it.

This was no small matter.

With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with protecting the United States through military action abroad. DHS is responsible for safeguarding the Nation inside and outside its borders.

Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and–if prevention fails–respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 13, 2017 at 12:36 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler–the man he had idolized for 14 years–had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as the German Fuhrer. Like him, they are determined to gain and hold absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

During his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt–and raised the debt limit 17 times.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.  

During the George W. Bush Presidency, Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times–when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts for the rich and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But none of that mattered to Republicans–so long as one of them held the White House.

Then Barack Obama, a Democrat–worse, a black one–became President.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

John Boehner

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later–on July 9–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But Boehner rejected that offer. He would not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

WHAT MAKES A PRESIDENT GREAT?

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2017 at 4:43 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested–or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear–the teddy bear–named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

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John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going–with hugely expanding casualties–for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared JFK’s wit and good looks with LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety–and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates.  Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

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Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded–and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent–Hillary Clinton–with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans–blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

WILL TRUMP-PUTIN GO THE WAY OF HITLER-STALIN?

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2017 at 10:29 am

The love-fest between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump certainly got off to a great start.

No doubt well-informed on Trump’s notorious egomania, Putin called a press conference to announce: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Vladimir Putin

That was on December 17, 2015.  

Trump didn’t lose any time responding. On the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia. 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”–yet another insult at President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Both Putin and Trump are well-known for their authoritarian characteristics. But more than one dictator’s admiration for another might explain their continuing “bromance.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He believes the United States is paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance–and he wants other members to contribute far more.  

He has also said that, if Russia attacked NATO members, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after determining whether those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

If he believed that they had not done so, he would tell them: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

For Putin, this clearly signaled a reason to prefer Trump over his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s statement marked the first time that a major Presidential candidate placed conditions on the United States’ coming to the defense of its major allies.

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput. Its European members that have long hurled insults at the United States would suddenly face extinction.  

Even if their armed forces proved a match for Russia’s–which they wouldn’t–their governments would cower before the threat of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal.  

Trump’s motives for his “bromance” with Putin are more difficult to decipher.

Some believe that Trump–a notorious egomaniac–is simply responding to an overdoses of Putin flattery.

Others think that, while visiting Moscow, Trump made himself vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

There are unconfirmed Intelligence reports that he paid–and watched–several Russian prostitutes urinate on a bed once slept on by President Obama and his wife at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The alleged incident was reportedly captured by hidden microphones and cameras operated by the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

A recent “Saturday Night Live” sketch featured a Putin lookalike intimidating Alec Baldwin’s Trump at a press conference–by holding up a video tape marked “Pee-Pee Tape.”

Still others believe that Trump–who has refused to release his tax returns–is deeply in dept to Russian oligarchs.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC. And they clearly revealed a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her competitor, Bernie Sanders. 

The leak badly embarrassed Clinton. About to receive the Democratic Presidential nomination, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Cyber-security experts believed the hacking originated from Russia–and that Putin had authorized it.

Even so, Putin is not the first Communist dictator to find common cause with an avowed Right-winger.

On August 23, 1939, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin signed a “non-aggression pact” with Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Joseph Stalin

The reason: Hitler intended to invade Poland–but feared going to war with the neighboring Soviet Union if he did so. By signing a non-aggression pact with Stalin, he avoided this danger–and gained “rights” to the western half of Poland.  

Adolf Hitler

In addition, Nazi Germany began receiving huge shipments of raw materials from the Soviet Union–as part of Stalin’s effort to placate Hitler and avoid a Nazi-Soviet clash.

And Stalin got something, too: The eastern half of Poland, which would be occupied by the Red Army.

But the Hitler-Stalin alliance lasted less than two years. It ended without warning–on June 22, 1941.

With 134 divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more for deployment behind the front–a total of three million men–the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

Hitler had long intended to obtain “living space” for Germany–in Russia. By 1941, having conquered most of Europe, he felt strong enough to embark on his great crusade.

There are three ways Putin may come to regret his “bromance” with Trump.  

First: Trump may be not be able to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama for interfering in the 2016 election.  

Second: Increasing political pressure on Trump by Democrats and even Republicans for that interference may result in even tougher action against Russia.

And third: Trump is known for his egomania, not his loyalty. He may take offense at some future perceived Putin slight. In such case, he may well decide he doesn’t owe anything to the man he once called “a leader.”

CHESSMASTER PUTIN: CHECKMATING BUSH AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2017 at 3:39 pm

The love-fest between Donald and Vladimir Putin began on December 17, 2015.

Putin made the first move: “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.

“He says he will want to reach another, deeper, level of relations (with Russia). What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it. 

“That is none of our business to evaluate his accomplishments, but he remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race. He is an outstanding and talented personality without any doubts.”

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump responded in kind: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

The host, Joe Scarborough, was taken aback: “Well, I mean, [Putin’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he no doubt meant President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was not Obama but President George W. Bush to whom his insult applies.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Now Putin is putting his KGB skills to work with another President–Trump.

At Putin’s direction, an Intelligence dossier is being prepared on Trump. According to Andrei Fedorov, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, a team of retired diplomats and Putin staffers are compiling a seven-page profile of Trump’s psychological state.  

Trump is depicted as a naive risk-taker who acts like a “tough guy.”

The dossier will be given to Putin before their first meeting–for which no date has been set. 

Federov said that Trump doesn’t understand Putin and should listen more to his team, “especially in the areas where he is weak.” 

Trump’s constant battles with the American press worry the Kremlim: “He’s dancing on thin ice,” said Federov. “It’s a risky game.”  

Mikhail Kasyanov, who was once prime minister under Putin, said that Putin was worried that, unless Trump is careful, he will lose the political clout he needs to improve relations with Russia.

In particular, Putin wants American economic sanctions against Russia–imposed by President Barack Obama over Russian interference in the 2016 election–lifted.

American hostility toward Russia has been increased by three major revelations:

  • Russia’s hacks against the Democratic party to sway the election in favor of Trump;
  • Members of Trump’s Presidential campaign were in regular contact with senior Russian Intelligence officials; and 
  • Trump’s being forced to fire his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, over his ties with Russia.

THREATS PAST AND FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 22, 2017 at 12:31 am

Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly: 

“He was incapable of bargaining. He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

What was true for Adolf Hitler was equally true for Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican nominee for President of the United States.  

Trump’s vindictive streak was evident on October 9, 2016p, during his second Presidential debate with Hillary Clinton: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation–there has never been so many lies and so much deception.”  

This played well with Trump’s essentially Fascistic followers, but even conservatives like political columnist Charles Krauthammer disagreed with it:

“I’m one of those who thinks there was a miscarriage of justice in not indicting her. But the problem here is the pattern from Trump. 

“He has spoken about using the powers of the government to go after other opponents like the publisher of The Washington Post 

“Do we want to invest in him all the powers of the government if he acts where he seems to want to carry out vendettas?” 

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Charles Krauthammer

But making threats against anyone who has dared to cross him or has merely roused his ire is a longtime Trump characteristic.  

In 2010, Tarla Makaeff, a former customer of Trump’s real-estate seminar business, filed a fraud lawsuit against now-defunct Trump University.  

Trump retaliated by filing a defamation suit against her. The case was dismissed by a judge. But Trump continued to attack her during his Presidential candidacy.  

During a campaign rally he assailed her as a “horrible, horrible witness,” and then posted on Twitter that she was “Disgraceful!”  

Makaeff ultimately persuaded the judge presiding over the Trump University case to let her remove her name as a plaintiff.  

Trump has long employed a series of hardball tactics against anyone who threatens his ego:

  • Countersuits, threats and personal insults against outsiders; and
  • Stringent confidentiality agreements against employees, business partners, his former spouses and now his campaign staffers.  

As an authoritarian who demands the right to craft his own image. Trump furiously denies others the right to dissent from it.  

In February, 2016, Trump said that he was “gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”  

After the New York Times published pages from his 1995 tax return, Trump tweeted that his lawyers “want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”   

Trump is a master of “dog whistle” threats. On August 9, 2016, he falsely told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment.  

“If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” 

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Hillary Clinton

“Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”  

Trump–and his apologists–claimed he was simply “joking.”  

But Trump was not done with making threats against Hillary Clinton–and her husband, Bill. 

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Donald Trump

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women (“I don’t even wait. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”).

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood.

The admissions ignited a firestorm against Trump, even among many Republicans.

Rather than accept responsibility for his actions, Trump blamed the Clintons–who had nothing to do with the release.

Speaking before a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10, Trump threatened: “If they wanna release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things. There are so many of them, folks.”

Since being elected President, Trump has continued to lash out at a wide range of people, organizations and even countries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, offered a still-timely warning to those inclined to gratuitously hand out insults and threats:

“I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.

“For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautions, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

And for those who expect Trump to stop constantly picking fights, Machiavelli has an equally stern warning:

“No man can be found so prudent as to be able to [adopt his mode of operating to changing circumstances] either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it….”

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