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NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’S MASTER CLASS ON CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2021 at 12:31 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.”

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’S MASTER CLASS ON CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 1, 2021 at 2:29 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.

MACHIAVELLI’S ADVICE ON HOW JOE BIDEN CAN PREVAIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 9, 2020 at 12:07 am

On December 8,  Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Missouri United States Senator Roy Blunt joined House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in blocking a resolution asserting that Joe Biden is the President-elect of the United States.

Republicans clearly have no intention of cooperating with the incoming Biden administration.

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Mitch McConnell

But there is a way for Biden to effectively deal with this:

  • Recognize that, for Republicans, “compromise” means: You do all the compromising; and
  • Apply the only weapon they respect: Fear.

Biden has repeatedly said he wants to be the President of all Americans—Democrats and Republicans

Yet, for more than a month after the November 3 Presidential election,, the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans—like McConnell—refuse to publicly admit that Biden won by 81,255,933 votes to 74,196,153 for Trump. 

The reason: They are still in thrall to Trump’s fanatical base.

They fear that if they break with the soon-to-be-ex-President, they will be voted out of office at the next election—and lose their cozy positions and the power and perks that come with them.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, offered this warning for well-intentioned people like Biden in his classic work: The Prince:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

A good starting point: Go directly after McConnell himself.  

Option #1: A May 8, 2018 story in The Dallas Morning News spotlights “How Putin’s Oligarchs Funneled Millions into GOP Campaigns.” And McConnell has been a major recipient of Russian largesse.

A serious inquiry by the Justice Department might lead to an indictment—if not for treason, then for campaign finance violations.

Option #2: According to an April 15, 2020 story in Courier: “Here’s How Much McConnell Got From Big Pharma After Nixing a Bill to Lower Drug Prices”:

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced in September that he would block any consideration of a bill to lower prescription drug costs. By the end of December, he had raked in more than $50,000 in contributions from political action committees and individuals tied to the pharmaceutical industry.”

There could be a campaign finance violation involving bribery. A good place to start is with the allegations contained in that story.

Even if McConnell escaped prison, such a prosecution would dramatically inform him—and other Republicans—that a new era of accountability had arrived.

Option #3: As President, Biden will have the power to divert Federal projects from Kentucky—and other Republican states

President Lyndon Johnson successfully employed this tactic to keep Republican—and Democratic—troublemakers in line. Once they saw projects for roads, post offices and other Federal amenities disappearing from their districts, they quickly got the message as to who was in charge.

Above all, President Biden must constantly remember: For Republicans, the mathematics of power come down to this: Who/Whom.

Or: Who can do What to Whom?

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joe Biden

Republicans believe themselves the only legitimate political party in the country—and champion a double standard for themselves and everyone else.

For example: 

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort;
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and
  • Rinat Akhemetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”  

The purpose of that meeting: To get any “dirt” the Russians might have on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton.

The resulting publicity of this meeting—and Trump’s openly calling on “Russia” to hack Democratic computers—naturally convinced many Americans that he had been elected with the full support of Vladimir Putin.

This alarmed many Republicans—not that their candidate sought help from the FSB (the successor to the KGB) but that many Americans knew he had.

On the January 15, 2017, edition of “This Week,” Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, whined that President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy as President.

The host, George Stephanopoulos, noted that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.” 

This all-consuming hypocrisy and demand for subservience will not change after Biden becomes President.

The last four years have proven beyond doubt that what Ronald Reagan once said about the leaders of the Soviet Union now applies to those of his own party: “The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

It remains to be seen if Joe Biden has learned anything from those years.

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 8, 2020 at 12:15 am

Once he became the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

On November 3, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said:

“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. And, one by one, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team. Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—have refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, do Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There are basically three ways America’s continuing slide into tyranny could be stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could revolt against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, demand that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President has.

This is extremely unlikely to happen. Republicans fear that if they openly defy him, his fanatical base will turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily be made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, has been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This is also extremely unlikely. Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly fears him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular has set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump has similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He has also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them have been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result.

Gaius Caligula

As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in The Discourses“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.”

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2020 at 12:24 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have asked themselves since Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted  74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

HUMANITY PREVAILS WHEN VIOLENCE FAILS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 4, 2020 at 12:07 am

Two stories—one fictitious, the other historical—illustrating a principle.

Fictional Story #1: In the 1961 historical epic, “El Cid,” Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known as “The Lord,” besieges the Spanish city of Valencia, which has been captured by the Moors.

Months have passed. The city’s population is starving and without hope.

Then, one day, El Cid (Charlton Heston) calls out over the city’s walls: “Soldiers and citizens of Valencia We are not your enemy! Ben Yusof [the powerful emir who plans to conquer Spain with an invading army] is your enemy! 

“Join us! We bring you peace! We bring you freedom! We bring you bread!”

Amazon.com: El Cid Poster Movie 30x40 Charlton Heston Sophia Loren ...

Suddenly El Cid’s Spanish catapults spring into action—loaded not with stones but loaves of bread. The loaves land in the city’s streets, where starving citizens and soldiers greedily devour them. 

Then those citizens attack the bodyguards of the emir ruling Valencia—and throw the emir himself from a high wall. 

The army of El Cid marches peacefully into the city.

Factual Story #2: In Book Three, Chapter 22 of his classic masterwork, The Discourses, Niccolo Machiavelli offers the following: “An Act of Humanity Prevailed More With the Falacians Than All the Power of Rome.”

Marcus Furius Camillus, a Roman general, was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it. A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city decided to ingratiate himself with Camillus by leading those children into the Roman camp. 

Presenting them to Camillus the teacher said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”

Camillus not only declined the offer but went one step further. He ordered the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back. Then Camillus had a rod put into the hands of each of the children and directed them to whip the teacher all the way back to the city. 

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

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

“…History also shows us how much the people desire to find such virtues in great men, and how much they are extolled by historians and biographers of princes….Amongst these, Xenophon takes great pains to show how many victories, how much honor and fame, Cyrus gained by his humanity and affability, and by his not having exhibited a single instance of pride, cruelty or luxuriousness, nor of any of the other vices that are apt to stain the lives of men.”

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

These stories—the first the product of a movie screenwriter’s imagination, the second recorded by a master political scientist and historian—remain highly relevant today.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black unemployed restaurant security guard, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Chauvin kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. 

Cities across the United States erupted in mass protests over Floyd’s death—and police killings of black victims generally. Most of these demonstrations proved peaceful.

But cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City saw stores looted, vandalized and/or burned. In response, President Donald Trump called for harsh policing, telling governors in a nationwide conference call that they must “dominate” protesters or be seen as “weak.”

To drive home his point, Trump ordered police and National Guard troops to violently remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, which borders St. John’s Church near the White House.  

The purpose of the removal: To allow Trump to have a photo opportunity outside the church.

“I imposed a curfew at 7pm,” tweeted Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful!”

Contrast that with the example of Sheriff Christopher Swanson of Genesee County, Michigan. 

Walk with us!': Sheriff in Michigan shows solidarity to protestors ...

Sheriff Christopher Swanson

Confronting a mass of aroused demonstrators in Flint Township on May 30, Swanson responded: “We want to be with you all for real.”

So Swanson took his helmet off. His deputies laid their batons down.

“I want to make this a parade, not a protest. So, you tell us what you need to do.”

“Walk with us!” the protesters shouted.

“Let’s walk, let’s walk,” said Swanson. 

Cheering and applause resounded.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. “Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.”

And Swanson and his fellow officers walked in sympathy with the protesters.

No rioting followed. 

COUNT THE STUPIDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2020 at 12:18 am

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask.

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: If liberals do it, it’s fascistic. Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The President has made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

Yet even in states where wearing a mask is mandatory when venturing out in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus threaten the lives of others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Trump should issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when out in public. But Trump cannot admit to error—let alone one that could cost him votes among his most fanatical followers. So that’s not going to happen.

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.
  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders—and offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence should be arrested and imprisoned under State and Federal anti-terrorism laws.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

…Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.

COUNT THE STUPIDS!: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 15, 2020 at 12:05 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the possibility of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

President Donald Trump has made the wearing of masks a divisive political issue. Wearing a mask, according to him, makes you a wimp and a liberal Never-Trumper.  NOT wearing a mask shows you’re a macho man or woman—and in solidarity with him.

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world. By October 12, 2020, it had infected 38.1 million people worldwide. Of these, 1.09 million have died.

In the United States, case totals reached 7.9 million. Of these, 216,000 have died.

But in his public appearances Trump has repeatedly downplayed the lethality of the virus—even though, in February, he admitted to Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward that it was “deadly.”

“It goes through air, Bob,” said Trump. “That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Trump has:

  • Disregarded the warnings of his own health experts.
  • Said he knew better.
  • Held indoor campaign mega-rallies where his followers don’t wear masks and sit or stand literally shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • Touted an anti-malarial drug (hydroxychloroquine) as a Coronavirus cure, even though its effectiveness against COVID-19 remains unproven.
  • Even suggested injecting bleach as a treatment.

Above all, he has repeatedly mocked the wearing of masks.

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended Americans wear face coverings in public. Trump announced at a task force briefing that the practice was “voluntary” and that “you do not have to do it.”

Four months later, in August, Trump said of masks: “Maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.” 

On September 26, Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. All the major domos of the Right showed up—without masks, and crammed together in folding chairs. And soon many of them tested positive for COVID-19. 

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Donald Trump

Among the most important casualties:

  • Trump
  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
  • Three Republican United States Senators
  • White House Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Bill Stepien

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. And these will be explored in the second part of this series. 

TRUMP: SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN FOR MY RE-ELECTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2020 at 12:31 am

The father of modern political science, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) is widely thought of as the personification of Satan.

Actually, Machiavelli was a passionate republican, who spent most of his life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

Florence, despite its wealth, lacked a strong army—and lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Cesare Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In his masterwork, The Discourses, he warned that life is complex and no course of action is guaranteed safe or successful.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a man of simplistic “solutions” for simplistic audiences.

By early April, he refused to issue a national “stay-at-home” order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. When states began issuing shutdown orders of their own, he railed against those orders and demanded that “we need to reopen the country.” 

Donald Trump

What lay behind this demand were two hidden agendas.  He wanted to:

  • Quickly revitalize—and take credit for—a once-booming economy—even though this was largely created by President Barack Obama.
  • Return to his Nuremberg-style rallies, where he could slander anyone he wanted while basking in the worship of thousands of his fanatical followers.

Which is why he clearly missed this warning Machiavelli offered in The Discourses:  

…I shall speak here only of those dangers to which those expose themselves who counsel a republic or a prince to undertake some grave and important enterprise in such a manner as to take upon themselves all the responsibility of the same. 

“For as men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations.  But the reward never equals the punishment….

“I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. 

“If either then the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity.

“In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either the prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many.”

But, by May, more Americans were wary about “reopening the country” than about rushing to do so. 

On the May 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted:

“If you look at actual behavior, people locked themselves down before any politician took a move. And even in those states where the politicians are opening up, people are still locking down….

“And so I think the key decisions right now are not being made in statehouses and certainly not the White House. They’re being made in living rooms, as people decide, is it safe? Can I go out?”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

By pushing his mantra—“America needs to reopen NOW!”—Trump was risking the lives of millions of Americans. But he was also risking the future of his Presidency.

If “reopening” the country proved disastrous, he had no back-up plan to offer.

Several states—such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that re-opened saw swarms of people flooding into bars and restaurants. They didn’t wear masks or practice “social distancing.” Packed together like sardines, they offered themselves like a Right-wing sacrifice to Coronavirus.

The results were inevitable.

A new wave of COVID-19 erupted after America “reopened.” More employees were laid off—or refused to come to work for fear of Coronavirus.

The economy continued to tank.

As summer neared its end and millions of students faced returning to school, Trump offered his next “solution” to the Coronavirus pandemic: Send them back to school—-and not through virtual classes at home.

Trump wants children to return to possibly COVID-19-infected classrooms.

And he’s not asking parents to send their children back to school. He’s ordering them to.

On July 8, he tweeted that he might withhold federal funding from schools that do not resume in-person classes this fall.   

Why is he so insistent on this? 

Trump knows that before parents can return to work, their kids need to return to class, He hopes that will boost the economy—for which he can take credit.

And that will boost his chances for re-election in November. 

Just as the ancient Canaanites sacrificed their children to the god Moloch, so does Trump expect his followers—and opponents—to risk their children’s lives for him.

And the sacrifices are already coming.  On August 10, CBS News reported:

“Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds. Just over 97,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus from July 16 to July 30, according to the association.”

As a result, Trump is seen—as Machiavelli warned—as the primary instigator of that “reopening”—and the primary cause of 205,000 American deaths.

FUHRERS AND THEIR GENERALS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 10, 2020 at 1:05 am

On September 3, a blockbuster story appeared in The Atlantic magazine under the headline: “Trump: Americans Who Died in War are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers'”.

The story opened: “When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true….

“In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.’ In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed.”

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Donald Trump

The story has massive implications for Trump. During his 2016 campaign for President, he got huge support from military voters. A May 9, 2016 story in Military Times reported: 

“In a new survey of American military personnel, Donald Trump emerged as active-duty service members’ preference to become the next U.S. president, topping Hillary Clinton by more than a 2-to-1 margin.”

When the story first appeared on Thursday, Trump demanded that aides deny it.  

On Labor Day, Trump called a White House press conference. He was angry that more of the top brass at the Pentagon had not defended him.

And it showed:

“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me—the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

The next day, his chief of staff, Mark Meadows said that Trump wasn’t referencing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a former top lobbyist for Raytheon. 

Attacking the “military industrial complex” hypocritically contradicted Trump’s efforts to broker multi-billion dollar arms sales with countries like Saudi Arabia. The companies which benefited from this $110 billion sale: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.  

Trump’s rage reflected he mindset of an earlier CEO whose rage and egotism carried him—and his country—to ruin: Adolf Hitler.

Bevin Alexander provides an overall—but colorful—view of Hitler’s generalship in How Hitler Could have Won World War II.

How Hitler Could Have Won World War II

Among the fatal military insist that led to the defeat of the defeat of the Third Reich:

  • Wasting hundreds of  Luftwaffe [air force] pilots, fighters and bombers in a halfhearted attempt to conquer England.
  • Ignoring the pleas of generals like Erwin Rommel to conquer Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which would have given Germany control of most of the world’s oil.
  • Attacking his ally, the Soviet Union, while still at war with Great Britain.
  • Turning millions of Russians into enemies rather than allies by his brutal and murderous policies.
  • Needlessly declaring war on the United States after the Japanese attacked Pearl harbor. (Had he not done so, Americans would have focused all their attention on defeating Japan.)
  • Refusing to negotiate a separate peace with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin—thus granting Germany a large portion of captured Russian territory in exchange for letting Stalin remain in power.
  • Insisting on a “not-one-step-back” military “strategy” that led to the needless surrounding, capture and/or deaths of hundreds of thousands of German servicemen.

As the war turned increasingly against him, Hitler became ever more rigid in his thinking.

He demanded absolute control over the smallest details of his forces. This, in turn, led to astonishing and unnecessary losses among their ranks. 

On June 6, 1944, General Erwin Rommel insisted that Panzer tanks to drive the Allies from the Normandy beaches. But these could not be released except on direct orders of the Fuehrer.

 

Panzer tank

Hitler’s chief of staff, General Alfred Jodl, informed Rommel: The Fuhrer was asleep-–and was not to be awakened. By the time Hitler awoke and issued the order, it was too late.  

Nor could Hitler accept responsibility for the policies that were leading Germany to certain defeat. He blamed his generals, accused them of cowardice, and relieved many of the best ones from command.  

Among those sacked was Heinz Guderian, creator of the German Panzer corps—and responsible for the blitzkreig victory against France in 1940.

Heinz Guderian

Another was Erich von Manstein, designer of the strategy that defeated France in six weeks—which Germany had failed to do during four years of World War 1.

Erich von Manstein

Finally, on April 29, 1945—with the Russians only blocks from his underground Berlin bunker—Hitler dictated his “Last Political Testament.”  

Once again, he refused to accept responsibility for unleashing a war that ultimately consumed 50 million lives: 

“It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who either were of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests.” 

Hitler had launched the invasion of Poland—and World War II—with a lie: That Poland had attacked Germany.

Fittingly, he closed the war—and his life—with a final lie.   

The ancient Greeks believed that “a man’s character is his destiny.”

For Adolf Hitler—and the nations he ravaged—that proved fatally true.  

It remains to be seen whether the same will prove true for Donald Trump—and the United States.

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