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Posts Tagged ‘PRISONERS OF WAR’

THE TOAD WHO NEVER BECAME A PRINCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 3, 2018 at 12:01 am

Many pundits have sized up Donald Trump—as a Presidential candidate and President.  

But how would Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman, assess Trump?

Machiavelli’s two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Consider Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have supported him.

And what does Machiavelli have to say about gratuitously handing out insults and threats?

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

Many of those who supported Trump as a Presidential candidate expected him to stop constantly picking fights if he became President. Machiavelli had a stern warning for them:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then there is Trump’s approach to consulting advisers.

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

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Donald Trump

This totally contrasts the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli has potent advice on the selection of advisers:

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Consider some of the advisers Trump has relied on in his campaign for President: 

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Comments like these didn’t increase his popularity.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.

This proved a big turn-off among the 70% of women who have an unfavorable opinion of him—and anyone who receives Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan–who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Obama became President in 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death. And Clinton became Secretary of State the same year.  

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.

Finally, speaking directly to Trump, Machiavelli warns: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

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

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

HEROES, JOKERS AND LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

Arizona United States Senator John McCain knows firsthand about torture.

A Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, he was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

So he had strong feelings when he learned about President Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

This was Gina Haspel, who, in 2002, had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk.  

After the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., no one knew if other attacks were about to occur. Or where. The FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and other Intelligence agencies were under huge pressure to discover—and foil—any future plots.

The administration of President George W. Bush ruled that waterboarding was not a form of torture, and thus did not violate the Geneva Convention.

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

Gina Haspel

But for John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled.

As a result, when Haspel’s name was put up for nomination, McCain quickly made clear his opposition.

Enter White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler, who handles surrogate communications.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Not to be outdone by Sadler, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney went on the Right-wing Fox News Network to personally attack McCain.

Torture, he said, was effective: “The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.'”

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to,” said McInerney.

There’s no evidence that McCain ever betrayed the United States during his captivity.

CNN correspondent Jake Tapper angrily replied to McInerney’s slander: “First of all, no one calls him ‘Songbird John’ except for crazy people and jerks—and I’m using my language carefully here.”

Meghan McCain responded to McInerney’s attack: “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about hundreds and hundreds of years. These people: Nothingburgers. Nobody is going to remember you.”

Her comment echoed a remark by former President Harry S. Truman about Indiana United States Senator William Jenner. Jenner, a Right-wing Republican, had attacked the patriotism of George C. Marshall, who, as chief of staff of the United States Army, was rightly called “the architect of Allied victory” in World War II.

Asked by biographer Merle Miller for his opinion on Jenner, Truman responded: “In my opinion, General Marshall will go down as one of the great men of his time. And, of course, people like Jenner, they aren’t even a footnote in history.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

And Meghan McCain added during her appearance on “The View”: “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”

Of course, for anyone familiar with Donald Trump and his vicious reactions to even the smallest opposition, Sadler’s jibe at McCain should come as no surprise.

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Donald Trump

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

This from a man who sought—and got—five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. And who has compared his reckless sex-life during the 1970s to risking his life in service to his country.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

For Sanders—and her boss—it’s disgusting that Trump’s White House can’t enforce the censorship that reigns in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

A POIGNANT ANNIVERSARY FAST APPROACHING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2018 at 12:09 am

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King was shot to death as he stood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. He had come there to lead a march of striking garbage workers.

New York United States Senator—and now Presidential candidate—Robert Francis Kennedy had been scheduled to give a speech in Indianapolis, Indiana, before a black audience.

Just before he drove into the city to deliver his address, he learned of King’s assassination. There was a real danger that rioting would erupt. Police who had been assigned to protect him said they wouldn’t accompany him into the inner city.

Kennedy drove off anyway, leaving behind his police escort.

Standing on a podium mounted on a flatbed truck, Kennedy spoke for just four minutes and 57 seconds.

His waiting audience hadn’t yet learned of King’s death. Kennedy broke the news to gasps, and then gave an impromptu speech eulogizing the slain civil rights leader.

For the first time since the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, he spoke publicly of that killing. He noted that JFK—like King—had also been killed by a white man.

And he called upon the crowd to “dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

Riots erupted in 60 cities following King’s death—but not in Indianapolis.

Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort from those aroused by Donald Trump.

Kennedy had been a United States Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator from New York (1964-1968). But it was his connection to his beloved and assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy, for which he was best known.

In October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his wise counsel helped steer America from the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. As a U.S Senator he championed civil rights and greater Federal efforts to fight poverty.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

Millions saw RFK as the only candidate who could make life better for America’s impoverished—while standing firmly against those who threatened the Nation’s safety.

As television correspondent Charles Quinn observed: “I talked to a girl in Hawaii who was for [George] Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama]. And I said ‘Really?’ [She said] ‘Yeah, but my real candidate is dead.’

“You know what I think it was? All these whites, all these blue collar people who supported Kennedy…all of these people felt that Kennedy would really do what he thought best for the black people, but, at the same time, would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.

“They were willing to gamble…because they knew in their hearts that the country was not right. They were willing to gamble on this man who would try to keep things within reasonable order; and at the same time do some of the things they knew really should be done.”

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, RFK had just won the crucial California primary on June 4—when he was shot in the back of the head.

His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. on June 6.  He was 42.

On June 8, 1,200 men and women boarded a specially-reserved passenger train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They were accompanying Kennedy’s body to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

As the train slowly moved along 225 miles of track, throngs of men, women and children lined the rails to pay their final respects to a man they considered a genuine hero.

Little Leaguers clutched baseball caps across their chests. Uniformed firemen and policemen saluted. Burly men in shirtsleeves held hardhats over their hearts. Black men in overalls waved small American flags. Women from all levels of society stood and cried.

A nation says goodbye to Robert Kennedy

Commenting on RFK’s legacy, historian William L. O’Neil wrote in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time.

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”

America has never again seen a Presidential candidate who combined toughness on crime and compassion for the poor.

Republican candidates have waged war on crime—and the poor. And Democratic candidates have moved to the Right in eliminating anti-poverty programs.

RFK had the courage to fight the Mafia—and the compassion to fight poverty. At a time when Americans long for candidates to give them positive reasons for voting, his kind of politics are sorely missed.

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm

As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump was fiercely attacked by Democrats and his fellow Republicans. But one of his sharpest critics lived more than 500 years ago

He was Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesmen and father of modern politics. 

For openers: Trump had drawn heavy criticism for his angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities who have nothing to do with politics.

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Donald Trump

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:  

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

Trump, in turn, casually dismissed the criticism he had received:

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have–about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin.

Trump admitted that his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, had urged him to be more Presidential.  And he promised that he would. 

“But I gotta knock off the final two [Republican candidates—Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz] first, if you don’t mind.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli offered a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.”
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…”
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Niccolo Machiavelli

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

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

This totally contrasted with the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”  
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli gave a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question:

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad.

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?”

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.]

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing.  That is so powerful and so important.”

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear.

“Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.  The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon.

“I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.”
  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which led Niccolo Machiavelli to warn: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 13, 2017 at 2:37 am

On July 30, 2016, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump attacked the integrity of the parents of an Army captain who died heroically in Iraq in 2004.

For this, he took heavy fire from Democrats, veterans organizations and even his fellow Republicans.

But an even more damning assessment came from Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.   

Niccolo Machiavelli

Throughout his campaign for President, Trump hurled insults at virtually every major segment of American society, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delighted his white, under-educated followers. But they alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him. 

 

Donald Trump

Machiavelli, on the other hand, advised leaders to refrain from gratuitous insults: 

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

And Trump’s reaction to the criticism he’s received? 

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have—about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin. 

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli had a stern warning: 

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure. 
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it… 
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.” 

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied;

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

This totally contrasts with the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else. 
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli offered a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.   

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question: 

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. 

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision. 

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?” 

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.] 

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important.”  

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame. 

“The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:  

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.
  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.” 

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

FILLING A HOLE WITH HATE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 31, 2017 at 12:56 am

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Donald Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

As a Presidential candidate and President, he has shown outright hatred for President Barack Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

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Barack Obama

Only on the eve of the first Presidential debate with Hillary Clinton—in September, 2016—did he finally admit that Obama had been born in the United States.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

Both the FBI and Justice Department have vigorously refuted this slander. 

Trump’s all-out effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act—nicknamed “Obamacare”—has been driven by his mania to erase every vestige of the Obama Presidency. 

Even attending a Boy Scout Jamboree became, for Trump, a way to attack the former President.

“By the way, just a question. Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” Trump asked the crowd of 40,000, encouraging them to boo Obama.  And many of them did.

As President, he has bullied and insulted even his own handpicked Cabinet officers and White House officials.

  • His press secretary, Sean Spicer, quit on July 21. The reason: He believed—correctly—hat his loyalty to Trump had become a one-way street. Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously for Trump. 
  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from any decisions involving investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Trump has publicly said that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself—because of his past contacts with Russian officials—he would have picked someone else for Attorney General.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated his chief of staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.

As Americans have watched Trump’s behavior with morbid fascination, many of them have asked:  “What makes him do the things he does?”

It’s a question asked–and answered—in the 1993 Western, Tombstone. And the answer given in that movie may be just hold the answer to the question so many Americans are now asking about Trump.

Tombstone recounts the legendary blood feud between the Ike Clanton outlaw gang and the Earp brothers—Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil—in  the famous gold-mining town in 1880s Arizona.

Wyatt Earp has been challenged to a gunfight by quick-trigger gunman Johnny Ringo. Although he impulsively accepted the challenge, Wyatt now realizes he’s certain to be killed. Thus follows this exchange with his longtime friend, the pistol-packing dentist, John H. “Doc” Holliday: 

WYATT EARP:  What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?

JOHN H. “DOC” HOLLIDAY: A man like Ringo….got a great empty hole right through the middle of him. He can never kill enough or steal enough….or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

Donald Trump was born into a world of wealth and privilege. His father gave him $200 million, which he channeled into a real estate empire. He has claimed to be worth a billion dollars.

He has been linked—often by his own boasts—to some of the most beautiful women in the world. He has been a major force on TV through his “reality show,” The Apprentice. He has literally stamped his name on hundreds of buildings. 

And now he holds the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful office in the Western world. 

Yet he remains filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone. Since taking office, he has offered nothing positive in his agenda. 

Instead, he has focused his efforts on what he can take from others. At the top of his list: The Affordable Health Act, which provides access to medical care for millions who previously could not obtain it. 

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

MACHIAVELLI’S VERDICT ON TRUMP: HE’S NO PRINCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2017 at 12:28 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump–first as a Presidential candidate, and now as the nation’s 45th President.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli whose two great works on politics–The Prince and The Discourses–remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:

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

For those who expect Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli has a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then there is Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

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

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Donald Trump

This totally contrasts the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli has potent advice on the selection of advisers:

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Consider some of the advisers Trump has relied on in his campaign for President: 

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Comments like these didn’t increase his popularity.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.

Comments like this are a big turn-off among the 70% of women who have an unfavorable opinion of him–and anyone who receives Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan–who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Obama became President in 2009–almost five years after Khan’s death. And Clinton became Secretary of State the same year.  

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.

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

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

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

HUBRIS–AMERICAN STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Donald Trump has changed Presidential campaigning–perhaps forever.

First, he routinely insulted his opponents. He made angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations–including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Among those groups:

  • Mexicans
  • Prisoners-of-War
  • Blacks
  • Handicapped

Donald Trump

  • Muslims
  • Women
  • Asians

Second, he weaponized social media. He made Twitter an essential arm of his campaign, swiftly insulting his opponents and keeping them constantly off-balance. He proved himself a master at the tabloid news culture and thoroughly in tune with his target audience.

Third, he used the media for free publicity.  Since announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he got a year’s worth of free media advertising.  This wasn’t the result of a networks’ conspiracy to favor Trump.

Instead, it owed to the media’s lust for sensational copy. And scenes of conflict–such as making brutal attacks on others–generate huge viewership.

This was most apparent in debates, during which he belittled his Republican opponents with insulting nicknames, such as:

  • “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
  • “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

And looking beyond the Republican primary cycle, he created one for his future Democratic antagonist: “Crooked Hillary”–Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State.

Political pundits marveled at Trump’s ability to jettison long-held niceties of political discourse and not pay an electoral price for it. They kept predicting that eventually this might happen.  But it never did.

Fourth, he openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized it.

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The emails revealed the DNC’s bias for Clinton for President. And they showed clear animosity toward her lone challenger, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign.

Five days later, on July 27, at a press conference in Doral, Florida. Trump said:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Trump hoped to score points on Hillary Clinton’s using a private email server as Secretary of State. Instead, he ignited criticism–of himself–on both Left and Right.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was equally quick to react. “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, Ryan’s spokesman. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

“If he is talking about the State Department emails on her server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information,” said Michael Hayden, head of the CIA under President George W. Bush.

“In addition to its implications for national security today,” wrote Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for MSNBC, “the incident raised disturbing questions about how Trump would govern as president. If a leader is willing to turn to ask foreign spy agencies to target a political opponent, what would he ask of his own spy agencies?”

The avalanche of criticism led Trump to claim: “I was only being sarcastic.”

For at least one normally conservative newspaper, Trump’s words were simply too much. In a July 27 editorial, The Dallas Morning News declared:

“Words have meaning.  The world is listening. And what the world is hearing is a man demonstrating that he is unfit to sit in the Oval Office.”

Since the end of World War II, Republicans had taken an intensely anti-Communist stance. Now their Presidential nominee had not only complimented an ex-KGB agent but had even invited him to target the American political system.

Despite the criticism, the overwhelming majority of Republicans–including Paul Ryan–continued to support Trump’s candidacy. Nor did the Obama administration investigate or indict him for treason or subversion.

The ancient Greeks believed hubris–overweening pride–to be the greatest of sins. And, they warned, it was usually punished by divine wrath.

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In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride–pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is a nothing in the sight of the gods.”

And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

Donald Trump has finally made it to the White House. But there is still time for hubris to overtake and destroy him.

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART THREE (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 6, 2017 at 12:01 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

But two setbacks prevented the conspirators from succeeding.

First, Hitler survived the bomb blast.

Second, the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed. 

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians–who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945–could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance or disappearance of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Since becoming President on January 20, Trump has:  

  • Infuriated “Obamacare” patients: Trump authorized the directors of Federal agencies to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act–which provides medical insurance to 22 million Americans–to the “maximum extent permitted by law.”  
  • Infuriated the CIA: Appearing at CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, Trump addressed about 400 case officers. Standing before the star-studded memorial wall honoring 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty. Trump ignored their sacrifice. Instead, he boasted of the size of his Inaugural crowd and how many times he had appeared on the cover of Time.
  • Infuriated Muslims: Commenting on the 2003 Iraq war during his remarks at the CIA, Trump said: “So we should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you’ll have another chance….”
  • Infuriated American Intelligence and military agencies: A Trump executive order allows the Director of National Intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend the Principals’ Committee only when it pertains to their “responsibilities and expertise.”
  • Infuriated Jews and civil rights advocates: Senior Adviser and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon–an anti-Semitic white supremacist–will now wield influence over the National Security Council, Homeland Security Council and Principal’s Committee. When Bannon–previously executive chair of Breitbart News, a Right-wing website–was appointed senior adviser to Trump, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke called the selection “excellent.”
  • Infuriated Medicare patients: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. At his January 10 press conference he charged that pharmaceutical companies were “getting away with murder.” But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”  

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump infuriated one group of voters after another, including: Hispanics, homosexuals, blacks, lesbians, Muslims, women, Asians, the disabled, prisoners-of-war.  

As President, he has continued to anger highly influential groups. Some of these–such as “Obamacare” and Medicare patients–can retaliate only with their votes. And that won’t affect Trump until the 2020 Presidential election.  

But other groups he has antagonized–such as the military and Intelligence communities–can do far more than vote against him.  

Both have access to vast amounts of secret–and highly embarrassing–information. And both are expert in leaking choice bits of this to favored members of the media.  

The Trump administration is only two weeks old and already this truth is on full display.

Anonymous military officials are blaming Trump for the death of a Navy SEAL during a January 29 raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen. According to Reuters, Trump approved the raid without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.  

As for the CIA: This agency has been overthrowing heads of state for decades. 

In 1953, its coup removed Mohammad Mosaddegh, the prime minister of Iran. In 1954, another coup did the same for Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz. In 1970, Chile’s president, Salvadore Allende, fell victim to a CIA-instigated plot.

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Millions of Americans believe the CIA engineered the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. James W. Douglass’ 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable, charges that the CIA murdered Kennedy because he wanted to end the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Like the despised Roman emperor Tiberius, Donald Trump lives by the motto: “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”  

Niccolo Machiavelli counseled better: “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.”

IF TRUMP IS OUR HITLER, WHO WILL BE OUR STAUFFENBERG?: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2017 at 12:49 am

On July 20, 1944, a one-eyed, one-armed man tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941). And he had been seriously wounded in its service.

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a foothold in Germany.

But Stauffenberg wanted him dead: A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?

Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel.

Adolf Hitler

But his single greatest protection–he claimed–was an instinct for danger. He would often suddenly change his schedule–to drop in  where he was least expected. Or to suddenly depart an event where he was scheduled to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He had been set to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers.

Sixteen years earlier on that day, in 1923, Hitler had led them in a disastrous attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government. Police had put down the effort, killing and wounding about a score of storm troopers in the process.

Hitler himself had later been arrested, tried and convicted for treason–and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

But instead of proving to be the end of Nazism, the “Beer Hall Putsch” turned Hitler into a national celebrity. And it launched his career as a legitimate, ultimately successful politician.

So Hitler was expected to speak to his longtime supporters for a long time that evening. Instead, he suddenly 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.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off.  He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg. He would carry his bomb–hidden in a briefcase–into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb–also rigged with a time-fuse–would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup–“Operation Valkyrie”–would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans–both Nazi and anti-Nazi–knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia. Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it–appropriately enough–“Wolf’s Lair.”

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler–who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table.

Then Stauffenberg excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted.

But the Third Reich didn’t come to an end–because, as if miraculously, Hitler had survived.

Hitler shows off the site of the explosion

What had happened?

First, the conference location had been changed–from a wooden building to a concrete one.  The concrete absorbed much of the blast.

Second, owing to the summer’s heat, Hitler had ordered all the windows–about ten–opened to let in a breeze.  This allowed much of the force of the blast to be dispersed.

Third, and perhaps most important: Stauffenberg had carefully placed his briefcase near Hitler, who was standing next to a heavy oaken support of the conference table.

But after Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, who stood next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it–to the other side of the heavy oaken support.

When the bomb exploded, Hitler was partially shielded from its full blast. Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.

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