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Posts Tagged ‘KIRK DOUGLAS’

ANCIENT ROME COMES TO AMERICAN POLITICS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 10, 2019 at 12:08 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, has proven to be more than great entertainment. It has turned 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.

Poster for Spartacus

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

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 (Charles Laughton), the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and vigorously 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, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

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.

Related image

Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is beyond the means of the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Adelson denied any selfish motives for giving millions 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.”

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

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

Related image

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

Four years later, in May, 2016, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This falsehood proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

Related image

Donald Trump

Fast forward another three years—and a December 4, 2019 story in Fortune: “2020 Presidential Campaign Fundraising (and Spending) Are on Track to Smash Records.”

Trump, as President, has so far raised $165.3 million.

But Democrats altogether have far outstripped him with $475.6 million raised.

Among the largest Democratic money-raisers (in millions):

  • Bernie Sanders: $74.5
  • Elizabeth Warren: $60.3
  • Pete Buttigieg: $51.5
  • Tom Steyer: $49.6
  • Joe Biden: $37.8 

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg entered the race on November 24. Within a week he paid $57 million for TV ads.

His fellow billionaire Tom Steyer has spent over $60 million since July,

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. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: 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.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

ANCIENT ROME IS AMERICA’S PRESENT–AND FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2017 at 12:07 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.

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.

Poster for Spartacus

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.”  

Draba defeats Spartacus in their gladiatorial bout, but refuses to kill him. Instead, he throws his spear at Crassus—and is immediately slaughtered by Roman guards.  

Soon afterward, Spartacus leads 70 other gladiators  against their Roman masters, forms an army of freed slaves, and marches against Rome.

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

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.

Related image

Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denied he had 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 was not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

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

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

Related image

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

Like Adelson, Bain has directly profited from the losses of others.  

Fast forward to 2016:

In early May, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. Nevertheless, at least this much has leaked: 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This myth proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

Related image

Donald Trump

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. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: 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.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas.  These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

CRASSUS/ROMNEY/TRUMP FOR EMPEROR: PART TWO (END)

In Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2017 at 12:05 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, 2012 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 proved fatal to 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.

SENATOR GAIUS 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/TRUMP FOR EMPEROR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2017 at 12:06 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 fellow patrician 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, did Mitt Romney and his billionaire supporters try to buy the 2012 Presidential election.

Anyone who doubts this need only examine the controversial video of Romney addressing a private fund-raiser on May 17, 2012. The location: The home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder, in Boca Raton, Florida.  

True, the Romney Presidential campaign ended in disaster. But that of Donald Trump ended in a victory for plutocrats–of which Trump is one. 

Thus, the values exhibited by Mitt Romney and warned about by F. Scott Fitzgerald now find their champions in Trump and a wealth-worshiping Congress.

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.

It is the wealthy, after all, who essentially own Congress–and who belong to it. Of the 535 men and women who control the House of Representatives and the Senate, more than half are worth $1 million or more

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 [Barack Obama] 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.

ROME IS U.S.

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2016 at 12:56 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.

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.

Poster for Spartacus

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.”  

Draba defeats Spartacus in their gladiatorial bout, but refuses to kill him. Instead, he throws his spear at Crassus and is immediately slaughtered by Roman guards.  

Soon afterward, Spartacus leads 70 other gladiators  against their Roman masters, forms an army of freed slaves, and marches against Rome.

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, so, too, are billionaires now buying the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

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.

Related image

Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denied he had 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 was not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

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

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

Related image

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

Like Adelson, Bain has directly profited from the losses of others.  

Fast forward to 2016:

In early May, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. Nevertheless, at least this much has leaked: 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign. This could exceed $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump is bragging that he’s “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This myth has been a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

Donald Trump

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. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads–that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: 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.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas.  These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire–like Spartacus and Cleopatra–hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.” But it has happened here–and it’s happening right now.

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.

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.

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Sheldon Adelson

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.

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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.

So much for Justice Scalia’s comment: “People are not stupid.”

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.

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