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EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 25, 2017 at 12:06 am

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. And history has repeatedly proved him right. 

One such example was the rise of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Fuhrer.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” 

But that didn’t happen.

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Tried for and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

At Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Nine months later, he was released on parole–by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party–and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Disdaining armed force, he would win office by election–or intrigue. 

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues bore fruit: Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

A second example: The ascent of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.

Future historians may one day write that what didn’t happen played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, they chose to do nothing.

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Donald Trump

Case #1: The Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal.

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a check $25,000 for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

One attorney general who refused to accept money from Trump was New York’s Eric Schneiderman. His decision to press fraud claims against Trump forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million.

“Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

There have been no press reports that the Justice Department investigated these cases to determine if Trump violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes.

If the Justice Department did not investigate these cases, it should have. And if he did violate the RICO statutes, he should have been indicted, even as a Presidential candidate or President-elect.

Even if an indictment had not produced a conviction, the mere bringing of one would have cast an unprecedented cloud over his candidacy–let alone his being sworn in as President.

Case #2: The Justice Department did not indict Trump for his series of threats he made–directly or indirectly–against his Republican and Democratic opponents throughout the 2016 campaign.

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
  • And Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich chinned in. “Leaders don’t imply violence,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” on March 20. “When he says that there could be riots, that’s inappropriate. I think you understand that, okay? Secondly, while we have our differences and disagreements, we’re Americans. Americans don’t say, ‘Let’s take to the streets and have violence.’”

PREDATORS AS VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2017 at 12:06 am

During the 12-year insanity of the Third Reich, Nazis labeled their acts of aggression as “self-defense.” But they denounced acts of self-defense by others against Nazi assault or terror as “naked aggression.”

This remains the mindset and practice of American Right-wingers.

In Arizona, American Fascists had anticipated becoming victimizers of gays and lesbians. But on February 26, 2014, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer dashed their hopes and vetoed Senate Bill 1062.

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House and Senate. It would have:

  • Allowed business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allowed employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allowed individuals to renege on contract obligations.
  • Allowed hospitals to refuse to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

American Rightists believed they had a God-given right to withhold their business services from gays and lesbians.

But they considered it unfair and even demonic for gays and their supporters to withhold monies from discriminatory Arizona businesses.

The Right had suffered a similar reversal-of-discrimination misfortune in 2012.

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

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A fanatical anti-abortionist, she didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. She cared only that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns, a fanatical anti-abortionist, claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”–the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

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Rep. Cliff Stearns

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.  

Not one terrorist was discovered in the resulting investigations.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  •  More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking Komen to reverse course.
  •  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000 to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
  • “Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement. This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give–or withhold–its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right: To withhold their own monies from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.”

During the battle for Stalingrad, in 1942, a young German soldier named Wilhelm Hoffman was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender. In his diary he wrote:

German soldiers at Stalingrad

“September 26. Our regiment is involved in constant heavy fighting. After the elevator was taken the Russians continued to defend themselves just as stubbornly.

“You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including our rear. Barbarians–they use gangster methods!  Stalingrad is hell….”

What held true for German Fascists holds equally true for those in America: Oppose their efforts to enslave you–and you become a gangster.

PREDATORS AS VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 1, 2017 at 12:03 am

Chicago radio host and former Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh knew why Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

“The LGBT community has become nothing more than a group of constitutional terrorists,” tweeted Walsh.

Nor was that all Walsh had to say on Twitter.

“Stop saying she vetoed an ‘anti-gay bill.’ Stop distorting reality to advance your liberal agenda, media,” went one tweet.

And another went: “Obama’s America, where Christians must participate in gay weddings and Catholics forced to pass out birth control like communion.”

Joe Walsh

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House and Senate. It would have:

  • Allowed business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allowed employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allowed individuals to renege on contract obligations.  
  • Allowed hospitals to refuse to provide medical care to a gay or lesbian patient.

And all of these actions would have been legally protected–so long as “sincere religious belief” was cited  as the reason.

The legislation was written by the Right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Officially, its intent was to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent was to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona.  And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice:

  • Large businesses–such as Apple, American Airlines, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Verizon and Intel–publicly opposed the measure.
  • With Super Bowl XLIX scheduled to be played in 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expressed concerns.
  • Arizona’s United States Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake publicly urged Brewer to veto the measure, citing worries about the economic impact on the state’s businesses.  

Faced with a choice between monetary greed and ideological fanaticism, Governor Jan Brewer chose to veto the legislation on February 26, 2014.  

By doing so, she forestalled a costly boycott. 

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Governor Jan Brewer

Suddenly, it was American Fascists–who had anticipated becoming persecutors–who now claimed themselves to be victims. Among their rants on Twitter:

  • “CNN led full court media press to take away rights of Christians. Just the beginning. Using tolerance as weapon against us. Wake up.”  –John Nolte (@NolteNC)
  • “Not sure what the GOP stands for when it stands against religious freedom out of pure fear of political correctness.”  –Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro)
  • “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second class citizens.” –toddstarnes (@toddstarnes)
  • “A sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.” –The Center for Arizona Policy 
  • “Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today’s veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona.”  –Alliance Defending Freedom

American Rightists believed they had a God-given right to withhold their business services from gays and lesbians.

But they considered it unfair and even demonic for gays and their supporters to withhold monies from discriminatory Arizona businesses.

The Right had suffered a similar reversal-of-discrimination misfortune in 2012.

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had it all worked out.

She had fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had been pushing to drop PP from grants. More than anyone else at Komen, she was the driving force behind the decision.

And why not?  She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia.

She believed that:

  • She could strip PP of future grants from the Komen Foundation, and
  • Make the decision look as if it resulted from a legitimate tightening of eligibility criteria.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie. And the results for Komen were as devastating as those that threatened to engulf Arizona two years later.

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2017 at 12:10 am

Contrary to the propaganda of Republican militarists and Democratic do-gooders, Americans should be thrilled at the mutual destruction of their most dedicated enemies. Such as is now taking place in Syria.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth. 

One man who predicted the ongoing Islamic-vs.-West conflicts with stunning clarity was Samuel P. Huntington. 

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962). He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008. 

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most influential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

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Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Huntington warned that the West’s future conflicts with Islamic nations would be rooted in the Islamic religion: 

The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” 

Among his assertions:

  • Western nations should distance themselves from Islamic ones. The more both civilizations interact, the greater tensions between them will be.
  • Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been marked by Islamic antagonism and violence.
  • A fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable.
  • Even if Arab dictatorships fall, the new regimes won’t modernize along Western lines.
  • When the Muslim world conflicts with other civilizations, tensions and wars result.
  • Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state.
  • Islamic civilization do not share the general ideals of the Western world–such as individualism and democracy.

Despite such realities, both Democratic and Republican politicians insist on constantly intervening in Middle East conflicts–such as the one in Syria. 

In Part One of this series, five reasons were given for why the United States should not intervene in the Syrian conflict. Here are the remaining five. 

Sixth, intervening in Syria could lead to Syrian attacks against Israel.  

An accidental or deliberate American military strike on Syrian government forces could lead the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.  

If that happened, the Islamic world would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.  

Seventh, committing American ground forces to Syria or just continuing to bomb targets there could lead to Islamic terrorism against the United States–at home or abroad.

Terrorists have already targeted Russia–which, on September 30, 2015, began bombing airstrikes on forces trying to overthrow Assad.

On October 31, Airbus A321, a Russian airliner, broke up in mid-air, then crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. In Egypt, a militant group affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed it had brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.”  

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Airbus A321

The same fate could well befall American civilians and/or soldiers.

Eighth, China and Russia are supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.  

This reflects badly on them–not the United States. And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.  

What happens if a case of “friendly fire” leads Russian and American forces to start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on America’s ally, Israel, in return for some perceived American slight of Russia’s ally, Syria?  

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War I.  

Ninth, the United States cannot defeat ISIS in Syria through air power alone–thus making commitment of ground troops inevitable.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS in September, 2014. The United States Air Force has since dropped thousands of bombs on ISIS convoys. This has not destroyed ISIS.

And its failure to do so has only led to demands by hawkish Republicans and Democrats for “boots on the ground.”  

Tenth–and most importantly: While Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda and ISIS member makes the United States that much safer. So does the death of every sympathizer of Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Al Qaeda terrorists–taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.  

If the West is lucky, this conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry S. Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis–and vice versa.”

That should be America’s position whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.  

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2017 at 2:15 am

“Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

So spoke President Donald J. Trump at an April 5 press conference in the White House Rose Garden.  

He was referring to an April 4 chemical weapons attack in northwestern Syria that had killed scores of civilians. 

The bombing was carried out by the Syrian Air Force in an effort to put down a six-year civil war. 

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the fighting has reportedly taken the lives of 470,000 men, women and children. 

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Bashar al-Assad

Yet, despite Trump’s rhetoric, there is an optimistic way to view this incident–and the Syrian conflict generally: As a win for the United States.  

Consider:

  • As many as 470,000 actual or potential enemies of Western civilization–and especially the United States–have chosen to slaughter one another.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • The United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.
  • And Russia–which openly supports the brutal Assad dictatorship–daily earns the hatred of the Islamic world.

Yet, Left-wing do-gooders and Right-wing militarists demand that the United States thrust itself into a conflict that doesn’t threaten America in any way. 

In fact, it’s in America’s best interests that this conflict last as long as possible and spread as widely as possible throughout the Islamic community. 

Here’s why: 

First, in Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are waging war on each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).  Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans. 

Flag of Hezbollah

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. It is intolerant of Shiites and has instigated violence against them. It denounces them as takfirs–“apostates”–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shiites, Suffis and other non-Sunnis. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

On one side of this conflict is the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and elements of the Iraqi government.  

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.  

Second, the United States has been at war in the Middle East for 15 years–since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

In October, 2001, America first committed its forces to Afghanistan, in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. Failing to find him, its forces nevertheless stayed on in that country, hoping–and failing–to bring civilization to its barbaric population.

Then, in March, 2003, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq to settle a personal score with its dictator, Saddam Hussein.

After Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, launched the 1991 Gulf War, Hussein had had the bad grace to not topple from power. When the elder Bush lost a second term as President to Bill Clinton in 1992, his son blamed Hussein.  

By contrast: America entered World War 1 in 1917–and wrapped up its fighting in Europe in 1918.  Similarly, the United States first committed forces in World War II in 1942–and saw an end to that conflict in 1945.  

Even the Vietnam war–far more divisive for Americans than either World War 1 or II–ended after eight years of fighting (1965-1973.

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan.

America originally intended to withdraw all but a small embassy-based force of 1,000 troops by the end of 2016.  

But as the Taliban re-emerged as a threat, President Barack Obama announced he would maintain 9,800 troops there for most of 2016. Those troops are still stationed there–some of them advising local Afghan troops, others locked in deadly combat with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.   

American soldiers in Afghanistan

Fourth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hezbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus for Illich Ramirez Sanchez–the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. 

Fifth, the United States had no part in creating or supporting the decades-long dictatorship of the Assad regime–which has long been hostile to America.

After a long series of political maneuverings, Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970 and was proclaimed “president” next year. With aid from the Soviet Union, he built up the Syrian army. Using arrest, torture and execution, he ruled Syria as a dictator until he died in 2000.  

His son, Bashar, then took command of Syria. Like his father, he has supported Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups. And, like his father, he continues to receive financial and military support from the successor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation.

Thus, America has no moral obligation of any kind to Syria–or Syrians. 

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.

Related image

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.

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