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SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2018 at 1:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, wrote that there are three periods of danger in a conspiracy:  

  • Dangers in organizing the plot
  • Dangers in executing the conspiracy
  • Dangers following the execution of the plot.   

The first two were covered in Part Two of this series.  Now, as to the third:

Dangers following the Execution of the Conspiracy: There is really but one—someone is left who will avenge the murdered prince. These can be brothers, sons or other relatives, who have been spared by negligence or for other reasons. 

But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, the most certain and fearful is the attachment of the people to the murdered prince. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. 

An example of this occurred in the case of Julius Caesar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them.  

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Julius Caesar 

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

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

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

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

* * * * *

If Trump is aware of Machiavelli’s warnings, he has shown no signs of it.

Most Presidents have sought to make themselves seem friendly and caring toward their fellow Americans.

This held true even for Richard M. Nixon, when he made an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial and engaged in a rambling dialogue with Vietnam war protesters. 

The encounter happened around 4 a.m. on May 9, 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia. Nationwide outrage had exploded on college campuses, climaxing in the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4.  

So young Vietnam antiwar protesters who had descended on Washington, D.C. were startled when Nixon suddenly appeared in their midst.

Even more startling: He had come with only a small number of Secret Service agents and his devoted White House valet, Manolo Sanchez.

Nixon, in his awkward way of trying to establish rapport, asked some of the students where they were from. When they said they attended Syracuse University, Nixon replied that it had a great football team.  

But Nixon and the protesters were separated by too many differences–in their views on sexuality, civil rights, dissent and war—to find common cause.

Still, Nixon at least made an effort to understand and reach an accommodation with his critics.

Since taking office on January 20, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Held a series of “victory rallies” with his Right-wing followers—which comedian Bill Mahrer calls “hillbilly Nurembergs.” 
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges who struck down his travel ban on Muslims.
  • Called the nation’s most prestigious news media “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Slandered truthful stories about his staffers’ ties to Russian Intelligence agents as “fake news.”
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 45% of Americans approving of his performance—while 52% disapprove. 

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy: “When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2018 at 12:19 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

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

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

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may—through courage and stubbornness—be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all. For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

Thus, you should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

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Adolf Hitler

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

But that evening he cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2018 at 12:01 am

In the 1973 movie, The Day of the Jackal, a methodical assassin devises an ingenious plan to kill French President Charles de Gaulle.  

Despite the best efforts of French security forces to entrap him, he eludes them time and again—and comes within an ace of assassinating de Gaulle.

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The Day of the Jackal is fiction, based on a 1971 novel by Frederick Forsythe. In real life, most would-be political assassins lack the skills and sophistication of Forsythe’s anti-hero.

Take the case of the man who, on March 18, 2017, jumped over a bicycle rack outside the security perimeter of the White House. Within two minutes, agents of the U.S. Secret Service had tackled and arrested him.

Then, hours later, a motorist drove up to a White House checkpoint and claimed to have a bomb. Secret Service agents immediately arrested him and seized the stolen 2017 Chevrolet Impala. After a careful search, no explosives were found.

Both men will face criminal prosecution—and probably years in prison.

Even if they had been armed, President Donald J. Trump would not have faced any danger.

For the fifth time since taking office on January 20, he was in Florida, vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

That does not mean, of course, that future assassins will prove so inept.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, offered sound advice for would-be conspirators—and for rulers seeking to thwart conspiracies.

Niccolo Machiavellil

Niccolo Machiavelli: When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing the prince is widely loathed. 

A prince, then, should avoid incurring such universal hatred….

By doing this, he protects himself from such vengeance-seekers. There are two reasons for this:

(1) Men rarely risk danger to avenge a wrong; and

(2) Even if they want to avenge a wrong, they know they will face almost universal condemnation because the prince is held in such high esteem.  

So much for Machiavelli.  

Now consider some of the tweets of “White House Staffer,” a self-proclaimed member of the Trump administration who claims 160,000 Twitter followers.

Since January 27, 2017, he has blasted a series of short, information-crammed tweets about daily life in the Executive Mansion.  

[NOTE: Although I can’t confirm the legitimacy of his status or his tweets, I believe they are real. They contain too many small, intimate secrets of life in a paranoia-laced White House to not be genuine.]  

March 1, 2017: Well the good times didn’t last long here. POTUS is back to flipping out on us.

March 13: POTUS [President of the United States] is thinking about suspending daily press briefings until the media “learn to be nice.” [Steve] Bannon [a top Trump adviser] is pushing for it.

March 16: Sean Hannity was asked to be Press Secretary last week. He turned it down because he didn’t want to take the pay cut. [Sean] Spicer survives.

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Donald Trump

Niccolo Machiavelli: He who is threatened, and decides to avenge himself on the prince, becomes a truly dangerous man.

Anger is most likely aroused by injury to a a man’s property or honor. A prince should carefully avoid injuring either, for such a victim will always desire vengeance.  

White House Staffer – February 25, 2017: The President keeps saying we’re a finely tuned machine. If that’s true why has he been fricking screaming at us all week? He’s losing it.

February 27: [Steve] Bannon is the scariest person here. He’s broken so much White House stuff by throwing it in anger. Plates, phones, chairs, etc.

February 27: It’s one thing to swear but [Steve] Bannon does it in front of the women here. C**t this, c**t that. He can’t finish a sentence without it.  

Machiavelli draws a distinction between plots and conspiracies. A plot may be formed by a single individual or by many. The first isn’t a conspiracy, since that would involve at least two participants.  

A single plotter avoids the danger faced by two or more conspirators: Since no one knows his intention, he can’t be betrayed by an accomplice.  

Anyone may form a plot, whether he is prominent or insignificant, because everyone is at some time allowed to speak to the prince. And he can use this opportunity to satisfy his desire for revenge.    

On the other hand, says Machiavelli, the dangers of assassination by a trusted intimate are slight: Few people dare to assault a prince. Of those who do, few or none escapes being killed in the attempt, or immediately afterward. As a result, only a small number of people are willing to incur such certain death.  

Those who take part in a conspiracy against a ruler are “the great men of the state, or those on terms of familiar intercourse with the prince.”

These are men who have access to him. Julius Caesar, for example, was stabbed to death by members of the Roman Senate, who feared his assuming dictatorial powers.

And Adolf Hitler was conspired against by colonels and generals of the German Army. He was in fact holding a war conference when a briefcase bomb exploded, killing three officers and a stenographer, but leaving Hitler only slightly injured.

GIVING ADVICE SAFELY—THE MACHIAVELLI WAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2018 at 12:15 am

Ask the average person, “What do you think of Niccolo Machiavelli?” and he’s likely to say: “The devil.” 

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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. 

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

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.

Most people believe that Machiavelli advocated evil for its own sake.

Not so. 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:

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

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His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527). This is especially  true for politicians—and students of political science.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer—such as those in business 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.

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.”

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

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Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

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John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

DUMBOCRATS AND THEIR COMPUTERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2018 at 12:06 am

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).

The emails were exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016.

These clearly reveal a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist. 

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them were outraged to discover that their fears had been confirmed.  

The leak came at a disastrous time for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, United States Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Wasserman-Schultz proved the first casualty of the leak, resigning from her position as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

As for Clinton: Her campaign manager, Bobby Mook, blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive: To help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

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

His alleged motive: Trump had repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Trump believed the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance—and he wanted other members to contribute far more. He made it clear that if they didn’t—and if he was elected President—they would be on their own if attacked by Russia.

Trump took to twitter to offer his take on the release: “How much BAD JUDGEMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion, against Bernie!”  

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Bernie Sanders

Which brings up the obvious question: Why was such sensitive information entrusted to computers that could be hacked? 

This is not the first time a major corporation or government agency has fallen prey to hackers.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, have been hit with massive data breaches that compromised their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies and agencies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The Pentagon
  • The Office of Personnel Management

Perhaps the most notorious target hacked was Ashley Madison, the website for cheating wives and husbands. Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan was: “Life is short. Have an affair.”  

On July 15, 2015, its more than 37 million members learned that highly embarrassing secrets they had entrusted to Ashley Madison had been compromised.

This included their sexual fantasies, matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.  

And the same is true for computers of one of the two major political parties of the United States. 

Among the secrets unearthed in the WikiLeaks document-dump: Plans by Democratic party officials to reward large donors and prominent fundraisers with lucrative appointments to federal boards and commissions.

Most of the donors listed gave to Clinton’s campaign. None gave to Sanders.

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group: 

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party. That is unethical, if not illegal.”  

Centuries before the invention of computers–and the machinery needed to hack into them–Niccolo Machiavelli offered cautionary advice to those thinking of entering into a conspiracy.  He did so in his masterwork on politics, The Discourses.  

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unlike his better-known work, The Prince, which deals with how to secure power, The Discourses lays out rules for preserving liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter Six (“Of Conspiracies”) he writes:

“I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. 

“And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.”

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, ordered the execution of the popular Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, claiming that he had aided Britain and plotted against France.

The aristocracy of Europe, still recalling the slaughters of the French Revolution, was shocked. 

Asked for his opinion on the execution, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouche, said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  

This may prove to be history’s verdict on the storing of so many incriminating computer files by the DNC.

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2018 at 12:04 am

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

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

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

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

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

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

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

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

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

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

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

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

As, in fact, has happened. 

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

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

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

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

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

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

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

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

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

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

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

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

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for Trump’s threat of having tapes of his and Comey’s conversations: Like Trump’s claim that he could prove that Barack Obama wasn’t an American citizen, this, too, proved to be a lie.

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

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm

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

Three heroes, two villains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

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

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

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

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

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 20 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

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

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

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

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

Its victims included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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