The 50th Law Part Two: FEAR and POWER

Our lives are often subject to a pattern of movement that is set in motion at birth. The human animal spends an inordinate amount of time in the mother’s womb. When we are suddenly thrust out of that zone of comfort–where all our needs have been met–we enter an unfamiliar world of noise and light. We cannot help but desire a return to the womb. The mother serves as a substitute for this desire and we cling to her. We experience her absence for any extended period of time as a kind of terror. This is the source of our

The 50th Law

Over the course of the past eighteen months I have started dozens of blog entries, only to find that the passage of a few days or a week made my ideas seem irrelevant. Events in the world were moving too fast for me to keep up with them. The main culprit here was the book I had been working on during this period, The 50th Law (due out on September 8, 2009), and my tendency to want to concentrate on only one thing at a time. In the months to come I plan to recycle several ideas that are worth

Interview with Robert Greene

[Marcus was good enough to remind me to post this here. I announced it over at earlier today. -Ben] has an interview with Robert Greene on his collaboration with 50 Cent for the book The 50th Law. Essentially the hustler is a figure to me, thats very American. It goes back to the 19th Century. Its ingrained in our country. We’ve always kind of had that figure. But it kinda got taken to another level in urban America in the 20th century. Predominantly associated with the black hustler. The hustler is an entrepreneur. This book celebrates their mentality.

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Barack v. Hillary: Maneuver Warfare

But Cassius and Brutus were the most gloriously conspicuous–precisely because their statues were not to be seen. Tacitus In looking at this election cycle, pundits have been talking about the importance of authenticity. “It is fatal for a politician to look fake. They must show that they believe in something with conviction. The public has grown tired of professional politicians.” But this is nothing new. The desire for authenticity in leaders comes and goes in cycles. John F. Kennedy benefited from this hunger and he also knew how to exploit it to maximum effect. He was not fake, but he

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Cui Bono

In the Machiavellian perspective, few events in public life are rarely what they seem to be. Power depends on appearances, on manipulating what the public sees. On seeming good, while doing what is necessary to gain and maintain power. Sometimes it is easy to see through the fog and pick out a political figure’s motives or intentions. Other times it is quite complicated–what is really going on, we ask ourselves? In the new media environment, the ability to create fog and confusion has been greatly enhanced. Stories and rumors can be planted with virtually no source behind them. The story

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The Terrorist Dilemma: A Talk to West Point Cadets

I was recently invited by Jarret Brachman, professor and head of research at West Point’s Center of Combating Terrorism, to give a talk to his students in the department. Below is a transcription of the talk itself, which was given on November 13, 2007. In the days to come I will detail the response of students and teachers, the questions that came up, my impressions of West Point and of the students I met there, as well as talks with other members of the department. All in all, it was a great experience. Professor Brachman is an expert on Al

Only the Dull and Stupid Fight Head-on: Some Strategic Thoughts

Reading and watching the news lately has inspired a few strategic tidbits I would like to share. Force them off the negative: It is always easier to argue from the negative side–criticizing other people’s actions, dissecting their motives, etc. And that is why most people will opt for this. If they had to describe a positive vision of what they want in the world, or how they would accomplish a particular task, this would open them up to all kinds of attacks and criticisms. It takes effort and thought to establish a positive position. It takes less effort to work

In Praise of the Bad Guy

In Pimp by Iceberg Slim, almost the entire book is devoted to his life on the streets, to learning the game of pimping and mastering it. Then comes a riveting account of his time in prison, and finally, at the end, a fiery denunciation of his wasted years as a pimp. This moralizing ending has largely been ignored. Instead, the book has become a manual for how to be the ultimate pimp. In his other books, it is the con artist, the gang leader and hustler who holds our attention and draws our sympathy. We become absorbed in reading about

Experiments in Strategic Wisdom, Profiles in Stupidity – A Last Look at Russia

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the Russia essays. I am a contrarian by nature. When I hear anyone espouse an idea or a belief, my mind immediately floats to the opposite. “Perhaps what you are saying is in fact not true at all. I could see it from the opposite side, and so I will try it out.” I don’t know where this trait comes from; it is my form of mental warfare. I do it with my own ideas as well. Its value lies in making me test out opinions and never accept what others