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Posts Tagged ‘NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

On March 30, Captain Brett Crozier, commanding the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a  four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore in Guam.

The reason: Dozens of his crew members had been stricken with the deadly Coronavirus. And the ship’s cramped compartments and narrow passageways made “social distancing” impossible.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated.

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

Not content to fire Crozier, Modly visited the ship and stated over its public address system: “If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either (a) too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose. 

“It was a betrayal of trust with me, with his chain of command, with you.”

Thus, for Modly, Crozier’s “crime” was making public what everyone on the ship and countless Navy officials knew.

President Donald Trump echoed Modly’s attitude: “The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate.

“I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.” 

But Crozier wasn’t the only victim of Trump’s “integrity-is-treason” mindset that week. 

On April 3, Trump informed Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general who alerted Congress to his extortion attempt against Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, on July 25, 2019.

Trump told Zelensky: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

Reporters asked Congressional Republicans: “Is it appropriate for President Donald Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate his political opponent?” 

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Donald Trump

And Republicans refused to answer or condemn such behavior. Among those refusing to answer:

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst: “We don’t have all the facts, we don’t know what is accurate. We have a picture painted by the media and we don’t know if that picture is accurate.”

Arizona Senator Martha McSally: “I think what we’ve seen out of [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi and [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff and others in the House is quite partisan and I think people want us to take a serious look at this and not have it be just partisan bickering going on.” 

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis: “I’m going to leave it to the President to make that decision” on whether his actions were appropriate. 

The reason for Republicans’ deafening silence: They didn’t want to anger Trump or his fanatical supporters. And they feared losing their Congressional seats and the perks that go with them.  

Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, showed no such fear.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Atkinson left private law practice and worked for the United States Department of Justice for 15 years.

In 2017, President Trump nominated him as Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. The Senate confirmed him in 2018.

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Michael Atkinson

Atkinson, informed by an Intelligence whistleblower of Trump’s extortion attempt, was appalled. He believed that he was obligated by law to report it to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Trump was ultimately impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for abusing his office for personal political gain and obstruction of Congress.

But a Republican-controlled Senate—which refused to hear witnesses or act on the overwhelming evidence—quickly exonerated him.

In his April 3 letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Trump wrote:  “This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

“it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” 

Clearly, there is a reason why Trump no longer has “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson: He can’t depend on “this Inspector General” to conceal and support any future crimes he might commit.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2020 at 12:09 am

Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

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Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

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Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A a skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under President Donald Trump—who throws “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dares reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2020 at 12:08 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; two are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); two American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky)

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 26 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD secret police sent to arrest him. 

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2020 at 12:05 am

“There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.  

“A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince. And he added:

“But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. 

“Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.”

Machiavelli’s words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

Except, of course for “a very stable genius,” as President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised:

“It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

Competent executives surround themselves with experts in diverse fields and pay attention to their expertise. They don’t feel threatened by it but rely on it to implement their agenda. Advisers whose counsel proves correct are to be retained and rewarded.

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

“The prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.”

But rewarding those who try to head off ruinous decision-making is not Trump’s way. 

Consider the case of John Rood, the Pentagon’s top policy official until February 19. That was when he resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

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John Rood

Rood had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the release of Congressionally-authorized aid for its efforts to thwart Russian aggression.

And that totally conflicted with Trump’s attempt to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and this led directly to impeachment proceedings by the Democratically-controlled House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Since then, Trump has purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

  • Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, from the National Security Council.
  • White House Attorney Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother.
  • Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” his attorney David Pressman, said in a statement.

For Trump, Rood had been “disloyal” on two occasions: 

  • He stated in a May 23, 2019 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had thoroughly assessed Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions. And he said that those reforms justified the authorized $400 million in aid.
  • He told reporters last year: “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.

That did not protect him, however, from Trump’s vendetta against those who dared to reveal his crimes to Democratic impeachment committees.

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

THE RICH (LIKE THE PLAGUE) ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2020 at 12:07 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

“It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise.    

“The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

“This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.”

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

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Walter Scheidel

World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Scheidel gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: “Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

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“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich….

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73 – 71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

For millions of struggling, impoverished Americans, that day cannot come soon enough.

THE RICH (LIKE THE PLAGUE) ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2020 at 12:10 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. 

On June 18, 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joseph Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. 

The former Vice President believed that his message would comfort his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

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Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden has talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he’s taken a moderate stance when it comes to taxation.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March, 2019.

Instead, he proposes expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, took a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.

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Among the epochs it covered: The civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth. They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

HOW TO LAUNCH–OR FOIL–CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 29, 2020 at 12:09 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.  

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

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

The first has already been covered. Now for the second and third.

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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. 

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.

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

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

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

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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.”

HOW TO LAUNCH–OR FOIL–CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 28, 2020 at 12:07 am

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.

He did so in 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 might well become the targets of conspiracies—such as President Donald J. Trump.

Niccolo Machiavellil

The most dangerous time for a ruler comes when he is universally hated.

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.  

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.

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Adolf Hitler

There are three ways a conspiracy 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. According to the Greek historian Herodotus: 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.

DONALD TRUMP: “TROOPS FOR SALE–TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 am

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private—and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country. 

Now President Donald Trump is carrying the employment of mercenaries to an entirely different level.

A January 11 headline in Rolling Stone sums it up thus: “Trump Brags About Serving Up American Troops to Saudi Arabia for Nothing More Than Cash.” 

On January 10, Trump, interviewed by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, bragged about his positive relationship with Saudi Arabia—and how the Saudi royal family is paying to use American troops:

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us.’

“They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

“We are going to help them, but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million… I said, ‘You gotta help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting you from North Korea. You’ve gotta pay.’”

Republicans have been silent on Trump’s plan to turn American soldiers into foreign-paid mercenaries. But at least one former Republican has dared to speak out.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) recently tweeted: “He sells troops.”

In October, 2019, on “Meet the Press,” Amash accused Trump of breaking his campaign promise to bring troops home.

“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East.” 

But there are dangers to relying on mercenaries. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents code-named “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

More ancient sources have also warned against the use of mercenaries. One of these was Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

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

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

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

WHY TYRANTS FEAR COURAGE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 1, 2020 at 12:18 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

When Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration.

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court rather than take the stand.
  • “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, 2016, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro rules this out: He had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation (other than a trick): Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing.  

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death. 

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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