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Posts Tagged ‘ANCIENT ROME’

MERCS FOR HIRE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2014 at 12:33 am

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.

Throughout the movie, wealthy Romans assume they can buy anything–or anyone.  When seeking a favor, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Oliver) says bluntly: “Name your price.”

Today, “Name your price” has become the password for entry into America’s Intelligence community.

Althugh not portrayed in Spartacus, one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman empire lay in its reliance on foreign mercenaries.

Roman citizens, who had for centuries manned their city’s legions, decided to outsource these hardships and dangers to hired soldiers from Germany and Gaul (now France).

Although Germans and Gauls had proven capable fighters when defending their own countries, they proved highly unrelible as paid mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, drew heavily on ancient history for his examples of how liberty could best be preserved within a republic.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Fully aware of the Romans’ disastrous experience with mercenaries, Machiavelli believed that a nation’s army should be driven by patriotism, not greed.  Speaking of mercenaries, he warned:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.”

Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli.  To their own peril.

Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.

Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.

America’s defense and Intelligence industries, writes Mazzetti, once spread across the country, have relocated to the Washington area.

They want to be close to “the customer”: The National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the CIA and an array of other Intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.

“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview.  “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”

But the program never got past the planning stage.  Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to  permanently hide its own role in the effort.

“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes.  But you’re also giving up control of the operation.  And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”

Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.

Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.

Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.

And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?

“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA.  “Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?

Edward Snowden, it should be remembered, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm.  It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.

In March 2007, the Bush administration revealed that it paid 70% of its intelligence budget to private security contractors.  That remains the case today–and the Intelligence budget for 2012 was $75.4 billion.

A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

Jesus never served as a spy or soldier.  But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EGO

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Why do so many CEOs hate President Barack Obama?

It isn’t because they’re being over-taxed and -regulated,d as so many on the Right would have you believe.

According to a January 16, 2013 story published in Bloomberg:

  • U.S. corporations’ after-tax profits have grown by 171% under Obama.
  • This is more than has existed under any President since World War II.
  • Corporate profits are now at their highest level, relative to the economy, since the government began keeping records in 1947.
  • Profits are more than twice as high than during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency.
  • They are more than 50% greater than during the late-1990s Internet boom.

Click here: Corporate Profits Soar as Executives Attack Obama Policy – Bloomberg

So if money isn’t the issue, what is?

In a word: Ego.

Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, provides some eye-opening insights into relations between the President and business leaders.

He notes, for example, that even before taking office as President in 2009, Obama pushed through Congress the second $350 billion portion of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)

And he stablilized the almost-wrecked American financial system with stress tests and regulatory reforms.

So Obama believed that business CEOs would be grateful for his efforts on their behalf.

And what did the President get in return?

  • The rise of the Tea Party, angered by government bailouts to mega-corporations–and the subsequent loss of a Democratic House of Representatives; and
  • Ingratitude and resentment from the very CEOs whose corporations he had saved.

CEOs visiting the White House often believed the President didn’t take them seriously.

For example, many of them wanted a tax amnesty on their overseas earnings.  And Obama would ask: How will the government make up for the lost Treasury revenues that would come from such a huge tax break?

Many CEOs thought he was not taking them seriously.

Obama was in fact being serious, and was hoping that his greed-obsessed visitors would help him find an answer that would satisfy both parties.

What the President apparently didn’t understand was this: Most CEOs weren’t used to being dealt with on an equal basis.

They were used to people cowering before them, or instantly agreeing with anything they said.

For Obama, who had taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago from 1992 to 2004, such  intellectual querys were routine.  He had enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of such exchanges with his law students.

But his law students had not been billionaires with billionaire-sized egos.

One Wall Street CEO charged that Obama regarded intellectuals as a cut above political operatives–and two cuts above businessmen.

As Alter writes: “Being worth a billion dollars wasn’t going to get the President…to believe that your insights were better than anyone else’s.”

Obama was angered that many CEOs felt that nothing should change–even after the excesses of greed-fueled banks almost destroyed the nation’s economy in 2008.

Thus, bank CEOs had furiously opposed the Dodd-Frank bank re-regulations that had been imposed to prevent a recurrence of such abuses.

Obama felt that bankers were ungrateful for his pushing through the second part of the TARP program that had saved their corporations from the CEOs’ own self-destructive greed.

As Alter sums up: “The complex psychology of business confidence was only partly about their tax rates and the threat of regulation; the real problem was personal.

“They [businessmen] had an intuitive sense that Obama didn’t particularly like them, and they responded in kind.”

These are not the kinds of insights you’ll get by reading the highly sanitized bios of corporate chieftains.

As a result, during the 2012 Presidential race, Mitt Romney received nearly $150 million, or more than 15% of his total money raised, from New York.  Which meant mostly from Wall Street.

“We got a lot of Barack Obama’s Wall Street money,” said Spencer Zwick, Romney’s finance director, after the campaign.

A passage from Finley Hooper’s classic Roman Realities puts an ancient-world spin on Obama’s relations with wealthy businessmen.

Assessing the reasons for why so many patricians hated Julius Caesar, Hooper writes:

“Caesar…like a teacher, seemed always to be directing affairs in a world of children–chiding one, patting another–yet too far above them all to care about hurting any.

“To less gifted men, however, his aloofness, even if mixed with kindness, was thought to be patronizing.  They could not believe that in his heart he really cared about them.

“Caesar never bothered to ask for another man’s opinion.  He lacked the tact by which a talented person might reasure others that they have worth, too.

“Pardons, jobs or favors did not completely satisfy the recipients’ craving for attention….

“Caesar…was a supreme egotist wrapped up in his own sense of well-being and good service to the state.

“…For all his experience and sophistication, he had never learned how ungrateful men can be–especially those who feel ignored.”

It has been President Obama’s bad luck–like that of Julius Caesar– to find himself at odds with powerful men whose profits he has greatly expanded.

JAMES BOND FOR HIRE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm

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.

Throughout the movie, wealthy Romans assume they can buy anything–or anyone.  When seeking a favor, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Oliver) says bluntly: “Name your price.”

Today, “Name your price” has become the password for entry into America’s Intelligence community.

Althugh not portrayed in Spartacus, one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman empire lay in its reliance on foreign mercenaries.

Roman citizens, who had for centuries manned their city’s legions, decided to outsource these hardships and dangers to hired soldiers from Germany and Gaul (now France).

Although Germans and Gauls had proven capable fighters when defending their own countries, they proved highly unrelible as paid mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, drew heavily on ancient history for his examples of how liberty could best be preserved within a republic.

Fully aware of the Romans’ disastrous experience with mercenaries, Machiavelli believed that a nation’s army should be driven by patriotism, not greed.  Speaking of mercenaries, he warned:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli.  To their own peril.

Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.

Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.

America’s defense and intelligence industries, writes Mazzetti, once spread across the country, have relocated to the Washington area.

They want to be close to “the customer”: The National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the CIA and an array of other Intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.

“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview.  “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”

But the program never got past the planning stage.  Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to  permanently hide its own role in the effort.

“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes.  But you’re also giving up control of the operation.  And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”

Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.

Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.

Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.

And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?

“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA.  “Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?

Edward Snowden, it should be remembered, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm.  It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.

In March 2007, the Bush administration revealed that it paid 70% of its intelligence budget to private security contractors.  That remains the case today–and the Intelligence budget for 2012 was $75.4 billion.

A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

Jesus never served as a spy or soldier.  But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

ROME IS U.S.

In History, Politics on February 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

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 leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and stands ever ready to oppose 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 billionaires now buying the 2012 Presidential election.

Consider the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Were it not for the endlessly deep pockets of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich would have dropped out long ago.

Perhaps no other major presidential candidate in recent times has relied so heavily on the contributions of a single donor, as Gingrich has on Adelson.  Since 2007, Adelson, 78, has spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

In a primary season dominated by the mega-spending of super PACs, Adelson’s efforts on Gingrich’s behalf speak volumes about the corrupting influence of the super-rich on American politics.

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

In January, Adelson gave $5 million to a PAC run by former close aides to Gingrich.

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American.  But Adelson is clearly not the average American.  He’s listed by Forbes as the eigth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denies he has any selfish motives for shelling out so much money to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Unfortunately, Gingrich is not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is relying heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

A quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign has come from just 41 people.  Each contributor has given more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors have contributed $1 million or more.

Some of Romney’s biggest supporters include executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

In short: This last contributor has directly profited from the suffering of others.

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns.  The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs–outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate.

Meanwhile, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don’t like all the political ads unleashed as a result: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech–the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid–or can be made to behave stupidly.  If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.

As proof of this: Nevada has the country’s highest foreclosure rate and the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

So what is Mitt Romney’s solution for the foreclosure crisis threatening the homes of millions of Americans?

“Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”

On February 4,  Romney claimed victory in Nevada’s caucuses by a decisive margin.

COMING: “SUPER CONGRESS” DICTATORSHIP – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

But suddenly, at the eleventh hour, Republicans seem to be offering a “solution.”

According to a July 23 story in the Huffington Post:

“Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

“This ‘Super Congress,’ composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers.

“Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers–six from each chamber and six from each party.

“Legislation approved by the Super Congress–which some on Capitol Hill are calling the ‘super committee’–would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote.

“With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law.

“A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits.

“Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.”

Consider the implications of this  story:

  • The primary reason for creating this “Super Congress” would be to destroy popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
  • This “‘Super Congress” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution–making it, on its face, an unconstitutional body.
  • Republicans–like classic extortionists–opened their “negotiations” with a threat: To destroy the credit-rating of the United States.
  • Then, pretending to the “voice of reason,” they now offer this “Super Congress” as their “compromise” in return for raising the debt ceiling.
  • Adoption of this proposal would empower Republicans to force their radical social and economic agendas on the poor and middle-class.
  • Some on Capitol Hill are referring to the “Super Congress” as the “super committee.”  A more accurate term for it would be the all-powerful “Central Committee” of the now-defunct Soviet Union.
  • Legislation submitted to the “Super Congress” would be rammed through both houses of the “Regular Congress.”  No matter how radically it would affect the lives of millions of American citizens, its passage would be almost guaranteed.
  • Members of the “Regular Congress” would use the “Super Congress” to shield themselves against the wrath of their constituents.  They would blame the “Super Congress” for gutting programs that voters had long supported.  
  • Programs aiding the poor and middle-class–such as Medicare and Social Security–would be the ones targeted by Republicans for extinction.  

As former CBS Corrspondent David Shoenbrun noted in his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan:

For Republicans, “granting tax concessions and other advantages to business is helping America become strong.  But welfare to the poor or the victims of the marketplace economy weakens America, saps its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America.  But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.”

With voters’ attention focused on the possibility of national bankruptcy,  the proposed “Super Congress” has so far gotten little attention.

But its potential for long-term harm to–if not the destruction of–the democratic process must be addressed, quickly and clearly.

And, above all else, it must be addressed by those citizens, such as seniors and the poor, who have the most to lose through the creation of a “Super Congress”–and the radical demands it would enforce upon their lives.

COMING: “SUPER CONGRESS” DICTATORSHIP – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm

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, leads a revolt of his fellow gladiators against the might of Republican Rome.  Raising an army of thousands of slaves, he marches across Italy, defeating every Roman legion sent against him.

Terrified that Spartacus will soon destroy their city, the Roman Senate desperately searches for a solution.  Gaius Gracchus, leader of the Senate, meets privately with Marcus Crassus, a former Senator and able general.

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’ve seen such epidemics before, haven’t you?”

Gracchus:  “How’s your health?”

Crassus:  “Excellent, as you know.  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 fiirst consul, command of all the legions of ltaly, and the abolition of senatorial authority over the courts.”

Gracchus:   “Dictatorship.”

Crassus:  “Order.  Advise me if my terms are acceptable.”

Gracchus:  “I can tell you now they’re unacceptable.”

Crassus:  “Yes, I know. For the present perhaps, but times change, and so does the senate.  When that day comes, I shall be ready.”

Crassus makes certain that times do change.  He bribes the Ciletian pirates, who have agreed to transport Spartacus and his army out of Italy, to leave them stranded there.  With his escape route cut off, Spartacus has only one choice: March directly on Rome.

In terror for their lives, and feeling they have no one else to turn to, the Roman Senate agrees to Crassus’ terms: He is given command of all Roman armies–and the power of absolute dictator.

The Romans, who have enslaved tens of thousands of others, have, out of fear, now voluntarily enslaved themselves to Crassus.

* * * * *

Now–fast forward 2,000 years, to the United States as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explains the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demand that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they reject any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insist, would be a “jobs-killer.”  It would “discourage” corporations from creating tens of thousands of jobs that their CEOs “want” to create.

But suddenly–like Crassus–at the eleventh hour, Republicans seem to be offering a “solution.”

According to a July 23 story in the Huffington Post:

“Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

“This ‘Super Congress,’ composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers.”

And–again like Crassus–the price for “salvation” would be dictatorship–arming Republicans with the authority to force their radical social and economic agendas on the poor and middle-class.

The United States as we know it may soon cease to exist.

THE CEO AS ENFORCER

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics on June 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

CEOs and Mafia bosses are bureaucrats at heart: When they want somebody roughed up or rubbed out, they nearly always order a subordinate to do it for them.

But once in a while a highly agitated boss (corporate or criminal, as if there’s a difference) loses his cool and decides to do the job himself.

Or, as in the case of Meg Whitman, herself.

According to a June 14 story in the New York Times: California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was accused of shoving an employee while she was head of eBay in 2007. The incident cost the company about $200,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

The employee, Young Mi Kim, said she was helping Whitman prepare for a media interview when her boss became angry, used an expletive and pushed her in a company boardroom.

In her acceptance speech last week, Whitman referred to herself and Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, another former CEO, as “two business women from the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done!”

Carly Fiorina seems to think that getting things done means making catty remarks about the hairstyle of her opponent–in this case, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

And Whitman apparently doesn’t rule out the use of physical force in dealing with those who dare not strike back–at least, not physically.

Whitman’s actions may seem trivial, but they tell us a great deal about her–and certainly far more than she wants us to know. As the ancient historian Plutarch writes in his biography of Alexander the Great:

“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.”

At a time when corporate CEOs (Corrupt, Egotistical Oligarchs) are trumpeting their ability to “get things done,” it’s well to ask: “What things?” and “How?”

As for “What things”: Meg Whitman has made it clear she believes that corporations pay far too much in taxes. And if the titans who bring home multi-million-dollar salaries are forced to pay out so much as a penney’s worth of taxes, it’s going to make them not want to hire people who are paid a comparative pittance.

On one hand, it’s the old hostage-game: “If you force me to live up to my obligations as an American citizen and pay taxes, I’ll take my football (company) and go someplace where I won’t have to live up to them.”

On the other hand, it’s the return of failed,
trickle-down Reaganomics: “Give billions in tax-breaks to the ultra-wealthy, and maybe they’ll deign to ‘trickle-down’ a few nickels to the peasantry.”

As for “How CEOs get things done”: There is a Russian phrase that sums it up beautifully: “Kto kovo?” Or: “Who whom?” as in “Who can do what to whom?”

For the vast majority of CEOs, the end of serving their own greed more than justifies whatever means they use to serve it.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Fiorina spent $5 million on her primary campaign and Whitman spent $71 million of her own money towards her race. All this for jobs that pay $174,000 (for U.S. Senate) and $212,179 (for Governor) a year.

Most Americans know nothing about the history of ancient Rome. But even those who do feel there is nothing to be learned from it. To them, the ruthless intrigues by would-be tyrants like Julius Caesar–financed by wealthy businessmen like Marcus Crassus–mean nothing.

On the contrary, there is much to learn from such history–and it sounds a warning for us.

In true “privitization” spirit, Crassus made his millions by setting up a private fire brigade (when there were no public ones) and then offering to buy those tenaments being consumed by fire.

If the owner agreed, Crassus’ brigade then put out the fire–and Crassus paid the now-homeless former owner a pittance. Crassus then became the property’s owner. If the owner refused, Crassus let the property burn–and the owner got nothing.

As the Republican propaganda machine loudly champions the private sector against the public one, it’s well to remember that the motivating force of that private sector is private greed.

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