19 March 2009

Willie Brown's SF Chronicle Column is a Must Read

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Jr. has been writing a column about politics in the San Francisco Chronicle for the past year or so.

It's called "Willie's World." And it's superlative.

If you want to learn how both to schmooze and to play hardball, Willie is your man. Consider this excerpt from a recent column, commenting on how, when he was Speaker of the California Assembly (the lower house of the state legislature), he leaned on recalcitrant colleagues to support him:
When I was speaker, I had staffers assigned to read the hometown papers of every member I was having trouble with.

I'd come up to them and start talking about what was going on with their local PTA head, their local mayors, their hospitals. They couldn't figure out if I was just really interested in them or collecting intelligence in order to run someone against them. Either way, they paid attention.
The deliberate ambiguity his message conveyed a veiled threat that any politico could appreciate -- Willie's knowledge, coupled with his authority in the state Democratic party, projected power without ever giving the poor legislator on the receiving end something to cry foul about. Talk about being feared but not hated....

The Chronicle keeps an archive of his columns; I highly recommend them.

12 March 2009

Lecture: Machiavelli and Third World Poverty

I found this lecture entitled "Machiavelli and Third World Poverty," given by Professor James Manor of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton, particularly interesting. (For any Yalies out there, Professor Manor is a Yale alum.)

Discussions on "development" and Third World poverty issues often focus on technocratic or sociological solutions, and not on political forces. Professor Manor, however, takes an unusual and potentially useful approach to this topic by focusing on political actors "at the very apex of power," whom he says exert a far greater influence on the success or failure of anti-poverty programs.

Along with two collaborators from Brazil and Kenya, Professor Manor studied the anti-poverty initiatives of former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (or FHC, to any Brazilians out there), current President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, and Chief Minister of the Indian State Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh. Their results are thought-provoking, and the talk is well-delivered.

08 March 2009

Lecture: The Prince-as-Satire

Ian Johnston, a research associate (and retired instructor) at Vancouver Island University (located in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada), gave a lecture about Machiavelli in 2002 that presents the The Prince-as-satire argument. Although I very much disagree with his conclusions, he has been kind enough to transcribe and post his argument for public consumption, and so I am happy to present it for your consideration.

Mr. Johnston's website also hosts links to a large number of classic texts, as well as study materials.

(Finally, for those who would like to know where Nanaimo is, behold.)

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07 March 2009

Salman Rushdie -- Machiavelli was "a bit of a party animal"

Continuing the thread on Machiavelli lectures, here's an excellent discussion by Sir Salman Rushdie on June 18, 2008, at the City Arts & Lectures in San Francisco, CA. Mr. Rushdie contends that Machiavelli is not "Machiavellian," identifies the Florentine as "a bit of a party animal," and says that he feels some kinship with the man after spending so much time in virtual exile himself:

06 March 2009

Machiavelli Lecture from Allan Bloom (audio only)

Allan Bloom delivered this talk in 1983 at Boston College, as part of a series called "Philosophic Perspectives". The series concerned the perceived decline of liberal pedagogy in higher education. Bloom's lecture focuses on The Prince, going chapter-by-chapter, and also teaches students how to approach Machiavelli as a writer.

(NB: The audio streaming does not appear to work in Firefox browsers; Firefox users, you will unfortunately have to use Internet Explorer to listen in.)

Part 1 of 5:

Part 2 of 5:

Part 3 of 5:

Part 4 of 5:

Part 5 of 5:

(Hat tip to shrink2one.com and the Internet Archive for linking to and posting this public-domain content.)

05 March 2009

Machiavelli lectures by Prof. Steven B. Smith of Yale University

I am starting to gather links to transcripts, videorecordings, and audiorecordings of lectures on Machiavelli. They will be presented individually, but I will also be compiling them in a place where they can be accessed all at once.

To the extent reasonably possible, I will attempt to determine whether these items may be linked to from here, but if anyone knows of potential copyright problems with something posted here, please let me know.

Today I begin with two lectures given by Yale professor Steven B. Smith.

Lecture #1 concerns Chapters 1-12 of The Prince:

Lecture #2 concerns Chapters 13-26 of the same book:


03 March 2009

Guinea-Bissau: Praetorians can be useful

A recent AP article on the assassination of Guinea-Bissau's president, Joao Bernardo "Nino" Viera, made me think of the uses and misuses of an executive bodyguard.

Apparently, when gunmen made an unsuccsesful attempt against Viera life four months ago, the army -- many of whose members belong to a tribe hostile to the president's tribe -- failed to protect him. Had it not been for Viera's private bodyguard, he almost certainly would have perished in the assault.