The Watering Hole, Wednesday 8/24/16




Although a prince may rise from a private station in two ways, neither of which can be entirely attributed to fortune or genius, yet it is manifest to me that I must not be silent on them, although one could be more copiously treated when I discuss republics. These methods are when, either by some wicked or nefarious ways, one ascends to the principality, or when by the favour of his fellow-citizens a private person becomes the prince of his country. And speaking of the first method, it will be illustrated by two examples–one ancient, the other modern–and without entering further into the subject, I consider these two examples will suffice those who may be compelled to follow them.

Agathocles, the Sicilian,[*] became King of Syracuse not only from a private but from a low and abject position. This man, the son of a potter, through all the changes in his fortunes always led an infamous life. Nevertheless, he accompanied his infamies with so much ability of mind and body that, having devoted himself to the military profession, he rose through its ranks to be Praetor of Syracuse. Being established in that position, and having deliberately resolved to make himself prince and to seize by violence, without obligation to others, that which had been conceded to him by assent, he came to an understanding for this purpose with Amilcar, the Carthaginian, who, with his army, was fighting in Sicily. One morning he assembled the people and the senate of Syracuse, as if he had to discuss with them things relating to the Republic, and at a given signal the soldiers killed all the senators and the richest of the people; these dead, he seized and held the princedom of that city without any civil commotion. And although he was twice routed by the Carthaginians, and ultimately besieged, yet not only was he able to defend his city, but leaving part of his men for its defence, with the others he attacked Africa, and in a short time raised the siege of Syracuse. The Carthaginians, reduced to extreme necessity, were compelled to come to terms with Agathocles, and, leaving Sicily to him, had to be content with the possession of Africa.

[*] Agathocles the Sicilian, born 361 B.C., died 289 B.C.

Therefore, he who considers the actions and the genius of this man will see nothing, or little, which can be attributed to fortune, inasmuch as he attained pre-eminence, as is shown above, not by the favour of any one, but step by step in the military profession, which steps were gained with a thousand troubles and perils, and were afterwards boldly held by him with many hazardous dangers. Yet it cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may gain empire, but not glory. Still, if the courage of Agathocles in entering into and extricating himself from dangers be considered, together with his greatness of mind in enduring and overcoming hardships, it cannot be seen why he should be esteemed less than the most notable captain. Nevertheless, his barbarous cruelty and inhumanity with infinite wickedness do not permit him to be celebrated among the most excellent men. What he achieved cannot be attributed either to fortune or genius.

In our times, during the rule of Alexander the Sixth, Oliverotto da Fermo, having been left an orphan many years before, was brought up by his maternal uncle, Giovanni Fogliani, and in the early days of his youth sent to fight under Pagolo Vitelli, that, being trained under his discipline, he might attain some high position in the military profession. After Pagolo died, he fought under his brother Vitellozzo, and in a very short time, being endowed with wit and a vigorous body and mind, he became the first man in his profession. But it appearing a paltry thing to serve under others, he resolved, with the aid of some citizens of Fermo, to whom the slavery of their country was dearer than its liberty, and with the help of the Vitelleschi, to seize Fermo. So he wrote to Giovanni Fogliani that, having been away from home for many years, he wished to visit him and his city, and in some measure to look upon his patrimony; and although he had not laboured to acquire anything except honour, yet, in order that the citizens should see he had not spent his time in vain, he desired to come honourably, so would be accompanied by one hundred horsemen, his friends and retainers; and he entreated Giovanni to arrange that he should be received honourably by the Fermians, all of which would be not only to his honour, but also to that of Giovanni himself, who had brought him up.

Giovanni, therefore, did not fail in any attentions due to his nephew, and he caused him to be honourably received by the Fermians, and he lodged him in his own house, where, having passed some days, and having arranged what was necessary for his wicked designs, Oliverotto gave a solemn banquet to which he invited Giovanni Fogliani and the chiefs of Fermo. When the viands and all the other entertainments that are usual in such banquets were finished, Oliverotto artfully began certain grave discourses, speaking of the greatness of Pope Alexander and his son Cesare, and of their enterprises, to which discourse Giovanni and others answered; but he rose at once, saying that such matters ought to be discussed in a more private place, and he betook himself to a chamber, whither Giovanni and the rest of the citizens went in after him. No sooner were they seated than soldiers issued from secret places and slaughtered Giovanni and the rest. After these murders Oliverotto, mounted on horseback, rode up and down the town and besieged the chief magistrate in the palace, so that in fear the people were forced to obey him, and to form a government, of which he made himself the prince. He killed all the malcontents who were able to injure him, and strengthened himself with new civil and military ordinances, in such a way that, in the year during which he held the principality, not only was he secure in the city of Fermo, but he had become formidable to all his neighbours. And his destruction would have been as difficult as that of Agathocles if he had not allowed himself to be overreached by Cesare Borgia, who took him with the Orsini and Vitelli at Sinigalia, as was stated above. Thus one year after he had committed this parricide, he was strangled, together with Vitellozzo, whom he had made his leader in valour and wickedness.

Some may wonder how it can happen that Agathocles, and his like, after infinite treacheries and cruelties, should live for long secure in his country, and defend himself from external enemies, and never be conspired against by his own citizens; seeing that many others, by means of cruelty, have never been able even in peaceful times to hold the state, still less in the doubtful times of war. I believe that this follows from severities[*] being badly or properly used. Those may be called properly used, if of evil it is possible to speak well, that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one’s security, and that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the advantage of the subjects. The badly employed are those which, notwithstanding they may be few in the commencement, multiply with time rather than decrease. Those who practise the first system are able, by aid of God or man, to mitigate in some degree their rule, as Agathocles did. It is impossible for those who follow the other to maintain themselves.

[*] Mr Burd suggests that this word probably comes near the modern equivalent of Machiavelli’s thought when he speaks of “crudelta” than the more obvious “cruelties.”

Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.

And above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil, shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and no one will be under any obligation to you for them.


The Watering Hole, Monday, August 22, 2016: It Started Long Before Reagan

Ask Liberals when the decline of the middle class started, when the rapid rise in income inequality began, and most (including me) would point to the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981, but we would be wrong. No, the true birth of the rise of the Corporation was 45 years ago this week when a memorandum was presented to the US Chamber of Congress at the request of the Chairman of the Chamber’s Education Committee, Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., advising how to fight a problem that didn’t exist. The author of that memo was his Richmond friend and neighbor, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., who just a few months after submitting this memo was nominated to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States by then-President Richard M. Nixon.

At this point I want to make an important distinction not unfamiliar to readers of my past writings: When talking about Washington politics, especially in the past century, it’s important to look at ideology rather than political party. The Republican Party was not always Conservative and the Democratic Party was not always Liberal. Today, and ever since the rise of the falsely-named TEA Party movement (they were severely undertaxed, not overtaxed, which is why our national debt is so high), the Republican Party on the national level has no Liberals in it. But prior to 1965 the party used to welcome Liberals and even ran on platforms that you would swear today were done by Liberal Democrats. In fact, two of the greatest Republican Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower, were more Liberal than Conservative. Given their well-documented tendency to exhibit bigotry and racism, does anyone really believe a TEA Party Republican would have issued the Emancipation Proclamation? And given their well-documented disdain for anything even remotely close to Socialism, do you think a TEA Party Republican today would have built the Interstate Highway System? Hell, even Eisenhower defended Social Security and said the people who wanted to cut it were stupid. Do you think either of those men could get elected to office as a Republican today? That’s why it’s important to distinguish between the party and the ideology, and the primary source of the problem I talk about below is Conservatism, not the Republican Party. The Democratic Party has Conservatives within it today and they are a problem, too, though maybe not as insane and irrational as Conservatives in the Republican Party. What’s wrong with the Powell Memo has nothing to do with the Republican Party and everything to do with Conservatism, and the people who espouse it. Lewis Powell was undeniably a Conservative, but Lewis Powell was also a Democrat. The Conservative mind has a way of looking at things that would make someone less susceptible to fear scratch his heads and wonder how they tie their shoes without worrying about cutting off circulation to their toes. (Here are a number of ways Liberal and Conservative minds differ.) The part of the brain that tells you you’re in danger is larger in Conservatives, making them see danger where a Liberal might not. So Conservatives are more prone to basing their choices on fear.

Below is the text of the Powell Memo (as taken from Greenpeace’s website), interspersed with my own commentary. You can see another reprint of the memo with different commentary, and a little more background here. A look back on the memo around its 40th anniversary can be found here.

Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 20th, 2016: Promises, Promises


From yesterday’s Washington Post: David A. Fahrenthold and Alice Crites present an in-depth, detailed look at Donald Trump’s claimed generosity on The Apprentice, focusing on promises of donations to many of the ‘fired’ contestants’ favorite charity. Despite the video recordings and transcripts of the show verifying Trump’s own words (the particular phrases varied, but the meaning was unambiguous), not one single penny came out of his own personal “wallet”, “pocket” or “account.” In fact, several of the named charities never received the stated donation at all.

Obviously, this provides more evidence that Trump has always been a lying, cheap, manipulative fraud whose word – as in, “his word is his bond” – means absolutely nothing. Of course, anyone with half a brain should know that anyway. But many details about the Trump Foundation and its funding that the WaPo investigation dug up also make it clear that The Donald’s tax returns contain more than one reason why he refuses to release them.

Trump’s pattern of public displays of ‘generosity’ without the actual donation has already been seen over the course of his campaign. WaPo’s report reinforces the fact that this is a real pattern, and one that, in view of Trump’s monstrously overblown ego, we should expect to continue simply because Trump cannot help himself. And it won’t just be about money. While Trump’s mouth is not as big as his ego, it is certainly bigger than his wallet, his brain, and whatever dark, malignant growth passes for his ‘soul.’ His big mouth will continue to make empty promises that he cannot and will not keep. Trump’s entire campaign is simply snake oil, but he and his rube supporters are really the snakes.

One could almost feel sorry for the Republican party – almost, but since they created this monster, the GOP doesn’t deserve pity. What they really deserve is worldwide humiliation, followed by extinction. However, I find it ironic that in 2012 they chose an extremely wealthy and experienced candidate who at least knew the ropes; this time around, all they could afford was a fake billionaire with fake hair and a fake persona who knows nothing, absolutely nothing, about how government works. Well, they got what they paid for, and now they are paying much more dearly than they apparently could have imagined.  Let’s hope that the rest of the country doesn’t have to pay so dearly for the GOP’s biggest mistake.

This is our daily Open Thread, so go ahead and talk about anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, 8/17/16




Those who solely by good fortune become princes from being private citizens have little trouble in rising, but much in keeping atop; they have not any difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when they reach the summit. Such are those to whom some state is given either for money or by the favour of him who bestows it; as happened to many in Greece, in the cities of Ionia and of the Hellespont, where princes were made by Darius, in order that they might hold the cities both for his security and his glory; as also were those emperors who, by the corruption of the soldiers, from being citizens came to empire. Such stand simply elevated upon the goodwill and the fortune of him who has elevated them–two most inconstant and unstable things. Neither have they the knowledge requisite for the position; because, unless they are men of great worth and ability, it is not reasonable to expect that they should know how to command, having always lived in a private condition; besides, they cannot hold it because they have not forces which they can keep friendly and faithful.

States that rise unexpectedly, then, like all other things in nature which are born and grow rapidly, cannot leave their foundations and correspondencies[*] fixed in such a way that the first storm will not overthrow them; unless, as is said, those who unexpectedly become princes are men of so much ability that they know they have to be prepared at once to hold that which fortune has thrown into their laps, and that those foundations, which others have laid BEFORE they became princes, they must lay AFTERWARDS.

[*] “Le radici e corrispondenze,” their roots (i.e. foundations) and correspondencies or relations with other states–a common meaning of “correspondence” and “correspondency” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Concerning these two methods of rising to be a prince by ability or fortune, I wish to adduce two examples within our own recollection, and these are Francesco Sforza[*] and Cesare Borgia. Francesco, by proper means and with great ability, from being a private person rose to be Duke of Milan, and that which he had acquired with a thousand anxieties he kept with little trouble. On the other hand, Cesare Borgia, called by the people Duke Valentino, acquired his state during the ascendancy of his father, and on its decline he lost it, notwithstanding that he had taken every measure and done all that ought to be done by a wise and able man to fix firmly his roots in the states which the arms and fortunes of others had bestowed on him.

[*] Francesco Sforza, born 1401, died 1466. He married Bianca Maria Visconti, a natural daughter of Filippo Visconti, the Duke of Milan, on whose death he procured his own elevation to the duchy. Machiavelli was the accredited agent of the Florentine Republic to Cesare Borgia (1478-1507) during the transactions which led up to the assassinations of the Orsini and Vitelli at Sinigalia, and along with his letters to his chiefs in Florence he has left an account, written ten years before “The Prince,” of the proceedings of the duke in his “Descritione del modo tenuto dal duca Valentino nello ammazzare Vitellozzo Vitelli,” etc., a translation of which is appended to the present work.

Because, as is stated above, he who has not first laid his foundations may be able with great ability to lay them afterwards, but they will be laid with trouble to the architect and danger to the building. If, therefore, all the steps taken by the duke be considered, it will be seen that he laid solid foundations for his future power, and I do not consider it superfluous to discuss them, because I do not know what better precepts to give a new prince than the example of his actions; and if his dispositions were of no avail, that was not his fault, but the extraordinary and extreme malignity of fortune.

Alexander the Sixth, in wishing to aggrandize the duke, his son, had many immediate and prospective difficulties. Firstly, he did not see his way to make him master of any state that was not a state of the Church; and if he was willing to rob the Church he knew that the Duke of Milan and the Venetians would not consent, because Faenza and Rimini were already under the protection of the Venetians. Besides this, he saw the arms of Italy, especially those by which he might have been assisted, in hands that would fear the aggrandizement of the Pope, namely, the Orsini and the Colonnesi and their following. It behoved him, therefore, to upset this state of affairs and embroil the powers, so as to make himself securely master of part of their states. This was easy for him to do, because he found the Venetians, moved by other reasons, inclined to bring back the French into Italy; he would not only not oppose this, but he would render it more easy by dissolving the former marriage of King Louis. Therefore the king came into Italy with the assistance of the Venetians and the consent of Alexander. He was no sooner in Milan than the Pope had soldiers from him for the attempt on the Romagna, which yielded to him on the reputation of the king. The duke, therefore, having acquired the Romagna and beaten the Colonnesi, while wishing to hold that and to advance further, was hindered by two things: the one, his forces did not appear loyal to him, the other, the goodwill of France: that is to say, he feared that the forces of the Orsini, which he was using, would not stand to him, that not only might they hinder him from winning more, but might themselves seize what he had won, and that the king might also do the same. Of the Orsini he had a warning when, after taking Faenza and attacking Bologna, he saw them go very unwillingly to that attack. And as to the king, he learned his mind when he himself, after taking the Duchy of Urbino, attacked Tuscany, and the king made him desist from that undertaking; hence the duke decided to depend no more upon the arms and the luck of others.

For the first thing he weakened the Orsini and Colonnesi parties in Rome, by gaining to himself all their adherents who were gentlemen, making them his gentlemen, giving them good pay, and, according to their rank, honouring them with office and command in such a way that in a few months all attachment to the factions was destroyed and turned entirely to the duke. After this he awaited an opportunity to crush the Orsini, having scattered the adherents of the Colonna house. This came to him soon and he used it well; for the Orsini, perceiving at length that the aggrandizement of the duke and the Church was ruin to them, called a meeting of the Magione in Perugia. From this sprung the rebellion at Urbino and the tumults in the Romagna, with endless dangers to the duke, all of which he overcame with the help of the French. Having restored his authority, not to leave it at risk by trusting either to the French or other outside forces, he had recourse to his wiles, and he knew so well how to conceal his mind that, by the mediation of Signor Pagolo–whom the duke did not fail to secure with all kinds of attention, giving him money, apparel, and horses–the Orsini were reconciled, so that their simplicity brought them into his power at Sinigalia.[*] Having exterminated the leaders, and turned their partisans into his friends, the duke laid sufficiently good foundations to his power, having all the Romagna and the Duchy of Urbino; and the people now beginning to appreciate their prosperity, he gained them all over to himself. And as this point is worthy of notice, and to be imitated by others, I am not willing to leave it out.

[*] Sinigalia, 31st December 1502.

When the duke occupied the Romagna he found it under the rule of weak masters, who rather plundered their subjects than ruled them, and gave them more cause for disunion than for union, so that the country was full of robbery, quarrels, and every kind of violence; and so, wishing to bring back peace and obedience to authority, he considered it necessary to give it a good governor. Thereupon he promoted Messer Ramiro d’Orco,[*] a swift and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest power. This man in a short time restored peace and unity with the greatest success. Afterwards the duke considered that it was not advisable to confer such excessive authority, for he had no doubt but that he would become odious, so he set up a court of judgment in the country, under a most excellent president, wherein all cities had their advocates. And because he knew that the past severity had caused some hatred against himself, so, to clear himself in the minds of the people, and gain them entirely to himself, he desired to show that, if any cruelty had been practised, it had not originated with him, but in the natural sternness of the minister. Under this pretence he took Ramiro, and one morning caused him to be executed and left on the piazza at Cesena with the block and a bloody knife at his side. The barbarity of this spectacle caused the people to be at once satisfied and dismayed.

[*] Ramiro d’Orco. Ramiro de Lorqua.

But let us return whence we started. I say that the duke, finding himself now sufficiently powerful and partly secured from immediate dangers by having armed himself in his own way, and having in a great measure crushed those forces in his vicinity that could injure him if he wished to proceed with his conquest, had next to consider France, for he knew that the king, who too late was aware of his mistake, would not support him. And from this time he began to seek new alliances and to temporize with France in the expedition which she was making towards the kingdom of Naples against the Spaniards who were besieging Gaeta. It was his intention to secure himself against them, and this he would have quickly accomplished had Alexander lived.

Such was his line of action as to present affairs. But as to the future he had to fear, in the first place, that a new successor to the Church might not be friendly to him and might seek to take from him that which Alexander had given him, so he decided to act in four ways. Firstly, by exterminating the families of those lords whom he had despoiled, so as to take away that pretext from the Pope. Secondly, by winning to himself all the gentlemen of Rome, so as to be able to curb the Pope with their aid, as has been observed. Thirdly, by converting the college more to himself. Fourthly, by acquiring so much power before the Pope should die that he could by his own measures resist the first shock. Of these four things, at the death of Alexander, he had accomplished three. For he had killed as many of the dispossessed lords as he could lay hands on, and few had escaped; he had won over the Roman gentlemen, and he had the most numerous party in the college. And as to any fresh acquisition, he intended to become master of Tuscany, for he already possessed Perugia and Piombino, and Pisa was under his protection. And as he had no longer to study France (for the French were already driven out of the kingdom of Naples by the Spaniards, and in this way both were compelled to buy his goodwill), he pounced down upon Pisa. After this, Lucca and Siena yielded at once, partly through hatred and partly through fear of the Florentines; and the Florentines would have had no remedy had he continued to prosper, as he was prospering the year that Alexander died, for he had acquired so much power and reputation that he would have stood by himself, and no longer have depended on the luck and the forces of others, but solely on his own power and ability.

But Alexander died five years after he had first drawn the sword. He left the duke with the state of Romagna alone consolidated, with the rest in the air, between two most powerful hostile armies, and sick unto death. Yet there were in the duke such boldness and ability, and he knew so well how men are to be won or lost, and so firm were the foundations which in so short a time he had laid, that if he had not had those armies on his back, or if he had been in good health, he would have overcome all difficulties. And it is seen that his foundations were good, for the Romagna awaited him for more than a month. In Rome, although but half alive, he remained secure; and whilst the Baglioni, the Vitelli, and the Orsini might come to Rome, they could not effect anything against him. If he could not have made Pope him whom he wished, at least the one whom he did not wish would not have been elected. But if he had been in sound health at the death of Alexander,[*] everything would have been different to him. On the day that Julius the Second[+] was elected, he told me that he had thought of everything that might occur at the death of his father, and had provided a remedy for all, except that he had never anticipated that, when the death did happen, he himself would be on the point to die.

[*] Alexander VI died of fever, 18th August 1503.

[+] Julius II was Giuliano della Rovere, Cardinal of San Pietro ad Vincula, born 1443, died 1513.

When all the actions of the duke are recalled, I do not know how to blame him, but rather it appears to be, as I have said, that I ought to offer him for imitation to all those who, by the fortune or the arms of others, are raised to government. Because he, having a lofty spirit and far-reaching aims, could not have regulated his conduct otherwise, and only the shortness of the life of Alexander and his own sickness frustrated his designs. Therefore, he who considers it necessary to secure himself in his new principality, to win friends, to overcome either by force or fraud, to make himself beloved and feared by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiers, to exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, to change the old order of things for new, to be severe and gracious, magnanimous and liberal, to destroy a disloyal soldiery and to create new, to maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they must help him with zeal and offend with caution, cannot find a more lively example than the actions of this man.

Only can he be blamed for the election of Julius the Second, in whom he made a bad choice, because, as is said, not being able to elect a Pope to his own mind, he could have hindered any other from being elected Pope; and he ought never to have consented to the election of any cardinal whom he had injured or who had cause to fear him if they became pontiffs. For men injure either from fear or hatred. Those whom he had injured, amongst others, were San Pietro ad Vincula, Colonna, San Giorgio, and Ascanio.[*] The rest, in becoming Pope, had to fear him, Rouen and the Spaniards excepted; the latter from their relationship and obligations, the former from his influence, the kingdom of France having relations with him. Therefore, above everything, the duke ought to have created a Spaniard Pope, and, failing him, he ought to have consented to Rouen and not San Pietro ad Vincula. He who believes that new benefits will cause great personages to forget old injuries is deceived. Therefore, the duke erred in his choice, and it was the cause of his ultimate ruin.

[*] San Giorgio is Raffaello Riario. Ascanio is Ascanio Sforza.



Sunday Roast: With Friends Like These…

Obviously presidential candidates can’t appear on every TV show to defend their own idiotic comments, so they have surrogates to do that for them. International con-artist and flamboyant jack-o’-lantern Donald J. Trump (who also happens to be the GOP Presidential nominee) has several of these surrogates going around the various TV shows trying to explain what Trump really meant when he said some of the things he said, even when he denied saying them. And we know he said them because we saw video of him saying them. He would say them, the media would report that he said them, there would be proper outrage over the things he said (or supposedly said, or supposedly did), and the surrogates would be out in the next few days telling us the media has distorted the whole situation and it’s not what everybody says it is. I can only think of one time when they were actually right about that. The crying baby. The New York Daily News, Rolling Stone Magazine, The New York Times, Salon, Wired, Baltimore Sun, and even Fox News all reported that Trump had ordered a crying baby removed from one of his rallies. Trump and his spokesjacks (spokespeople for the jack-o’-lantern) said the media was distorting what actually happened and for once they were right. Trump did say all the words you heard in the quotes, but what most of the media didn’t point out was that the woman was already packing up and leaving when Trump insultingly told her “Actually I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here.” That was just Trump being a dick. The mother herself, Devan Ebert, said through a Facebook post that she wasn’t kicked out of the rally at all, that she was leaving anyway so her baby wouldn’t disrupt the rally, and that she still supports Trump. Okay, so Trump was right about that one. But it was one of the only ones. Trump has said many, many other even more horrible things and when he has, his campaign sent people out to talk to the media. And considering the way they have chosen to defend him, maybe he should rethink using them in the future.

Former Reagan Administration official Jeffrey Lord is a perfect example of the kind of friend Trump doesn’t need if he really wants to win this election, and there’s ample reason to believe he doesn’t. (For example, he picked Jeffrey Lord to be one of his spokesjacks early on. Lord was on CNN recently after Trump claimed, multiple times, that President Obama “founded ISIS.” Trump tried to say later that he was just being sarcastic, “but not really.” It took retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling to straighten Lord out on the facts and history of ISIS. But if you think this was one of Trump’s harmless diversions from reality, think again. Hassan Nazrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has been using Trump’s comments to say that “there are admissions by US officials that they created ISIS.” He doesn’t understand that Trump is not a “U.S. official” and never will be.

Katrina Campins is a successful real estate agent and a participant on Season 1 of The Apprentice. She was sent to CNN to debate Trump’s economic policies with that network’s own economics analyst, Ali Velshi. Suffice to say Trump needs to pick better economic spokesjacks. Campins was unable to come up with a premise that made any sense, which made Velshi’s head spin. Trump’s economic policy includes, as you might have guessed, more tax cuts, as if that’s going to solve anything. It won’t. Tax cuts do nothing but hurt poorer people and help rich people get even richer. Trickle Down Economics (Supply Side Economics) has been proven to be a disastrous way to govern.

BTW, all these stupid things that Trump has been saying are not his fault at all, according to Kimberly Guilfoyle. She says that they’re President Obama’s and Sec Hillary Clinton’s fault. “It’s like the most unholy partnership of all time between the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton, constantly making comments trying to bait Trump into saying something that will sidetrack him.” Of course they are. These people need to get it through their clearly addled minds that Trump doesn’t need any baiting to say stupid things. “Proceed, Mr. Trump.”

Kellyanne Conway, not one to shy away from making a false equivalence, tried to counter Trump’s famous “Second Amendment” remarks with the attendance of a certain person at one of Clinton’s rallies.

Where would you feel more safe? Would you feel more safe in at a rally where the speaker who is running for president says you have a right to protect yourself under your Second Amendment constitutional rights? Or would you feel more safe at a rally where the man who perpetrated the worst mass murder since 9/11 in America’s history was standing right behind the candidate?

First of all, nobody but you can make you “feel safe.” It’s not the president’s job to do that, either. Because this is a free country and you are allowed to go where you want and do what you want as long as you don’t break any laws. But if you decide you do want to break some laws, like shooting people, you’ll probably be able to do it. Instead of a police state where people need the government’s permission to do things, we have a system of justice based on deterrence. It’s assumed you don’t want to go to jail, so the threat of losing your freedom is usually enough to keep 99% of people from breaking the law. But some people don’t care about that because they expect to die doing the crime they’re doing, and that’s how you get people like Omar Mateen shooting up the Pulse nightclub. Which brings me to the second point: “the man who perpetrated the worst mass murder since 9/11 in America’s history” is dead. He wasn’t sitting behind Clinton at that rally. It was his father, Seddique Mateen, and he has every legal reason to be there (despite what you’ll hear some RWers say.)

Even Dr. Ben Carson took time away from his busy schedule of public napping to defend Trump after the Republican nominee started disparaging the whole election process. Despite the fact that Democrats have won Pennsylvania the last few election cycles, and despite the fact that Clinton is leading Trump there by a significant margin, Trump told his audience that if he loses PA (and he will), it could only be because of cheating by the Democrats. These is a dangerous thing to say, and an especially irresponsible one because there’s no proof that the Democrats plan to cheat. There is, however, proof that the Republicans tried to cheat by passing their own version of a Voter ID bill (all of which are designed to prevent groups of likely Democratic voters from voting.) Carson started his rebuttal by referencing “voting irregularities” in the 2012 election in Philadelphia. The irregularities to which he refers are the fact that Romney got 0 votes in 59 voting districts in Philadelphia. To anyone who has paid attention to voting patterns in Philadelphia since the FDR administration, this came as no surprise, as Snopes points out. The districts are in areas with a heavy black population, and there are only about 300-500 people in each district. And while there are a handful of registered republicans in those districts according to voter registration records, attempts to locate them were mostly fruitless. Besides, the same thing happened to McCain in 2008 when he got 0 votes in 57 districts. Carson tried to justify Voter ID laws by claiming it’s the only way to prevent voter fraud. This is another favorite tactic of the right, to distort the meanings of words. They like to claim that every election irregularity is “voter fraud.” Voter fraud happens when someone tries to cast a vote posing as someone they aren’t, and it’s not in the least bit a serious problem no matter how many times the right says it is. So the Voter ID laws they like to pass, which by design disproportionately harm black people, college students from another state, and senior citizens, are passed to fix a problem that simply does not exist. Out of a billion votes cast, do you know how many cases of in-person voter fraud there have been? Thirty-one. That is hardly justification to make people travel many miles to get a specific form of ID just to cast a vote, when they had no problem voting before. Many times these laws don’t allow for college IDs to be used (even though they have pictures on them and can be used for every other state requirement of identification), but do allow for hunting licenses to be used (which often DON’T have a photo of the person on them, and are more likely to be obtained by conservatives rather than liberals. I base that on the fact that liberals tend to be more sympathetic to animals than conservatives, who aren’t sympathetic to anyone but conservatives.) But in the end, Carson wouldn’t come out and say that Trump was right, which means he wasn’t helping Trump, either.

Which brings us to perhaps the worst spokesjack a candidate could have, Katrina Pierson. In case you don’t recognize her by name, she’s the one who likes to show up on TV wearing a necklace made of bullets. Pierson was among those trying to defend Trump’s remarks about Obama being the founder of ISIS. When asked if Trump was being sarcastic, she tried to answer, “Yes and no.” She then tried to say that while it was true that Obama “didn’t fill out the paperwork to create ISIS” (note to readers, neither did ISIS because there is no form you fill out to create an organization of assholes hell-bent on murder), that he and Clinton did create the policies that led to the formation of ISIS (which is also not true as that would have been the Bush Administration’s policies; their policies led to the creation of al Qaeda in Iraq, which was the precursor of ISIL, also known as ISIS in some areas.) On another CNN program Pierson tried to re-write history by saying, “Remember, we weren’t even in Afghanistan by this time. Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem.” Does it even need to be pointed out that Bush took us into Afghanistan before he illegally took us into Iraq? In addition to wanting to know how someone like this could possibly be helpful to Trump, I would also like to know why CNN keep having her on at all? Virtually nothing she says can be connected to Reality in any way.

Finally, lest you think I’m just picking and choosing a few incidents going all the way back to a year ago when Trump famously launched his campaign by saying Mexico was sending us rapists, I’m not. All of these stories are from within just the past few days. Trump used to brag that he only hired the best people to work for him. Either he hasn’t actually met them, or he was just lying again.

This is our daily open thread. Eat up.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday 8/10/16




Let no one be surprised if, in speaking of entirely new principalities as I shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of state; because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others, and following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep entirely to the ways of others or attain to the power of those they imitate. A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it. Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach.

I say, therefore, that in entirely new principalities, where there is a new prince, more or less difficulty is found in keeping them, accordingly as there is more or less ability in him who has acquired the state. Now, as the fact of becoming a prince from a private station presupposes either ability or fortune, it is clear that one or other of these things will mitigate in some degree many difficulties. Nevertheless, he who has relied least on fortune is established the strongest. Further, it facilitates matters when the prince, having no other state, is compelled to reside there in person.

But to come to those who, by their own ability and not through fortune, have risen to be princes, I say that Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, and such like are the most excellent examples. And although one may not discuss Moses, he having been a mere executor of the will of God, yet he ought to be admired, if only for that favour which made him worthy to speak with God. But in considering Cyrus and others who have acquired or founded kingdoms, all will be found admirable; and if their particular deeds and conduct shall be considered, they will not be found inferior to those of Moses, although he had so great a preceptor. And in examining their actions and lives one cannot see that they owed anything to fortune beyond opportunity, which brought them the material to mould into the form which seemed best to them. Without that opportunity their powers of mind would have been extinguished, and without those powers the opportunity would have come in vain.

It was necessary, therefore, to Moses that he should find the people of Israel in Egypt enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians, in order that they should be disposed to follow him so as to be delivered out of bondage. It was necessary that Romulus should not remain in Alba, and that he should be abandoned at his birth, in order that he should become King of Rome and founder of the fatherland. It was necessary that Cyrus should find the Persians discontented with the government of the Medes, and the Medes soft and effeminate through their long peace. Theseus could not have shown his ability had he not found the Athenians dispersed. These opportunities, therefore, made those men fortunate, and their high ability enabled them to recognize the opportunity whereby their country was ennobled and made famous.

Those who by valorous ways become princes, like these men, acquire a principality with difficulty, but they keep it with ease. The difficulties they have in acquiring it rise in part from the new rules and methods which they are forced to introduce to establish their government and its security. And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.

It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter thoroughly, to inquire whether these innovators can rely on themselves or have to depend on others: that is to say, whether, to consummate their enterprise, have they to use prayers or can they use force? In the first instance they always succeed badly, and never compass anything; but when they can rely on themselves and use force, then they are rarely endangered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed. Besides the reasons mentioned, the nature of the people is variable, and whilst it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that persuasion. And thus it is necessary to take such measures that, when they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by force.

If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could not have enforced their constitutions for long–as happened in our time to Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believe. Therefore such as these have great difficulties in consummating their enterprise, for all their dangers are in the ascent, yet with ability they will overcome them; but when these are overcome, and those who envied them their success are exterminated, they will begin to be respected, and they will continue afterwards powerful, secure, honoured, and happy.

To these great examples I wish to add a lesser one; still it bears some resemblance to them, and I wish it to suffice me for all of a like kind: it is Hiero the Syracusan.[*] This man rose from a private station to be Prince of Syracuse, nor did he, either, owe anything to fortune but opportunity; for the Syracusans, being oppressed, chose him for their captain, afterwards he was rewarded by being made their prince. He was of so great ability, even as a private citizen, that one who writes of him says he wanted nothing but a kingdom to be a king. This man abolished the old soldiery, organized the new, gave up old alliances, made new ones; and as he had his own soldiers and allies, on such foundations he was able to build any edifice: thus, whilst he had endured much trouble in acquiring, he had but little in keeping.

[*] Hiero II, born about 307 B.C., died 216 B.C.