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A RECIPE FOR CONSPIRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2018 at 12:02 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 dangers were covered in Part One of this series.  Now, as to the third danger.

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: 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

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 Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

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

Presidents have universally tried to 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.

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, 2017, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Defended white supremacists who sparked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, for investigating ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  
  • 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.”
  • Rammed through Congress a massive tax cut for the wealthy, at the expense of ordinary Americans.
  • Attacked the integrity of American Intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA.
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 36% of Americans approving of his performance—while 58% disapprove. 

Trump’s approval rating is now lower than that of any other President at this point in modern polling at this point. 

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 RECIPE FOR CONSPIRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 19, 2018 at 1:50 am

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

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

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

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

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

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

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.

WHY REPUBLICANS SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2017 at 2:10 am

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“The persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front. 

And then there were all the stories of Germans who, at great risk to themselves, had hidden Jews in their attics. Which left unanswered the question: If so many “good Germans” had saved so many Jews, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leadership of the Soviet Union now literally applies to that of the Republican Party:

“They…have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”

REPUBLICANS: IF WE CAN’T OWN IT, WE’LL DESTROY IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 26, 2017 at 3:26 pm

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

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled. All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

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

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.”

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

Take their current attitude toward—and attacks on—the U.S.Department of Justice and its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

On May 9, 2017,  President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.   

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

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James Comey

But, during a May 10 meeting at the White House, Trump admitted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, on May 17, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.  

Congressional Republicans joined Democrats in praising the appointment.  

  • House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who had relentlessly pursued Hillary Clinton, said: “Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”  
  • “I commend (Department of Justice) for bringing in an independent voice to help bring clarity to this situation,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, “My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead. That is what we’ve been doing here in the House. The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.” 

Yet, since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. This despite the fact that Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and served with an impeccable reputation for 12 years as FBI director (2001-2013).

The attacks grew increasingly vicious as Mueller uncovered evidence linking former high-ranking members of the Trump Presidential campaign to Russian Intelligence officials:

  • Former  national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his private conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak. He is now cooperating with Mueller’s office.
  • Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted in October. They have pleaded not guilty and ordered under house arrest. 
  • George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his dealings with two Russians who had ties to the Russian government. 

And the Republican response? 

  • “A witch hunt continues against the president with tremendous bias, no purpose and no end in sight,” charged Rep. Matthew Gaets (R-Florida).  
  • Gaetz joined Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in demanding that Mueller resign because he was the FBI director in 2010 when Federal agencies approved the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian energy company, to a Russian nuclear-energy firm.  
  • “I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founder of the Right-wing Freedom Caucus. 
  • “Let’s start off with the head of the snake,” said Sean Hannity, the Fascistic commentator on Right-wing Fox News. “Mueller’s credibility is in the gutter tonight with these new discoveries, his conflicts of interests, his clear bias, the corruption are on full display. Mueller is frankly a disgrace to the American justice system and has put the country now on the brink of becoming a banana republic.”

There are three reasons for these attacks:

First, Republicans fear that Trump’s followers—the hard-core Fascists who turn out in mid-term elections—will reject them if they reject Trump.

Second, they fear that if Mueller’s investigation leads to Trump’s impeachment, they will be turned out of Congress—as many were after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Third, reports have circulated that many Congressional Republicans have received financial (and possibly intelligence) support from the Kremlin.

HUMANITY AS A FORM OF HARDBALL: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2017 at 3:12 am

In June, 1948, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was determined to drive the Western occupying powers out of Berlin—and of West Germany.

On June 19, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.

At that time, West Berlin had only 36 days’ worth of food and 45 days’ worth of coal. And the United States had only 8,973 Americans stationed in Berlin. British forces totaled 7,606, and French forces 6,100.

Russian forces in Berlin and East Germany outnumbered them 62 to 1.

The United States seemed to face a choice between all-out war with the Soviet Union—or appeasing its growing aggression in Eastern Europe.

Fortunately, a third choice was found. It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

This was carried out primarily by the United States and Great Britain. Other Western powers taking part in this operation included France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

Starting on June 24, 1948, the Berlin Airlift aimed to supply the city’s two and a half million residents with food and energy supplies.

There was no guarantee that such an operation could succeed–at least, not in the long run. Since 1903, airplanes had been used to carry out surveillance, engage in dogfights or bomb cities. But airlifts—flying supplies to stranded people—had proven dismal failures.

At first, the Berlin Airlift worked haphazardly. Pilots flew themselves to exhaustion to meet the needs of those they had relentlessly bombed just three years ago.

Then Major General William “Willie the Whip” Tunner took charge—and brought a totally mechanized approach to the drops:

  • Pilots must fly strictly by instruments, even when visibility was excellent.
  • Planes could no longer circle over Berlin. Each plane would have only one chance to land in Berlin—or must return to its base if it missed its approach.
  • Every 90 seconds, a plane was to take off or land.

Just keeping Berliners alive demanded 4,000 tons of supplies each day. Each plane was thus overloaded by 10 tons. Pilots flew literally round the clock. When fog rolled in that winter, visibility was reduced to zero. Twenty-eight Americans died in crashes.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster lands at Berlin’s Templehof Airport

Germans were impressed with American efficiency, but knew that, in the eyes of most of their American occupiers, they were pariahs. They had waged an aggressive war and exterminated millions of helpless men, women and children in concentration camps.

They were glad the Allies were keeping them alive, but felt they were pawns in a global chess game between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Then fate took a hand.

An Army Air Force pilot named Gail “Hal” Halvorsen impulsively decided to drop a series of small, hand-made parachutes of candies to Berlin’s children.

When General Tunner learned of this, he instantly realized its worth as a morale booster to Berliners. He ordered Halvorsen to continue the drops.

Gail “Hal” Halvorsen

Other pilots followed Halvorsen’s example. Soon Berlin’s children were lining up by the thousands, hoping to grab one of the candy-filled parachutes made from handkerchiefs or strips of clothing.

When the press learned of the drops, the story became a worldwide sensation. Back in the United States, Americans mailed literally tons of candy to Germany for distribution to Berlin’s children.

“The candy bombers” became the most beloved Americans in Berlin.  And Halvorsen became the most beloved of them all.  On October 3, 1948, when his plane landed in Berlin during a pouring storm, 700 children greeted him on the tarmac for “Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen Day.”

Among the letters he received from Berlin’s children:

Dear Uncle Wiggly Wings,

When yesterday I came from school, I had the happiness to get one of your sweet gifts….You cannot think how big the joy was….My brother and parents stood about me when I opened the strings and fetched out all the chocolate.

Dear Candy Bomber,

…How lucky I was last Sunday. I played at a ruin with some friends of mine opposite our house. Suddenly we saw about ten white parachutes coming out of the sky! One of them set down on the roof of our house. There were three stripes chocolate in the parachute….I want to thank you for your love to the German kids….

From 10-year-old Helma Lurch came this tribute:

Take care of yourself, and remember us children and we will remember you our whole life.

Adults as well as children responded emotionally to the candy drops—and “the candy bombers” responsible for them. When a plane crashed, killing two American lieutenants, residents of the neighborhood memorialized them with a plaque: “Once we were enemies yet you now gave your lives for us. We are doubly in your debt.”

The Airlift ended on May 12, 1949, when Stalin finally accepted defeat and ended the blockade.

“As [Halvorsen] came to represent the Airlift and America to the Berliners,” writes Andrei Cherney in his definitive book, The Candy Bombers, “through him America became a country that cared enough about the defeated Germans to…deliver candy to children, an act without any…ulterior motive, a gift of plain compassion.”

In 1948, that act forged a solid bond—which still exists—between Germany and the United States.

HUMANITY AS A FORM OF HARDBALL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2017 at 12:40 am

Once again, it falls to Niccolo Machiavelli to reveal truths long forgotten—especially by those who subscribe only to the darkest arts.

In his most important book, The Discourses, he outlines the methods by which citizens of a republic can maintain their freedom.

In Book Three, Chapter 20, he offers this example of the power of humanity to win over even the most stubborn opponents:

Niccolo Machiavelli

“Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.

“And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, ‘By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.’

“Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city.

“Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.

“This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.”

Americans put this lesson to use in 1948 in the skies over Berlin.

When Nazi Germany fell to the Allies in May, 1945, the country was divided into four zones of occupation—one for each of the occupying powers: The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Within the fledgling administration of President Harry S. Truman, many believed that a new era of peace had dawned between America and Russia.

But then grim reality intruded.

Adolf Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.  As a result, at least 20 million Soviet men, women and children died violently.

To expel the invasion and destroy Nazi Germany, Russian armies had advanced across a series of Eastern European countries.  With the war over, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin decided to protect the Soviet Union from a future German invasion.

Joseph Stalin

His solution: Occupy Eastern Europe with Red Army units as a buffer between Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia.

Stalin had promised President Franklin Roosevelt that he would withdraw his armies from these countries once Germany was defeated.  And he would allow them to choose whatever form of government they desired.

But Stalin had no intention of living up to his promises.  And backing him up were 10 to 13 million Red Army soldiers.  The entire United States Army had been reduced to 552,000 men by February 1948.

Liberating the captive nations of Eastern Europe—as General George S. Patton wanted to do—would have plunged the United States into full-scale war against its World War II ally.

And by 1945, the Red Army was a formidable enemy: Of the 4.3 million dead and missing casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht, 85% of them occurred on the dreaded “Eastern front.”

So there was nothing the United States could do—short of all-out war—to “roll back” the “Iron Curtain” that had swept over Eastern Europe.

Image result for Images of maps of Soviet control of Eastern Europe

But Americans could—and did—draw a line in the sand.  That line became known as the policy of “containment.”

And nowhere was the collision between the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. more likely to ignite into full-scale war than in Berlin.

Between 1945 and 1948, the Soviets increased their pressure on Western forces occupying Berlin to leave the city. The Soviets already controlled East Germany; gaining control of the Western-held part of Berlin would likely be their first step toward overwhelming the rest of Germany.

And, after Germany, probably France—and as many other European countries as possible.

During the first two years of occupation the occupying powers of France, United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union were not able to successfully negotiate a possible currency reform in Germany.  Each of the Allies printed its own occupation currency.

Then, on June 20, 1948, the Bizonal Economic Council introduced the Deutsche mark to West Germany.

On June 24, 1945, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.  This meant a cutoff of food and energy supplies to Berlin’s two and a half million residents.

The United States faced a monumental crisis:

  • Should it abandon West Berlin—and thus tempt the Soviet Union into further aggression?
  • Should it match the puny Western military forces—outnumbered 62 to 1—against the massive Soviet military presence?
  • If it chose to fight in Berlin, would this lead to nuclear war?

Fortunately for the Allies—and West Germany—a third choice was available besides war and appeasement.

It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

“IT NEVER HAPPENED”: HISTORY ACCORDING TO STALIN AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2017 at 12:05 am

During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky acted as a key lieutenant to Vladimir Lenin. Trotsky organized the Red Army and successfully resisted all attempts to overthrow the fledgling Communist government.

One of Trotsky’s bitterest enemies was Joseph Stalin, another intimate of Lenin’s. When Lenin died in 1924, Stalin outmaneuvered Trotsky for leadership of the Soviet Union.

Long before he ordered Trotsky’s assassination in 1940, Stalin turned his former rival into an official non-person. Trotsky was:

  • Airbrushed from photos showing him sitting or standing close to Lenin.
  • Written out of Soviet history textbooks.
  • Depicted, in print and documentary films, as seeking to overturn the Revolution—and assassinate Stalin.

Stalin made certain his image in Soviet history was entirely different.

  • In the 1930s, he was portrayed as the modest, all-wise, energetic builder of a new Communist world.
  • After 1945, he was depicted as the architect of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.

No “historian” dared mention that:

  • For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million people.
  • His wholesale purges of the Red Army in the 1930s had made the country vulnerable to the German attack in 1941.
  • His 1939 “nonaggression” pact with Germany had almost destroyed Russia. In this he and Hitler secretly divided Poland between them. The subsequent German invasion of Poland, on September 1, 1939, directly triggered World War II.

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Joseph Stalin

After Stalin died on March 5, 1953, his status in Soviet history suddenly changed.

  • Thousands of his portraits—displayed on streets and in buildings throughout the Soviet Union—suddenly came down.
  • In 1956, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, secretly denounced him as a psychotic butcher and bungler who had almost wrecked the country.

So those Americans with a sense of history were undoubtedly stunned at President Donald J. Trump’s reaction to the defeat of Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore on December 12.

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Donald Trump

Unfortunately for Trump, Moore carried heavy political baggage:

  • He had twice been removed as a Justice from the Alabama Supreme Court.
  • He had blamed 9/11 not on Islamic terrorists but on “America’s turning away from God.”
  • He had said the United States should eliminate all but the first 10 Constitutional amendments. This would remove those amendments forbidding slavery and guaranteeing civil rights for blacks and women.

Worst of all, Moore was haunted by allegations that, as a prosecutor during his 30s, he had made sexual advances toward at least eight teenage girls.

Many Republicans openly urged Moore to withdraw. They saw him as a nightmarish embarrassment to their party should he win the election.

Judge Roy Moore.jpg

 Roy Moore

Even the President’s favorite daughter, Ivanka Trump, said: “There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

But that didn’t stop Trump supporting Moore full-tilt against his Democratic opponent, former United States Attorney Doug Jones. Jones had convicted Ku Klux Klan members for bombing a black church in 1963.

On December 4, Trump tweeted:

“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”

During a December 8 campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, near the state line with Alabama, Trump said:

  • “Get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.  We cannot afford, the future of this country cannot afford to lose the seat.”
  • “We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great Again agenda, which involves tough on crime, strong on borders, strong on immigration.”

On December 8, Trump tweeted:

“LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already. The Pelosi/Schumer Puppet Jones would vote against us 100% of the time. He’s bad on Crime, Life, Border, Vets, Guns & Military. VOTE ROY MOORE!”

As the December 12 election drew close, Trump made a robocall on Moore’s behalf:

“Hi, this is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. It is so important. We’re already making America great again. I’m going to make America safer, and stronger, and better than ever before, but we need that seat and we need Roy voting for us.”

Then—for Trump—the unthinkable happened: Moore lost.  Jones received 49.9% of the vote; Moore got 48.4%.

Suddenly, Trump was rewriting history.

During the Republican Senatorial primary in August, Trump had backed Moore’s opponent, Luther Strange.  Now he tweeted:

“The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”

And, in another tweet, he stated: “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”   

A joke Russians once shared now applies to Donald Trump: “The trouble with writing history in the Soviet Union is you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”

TWO TYRANTS, NO VICTORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2017 at 1:50 am

By February, 1943, the tide of war had turned irrevocably for Nazi Germany.

The string of quick and easy victories that had started on September 1, 1939 was over:

  • Poland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Greece
  • France.

All had fallen under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. The swastika flag still flew triumphantly over the capitols of these once-free nations. 

And the word—and whim—of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler remained law for their populations.

But by March, 1943, all except the most fanatical Nazis could see that Germany was on a collision course with disaster.

  • Under the unshakable leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain still remained a sworn enemy of the Third Reich.
  • After six months of spectacular victories against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht  had become hopelessly bogged down in the snow before Moscow.
  • On December 11, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by his ally, Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States—thus pitting the Reich against the world’s two most powerful nations: America and Russia.
  • In November, 1942, at El Alamein, the British Army halted the advance of General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps across North Africa.
  • On February 2, 1943, General Friedrich von Paulus surrendered the remains of the once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The Reich suffered 730,000 total casualties, including nearly 91,000 German prisoners taken prisoner. 
  • On June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies overwhelmed German’s “impregnable wall of death” on the Normandy beaches. 
  • In February, 1945, following the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Red Army temporarily halted 37 miles east of Berlin. 

So, by March, 1943, Germany desperately needed to hear some good news.  And Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to supply it. 

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Joseph Goebbels

He did so in one of his last public addresses, delivered to a large but carefully selected audience in Gorlitz. 

For Goebbels, the greatest challenge to the Reich lay in “the Bolshevist danger in the East.”  And, for him, the solution was clear: “Total war is the demand of the hour.” 

“Our soldiers, as soon as the great push on the Eastern Front gets under way, will ask no mercy and give no mercy.

“Already, our forces have begun softening up operations, and in the next weeks and months the big offensive will begin. They will go into battle with devotion like congregations going to a religious service.

“And when our men shoulder their weapons and climb into their tanks, there will be before their eyes the sight of their violated women and murdered children. A cry of vengeance will rise from their throats that will make the enemy tremble with fear!

“So, as the Fuhrer has overcome crises in the past, so will he triumph now.

“The other day he told me ‘I firmly believe that we shall overcome this crisis. I firmly believe that our army of millions will beat back our enemy and annihilate him. And some day our banners will be victorious. This is my life’s unshakable belief.'” 

Thunderous applause repeatedly interrupted Goebbels’ address. Yet this could not replace the enormous losses Germany had suffered since 1939. Nor could it reverse the march of the Allied armies as they closed in on the Reich from East and West. 

Now, fast-forward 74 years to November 23, 2017—Thanksgiving Day.   

Donald Trump, President of the United States, speaks by video teleconference to American forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump

President George W. Bus had flown into Baghdad in 2003 to spend Thanksgiving with American forces. He flew into Iraq once again to visit troops in June, 2006. 

And President Barack Obama visited American soldiers in Iraq in 2009, in Afghanistan in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

Trump’s “visit” was unique—in that he addressed American troops from his Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

The address started off predictably enough: “It’s an honor to speak with you all and to give God thanks for the blessings of freedom and for the heroes who really have this tremendous courage that you do to defend us and to defend freedom.” 

But, being Trump, he could not resist paying homage to himself: “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win, but we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before; they we’re letting you play even. We’re letting you win….

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration, and that’s because I’m letting you do your job….”

In short: All those sacrifices you made under Presidents Bush and Obama went for nothing.  

“A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good — they’re really good. I especially like saying that companies are starting to come back.

“Now we’re working on tax cuts—big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we’ll get that and then you’re going to really see things happen.” 

Or, put another way: Be grateful they elected me—because you’re about to see the 1% richest get even richer.  Too bad you won’t be so lucky.

ANCIENT ROME IS AMERICA’S PRESENT–AND FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2017 at 12:07 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

Poster for Spartacus

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba, slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus.

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome.  Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus, the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and stands ever ready to oppose his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”  

Draba defeats Spartacus in their gladiatorial bout, but refuses to kill him. Instead, he throws his spear at Crassus—and is immediately slaughtered by Roman guards.  

Soon afterward, Spartacus leads 70 other gladiators  against their Roman masters, forms an army of freed slaves, and marches against Rome.

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

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Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denied he had any selfish motives for shelling out so much money to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Unfortunately, Gingrich was not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney relied heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters included executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Like Adelson, Bain has directly profited from the losses of others.  

Fast forward to 2016:

In early May, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. Nevertheless, at least this much has leaked: 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This myth proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

Donald Trump

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs—outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid—or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas.  These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

REPUBLICANS: USING HATE TO WIN ELECTIONS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Republicans and their Rightist allies have repeatedly compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. But their propaganda campaign draws heavily on the Nazi leader’s own advice.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Adolf Hitler

Consider the vocabulary Right-wingers use to describe their political adversaries:

“Liberals,” “radicals, “bankrupting,” “treason,” subversion,” “slander,” “terrorism,” “betrayal,” “catastrophe,” “shattering the American dream,” “leftists,” “Communists,” “government takeover,” “socialism,” “power grab,” “secularism,” “environmentalism.”

In recent years, the GOP has targeted gays and lesbians as America’s subversive enemies.

These attacks have come as thinly disguised as efforts to “restore religious freedom.”

In December, 2014, Republicans in the Michgan House of Representatives passed “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The bill would allow public agencies and private businesses to refuse service to anyone under the claim that their “religious beliefs” had been affronted.

And the State government would be legally prevented from intervening if a person claimed that his/her “deeply-held religious beliefs” was the reason for acting—or not acting—in a certain way.

Thus:

  • An emergency room doctor could refuse service to a gay or lesbian needing medical care.
  • A pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor’s prescription for birth control, or HIV medication.
  • A DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver’s license to someone who’s divorced.  
  • An employer could deny equal pay to women.

The bill seems modeled on a proposed law that the Republican House and Senate in Arizona sent to Governor Jan Brewer in 2014.

Under threat of a nationwide boycott of Arizona if the bill became law, Brewer vetoed it.

Republicans have introduced similar “right-to-discriminate” legislation in other states as well:

  • On March 26, 2015, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.
  • In Kansas, lawmakers voted to exempt individuals from providing any service that was “contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
  • That bill passed the state’s House chamber on February 11, 2014, triggering national backlash.  It stalled in the Senate and didn’t advance beyond that body.
  • In January, 2014, South Dakota Republicans introduced a bill to let businesses refuse to serve same-sex couples on the grounds that “businesses are private and that their views on sexual orientation are protected to the same extent as the views of private citizens.”
  • The South Dakota bill—which was killed in February, 2014—would have made it illegal for a gay person to file a lawsuit charging discrimination.

Republicans claim they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” But their fixation  on regulating the sexual lives of Americans ensures government intrusions of the most intimate kind.

Since 9/11, Republicans have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

Ironically, Right-wing legislators, in elevating religion above the secular law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

What will happen when some Muslims claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?

And when they claim that the “religious freedom” laws protect that right?

Republicans have defended such legislation by equating gays with child predators.

In fact, the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute states that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women.

Yet Republicans and their Rightist allies have refused to condemn such heterosexual—and Right-wing—child molesters as Dennis Hastert and Josh Duggar.

Josh Duggar, the “all-American” child molester

On May 21, 2015, responding to press leaks, Duggar resigned as director of the Family Research Council, a Right-wing organization dedicated to fighting sexually-oriented issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and pornography.

In 2002-3, as a 14-15 year-old, Duggar had fondled the breasts and vaginas of five underage girls—four of whom were his own sisters.

And on October 28, 2015, Hastert—Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007–pleaded guilty to structuring money transactions in a way to avoid requirements to report where the money was going.

Dennis Hastert

The reason: To conceal the truth about his past as a child molester. Hastert had abused four young boys when he was their high school wrestling coach.  One was only 14 years old.

Despite such setbacks, the politics of “smear and fear” have been good to Republicans—and their Right-wing allies.  

The Republican “base” refuses to learn that those who portray themselves as morally superior are:

  1. Hypocrites, who are in effect saying: “Do as I say, not as I do,” or
  2. Fanatics, who intend to force their version of morality on others.

So long as millions of hate-filled Right-wingers support the endless succession of “two minute hates,” Republicans will continue to target an endless series of victims.

The good news: As blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and others become a significant political force, Republicans will stop attacking them and court them for votes.

The bad news: Republicans will move on to find other still-helpless scapegoats for America’s troubles.

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