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NO JOBS UNDER OBAMA–OR ROMNEY: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Business, Law, Politics on September 28, 2012 at 12:02 am

For all their differences, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney share the same outlook on job-creation:

  1. Give even more tax-breaks to mega-rich corporations–and hope they’ll use those monies to responsibly create jobs.
  2. Require more job retraining for unemployed Americans–for jobs that employers have no intention of creating.

Thus, neither Obama nor Romney has any plans to use the stick when the carrot fails.

What America needs is its own version of what Mexicans refer to as pan o palo: “Bread or the stick.”

Those corporations that act as responsible job-creators should be rewarded accordingly.  And those that don’t–should be punished accordingly.

In the previous column, readers were introduced to the first three provisions of such a proposal.  To continue:

A nationwide Employers Responsibility Act would ensure:

(2) Large companies (those employing more than 100 persons) would be required to create entry-level training programs for new, future employees.

These would be modeled on programs now existing for public employees, such as firefighters, police officers and members of the armed services.

Such programs would remove the employer excuse, “I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you because you’ve never had any experience in this line of work.” After all, the Air Force has never rejected an applicant because, “I’m sorry, but you’ve never flown a plane before.”

This Nation has greatly benefited from the humane and professional efforts of the men and women who have graduated from public-sector training programs. There is no reason for the private sector to shun programs that have succeeded so brilliantly for the public sector.

(3) Employers would receive tax credits for creating professional, well-paying, full-time jobs.

This would encourage the creation of better than the menial, dead-end, low-paying and often part-time jobs which exist in the service industry. Employers found using such tax credits for any other purpose would be prosecuted for tax fraud.

(4) A company that acquired another—through a merger or buyout—would be forbidden to fire en masse the career employees of that acquired company.

This would be comparable to the protection existing for career civil service employees. Such a ban would prevent a return to the predatory “corporate raiding” practices of the 1980s, which left so much human and economic wreckage in their wake.

The wholesale firing of employees would trigger the prosecution of the company’s new owners. Employees could still be fired, but only for provable just cause, and only on a case-by-case basis.

(5) Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits. Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

(6) Employers of part-time workers would be required to comply with all federal labor laws.

Under current law, part-time employees are not protected against such abuses as discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. Closing this loophole would immediately create two positive results:

  • Untold numbers of currently-exploited workers would be protected from the abuses of predatory employers; and
  • Even predatorily-inclined employers would be encouraged to offer permanent, fulltime jobs rather than only part-time ones—since a major incentive for offering part-time jobs would now be eliminated.

(7) Employers would be encouraged to hire to their widest possible limits, through a combination of financial incentives and legal sanctions.

Among those incentives: Employers demonstrating a willingness to hire would receive substantial Federal tax credits, based on the number of new, permanent employees hired per year.

Employers claiming eligibility for such credits would be required to make their financial records available to Federal investigators. Employers found making false claims would be prosecuted for perjury and tax fraud, and face heavy fines and imprisonment if convicted.

(8) Among those sanctions: Employers refusing to hire could be required to prove, in court:

  • Their economic inability to hire further employees, and/or
  • The unfitness of the specific, rejected applicant.

Companies found guilty of unjustifiably refusing to hire would face the same penalties as now applying in cases of discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex and disability.

Employers would thus fund it easier to hire than to refuse to do so. Job-seekers would no longer be prevented from even being considered for employment because of arbitrary and interminable “hiring freezes.”

(9) Employers refusing to hire would be required to pay an additional “crime tax.”

Sociologists and criminologists agree that “the best cure for crime is a job.” Thus, employers who refuse to hire contribute to a growing crime rate in this Nation.

Such non-hiring employers would be required to pay an additional tax, which would be earmarked for agencies of the criminal justice system at State and Federal levels.

NO JOBS UNDER OBAMA–OR ROMNEY: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Business, Law, Politics on September 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama say they want to create jobs.

Obama is a Democrat and Romney is a Republican–but they both offer the same solution, with only slight variations.

President Barack Obama promises to lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% to give businesses more money to hire.

He has also pledged to put $3 billion into job retraining to help 22 million workers.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney would cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% as a part of a plan to create 20 million jobs in the next 4 years.

He supports job retraining, but would ship the burden to states and private companies.

In short, they offer only carrots–in the form of bribes to mega-rich corporations.

But there are no sticks–in the form of sanctions–for corporations that refuse to create jobs.

Almost certainly, corporations receiving those tax cuts will spend that money on:

  • buying up competing businesses;
  • opening plants overseas; and/or
  • further enriching their CEOs and other executives.

Yet, when they do, none of their top executives will face punishment for, in effect, receiving money under false pretenses.

There will be no penalties for employers who throw hard-working Americans into the street–just so they can collect their salaries for themselves.

So what is the point of retraining Americans for jobs that employers refuse to create?

Furthermore, a carrots-only policy ignores a fundamental truth about human nature, brilliantly articulated more than 500 years ago by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science.

In his book, The Discourses, Machiavelli wrote in detail about the most effective ways to preserve liberty within a republic.  As in the following:

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.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Thus, it isn’t enough to assume and hope that powerful, self-interested men will behave responsibly toward their fellow citizens.  It’s essential to have sanctionos–punishments–for those who don’t.

So, regardless of who wins the election, the 12.5 million Americans whom the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists as unemployed will not be any better off.

But America can end this national disaster–and disgrace.

A policy based only on concessions–such as endless tax breaks for hugely profitable corporations–is a policy of appeasement.

And appeasement only whets the appetite of those appeased for even greater concessions.

It is past time to hold wealthy and powerful corporations accountable for their socially and financially irresponsible acts.

This solution can be summed up in three words: Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and Labor, an ERA would ensure full-time, permanent and productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

And it would achieve this without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work.

An Employers Responsibility Act would simultaneously address the following evils for which employers are directly responsible:

  • The loss of jobs within the United States owing to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.
  • The mass firings of employees which usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.
  • The widespread victimization of part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.
  • The refusal of many employers to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.
  • The widespread employer practice of extorting “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas. 
  • Such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.
  • The refusal of many employers to provide medical and pension  benefits—usually for part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.
  • Rising crime rates, due to rising unemployment.

Among its provisions:

(1) American companies that close plants in the United States and open others abroad would be forbidden to sell products made in those foreign plants within the United States.

This would protect both American and foreign workers from employers seeking to profit at their expense. American workers would be ensured of continued employment. And foreign laborers would be protected against substandard wages and working conditions.

Companies found violating this provision would be subject to Federal criminal prosecution. Guilty verdicts would result in heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment for their owners and top managers.

ENTITLEMENTS OF THE RICH

In History, Politics on September 26, 2012 at 12:00 am

On September 20, Ann Romney appeared on Radio Iowa to help her husband, Mitt, carry the state.

Many Republicans now fear that Romney has forfeited his chance for victory in November.  His videotaped comments to wealthy donors–in which he dismissed “47%” of Americans as non-tax-paying government dependents–have drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

So when the interviewer asked Ann to respond to Mitt’s Republican critics, she was ready.

“Stop it. This is hard,” she said, in a tone that sounded like an angry mother defending her son’s slipping grades at a PTA meeting.

Mitt and Ann Romney

“You want to try it?  Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it’s an important thing that we’re doing right now, and it’s an important election.”

Then she aimed her ire at those Americans who hadn’t yet accepted her husband as the Coming Messiah.

“And it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.”

Click here: Ann Romney defends Mitt – Anderson Cooper 360 – CNN.com Blogs

Maybe Ann simply felt her husband deserved uncritical loyalty from his fellow Republicans.  Or maybe she felt mounting dismay at seeing her chances of becoming First Lady going down the toilet.

After all, on April 16, she and Mitt had given a joint interview to ABC News that pulsed with hubris.

Asked if he had anything to say to President Barack Obama, Mitt said: “Start packing.”  As if the most powerful leader of the Western world should snap to attention at Mitt’s command.

And Ann gushed: “I believe it’s Mitt’s time. I believe the country needs the kind of leadership he’s going to offer… So I think it’s our turn now.”

Click here: Mitt Romney Tells President Obama to ‘Start Packing’ | Video – ABC News

So now, after a series of potentially fatal gaffes by her husband, it may be that Ann fears it isn’t their turn now.

During a May 17 private fund-raising event, Mitt Romney addressed a roomful of wealthy donors.  Toward the end of his remarks he scorned “entitlements” for those Americans who didn’t belong to the privileged class:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what….

“Who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

But the Romneys aren’t the only members of the pampered set to feel entitled to holding the most powerful office in the world.

Earlier this year, Anita Perry, the wife of Rick Perry–Texas Governor and then Presidential candidate–indulged in her own moment of self-pity.

Rick and Anita Perry

She said she knew what it was like to be unemployed–because her son had resigned from his job at Deutsche Bank to campaign for his father.

“He resigned from his job two weeks ago because he can’t go out and campaign with his father because of SEC regulations,” she said in a Pendleton, S.C. diner on October 14, 2011.

“My son lost his job because of this administration,” she added.

But only a day earlier, Anita Perry had said that her son had eagerly resigned to help his father run for President.

“So, our son Griffin Perry is 28.  He loves politics, and he just couldn’t wait.  He said ‘Dad, I’m in!  I’m in!  I’ll do whatever you need me to do.  I’ll resign my job.  I’ll do what you need me to do,‘” recalled Anita Perry.

There is a difference between voluntarily resigning from a job and being involuntarily terminated from it.

Nor was the voluntary resignation of her son Anita Perry’s only complaint.

“We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party,” she told a South Carolina audience on October 13, 2011.  “So much of that is, I think they look at [Rick] because of his faith.

“He is the only true conservative–well, there are some true conservatives.  And they’re there for good reasons.  And they may feel like God called them, too.  But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

Perhaps the final word on the revealed character of these entitled would-be rulers belongs to Plutarch (c. 46 – 120 AD), a Greek historian and biographer.   In the foreward to his biography of Alexander the Great, he wrote:

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

It is well to keep such truths in mind when assessing the characters of our own would-be Alexanders–and those who would be their queens.

WHAT THE MAJOR HAS TO TELL US

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2012 at 12:46 am

Major Dundee is a 1965 Sam Peckinpah Western focusing on a Union cavalry officer (Charlton Heston) who leads a motley troop of soldiers into Mexico to rescue three children kidnapped by Apaches.

Along the way they liberate Mexican villagers and clash with French lancers trying to establish the Austrian Archduke Maximillian 1 as emperor of Mexico.

The Wild Bunch is universally recognized as Peckinpah’s greatest achievement.  It has certainly had a far greater impact on audiences and critics than Major Dundee.  According to Heston, this was really the movie Peckinpah wanted to make while making Dundee, but he couldn’t quite get his hands around it.

As a result, Dundee’s virtues have been tragically overlooked.  It has a larger cast of major characters than Bunch, and these are men you can truly like and identify with:

  • The charm of Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harrs), a Confederate lieutenant forced into Union service;
  • The steady courage of Sergeant Gomez;
  • The quiet dignity of Aesop (Brock Peters), a black soldier;
  • The quest for maturity in a young, untried bugler Tim Ryan (Michael Anderson, Jr.);
  • The on-the-job training experience of Lt. Graham (Jim Hutton); and
  • The stoic endurance of Indian scout Sam Potts (James Coburn).

These men are charged with a dangerous and dirty mission, and do it as well as they can, but you wouldn’t fear inviting them to meet your family.

,Major Dundee

Major Dundee (Charlton Heston)

That was definitely not the case with The Wild Bunch, four hardened killers prepared to rip off anyone, anytime, and leave a trail of bodies in their wake.  The only place where you would have felt safe seeing them, in real-life, was behind prison bars.

The Wild Bunch

Dundee is an odyssey movie, in the same vein as Saving Private Ryan.  Both films start with a battle, followed by the disappearance of characters who need to be searched for and brought back to safety.

Just as Dundee assembles a small force to go into Mexico, so, too, does Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) do the same, with his hunting ground being France.

Dundee’s men retrieve the kidnapped children and survive a near-fatal battle with Indians.  Miller’s men twice clash with the Germans before finding their quarry, James Ryan.

Before Dundee can return to the United States, he must face and defeat a corps of French soldiers.  Before Miller can haul Ryan back to safety, he must repulse a German assault.

Both groups of soldiers–Dundee’s and Miller’s–are transformed by their experiences in ways neither group could possibly articulate.  (Miller, being a highly literate schoolteacher, would surely do a better job of this than the tight-jawed Dundee.)

Dundee’s soldiers return to a United States that’s just ended its Civil War with a Union victory–and the death of slavery.  Miller’s soldiers return to a nation that is now a global superpower.

Of course, Ryan was fortunate in having Steven Spielberg as its director.  With his clout, there was no question that Ryan would emerge as the film he wanted.

Peckinpah lacked such clout.  And he fought with everyone, including the producer, Jerry Bressler, who ultimately held the power to destroy his film.  This guaranteed that his movie would emerge far differently than he had envisioned.

In 2005, an extended version of Dundee was released, featuring 12 minutes of restored footage.  (Much of the original footage was lost after severe cuts to the movie.)

In this, we fully see how unsympathetic a character the martinet Dundee really is.  Owing to Heston’s record of playing heroes, it’s easy to overlook Dundee’s arrogance and lethal fanaticism and automatically view him as a hero.  If he is indeed that, he is a hero with serious flaws.

And his self-imposed mission poses questions for us today:

  • Where is the line between professional duty and personal fanaticism?
  • How do we balance the success of a mission against its potential costs–especially if they prove appalling?
  • At what point–if any–does personal conscience override professional obligations?

Whether intentionally or not, in Major Dundee, Peckinpah laid out a microcosm of the American history that would immediately follow the Civil War.

Former Confederates and Unionists would forego their regional animosities and fight against a recognized mutual enemy—the Indians.  This would prove a dirty and drawn-out war, shorn of the glory and (later) treasured memories of the Civil War.

Just as Dundee’s final battle with French lancers ended with an American victory won at great cost, so, too, would America’s forays into the Spanish-American War and World Wars 1 and 11 prove the same.

Ben Tyreen’s commentary on the barbarism of French troops (“Never underestimate the value of a European education”) would be echoed by twentieth-century Americans uncovering the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald.

America would learn to project its formidable military power at great cost.  Toward the end of the movie, Teresa Santiago (Senta Berger), the ex-patriot Austrian widow, would ask Dundee: “But who do you answer to?

It is a question that still vividly expresses the view of the international community as this superpower colossus hurtles from one conflict to the next.

MITT ROMNEY VS. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

On the surface, the 2012 Presidential race appears to be one of Republican Mitt Romney versus Democrat Barack Obama.

But, on a truly spiritual level, this is a race pitting Republican against Republican.

That is, the philosophy of Republican Mitt Romney pitted against the philosophy of Republican Abraham Lincoln.

Consider:

MITT ROMNEY: Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him. Who are dependent upon government, who believe that–that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.  And they will vote for this President no matter what.

And–and–I mean the President starts off with 48%, 49%, 40–or he….starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every….four years.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN:  With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.  To bind up the nation’s wounds.  To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.  To do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

* * * * *

“Tell me whom you admire,” runs the old saying, “and I will tell you who you are.”  The candidate you vote for reveals as much about your own priorities as it does about those of the candidate.

On Election Day, we will discover the priorities of the American electorate.  Will they embrace the spirit of their greatest President–or that of their greediest Presidential candidate?

CRASSUS/ROMNEY FOR EMPEROR: PART TWO (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2012 at 12:00 am

Mitt Romney never had the chance to portray Marcus Licinius Crassus, once the wealthiest man in ancient Rome.

That part went to Laurence Oliver in the 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus.

Laurence Oliver as Marcus Crassus in “Spartacus”

The film depicted a slave revolt led by an escaped Thracian gladiator named Spartacus (Douglas).  A revolt that Crassus played a major role in destroying.

Still, Romney–whose wealth is estimated at $250 million–has had the opportunity to play the role of a patrician in real life.  And nowhere was it on better display than during a May 17 private fund-raising event.

Mitt Romney

The event–closed to the press–was nevertheless surreptitiously recorded on video and leaked to Mother Jones magazine.

And Romney’s comments about those Americans who do not share his wealth-given privileges have momentarily paralyzed his Presidential campaign.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, the “very rich” are “different from you and me.”

To observe that difference, it’s necessary only to compare the attitude of Marcus Crassus–as depicted in Spartacus–with that of Mitt Romney.

GRACCHUS: The Senate’s been in session all day over this business of Spartacus.    We’ve got eight legions to march against him and no one to lead them.  The minute you offer the generals command…they start wheezing like winded mules….

CRASSUS: I take it the senate’s now offering command of the legions to me.

GRACCHUS: You’ve been expecting it.

CRASSUS:  I have.  But have you thought how costly my services might be?

GRACCHUS:  We buy everything else these days.  No reason why we shouldn’t be charged for patriotism. What’s your fee?

CRASSUS:  My election as first consul, command of all the legions of ltaly, and the abolition of Senatorial authority over the courts.

GRACCHUS:  Dictatorship.

CRASSUS:  Order.

* * * * *

ROMNEY:  The division of America, based on going after those who have been successful.

And then I quote Marco Rubio….I just said, Senator Rubio says–when he grew up here poor, that they looked at people that had a lot of wealth.

And his parents never once said, “We need some of what they have. They should give us some.”

Instead they said, “If we work hard and go to school, someday we might be able to have that.”

…And–and so my job is not to worry about those people [the 47% of Americans who allegedly don't pay taxes and expect the government to assist the poor].

I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives.

* * * * *

In Spartacus, Crassus becomes dictator of Rome and brutally crushes the slave revolt. Then he aims his fury at his longtime political enemy, Gaius Gracchus, the democratic leader of the Roman Senate–and hero to the poor.

CRASSUS: Did you truly believe 500 years of Rome could so easily be delivered into the clutches of a mob? Already the bodies of 6,000 crucified slaves line the Appian Way….

As those slaves have died, so will your rabble if they falter one instant in loyalty to the new order of affairs. The enemies of the state are known. Arrests are in progress. The prisons begin to fill….

Yet upon you I have no desire for vengeance. Your property shall not be touched. You will retain the rank and title of Roman senator. A house, a farmhouse in Picenum has been provided for your exile. You may take your women with you.

GRACCHUS: Why am I to be left so conspicuously alive?

CRASSUS: Your followers are deluded enough to trust you. I intend that you shall speak to them tomorrow for their own good, their peaceful and profitable future.

From time to time thereafter, I may find it useful to bring you back to Rome to continue your duty to her to calm the envious spirit and the troubled mind. You will persuade them to accept destiny and order, and trust the gods!

* * * * *

ROMNEY: The 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring onto our side—they all voted for Barack Obama four years ago…. And because they voted for him, they don’t want to be told that they were wrong, that he’s a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he’s corrupt.

Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn’t up to the task.

But…you and I, we spend our day with Republicans.  We spend our days with people who agree with us. And these people are people who voted for him and don’t agree with us.

And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them….

If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy.  If it looks like the President’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy….

My own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country.  We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.

CRASSUS/ROMNEY FOR EMPEROR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2012 at 12:00 am

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.

They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba, slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus.

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome. Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus, the democratic  leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and eagerly opposes his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, so, too, are Mitt Romney and his billionaire supporters now trying to buy the 2012 Presidential election.

Anyone who doubts this need only examine the video burning up the Internet of Romney addressing a private fund-raiser on May 17.  The site: The home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder, in Boca Raton, Florida.

In fact, it’s fascinating to compare some of the remarks of Olivier’s Crassus with some of those by Romney.  Doing so will offer useful insights into the values of the super wealthy.

For both men are truly spokesmen for the privileged moneyed class–of which they themselves are pre-eminent members.

CRASSUS [speaking of Gaius Gracchus, the democratic leader of the Roman Senate]: For Gracchus, hatred of the patrician class is a profession, and not such a bad one, either.  How else can one become master of the mob, and first senator of Rome?

Laurence Oliver as Marcus Crassus in “Spartacus”

ROMNEY:  What he’s [President Barack Obama] gonna do, by the way, is try and vilify me as someone who’s been successful. Or who’s– or who’s, you know, closed businesses or laid people off and this is an evil bad guy. And that may work.

Mitt Romney

* * * * *

CRASSUS [To Julius Caesar]:  For years, your family and mine have been members of the Equestrian Order and the Patrician Party. servants and rulers of Rome.  Why have you left us for Gracchus and the mob?

CAESAR:  I’ve left no one, least of all Rome.  This much I’ve learned from Gracchus: Rome is the mob.

CRASSUS:  No!  Rome is an eternal thought in the mind of God.

CAESAR:  I had no idea you’d grown religious.

CRASSUS:  That doesn’t matter.  If there were no gods at all, I’d revere them. If there were no Rome, I’d dream of her…as I want you to do.  I want you to come back to your own kind.  I beg you to.

CAESAR:  Is it me you want or is it the garrison [of Rome, which Caesar now commands]?

CRASSUS:  Both. Tell me frankly.  If you were l, would you take the field against Spartacus?

CAESAR:  Of course.

CRASSUS:  Why?

 CAESAR:  We have no other choice if we’re to save Rome.

 CRASSUS:  Ah, Caesar!  Which Rome?  Theirs…or ours?

* * * * *

ROMNEY:  Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him. Who are dependent upon government, who believe that–that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.   And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

And–and–I mean the President starts off with 48%, 49%, 40–or he….starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every….four years.

THE G.O.P.’S BIGGEST LIE

In Humor, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 19, 2012 at 12:37 am

On January 16, 2009–four days before Barack Obama even took office as President of the United States–right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh said:

cigar

“I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, ‘Well, I hope he succeeds. We’ve got to give him a chance.’

“…I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed…. I hope he fails.”

On October 29, 2010,  Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an interview with the National Journal:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

So if you can believe this….

“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.”

–Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, August 30, 2012

…then you can believe this:

“I wish President Roosevelt had succeeded because I want America to succeed.”

SECRET SERVICE OR STUPID SERVICE?

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on September 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

On October 20, 1962, a new musical opened on Broadway: Irving Berlin’s “Mr. President.”

The show ran a respectful 265 performances.  And among those who got around to seeing it was the then-President: John F. Kennedy.

Among its tunes was one called “The Secret Service Makes Me Nervous.”   In this, the President’s fictional daughter laments how the intrusiveness of the Secret Service often puts a damper on her romantic life.

Watching among the audience, President Kennedy may well have felt the same way.

Click here: Anita Gillette – The Secret Service  Makes Me Nervous – YouTube

But there are good reasons why those now being protected by this agency should feel nervous–about their own safety.

On August 29, a gun belonging to a Secret Service agent traveling with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was mistakenly left in the restroom of the candidate’s charter plane.

And, on September 3, an unknown man stole a Secret Service rental truck carrying equipment related to Vice President Joe Biden’s Labor Day visit to Detroit.

In the first incident, the weapon was found by a CBS News/National Journal reporter, who alerted a flight attendant about the gun.

A Secret Service agent who was on board the plane retrieved the gun from the restroom.

In the second incident, the U-Haul truck stolen outside the Westin Book Cadillac hotel was found the next day in a parking lot about three miles away.

Apparently, the Secret Service doesn’t play favorites where its protectees are concerned.  Your safety can be jeopardized whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.

What’s going on here?

If you’ve read In the President’s Secret Service, your answer is likely to be: “More of the same.”

The 2009 book, by investigative reporter Ronald Kessler, warned that the agency was risking the safety of many of its protectees, including President Obama.

The book praised the courage and integrity of Secret Service agents as a whole. But it slammed SS management for such practices as:

Shutting off magnetometers to screen crowds for Presidential candidates and even for Presidents Bush and Obama. It was at one such event in Tiblisi, Georgia, that a man threw a grenade at Bush—which failed to explode.

• Secret Service agents are still being trained to expect an attempt by a lone gunman—rather than a professional squad of terrorist assassins.

• The Service’s Counter Assault Teams (CATs) have generally been cut back from five or six agents to two, rendering them useless if a real attack occurred.

Salaries paid to SS agents have not kept pace with reality. Veteran SS men and women are now being offered up to four times their salary for moving to the private sector, and many are leaving the agency for that reason.

• Another reason for the high attrition rate is that while Congress has greatly expanded the duties of this agency, its top management has not asked for corresponding increases in funding and agents.

• A third reason why many agents are leaving is the widespread knowledge that it takes “juice” or connections with top management to advance one’s career.

• SS agents are being trained with weapons that are outdated (such as the MP5) compared to those used by other law enforcement agencies and the potential assassins they face (such as the M4).

The agency refuses to ask for help from other agencies to meet its manpower needs. Thus, a visiting head of state at the U.N. General Assembly will generally be assigned only three agents as protection.

The agency tells agents to grade themselves on their physical training test forms.

• Congressional members who visit the agency’s Rowley Training Center in Laurel, Maryland, are treated to rehearsed scenarios of how the agency would deal with attacks. If agents were allowed to perform these exercises without rehearsals, Congress members would see they can and do make mistakes like anyone else.

Kessler closes his book with the warning: “Without these changes, an assassination of Barack Obama or a future president is likely.

“If that happens, a new Warren Commission will be appointed to study the tragedy. It will find that the Secret Service was shockingly derelict in its duty to the American people and to its own elite corps of brave and dedicated agents.”

If the agency is to be judged by its recent performance in the cases of Romney and Biden, the day of that tragedy may not be far away.

MACHIAVELLI’S JUDGMENT ON MITT

In History, Politics on September 17, 2012 at 12:00 am

Consider the following timeline:

  • Anti-Muslim filmmakers produce a low-budget movie that trashes the islamic prophet, Mohammed, as a child molester and thuggish womanizer.  Muslims are portrayed as pedophiles, homosexuals and madmen.
  • September 11: Terry Jones, a Florida pastor who threatened to burn a Koran on 9/11 in 2010,  shows an online trailer of the movie: “Innocence of Muslims.”   The trailer–deliberately dubbed in Arabic to inflame Muslims–instantly arouses that outrage.
  • September 11, 6:17 a.m.  Alerted by newscasts to the mounting fury of the islamic world, the U.S. embassy in Cairo releases a statement that reads in part: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims–as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions…. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy.”
  • September 11, 1:41 p.m.  Egyptian protesters scale the wall of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and tear down the American flag.
  • September 11, 7:43 p.m.  A heavily-armed commando raid overwhelms the U.S. consulate in Bengazi, Libya.  Four Americans are murdered–including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.
  • September 11, 10:24 p.m. Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for President, releases a statement:  “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Mitt Romney

Since then, numerous commentators–and even some Republicans–have pointed out the blatant lies in Romney’s statement.

  • President Obama did not express sympathy with the attackers.
  • In fact, he publicly warned: “I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.”
  • The initial statement–by the U.S. embassy in Cairo–was not an apology for the attacks.  No attacks had yet been made.  Clearly, its purpose was to pre-empt exactly the violence that soon erupted.
  • An administration official told ABC News that “no one in Washington approved that statement before it was released and it doesn’t reflect the views of the US government.”

Moreover, Romney made his statement even before the bodies of the four dead American diplomats had been returned to the United States for burial.

And, of course, he issued his statement before the full facts of the attacks were known.

All of which brings us to a truth well understood–and pointed out–by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In his treatise on politics, The Prince, Machiavelli warns:

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.

Moreover, Romney has repeatedly attacked President Obama as “weak.”  Richard Williamson, a top Romney advisor on foreign policy, recently said:

“There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d  be in a different situation.  For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we’ve had  an American ambassador assassinated….

“The  respect for America has gone down, there’s not a sense of American resolve and  we can’t even protect sovereign American property.”

This harkens back to the Cold War ethos of “toughness,” when Republicans claimed that only they were “tough” enough to protect America from the Communist Menace.

But Machiavelli had some wise counsel to offer on the subject of toughness, too.

Raising the question: “Is it better to be loved or feared?” he observed:

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt. 

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined…. 

But there is an important rule to being feared:

Still, 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….

Nazi Germany made itself fiercely hated–by not only committing atrocities but publicizing them. And it paid a fearsome price for it.  And so did the administration of George W. Bush–by committing atrocities and having the news media reveal them.

Whatever Obama’s faults as a commander-in-chief, he has not yet violated these cardinal rules laid out by Niccolo Machiavelli.

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