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Posts Tagged ‘POLITICS’

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.

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics on June 23, 2016 at 1:14 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:  

“For 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.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.  

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it–” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

MACHIAVELLI WAS RIGHT: DISTRUST THE RICH

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2015 at 2:04 am

As Americans vacation their way through yet another observance of Presidents’ Day, 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.

….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. 

For the aim of the people is more honest than that of the [wealthy], the latter desiring to oppress, and the former merely to avoid oppression.  [And] the prince can never insure himself against a hostile population on account of 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 wealth 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 notes: “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 a timeless remedy 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.

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:

“For 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.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty.

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in this, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an advisor should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice  may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the advisor.

Above all, the advisor must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.”

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the advisor gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In History, Politics, Self-Help on May 10, 2013 at 12:12 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:

“For 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.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty.

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in this, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an advisor should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the advisor.

Above all, the advisor must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.”

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the advisor gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

MACHIAVELLI WAS RIGHT

In Business, History, Law, Social commentary on March 1, 2013 at 12:37 am

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.

…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. 

For the aim of the people is more honest than that of the [wealthy], the latter desiring to oppress, and the former merely to avoid oppression.  [And] the prince can never insure himself against a hostile population on account of 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 wealth 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 notes: “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 a timeless remedy 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.

GIVING ADVICE – SAFELY

In History, Politics, Self-Help on April 9, 2012 at 10:30 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:

“For 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.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty.

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in this, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an advisor should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice  may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the advisor.

Above all, the advisor must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.”

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the advisor gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Osama bin Laden. Two men who lived by the gun–and died by it. Who inspired widespread admiration among their supporters and fear among their enemies.

Both men targeted the United States as their chief adversary. Guevera sought to destroy its power to fight Communism. Bin Laden sought to destroy its power to intervene in the Middle East.

Guevera’s most optimistic hope was that Americans would eventually see the error of their capitalistic ways and convert to Communism. His last words were: “Tell Fidel that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America.”

But he was prepared to fight to the death–as indeed he did–to force revolutionary change upon the United States.

Bin Laden’s most optimistic hope that Christian and Jewish Americans would eventually convert to Islam. But if that didn’t happen, he, too, was prepared to attack Americans anywhere and in any way he could–as his private diary and documents have revealed.

Having described, in a previous column, how Ernesto “Che” Guevera met his end, it is time to compare this with how bin Laden earned his 72 willing virgins.

On April 29, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a U.S. military raid, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear.”   On May 1, two teams of 12 U.S. Navy SEALs, working with the CIA, stormed bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The SEALS traveled in two helicopters specially outfitted to emit little noise. But an accident resulted when the tail rotor of one helicipter grazed the compound’s wall. The damaged aircraft was “hard-landed” and then destroyed on-site to protect technology secrets.

Back-up forces were immediately available, and another helicopter was brought in to retrieve the commandos and relevant contents. All combined, a total of 79 commandos and a dog (believed to have explosive-detection training) were involved in the raid.

Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, opened fire on the SEALs from the guesthouse with an AK-47 assault rifle where he and his wife were killed in the returned fire. A male relative of the courier was shot and killed by the SEALs before he could reach a weapon lying nearby

Bin Laden’s 22-year-old son rushed towards the SEALs on the staircase of the main house, and was also shot and killed. Bin Laden, standing at the top of a staircase, retreated into his room–where he was followed by SEALS and shot in his head and chest.

There were two weapons near him, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a Russian-made 9 millimeter semi-automatic Makarov pistol. But, according to his wife, Amal, he was shot before he could reach his AK-47.

A SEAL on the scene announced coded news of bin Laden’s death: “Geronimo E-KIA” (enemy – killed in action).

The entire raid, including intelligence sweeps of the compound, was completed in less than 40 minutes. The SEALS moved fast because they feared–rightly–that the Pakistani army would intervene to protect bin Laden.

Within 24 hours of his death, bin Laden’s body was transported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson for final rites and burial at sea. President Obama and other U.S. officials feared that his gravesite could become become a memorial site for members of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrArabist organizations.

In the late evening of May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed in the operation. He added that U.S. forces “took care to avoid civilian casualties.”

The attack was carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani government–a wise move, considering that bin Laden had been living undisturbed at a large compound for at least five years, just a short distance from the Pakistani version of West Point.

Just as Fidel Castro and other Communist leaders eulogized the dead Che, so, too, leaders of Islamic expansionist groups rallied to praise the dead bin Laden.

Among these was his son, Omar, who denounced his father’s killing as a “criminal” act, and his burial at sea as demeaning to the Islamic faith.

In a letter published on the website of Islamist ideologue Abu Walid al-Masri, the younger bin Laden said the former Al Qaeda leader’s children reserved the right to take legal action in the United States and internationally to “determine the true fate of our vanished father.”

The letter further noted:  “We hold the American President Obama legally responsible to clarify the fate of our father, Osama bin Laden, for it is unacceptable, humanely and religiously, to dispose of a person with such importance and status among his people, by throwing his body into the sea in that way, which demeans and humiliates his family and his supporters and which challenges religious provisions and feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims.”

Bin Laden’s death attracted protests from hundreds of people in the city of Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, who burned American flags and paid homage to the late terrArabist leader.

On May 13, a pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people.  It was the first act of retaliation for the killing of bin Laden.

Others–especially Americans–reacted differently.  Almost as Obama was addressing the nation, cheering crowds gathered outside the White House and in New York City’s Times Square.  Celebration also broke out at the site of the former World Trade Center, the victim of the September 11 attacks.

For the next two weeks, Americans continued to rejoice.  Much of their feelings were best expressed in grisly humor on websites and late night comedy shows such as “Tonight” and “Late Night With  David Letterman.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department issued a “worldwide caution” for Americans, and U.S diplomatic facilities everywhere were placed on high alert.

It remains to be seen whether, decades from now, bin Laden will retain the iconic status of Ernesto “Che” Guevera.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm

They both had beards. They both saw military action. They both passionately hated the United States. They both died in a hail of bullets.

And immediately after their deaths, both of them seemed to disappear from the face of the earth.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Osama bin Laden. The former Cuban revolutionary died on October 9, 1967, at the hands of a CIA-directed operation run by the Bolivian army.

The latter mastermind of Al Qaeda met his end on May 1, 2011, during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALS on his compound in Pakistan.

One man–Guevera–has since attained secular sainthood in the eyes of millions of Communists and their sympathizers.

The other–bin Laden–has attained instant “martyr” status in the eyes of untold numbers of Islamic terrArabists and their sympathizers throughout the world.

Both men plotted constantly against the United States and eagerly sought its destruction.

In November, 1962, during an interview with the London Daily Worker, Guevera raged against the Soviet Union’s recent withdraal of nuclear missiles from Cuba. Those “thirteen days” of the Cuban Missile Crisis that October had brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust.

“If the missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of the United States, including New York,” said Guevera. “We must never establish peaceful coexistence. We must walk the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims.”

Similarly, until the end of his life, bin Laden demanded more 9/11-style attacks against the American heartland. This brought him into conflict with other Al Qaeda members who wanted to launch assaults on more vulnerable targets outside the United States.

Guevera met his fate as follows:

On November 3, 1966, he secretly arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, intent on re-staging the Cuban revolution among the Bolivian peasantry. But the peasants showed no interest in his aims and in fact reported his movements to the army.

The army, in turn, was being advised by Green Berets under the direction of the CIA. On October 7, 1967, an informant apprised the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Guevara’s guerrilla encampment in the Yuro ravine.

On October 8, they encircled the area with 1,800 soldiers, and Guevara was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a detachment. His rifle broken by a lucky shot, a twice-wounded Guevara shouted: “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.”

Quickly informed of Guevera’s capture, officials of the Bolivian government debated his fate: Should he be immediately executed or placed on trial?

On the morning of October 9, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara be killed. Placing Guevera on trial would create an international media circus and/or render Bolivia vulnerable to efforts to free him.

Since the Bolivian government planned to state that Guevera had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army, special instructions were issued. These came from Félix Rodríguez, a CIA agent acting as advisor to the Bolivians.

The executioner would be Mario Terán, a Bolivian army sergeant who had lost three of his friends in an earlier firefight with Guevara’s band of guerrillas.

Rodríguez ordered Terán to aim carefully to make it appear that Guevara had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army.

To his surprise, Rodriguez found himself personally impressed with Guevera’s courage. When Rodriguez informed him of his imminent execution, Guevera blanched, then quickly got control of himself: “It is better like this. I should never have been captured alive.”

Rodriguez asked if he had any messages for his family, and Che replied: “Tell Fidel that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America. And tell my wife to remarry and try to be happy.”

When Sergeant Terán entered the hut, Che Guevara told his executioner, “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man!”

Terán hesitated, then opened fire with his semiautomatic rifle, hitting Guevara in the arms and legs. Guevara writhed on the ground, apparently biting one of his wrists to avoid crying out. Terán then fired several times again, wounding him fatally in the chest.

In all, Guevara was shot nine times: five times in the legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and once in the throat.

But killing Guevera was not enough for the Bolivian government. He had to seem to disappear from the face of the earth.

On October 10, 1967, Guevara’s body was flown to nearby Vallegrande, where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta. Several witnesses were called to confirm that it was Guevara.

As hundreds of local residents filed past the body, many of them considered Guevara’s corpse to represent a “Christ-like” visage. Some of them even surreptitiously clipped locks of his hair as divine relics.

After a military doctor amputated his hands, Bolivian army officers transferred Guevara’s body to an undisclosed location and refused to reveal whether his remains had been buried or cremated.

The hands were preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification. (His fingerprints were on file with the Argentine police.) They were later sent to Cuba.

On October 15, Fidel Castro acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout Cuba. Addressing a crowd of one million mourners in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución on October 18, Castro eulogized Che’s character as a revolutionary:

“If we wish to express what we want the men of future generations to be, we must say: Let them be like Che! If we wish to say how we want our children to be educated, we must say without hesitation: We want them to be educated in Che’s spirit!

“If we want the model of a man, who does not belong to our times but to the future, I say from the depths of my heart that such a model, without a single stain on his conduct, without a single stain on his action, is Che!”

TREASON AND ITS BUREAUCRATIC PROMOTERS – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm

For more than a half-century, the bureaucrats of the Republican Party have accused their Democratic opponents of treason to gain and retain political power in America. And it has proven a potent, vote-getting weapon.

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, assailed the “smear-and-fear” tactics of Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The forum was Murrow’s highly-rated documentary series, “See It Now.” The truth of Murrow’s remarks has outlasted the briefness of that 30-minute program.

They could have been applied to the “lie and deny” methods of the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

And to the Red-baiting attacks made by Republicans against President Bill Clinton.

And to the ongoing character assaults made by right-wingers against President Barack Obama.

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” warned Murrow in that broadcast. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men–not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular….

“We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities….

“We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home….

“Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”

Fast forward 57 years, to April 27, 2011. Murrow has been dead since 1965. Yet an echo of his words hung in the air as President Barack Obama addressed a hastily-called press conference.

The reason: To release the long-form of his Hawaiian birth certificate–and to hopefully lay to rest the Republican slander that he was not an American citizen, thus making him ineligible to hold office as President.

“I know that there is going to be a segment of people for which no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest,” Obama said. “But I am speaking for the vast majority of the American people as well as for the press.

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.”

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other … if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

Chief among the “carnival barkers” Obama was referring to was Donald Trump, the endlessly self-promoting business tycoon.

Declaring himself a possible candidate for President in 2012, Trump had latched onto the “birther” issue as a guaranteed way to capture the attention–and votes–of the radical right.

For everyone but the most extremist right-wingers, Obama’s dramatic performance laid to rest the “birther” issue.

But the President had another–and far more important–surprise to unveil: His answer to those rightists who accused him of being a secret Muslim, intent on “selling out” America’s security to his Islamic “masters.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

For the moment, most of the slander-peddlers in the Republican Party bureaucracy fell silent. This was especially after Obama announced the death of Bin Laden.

Still, the legacy of hate and fear-mongering goes on. There is a good reason for this: Republicans have found, repeatedly, that attacking the patriotism of their opponents is an effective vote-getter.

• It hurtled Dwight Eisenhower into the White House and Republicans into Congress in 1952 and 1956 and
• elected Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 .
• It gave control of the White House to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and
• gave it to George H.W. Bush in 1988.
• And even though Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992, it gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994.
• It gave them the White House to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
• It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010, thus undermining the financial and healthcare reforms planned by Obama.

And, coming this July, the bureaucracy of the Republican Party will expand its “Treason!” accusation even further. No longer will only Democratic candidates for office and their supporters be targets for such slander.

Now the victims will include the tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11.

They will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list. Any of the responders who are notcompared to the database of suspected terrorists will be barred from getting treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

It’s a “gift” that comes to them courtesy of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and the Republican Party.

In 2010, Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law to address those ailments.

But to win passage of the legislation, Democrats were forced to accept an amendment that deliberately casts a slur on the men and women who had answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony.

Thus, self-righteous right-wing legislators, who never lifted a beam from a trapped 9/11 survivor or inhaled toxic fumes that spewed from the crater that was once the World Trade Center, will be standing in judgment over those who did.

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