bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’

TWEETING AWAY HIS DIGNITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2017 at 12:30 am

If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake.

First published in 1532, The Prince lays bare the qualities needed by a successful political leader. At the top of this list must be creating and preserving a sense of his own dignity. Thus, he must appear to be a combination of mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. 

As Machiavelli puts it:

A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth which is not full of the above-named five qualities, and he should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. 

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has violated Machiavelli’s injunction on integrity with a vengeance. He has been caught in repeated falsehoods–so many, in fact, that the New York Times gave over its June 23 front page to a story headlined: “Trump’s Lies.” 

According to the Times, Trump “told public falsehoods or lies every day for his first 40 days.”

“There is simply no precedent,” went the Times‘ opinion piece, “for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers.

“No other president—of either party—has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.”

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

Machiavelli also advises:

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude….

It’s hard to convey those qualities in a series of 140-character rants on Twitter. Yet, from the start of his Presidency, Trump has put his ambitions, excuses and rants on social media.

As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3 article:

“Putting aside the specific content of the recent blasts from the Oval smart phone, the President’s ongoing Twitter storms make all leaders uneasy. The heads of government in most nations prefer a certain amount of predictability and decorum from other heads of state.

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.” 

Trump’s apologists have fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allow him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.”

On June 29, Trump attacked the physical appearance of Mika Brzezinski, a frequent journalistic critic on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, his deputy press secretary, excused it: “The president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program. And I think he’s been very clear that when he gets attacked he’s going to hit back.”

On July 2, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a wrestler–with a CNN logo imposed over his face.

The tweet brought Trump widespread criticism. Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the video was a “threat of physical violence against journalists” and “beneath the office of the presidency.” 

Trump’s mania for tweeting has often led him to contradict statements by his administration’s highest officials. 

In early June, Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Qater because of its alleged support for terrorism in the Persian Gulf. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly said that the United States hoped to mediate an end to the dispute. 

But the next day, Trump tweeted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East, I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!”

Machiavelli urged rulers to safeguard their reputations:

Niccolo Machiavelli

…A prince must show himself a lover of merit, give preferment to the able, and honor those who excel in every art.

Besides this, he ought, at convenient seasons of the year, to keep the people occupied with festivals and shows….mingle with them from time to time, and give them an example of his humanity and munificence, always upholding, however, the majesty of his dignity, which must never be allowed to fail in anything whatever. 

Rulers who disregard this advice do so at their peril:

A prince need trouble little about conspiracies when the people are well disposed.  But when they are hostile and hold him in hatred, then he must fear everything and everybody…. 

…[The Roman Emperor Commodus], being of a cruel and bestial disposition, in order to…exercise his rapacity on the people, he sought to favor the soldiers and render them licentious. 

On the other hand, by not maintaining his dignity, by often descending into the theater to fight with gladiators and committing other contemptible actions…he became despicable in the eyes of the soldiers. And being hated on the one hand and despised on the other, he was conspired against and killed. 

Donald Trump has repeatedly violated these lessons. It remains to be seen if he will pay a price for doing so.

THE COSTS OF TIMIDITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2017 at 12:03 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

President Barack Obama could have countered this extortion through the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys. Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.” 

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” 

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to counter Republicans’ extortion attempts, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9’11. 

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism. Among the behavior so defined: “Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 

U.S. Department of Justice

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were now legally in place. President Obama needed only to direct the Justice Department to apply them.

Criminally investigating and possibly indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses. 

The indictment of large numbers of Republican extortionists would have substantially changed the course of American history while Obama held office.

Instead of raising huge sums of money for re-election battles, those Representatives and Senators would have been forced to raise monies for their legal defense. And while some might have been convicted, others almost certainly would have been.

This would have substantially depleted the ranks of Obama’s sworn enemies—and given him far greater opportunities to enact his legislative agenda.

Such indictments and prosecutions—and especially convictions—would have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

A Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that—successfully—during the most dangerous crisis of his administration. Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis—most notably, a blockade of Cuba. 

Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience: “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party—by explaining to the American people: 

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power—or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call to action by the American people:

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

President Barack Obama addressing the Nation

We stand on the edge of economic disaster. Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide—whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

Instead, Obama caved in to Republican extortion demands.

In September, 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia, to Adolf Hitler at the infamous Munich Conference. 

As Winston Churchill aptly predicted: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

To paraphrase Churchill: President Obama had to choose between confrontation and timidity. He chose timidity. He got contempt and obstruction in return. 

Five years later, the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency informed Obama that Russian Intelligence agents were actively working to ensure Donald Trump’s election as President. 

Obama did not publicly release this information–nor indict Trump campaign staffers who were colluding with those agents. 

Thus, Trump won the election–and gained the power to destroy Obama’s Presidential legacy.

MACHIAVELLI VS. TRUMP ON THREATS AND INSULTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 13, 2017 at 12:20 am

Hear that sound?

It’s the sound of Niccolo Machiavelli laughing at President Donald J. Trump.

Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, diplomat and writer. Two of his books continue to profoundly influence modern politics: The Prince and The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

The Prince has often been damned as a dictator’s guide on how to gain and hold power.  But The Discourses outlines how citizens in a republic can maintain their liberty.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In Chapter 26 of The Discourses, he advises:

I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy—but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.

If Trump has read Machiavelli, he’s utterly forgotten the Florentine statesman’s advice. Or he decided long ago that it simply didn’t apply to him.

Consider his treatment of James Comey, the former FBI director whom the President fired on May 9.

James B. Comey

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump gave no warning of his intentions.

Instead, he sent Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard and henchman, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s dismissal.

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

On May 10–the day after firing Comey–Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Two days later, on May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” 

It clearly didn’t occur to Trump that Comey might have created his own record of their exchanges. Or that he might choose to publicly release it.

But shortly afterward, that’s exactly what he did. 

News stories surfaced that Comey had written memos to himself immediately after his private meetings with Trump. He had also told close aides that Trump was trying to pressure him into dropping the Russia investigation. 

The news stories led to another result Trump had not anticipated: Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yielded to demands from Democrats and appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III as a Special Prosecutor to investigate Trump’s Russian ties.

A Special Prosecutor (now euphemistically called an “Independent Counsel”) holds virtually unlimited power and discretion.

In 1993, Kenneth Starr was appointed Special Prosecutor to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in “Whitewater.” This was a failed Arkansas land deal that had happened while Clinton was still governor there. It had nothing to do with his role as President.

Starr never turned up anything incriminating about Whitewater. But he discovered that Clinton had gotten oral sex in the Oval Office from a lust-hungry intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton’s lying about these incidents before a Federal grand jury led to his impeachment by a Republican-dominated House of Representatives. But he avoided removal when the Senate refused to convict him by a vote of 55 to 45.

Finally, Trump’s implying that he had illegally taped his conversations with Comey was yet another dangerous mistake, with four possible outcomes:

  1. If Trump has such tapes, they can and will be subpoenaed by the Special Prosecutor and the House and Senate committees investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
  2. If Trump has such tapes and refuses to turn them over, he can be charged with obstruction of justice–and impeached for that reason alone.
  3. If he has burned or erased such tapes, that, too, counts as obstruction of justice.
  4. If he doesn’t have such tapes, he will be revealed as a maker of empty threats.

This last outcome wouldn’t get him impeached. But it would make him a national laughingstock.

As Machiavelli also warns: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

THREE HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 7, 2017 at 12:15 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.

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

In 1938, Zhilayev, 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 (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

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.

“If the enemy of the people wrote books, they threw away his books. If they had letters from him, they burned the letters. The mind can’t grasp the number of letters and papers burned in that period…

“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.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero–James Brien Comey (December 14, 1960)

Comey served as United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Southern District of New York (2002-2003).

As United States Deputy Attorney General (2003-2005), he opposed the warrantless wiretapping program of the George W. Bush administration. He also argued against the use of water boarding as an interrogation method.

In 2005, he entered the private sector as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the biggest contractor for the Department of Defense. 

On July 29, 2013, the United States Senate voted 93 -1 to confirm Comey as director of the FBI, the seventh in its history.

He directed the FBI from his appointment in 2013 by President Barack Obama until his firing on May 9 by President Donald Trump.

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump gave no warning of his intentions. Instead, he sent Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s dismissal.

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has:

  • Steadfastly denied those revelations;
  • Repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post; and
  • Attacked the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security. 

On May 10–the day after firing Comey–Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

Two days later, on May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” 

But shortly afterward, it appeared Trump was the one who should worry: Reports surfaced that Comey had written memos to himself immediately after his private meetings with Trump. 

He had also told close aides that Trump was trying to pressure him into dropping the investigation into close ties between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign staffers. 

The firing led directly to a result Trump did not anticipate: Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yielded to demands from Democrats and appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III as a special prosecutor to investigate those ties.

And, on June 8, James Comey was scheduled to give his much-anticipated version of events before the United States Senate Intelligence Committee.

THREE HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2017 at 12:02 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

Three heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russian; the third is an American.

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

Image result for images of mikhail tukhachevsky

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 20 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.

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, 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 considered a Russian hero and military genius.

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 (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him. 

MACHIAVELLI WAS RIGHT: DISTRUST THE RICH

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2017 at 12:05 am

As President Donald Trump prepares to drastically cut taxes on the wealthy (including himself) it’s well to remember the man whose name defines modern politics.

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the issues he confronted was how to preserve liberty within a republic. And key to this was mediating the eternal struggle between the wealthy and the poor and middle class.

Machiavelli deeply distrusted the nobility because they stood above the law. He saw them as a major source of corruption because they could buy influence through patronage, favors or nepotism.

Successful political leaders must attain the support of the nobility or general populace. But since these groups have conflicting interests, the safest course is to choose the latter.  

Writes Machiavelli:

….He who becomes prince by help of the [wealthy] has greater difficulty in maintaining his power than he who is raised by the populace. He is surrounded by those who think themselves his equals, and is thus unable to direct or command as he pleases. 

But one who is raised to leadership by popular favor finds himself alone, and has no one, or very  few, who   are not  ready  to  obey him. [And] it is impossible to satisfy the [wealthy] by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way. 

Machiavelli warns that the general populace is more honest than the nobility–i.e., wealthy. The wealthy seek to oppress, while the populace wants to simply avoid oppression.

A political leader cannot protect himself against a hostile population, owing to their numbers, but he can against the hostility of the great, as they are but few.

The worst that a prince has to expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned, but from hostile nobles he has to fear not only desertion but their active opposition. And as they are more far seeing and more cunning, they are always in time to save themselves and take sides with the one who they expect will conquer. 

The prince is, moreover, obliged to live always with the same people, but he can easily do without the same nobility, being able to make and unmake them at any time, and improve their position or deprive them of it as he pleases.

Unfortunately, political leaders throughout the world–including the United States–have ignored this sage advice.

The results of this wholesale favoring of the wealthy and powerful have been brilliantly documented in a recent investigation of tax evasion by the world’s rich.

In 2012, Tax Justice Network, which campaigns to abolish tax havens, commissioned a study of their effect on the world’s economy.

The study was entitled, “The Price of Offshore Revisited: New Estimates for ‘Missing’ Global Private Wealth, Income, Inequality and Lost Taxes.”

http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.  Among its findings:

  • By 2010, at least $21 to $32 trillion of the world’s private financial wealth had been invested virtually tax-­free through more than 80 offshore secrecy jurisdictions.
  • Since the 1970s, with eager (and often aggressive and illegal) assistance from the international private banking industry, private elites in 139 countries had accumulated $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of unrecorded offshore wealth by 2010.
  • This happened while many of those countries’ public sectors were borrowing themselves into bankruptcy, suffering painful adjustment and low growth, and holding fire sales of public assets.
  • The assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments.
  • The offshore industry is protected by pivate bankers, lawyers and accountants, who get paid handsomely to hide their clients’ assets and identities.
  • Bank regulators and central banks of most countries allow the world’s top tax havens and banks to hide the origins and ownership of assets under their supervision.
  • Although multilateral institutions like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and the World Bank are supposedly insulated from politics, they have been highly compromised by the collective interests of Wall Street.
  • These regulatory bodies have never required financial institutions to fully report their cross-­border customer liabilities, deposits, customer assets under management or under custody.
  • Less than 100,000 people, .001% of the world’s population, now control over 30% of the world’s financial wealth.
  • Assuming that global offshore financial wealth of $21 trillion earns a total return of just 3% a year, and would have been taxed an average of 30% in the home country, this unrecorded wealth might have generated tax revenues of $189 billion per year.

Summing up this situation, the report noted: “We are up against one of society’s most well-­entrenched interest groups. After all, there’s no interest group more rich and powerful than the rich and powerful.”

Fortunately, Machiavelli has supplied timeless remedies to this increasingly dangerous situation:

  • Assume evil among men–and most especially among those who possess the greatest concentration of wealth and power.
  • Carefully monitor their activities–the way the FBI now regularly monitors those of the Mafia and major terrorist groups.
  • Ruthlessly prosecute the treasonous crimes of the rich and powerful–and, upon their conviction, impose severe punishment.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART EIGHT (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 20, 2017 at 12:08 am

Even if you feel you have an airtight case against an airline and want to sue, remember this: The vast majority of cases–civil and criminal–are settled outside of court.

In civil cases especially, judges strongly urge both sides to reach a compromise rather than duke it out in court. And both sides are usually willing to do this, since there’s no telling how a jury might rule.

Finally, there’s the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

Related image

The Lady Justice

A plus to this is that you’re not alone in your charge against the airline.  Other passengers who have been similarly wronged are seeking damages, and so the spotlight is not on any one plaintiff.

A minus is that such cases are extremely complex and must be handled by experienced attorneys.  Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court.

Another minus: If your side prevails, the amount of money each plaintiff receives will be far smaller than if the award were to be divided between a single plaintiff and his attorney(s).

Finally, even if you win, you can be certain the airline will appeal the verdict. Such appeals can go on for literally years.

But the most far-reaching reforms can emerge only through Congress. And this can happen only if Americans demand that their representatives create passenger rights through long-overdue legislation.

Image result for Images of United States Capitol

United States Capitol Building

Protections are especially needed when a single airline official–such as a steward–kicks a passenger off an airplane for reasons that have nothing to do with security.

Examples:

  • Two women kissing;
  • A steward demanding whether a woman is wearing underwear;
  • Another steward taking offense at a passenger’s request for help.

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode only one of his 44 vetoes. In that case, Congress put a cap on the rates cable TV companies could charge.

They did so because their constituents made clear their rage about high-priced cable fees.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will respond to constituent demands–if voters:

  1. Make their specific demands known; and
  2. Bluntly warn: “Support this–or look for another job.”

Only such sustained action will counter the legalized bribes (known as “campaign contributions) the airlines offer to members of Congress.      

There is new reason to hope that long-overdue reforms may be coming.  

On April 9, police dragged Dr. David Dao, bloodied and screaming, off his United Airlines flight at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

His crime?  Refusing to give up his seat for a commuting crew member.

He suffered a broken nose, the loss of two front teeth and a concussion.

Dao’s mistreatment was captured on cellphone video taken by several passengers. Posted on Youtube and on national newscasts, it sparked a massive outcry.

To the horror of company officials, United Continental Holdings stock quickly lost an estimated $255 million to $1 billion. Many passengers cut up their United-Chase credit cards and frequent flyer member cards. Others swore to never again fly United.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a suspension to the widespread practice of overbooking: 

“To have somebody pay for a ticket, reserve a seat, be seated and then dragged off the plane physically by law enforcement officers at the direction of United–it’s outrageous,” Christie told CNN’s “New Day.”

Yet Dao has plenty of company. In 2016, more than 475,000 passengers who were bumped off American domestic flights–usually due to overbooking.

It’s standard practice for airlines to sell more tickets than there are seats. “Airlines overbook because people don’t show up for flights and they don’t want to go with empty seats,” said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.  

When a flight is overbooked, federal Department of Transportation (DOT) rules require an airline to first ask passengers to voluntarily give up their seats. Airlines can choose the amount or type of compensation.  It’s usually a gift card or travel voucher for another flight.

If you are kicked off a flight due to overbooking, you can sue for more money if you believe the compensation offered wasn’t sufficient. If you intend to sue, don’t accept any flight vouchers or cash offered by the airline.

And what gives airlines the right to virtually operate as KGB agents? Consumer advocate Ralph Nader puts it thus:

“Because the contract of carriage, which is on the [United] website, is 67,000 words long and fine print, and it takes away the rights to be assured that when you have a confirmed reservation and you’re in the seat, you can stay in the seat—total unbridled discretion by the airline to throw you off the plane.”  

And every other airline has a similar “contract of carriage.” These are written by airline lawyers and are entirely biased toward airlines–not customers.

Above all, remember: Airlines are run by corporations. Their foremost concern is not your comfort or even safety as a passenger. It’s with further enriching their overpaid key executives.

You must be willing to stand up for your own rights–because the CEOs running KGB Airways don’t care about them.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART SEVEN (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

There’s a good chance you won’t be able to resolve your problem with the airline.

In its September 3, 2009 issue, Time magazine warned that calling the airlines’ customer complaint lines would likely prove a waste of time.

The major carriers have, quietly, made it steadily more difficult for customers to reach a person with their complaints. “The airlines don’t want to talk to their  customers,” says John Tschohl, a consultant to businesses on customer service. 

Even the few airlines that still have customer-service numbers bury them deep within their websites. Finding them is often as much a matter of luck as persistence.  

So as advised in Part Four of this series: Don’t waste your time with Customer Service smallfry.

Go directly to the topmost officials of the airline and make it clear that it’s in their best interests to resolve your problem. Then, if you can’t find a workable solution, file your complaint with as many consumer-protection websites as possible.  

You can also file complaints with one or more federal agencies that hold jurisdiction over the airlines.

If your complaint is safety related, address it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at: 

Assistant Administrator for System Safety ASY-100
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591
Phone: 1-866-835-5322

Click here: Contact the Aviation Safety Hotline 

If your complaint involves security, contact the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). They can be reached at (866) 2890-6793 or at their website of  Click here: Transportation Security Administration |.

You can also file a complaint with one or more consumer complaint websites. 

Below is a partial list of consumer complaint websites.  No endorsement is implied by this listing.  It’s offered simply to illustrate the variety of such websites available.

http://www.pissedconsumer.com/ Pissed Consumer (complaints only)

http://www.measuredup.com/ Measured Up (“Customers Review / Businesses Reply / Everybody Wins”)

http://www.thesqueakywheel.com/ The Squeaky Wheel (submits your complaint to google)

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ Federal Trade Commission (does not resolve individual consumer complaints)

http://hissingkitty.com/ Hissing Kitty (posts your complaint on Google, Yahoo, and Bing)

http://www.airlinecomplaints.org/ Airline Complaints (complaints only)

http://www.airsafe.com/complain/complain.htm Air Safe (“critical information for the traveling public”)

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/airlines.html Consumer Affairs (complaints only)

A final option is to sue the airline.

For most people, bringing in a lawyer is like bringing up the heavy artillery. When should you do so?

Christopher Elliott, author, consumer advocate and journalist, outlines “five times when you should consider skipping the complaints process and going straight to court:

  • When they’re playing games;
  • When they’ve broken a contract;
  • When they’re being dishonest;
  • When they’re ignoring you;
  • When they aren’t listening to reason.

Elliott’s webpage contains a wealth of practical advice for those who are fed up with of airline arrogance.  It can be accessed thus:

Click here: See you in court: 5 times when you should just sue ‘em.

Yet another must-read for those wondering if they should file suit: 

Click here: Lies the Airlines Tell Us – ABC News

Assuming you decide to sue, there are three ways to do this:

  1. In small claims court.
  2. In regular civil court as an individual claimant.
  3. As part of a class-action lawsuit.

Each approach has its own series of pluses and minuses.

One option is to do so in small claims court.

A plus is you don’t need an attorney. In fact, you’re barred from bringing in an attorney. You represent yourself, which means you don’t have to pay an attorney–either up-front or at the end of the case.

Another plus: It will cost you far less to represent yourself than it will cost the airline to send a representative. If you file in California and the airline is headquartered in New York, it will be expensive for them to send a rep to attend the proceedings.

If the airline fails to send someone as its representative–which is highly unlikely–it loses by default.

A minus is that you may not be the confrontational type. You may also feel intimidated by the legal process–and afraid of looking like an idiot if you lose.

Another minus is that each state sets a different amount you can win in damages.To learn about the rules applying to small claims courts in your state, consult the following link:

Click here: 50 State Overview of Small Claims Rules | Nolo.com.

A second option is to take your case to civil court.

A plus is that the dollar-amount you can obtain at this level is far higher than in small-claims court.

A minus is that you’ll definitely want to retain an attorney.

True, you can legally represent yourself.  But aviation law is complex.  The airline will definitely have an attorney, so if you don’t, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Another plus: If you can find an attorney willing to represent you on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay him unless you win.  His fee will then come out of your settlement amount.

Another minus: If you can’t find an attorney willing to take your case on this basis, you’ll have to pay him by the hour, after first putting up a retainer fee, which can be quite large.

A third minus is that the courts are clogged with cases, and it can take months or even years before yours will be heard.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART SIX (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 18, 2017 at 12:54 am

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.

If you cringe at writing it yourself, you can ask someone else to write it for you.  But if s/he lacks excellent judgment and literary skills, you’ll be no better-off.

At best, the letter will prove ineffective and be ignored.  At worst, it could open you to charges of libel and/or extortion.

And even if the person can write an effective letter on your behalf, chances are you’ll have to pay for that service.

If you decide to write the letter yourself, you’ll find highly effective advice in Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results, by Ellen Phillips.

Product Details

Click here: Amazon.com: Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results (9780375701207): E

Among the subjects she covers–in detail–are:

  • Who to write to, what to say, what to ask for.
  • The names and addresses of over 600 major companies.
  • How to draft personal petitions covering everything from tenant-landlord disputes to workman’s compensation.
  • What steps to take to avoid litigation.

My own tips for writing a successful complaint letter are:

  • Remove any vulgar or profane words. 
  • Don’t make sweeping accusations: “Your agency is a waste.” 
  • Stick to facts you know can be proved: The who, what, when, where,how and why of good reporting.
  • Don’t attribute motives to people you’ve had problems with.  You don’t know why someone did what he did.
  • Cite the names and titles of any airline employees who (1) witnessed the reason for your complaint, or (2) were witnesses to it.
  • Show how the failure of the official to address your problem reflects badly on the company: “This not the level of service your ads would lead customers to expect.”
  • If there is a specific action the airline can take to redress your complaint, be sure to mention it.  (You can be so angry when making a complaint that you forget to say what you want the company to do to resolve it.)
  • Be reasonable and realistic in what you ask for. 
  • If you want reimbursement for expenses you had to make (such as hotel lodgings) owing to the airline’s fault, then provide copies of receipts.
  • Emphasize your desire to resolve the complaint amicably and privately within the company.
  • If necessary, note any regulatory agencies that can make life rough for the company if your complaint isn’t resolved. 
  • Cite the applicable law(s) under which it can be sued: “According to the Passenger Bill of Rights….” Make certain the airline knows you expect a reply within a certain length of time: “I would appreciate your response within the next 10 business days.”

Of course, your overture(s) may be ignored.  Or you might feel the airline has not made a good-faith effort to compensate you.

In either case, you have two more courses of action to pursue.

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private lawsuit.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s far easier to spread the word about companies that mistreat their customers.

“Fly the Friendly Skies” is no longer n advertising slogan (even at United Airlines, which popularized it). But airlines spend millions of dollars a year on selling just that image of themselves.

So anything that threatens to throw mud on that image is guaranteed to set off alarm-bells at corporate headquarters. Especially if that mud is well-deserved.

Related image

An easy way to avenge airline mistreatment is to make full use of a wide array of consumer-opinion websites.

It’s important to check out each website carefully to increase your chances of having your complaint resolved.

  • Most websites simply offer a forum to vent your spleen.
  • Others promise to take various forms of action on your behalf–such as directing your complaint to the airline or a government agency.
  • Others offer to refer your complaint to an attorney..
  • Many of these are free.
  • Others charge a nominal fee (such as $5) for posting your complaint.
  • Some complaint websites are run by the Federal Government–such as those of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Some are run by individual states–such as the Office of the California Attorney General.
  • The major airlines provide “file a complaint” pages on their websites.

! ! ! WARNING ! ! !

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or physical/financial ruin and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.

And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

If possible, try to resolve your problem (assuming it can be resolved) with the airline.

Why?  Two reasons:

  1. You may be able to obtain what you want at that level, without having to do anything more.
  2. If you don’t give the airline a chance to address your grievance, you will be accused of pursuing a vendetta.  This will be especially true if you later sue the airline.   

But if resolving the problem isn’t possible within the airline, there are two more options available.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART FIVE (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 17, 2017 at 1:36 am

If you have a complaint against an airline, don’t waste your time with low-level Customer Service reps.

If you want action, seek out those who are empowered to make it happen.

But who are those people?  And how do you track them down?

You start by realizing that every major airline has a website.  And that website can usually be counted on to list the top honchos of the company.

Even if it doesn’t, you can usually obtain this information on the Internet.  Go to “Google” and type “[Name of airline] board of directors.”

This should arm you with:

  • The name of its CEO; Its mailing address;
  • Its phone number for reaching its top executives; and
  • Its website and/or email address.

Below are listed:

  • The names of the CEOs of the major United States airlines;
  • Their mailing addresses;
  • Their corporate phone numbers and (where given)
  • Their email addresses.

Remember: The names provided below will not stay permanent. You must do your own research to ensure you’re reaching the right person.

Send out a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” or to the wrong official–and you’ll instantly be branded as a lightweight.  This only shows you were too lazy or stupid to find out who holds power in the company.

But a well-written letter addressed to the key decision maker(s) will instantly warn top executives: “Take this person seriously.”

AMERICAN AIRLINES

William Douglas Parker – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, AMR Corporation / American Airlines Group, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas 

Robert Isom – President 

Mail:

P.O. Box 619616 

DFW Airport,

TX 75261-9616     

Phone:  (817) 963-123 

Click here: American Airlines Board of Directors              

DELTA AIRLINES

Edward H. Bastian – Chief Executive Officer 

Francis S. Blake – Chairman of Delta’s Board of Directors                     

Click here: Delta Air Lines Newsroom – Leadership           

Mail:                  

Delta Air Lines, Inc.                         

1030 Delta Blvd.   

Atlanta, Georgia 30354

Phone: (404) 715-2600            

SPIRIT AIRLINES

Robert Fornaro – President and CEO                 

John Bendoraitis – Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer               

Ted Christie – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer               

Address:                      

2800 Executive Way            

Miramar, FL  33025             

Phone:  (954) 447-7920           

Email:    http://www.spiritair.com               

JETBLUE AIRWAYS                          

Robin Hayes – President and Chief Executive Officer             

Mike Elliott – Executive Vice President, People                      

Steve Preist – Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer                   

JetBlue Airways Corporation Corporate Office | Headquarters

118-29 Queens Blvd.                   

Forest Hills, NY 11375             

Website:  http://www.jetblue.com               

Phone:  (718) 286-7900                    

Toll Free: (800) 538-2583                       

UNITED AIRLINES

Oscar Munoz – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Continental Holdings, Inc                

Gerry Laderman – Senior Vice President, Finance, Procurement and Treasurer

Shareholders and other interested parties may contact the United Continental Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors as a whole, or any individual member, by one of the following means:           

  1. Writing   to the Board of Directors, United Continental Holdings, Inc., c/o the Corporate Secretary’s Office, HDQLD, 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601; or
  2. Emailing   the Board of Directors at UALBoard@united.com                         

If neither of these methods seems to work, try these:                      

Mail:

P.O. Box 66100                       

Chicago, IL 60666                        

Email:  InvestorRelations@united.com                                      

Phone (general): (800) 864-8331                    

Phone Investor Relations: (312) 997-8610                           

United Continental Holdings, Inc. – Investor Relations – Board of Directors

ALASKA AIRLINES                                    

Bradley D. Tilden – Chairman and CEO     

Ben Minicucci – President and Chief Operating Officer    

Brandon Pederson – Executive Vice President Finance and Chief Financial Officer

Corporate Offices  

P.O. Box 68900                           

Seattle, WA 98168                       

Phone: (206-433-3200                           

Click here: Executive Leadership – Alaska Airlines                                  

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES                                   

Gary C. Kelly – Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board at Southwest Airlines, the parent company for AirTran    

Thomas Nealon – President  

Tammy Romo – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President    

Click here: Board of Directors – Southwest Airlines                          

Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters Address:                                  

2702 Love Field Drive                 

Dallas, Texas 75235                           

Telephone: (214) 792-4223                             

AIRTRAN                         

AirTran Airways is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.  Thus, complaints against Airtran should be directed to the top executives of Southwest.

FRONTIER AIRLINES  

Barry F. Biffle – President and Chief Executive Officer     

Ashok Shah – Vice President of Finance                           

Click here: Frontier Airlines, Inc.: CEO and Executives – Bloomberg

Address:                          

Frontier Airlines    

7001 Tower Road      

Denver, CO 80249    

Phone: (720) 374-4200   

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES          

Mark B. Dunkerley – President and Chief Executive Officer     

Jeff Helfrick – Vice President Customer Service           

Jay Schaefer – President and Treasurer                          

Click here: Board of Directors | Hawaiian Airlines 

Headquarters Address:    

Hawaiian Airlines                                               

3375 Koapaka Street, G-350                                   

Honolulu, HI 96819                                     

Telephone: 808-835-3700 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. HST)

ALLEGIANT AIR             

Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr. – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer       

John Redmond – President         

D. Scott Sheldon – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer               

Click here: Corporate Governance – Board of Directors | Investor Relations | Allegiant Air       

Head office:                              

Allegiant Air Corporate Office           

8360 South Durango Drive    

Las Vegas, Nevada, 89113           

Phone number: +1 702 851 7300       

VIRGIN AMERICA

Donald J. Carty – Chairman of the Board      

Samuel K. Skinner – Vice Chairman of the Board      

Stacy J. Smith – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer  

Click here: Virgin America – Corporate Governance  

Address:                                

3555 Airport Blvd.      

Burlingame, CA 94010     

Phone: (877) 359-8474      

Email:   http://www.virginamerica.com      

Your best bet:  Contact the CEO–as the highest-ranking officer, he can’t claim his hands are tied by superiors.     

Next best: Contact the Chief Financial Officer–anyone charged with company profits will be instantly concerned about a problem that can cost big money.  

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.  

Even in our video-oriented society, the written word still carries far greater weight than the spoken one.  A document can be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit.    

%d bloggers like this: