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Posts Tagged ‘2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN’

VLADIMIR PUTIN: BRIBES FOR THE SENATE, TANKS FOR UKRAINE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2022 at 12:11 am

Anyone wondering where Vladimir Putin got the idea he could invade Ukraine with impunity need look no further than the United States Senate.

On April 16, 2018, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch was the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) had warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller. 

But most Republicans had held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans feared enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans feared enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, had two meanings:

  1. “Something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

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Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.  

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.” 

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from the Federal Election Commission.

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs. 

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributed

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better Dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

“It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise. 

“The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

“This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.”

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

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Walter Scheidel

World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Scheidel gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

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“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich….

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73 – 71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

For millions of struggling, impoverished Americans, that day cannot come soon enough.

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2022 at 12:31 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. And sometimes devastating for the candidate.

On June 18, 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joseph Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. 

The former Vice President believed that his message would comfort his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

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Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden had talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he had also taken a moderate stance when it came to taxation.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March, 2019.

Instead, he proposed expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, took a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.Related image

Among the epochs it covered: The civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

Amazon.com: Robert Payne: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Robert Payne

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.”

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth. They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

JFK’S LOST LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2022 at 12:14 am

Fifty-eight years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1973, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

An August 20, 2019 story in Forbes noted that a Pew Research survey, conducted in July, had found that “the percentage of Republicans attributing a positive effect to higher education has steadily eroded from 58% (2010), 53% (2012), 54% (2015), 43% (2016), and 36% (2017).

“Among Republicans, 59% now say higher education has a negative effect on the U.S., compared to just 18% of Democrats.” 

When Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke announced his candidacy for President in 2020, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade attacked him for having a “huge library.” 

“As if it’s a big plus that he reads books,” scoffed Kilmeade.

In March, 2020, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump infamously chortled after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

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Donald Trump

And, that November, “the poorly educated” elected him President.

As President, he attacked the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. He scorned legitimate mainstream news media while seeking guidance from ego-stroking Right-wing shills at Fox News—who often proved as ignorant as he was.

His senior adviser, Kelleyanne Conway, set the tone of his administration right at the outset. Asked why then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer had lied about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, Conway replied: 

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts.” 

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Kelleyanne Conway

“Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods,” Chuck Todd, the moderator on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” properly responded.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2022 at 12:10 am

On March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr received the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government had seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—suddenly went on the offensive.

On March 28, all nine Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence demanded in a letter that Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) resign as its chairman.  

On the same day, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”

Other Republicans quickly joined the chorus:

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California): Schiff owed “an apology to the American public” and should step down from his post as head of the Intelligence committee.
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel: “They [Schiff and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York] should be removed from their chairmanships. They owe the American people an apology. They owe this President an apology, and they have work to do to heal this democracy because this is our country we are talking about.”
  • South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “He’s getting into conspiracy land and he’s acting like an Oliver Stone type figure. That to me is not helpful to him but I’m not going to ask him to resign from Congress.” 
  • White House Adviser Kelleyanne Conway: “He’s been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years, promising Americans that this President would either be impeached or indicted. He has no right, as somebody who has been peddling a lie, day after day after day, unchallenged. Unchallenged and not under oath. Somebody should have put him under oath and said, ‘You have evidence, where is it?’”

On March 28, Schiff—speaking in a firm and controlled voice—addressed his critics in the House and beyond. 

It was a speech worthy of that given by Mark Antony at the funeral of Julius Caesar.

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Adam Schiff

“My colleagues may think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for President as part of what was described as ‘the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign.’ You might think that’s okay.

“My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the President, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the President’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help of the Russians. You might think it’s okay that he took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public.

“You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that when it was discovered a year later that they’d lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the President is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s okay. I don’t. 

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“You might think it’s okay that the Presidential chairman of a campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay.  I don’t.  

“You might think it’s okay that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that the President himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, ‘if they were listening.’

“You might think it’s okay that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

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“You might think that it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that an associate of the President made direct contact with the GRU  [the Russian military Intelligence agency] through Guccifer 2 and Wikileaks, that is considered a hostile Intelligence agency.

“You might think that it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile Intelligence agency had to say, in terms of dirt on his opponent.

“You might think it’s okay that the National Security Adviser-Designate [Mike Flynn] secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that’s all okay.

“You might say that’s just what you need to do to win, but I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.” 

Not one Republican dared challenge even one accusation Schiff had made.

ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2022 at 12:11 am

“Friends, Romans, countrymen—lend me your ears!”

It’s the opening line of a speech once widely memorized by schoolboys in English literature classes. It’s from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and it’s a far more sophisticated piece of writing than most people realize.

Mark Antony, addressing a crowd of Romans at the funeral of his former patron, Julius Caesar, faces a serious problem.

Caesar has been murdered by a band of conspirators who feared he intended to make himself king.  The chief conspirator, Marcus Brutus, is one of the most honored men in ancient Rome.  And he has just addressed the same crowd.

As a result, they are now convinced that the assassination was fully justified. They assume that Antony intends to attack the conspirators. And they are ready to attack him—maybe physically—if he does.

But Antony is too smart to do that—at least initially.  

Instead, he assures the crowd: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” 

And he praises the chief conspirator: “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If so, it was a grievous fault—and grievously hath Caesar answered it.”

Then he introduces a line he will repeat with great effectiveness throughout the rest of his speech: “For Brutus is an honorable man—so are they all, all honorable men.”

The “Death of Julius Caesar,” as depicted by Vincenzo Camuccini.

For Antony, the line is ironic. But it serves his purpose to appease the crowd. Later, he will wield it like a sword against the same conspirators.

“He was my friend, faithful and just to me.” And then: “But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.”

Antony then goes on to extol Caesar as the foremost Roman of his time:

  • As a military victor: “You all do know this mantle. I remember the first time ever Caesar put it on. ‘Twas on…that day he overcame the Nervii.”
  • As a humanitarian: “When that the poor hath cried, Caesar hath wept.”

And then, as if against his better judgment, he says: “But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar. I found it in his closet—’tis his will. Let but the commons hear this testament—which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—and they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds.” 

This inflames the crowd’s curiosity and greed: What has Caesar left them? And Antony’s refusing to read the alleged will only makes them determined to hear it.

Now the crowd is entirely at Antony’s disposal. They hurl abuse at the conspirators: “They were traitors!”  “They were villains, murderers!”

So Antony, claiming to read Caesar’s will, pronounces: “To every Roman citizen he gives…seventy-five drachmas.” 

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Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in the 1953 film, “Julius Caesar”

Is this truly Caesar’s will?  And, if so, does it really make this bequest?  No one knows.

In addition, claims Antony, Caesar has left his fellow citizens “his private arbours and new-planted orchards on this side Tiber. He hath left them you, and to your heirs forever, common pleasures, to walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.”

By now the crowd is fired up—against the conspirators.

“Here was a Caesar!” cries Antony.  “When comes such another?”

A citizen shouts: “We’ll burn [Caesar’s] body in the holy place. And with the brands fire the traitors’ houses.”

The crowd disperses—to pay fiery homage to Caesar and burn the houses of Brutus and the other conspirators.

Caesar’s assassins flee Rome for their lives. In time, they will face the legions of Antony and Octavian, the young nephew of Caesar—and choose suicide over capture and execution.

Apparently Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is familiar with Shakespeare’s play.

Because, on March 28, 2019, he used the same repetitive technique in addressing his “Republican colleagues” on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Days earlier, Attorney General William Barr had claimed to summarize the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government has seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—were going on the offensive.

On March 28, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and all other eight Republicans on the Committee demanded in a letter that Schiff resign as its chairman. 

“Mr. Chairman,” the letter read, “since prior to the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017, you’ve been at the center of a well-orchestrated media campaign claiming, among other things, that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

“On March 24, 2019, the special counsel delivered his findings to the Department of Justice….The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election….

“Despite these findings, you continue to proclaim to the media that there is ‘significant evidence of collusion.’

“The findings of the Special Counsel conclusively refute your past and present conclusions and have exposed you as having abused your position to knowingly promote false information, having damaged the integrity of this Committee, and undermined faith in U.S. Government institutions.”

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

On November 3, 80 million voters elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald Trump had often “joked” that America needed a “President-for-Life.” Now he demanded that he be awarded that title.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. 

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said: “Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud.

He claimed:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. More than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team.

Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session to convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to end the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There were basically three ways America’s slide into tyranny could have been stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could have revolted against Trump’s authority and/or agenda.

They could have demanded that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President had.

But they didn’t.

Republicans feared that if they openly defied him, his fanatical base would turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily have been made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, had been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This did not happen.

Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly feared him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular had set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate owing to a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

Gaius Caligula

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump had similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them had been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result. 

During Adolf Hitler’s 12-years reign of Nazi Germany, high-ranking military officers tried to kill him at least 42 times. 

The best-known of these attempts occurred on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a conference room attended by Hitler and his generals. Hitler survived only by sheer luck. 

By contrast, no similar plot was aimed at Donald Trump.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?”       

It’s a question millions of Americans asked themselves after Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Germans paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their cities. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted 74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

THE EMPLOYER IS THE ENEMY: PART SEVEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2022 at 12:11 am

Another way an Employers Responsibility Act (ERA) could promote fulltime employment: It would nicely dovetail with the 1946 Employment Act.

Codified as 15 U.S.C. § 1021, this is a United States federal law. It states: “It is the continuing policy and responsibility of the Federal government…to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power.”

Unfortunately, that act has been seriously neglected, according to the late Wallace C. Peterson, George Holmes Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Peterson, who died in April, 2012, was a proponent of Keynesian economics and authored a textbook on macroeconomics that was widely adopted in colleges and universities through eight editions.

He authored a second economics textbook, five specialized economics books and over 60 articles.

He was elected president of the Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE), president of the Association for Social Economics, president of the Midwest Economics Association and was the 1992 recipient of the Veblen-Commons award.

“No administration since the Kennedy-Johnson presidencies in the 1960s has taken the Employment Act seriously,” wrote Peterson in a letter to this columnist.

“President Kennedy established a 4% unemployment rate as an interim target on the road to a full employment economy.  But after President Johnson left office in 1969, full employment has not been an important policy objective for any administration, Democrat or Republican.

“The nation needs a modernized full employment policy.”

Wallace C. Peterson

Such a full-employment policy “would not only seek to bring the unemployment rate down to 3% or less, but would also aim at the creation of ‘good jobs’—jobs that carry with them an income appropriate to middle-class hopes and aspirations,” wrote Peterson.

“Too many of the millions who have lost good jobs in the last two decades have not been able to find new, fulltime jobs. or have had to take significant reduction in pay even if they were able to find fulltime work. 

“Government through the 1946 Employment Act has a major responsibility to promote conditions that tmake full employment possible. Workers have a major responsibility to educate and train themselves for the jobs that become available in a society characterized by rapid technical change.

“What of employers?  What is their responsibility?

“Such an [Employers Responsibility] Act would require employers to demonstrate as much responsibility for hiring as job-seekers are expected to display in finding work.

”This “is certain to be controversial, but it adds yet another dimension to the debate on how an adequate number of good, well-paying jobs can be created….”

“An Employers Responsibility Act, in combination with existing legislation such as the 1946 Employment Act and the 1935 National Labor-Relations Act, could be a powerful force in moving labor-management relations in this country away from its current adversarial character, toward a more harmonious and cooperative climate.”

* * * * *

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right. That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war—all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

Battles and Events of the American Revolution | Baamboozle

George Washington crossing the Delaware

But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid shills in government: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers. 

President Donald Trump has repeatedly crowed over the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by the Senate on December 19, 2017, and signed into law by him on December 22. 

Yet former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich warned before the bill became law:  

“What corporations have done [with past tax cuts] is raise executive salaries and also buy back shares of stock, in order to raise stock prices. They don’t invest the money in additional jobs or additional machines or additional equipment or things like that because there is no reason for them to unless they have got more demand for their goods and services. And this bill is not going to create more demand.”

In short: The powerful never voluntarily behave responsibly or surrender their privileges.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain—and its enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of kings”—by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters—and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”—by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Corporations can—and do—spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies—lies such as the “skills gap,” and how if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies—and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

THE EMPLOYER IS THE ENEMY: PART SIX (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2022 at 12:12 am

The last three provisions of an Employers Responsibility Act (ERA) would cover the following:

(12)  The Justice Department and/or the Labor Department would be required to maintain a publicly-accessible database on those companies that had been cited, sued and/or convicted for such offenses as

  • discrimination,
  • harassment,
  • health and/or safety violations or
  • violating immigration laws. 

Employers would be legally required to regularly provide such information to these agencies, so that it would remain accurate and up-to-date. 

Such information would arm job applicants with vital information about the employers they were approaching.  They could thus decide in advance if an employer is deserving of their skills and dedication.

As matters now stand, employers can legally demand to learn highly private details of an applicant’s life without having to disclose even the most basic information about themselves and their history of treating employees.

(13)  CEOs whose companies employ illegal aliens would be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates. Upon conviction, the CEO would be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least ten years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for controlling illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./ Mexican border. With CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions, they would take drastic steps to ensure their companies complied with Federal immigration laws.

Without employers eager to hire illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the invasions of illegal job-seekers would quickly come to an end.

(14)  A portion of employers’ existing Federal taxes would be set aside to create a national clearinghouse for placing unemployed but qualified job-seekers.

* * * * *

Right-wing capitalists and their paid shills in Congress would attack such legislation as radically Communist. But an Employers Responsibility Act (ERA) would greatly increase America’s economic strength. 

With a fully-employed workforce, far more consumers could afford the wide array of goods and services turned out by American business.

When consumers can’t afford these, companies are forced to cut their employees and produce fewer goods, which creates an ever-downward spiral.

An ERA would allow Democrats to address the needs of blue-collar workers who once served as one of their primary constituencies. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton voiced the frustrations of millions of poor and middle-class Americans who felt abandoned by their employers and Washington policymakers. 

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Hillary Clinton

On September 26, Clinton said:

There “are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down. Nobody cares about them. Nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Donald Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

Eloquent words. But Clinton didn’t offer an economic package to quickly and effectively address Americans’ needs for jobs and medical care.

Her “remedy”?

The tired Democratic mantra: “Education is the answer.”

In May, 2016, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election.

“We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.” 

Corporations are masters at turning disadvantages for others into advantages for themselves.

As countless employers whine about rising inflation during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a corresponding rise in corporate profits. 

According to Isabella Weber, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, this is no accident.

Isabella Weber

Isabella Weber

In a February 13 interview on NPR, she said:

“Companies always want to maximize profits, right? In the current context [of supply chain hardships] they suddenly cannot deliver as much anymore as they used to. And this creates an opening where they can say, ‘Well, we are facing increasing costs. We are facing all these issues. So we can explain to our customers that we are raising our prices.’

“No one knows how much exactly these prices should be increased. And everybody has some sort of an understanding that, oh, yeah, there are issues, so, yes, of course companies are increasing prices in ways in which they could not justify in normal times.

“But this does not mean that the actual amount of price increase is justified by the increase in costs. And as a matter of fact, what we have seen is that profits are skyrocketing, which means that companies have increased prices by more than cost.

“In the earnings reports, companies have bragged about how they have managed to be ahead of the inflation curve, how they have managed to jack up prices more than their costs and as a result have delivered these record profits.”  

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