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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: 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

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.

Walter Scheidel - Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012.jpg

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.

Related image

“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.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

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.

Related image

“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.

ADVICE FOR DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2022 at 12:11 am

According to an October 29, 2014 story on National Public Radio, at least 10 North Korean officials had been executed for watching South Korean soap operas.

If true, this brings to 50 the number of people murdered by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un for committing this “crime”.

Kim Jong-Un and his generals

Sources for Bloomberg News speculated they were likely purged for having close ties to his uncle, Jang Song Thae, who was executed in 2013.

Kim inherited control of the country after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in 2011. Since then, he has ruthlessly eliminated all possible opposition.

“Kim Jong Un is trying to establish absolute power and strengthen his regime with public punishments,” Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Bloomberg. “However, frequent purges can create side effects.”

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, couldn’t have said it better.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, Machiavelli did say it. In Chapter Eight of The Prince, his famous work on the realities of politics, he tackled the subject: “Of Those Who Have Attained the Position of Prince by Villany.”

“…In taking a state, the conqueror must arrange to commit all his cruelties at once, so as not to have to recur to them very day, and so as to be able, by not making fresh changes, to reassure people and win them over by benefiting them.  

Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad counsels, is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

Another Communist dictator—Joseph Stalin—may have paid the price for violating this counsel.

Joseph Stalin

Throughout his 30-year reign over the Soviet Union, Stalin was responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million men, women and children.

These deaths resulted from executions, a man-made famine through the forced collectivation of harvests,  deportations and imprisonment in Gulag camps.

Robert Payne, the acclaimed British historian, vividly portrayed the crimes of this murderous tyrant in his brilliant 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin.

According to Payne, Stalin Was planning yet another purge during the last weeks of his life. This would be “a holocaust greater than any he had planned before.

“The chistka [purge] had become a ritual like a ceremonial cleansing of a temple performed every three or four years according to ancient laws.

“The first chistka had taken place during the early months of the [Russian] revolution. It had proved so salutory that periodical bloodbaths were incorporated in the unwritten laws of the state.

“This time there would be a chistka to end all chistkas, a purging of the entire body of the state from top to bottom. No one, not even the highest officials, was to be spared.”

Then, on January 13, 1953, the Soviet Union’s two government-controlled newspapers—Pravda (“Truth”) and Izvestiya (“News”)—announced that a sinister plot by Jewish doctors had been uncovered.

Its alleged object: No less than the murder of Joseph Stalin himself.

Nine doctors, said Pravda, had so far been arrested.

Stalin’s closest associates—veteran observers of past purges—quickly realized that another was about to descend.  And there could be no doubt who its chief victims would be.

Yet Stalin did nothing to calm their fears. He often summoned his “comrades” to the Kremlin for late-night drinking bouts, where he freely humiliated them.

“What would you do without Stalin?” he asked one night. “You’d be like blind kittens.”

Then, on March 4, 1953, Moscow Radio announced “the misfortune which has overtaken our Party and the people—the serious illness of Comrade J.V. Stalin.

“During the night of March 1-2, while in his Moscow apartment, Comrade Stalin suffered a cerebral hemorrhage affecting vital areas of the brain.”

Death came to Stalin on March 5.

Officially, the cause was ruled a cerebral hemorrhage. Stalin was 73 and in poor health from a lifetime of smoking and little exercise.

So it’s possible he died of natural causes.

But it’s equally possible that he died of unnatural ones.

In the 2004 book, Stalin’s Last Crime, Vladimir P. Naumov, a Russian historian, and Jonathan Brent, a Yale University Soviet scholar, assert that he might have been poisoned.

If this happened, the occasion was during a final dinner with four members of the Politburo:  Lavrenti P. Beria, chief of the secret police; Georgi M. Malenkov, Stalin’s immediate successor; Nikita S. Khrushchev, who eventually rose to the top spot; and Nikolai Bulganin.

Lavrenti Beria

The authors believe that, if Stalin was poisoned, the most likely suspect was Beria. And the method: Slipping warfarin, a tasteless and colorless blood thinner also used as a rat killer, into his glass of wine.

In Khrushchev’s 1970 memoirs, he quotes Beria as telling Vyacheslav M. Molotov, another Polituro member, two months after Stalin’s death: “I did him in! I saved all of you.”

Kim Jong Un had better hope that Communist history doesn’t repeat itself.

YESTERDAY, GERMANY, TODAY, AMERICA!

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 7, 2022 at 12:20 am

Those who have seen the classic 1960 movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” will remember its pivotal moment. 

That’s when Burt Lancaster, as Ernst Janning, the once distinguished German judge, confesses his guilt and that of Nazi Germany in a controlled, yet emotional, outburst. 

Addressing the court—presided over by Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy)—Janning explains the forces that led to the triumph of evil.

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in the Reichstag? When our neighbors were dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau?

“Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried off to their extermination? Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse we were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds. Does that make us any the less guilty?

“Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961 film poster).jpg

It’s not hard to imagine, in the future, an equally conscience-stricken member of the Donald Trump administration, standing before the bar of justice, making a similar statement: 

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the ICE concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Trump began shrieking his hate across the country? When Trump called our free press ‘the enemy of the people’?

“Where were we when Trump openly praised Vladimir Putin and attacked those in the FBI, CIA and other Intelligence agencies sworn to protect us?

“Where were we when the victims of Trump’s hatred cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Vladimir Putin—and his intention to betray American freedoms in exchange for the Presidency. He would give you the excuse we were misled by the lying rhetoric coming out of the White House.

“Does that make us any the less guilty? Maybe we didn’t know the details—but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

Related image

Donald Trump

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man, charged conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, ran for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

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

  • Repeatedly and viciously 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.”
  • Brutally attacking American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly attacking Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Intending to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017, but talked out of it by aides fearful that it would result in his impeachment.
  • Lying so often—30,573 times in four years—he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.
  • Shutting down the Federal government on December 22, 2018—because Democrats refused to fund his useless “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 
  • Furloughing an estimated 380,000 government employees  and ordering another 420,000 to work without pay. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

So why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  

Fear that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by being voted out of Congress by:

  • Trump’s fanatical base if they don’t slavishly obey him; or
  • Anti-Trump voters wanting to protect the nation from a Trump dictatorship.

Future historians—if there are any—will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to:

  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania;
  • Using the White House to further enrich Trump;
  • Siding with Russia and North Korea against America’s oldest allies, such as those in NATO;
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare; and
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy.

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2021 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: 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

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.

Walter Scheidel - Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012.jpg

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.

Related image

“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 December 20, 2021 at 12:19 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. 

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.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

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.

Related image

“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 has talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he’s taken a moderate stance when it comes 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 proposes 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.

TRUTH IS FOR PRESIDENTS, FLATTERY IS FOR DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, 2019, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” was to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

CHARACTER AS DESTINY–IN HITLER’S GERMANY AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on March 30, 2021 at 12:06 am

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appeared every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On March 25, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about Donald Trump.

Eerily, their conclusions echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.

Heinz Guderian portrait.jpg

Heinz Guderian

Guderian thus enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.

On the PBS Newshour, moderator Judy Woodruff noted that “polls show Trump’s standing with women voters had worsened in recent months.”

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Judy Woodruff

Mark Shields noted that Trump clearly had an obsession with Fox News Correspondent Megyn Kelly. 

MARK SHIELDS: “But there is something really creepy about this that’s beyond locker room. It’s almost like a stalker….It actually did the impossible. It made Ted Cruz look like an honorable, tough guy on the right side of an issue.”

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Donald Trump

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Once in power, Hitler quickly—and violently—eliminated his opposition.  He make no attempt to disguise this aspect of his character, because the opposition was weak and divided and soon collapsed after the first violent attack. This allowed Hitler to pass laws which destroyed the safeguards enacted by the Weimar Republic against the dangers of dictatorship.  

MARK SHIELDS: And I don’t know at what point it becomes…politically, he’s still leading. And I would have to say he’s the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Hitler promised to “make Germany great again” both domestically and internationally. And this won him many followers. In time he controlled the largest party in the land and this allowed him, by democratic procedure, to assume power.  

DAVID BROOKS: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it.  You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it. It’s trophy.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: [Hitler] was isolated as a human being. He had no real friend. There was nobody who was really close to him.  

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Adolf Hitler

There was nobody he could talk to freely and openly.  And just as he never found a true friend, he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman.  

DAVID BROOKS: “And [Trump’s] relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by love.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Everything on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals–friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children–all this was and forever remained unknown to him. 

DAVID BROOKS:  “And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude towards women.”  

HEINZ GUDERIAN: He lived alone, cherishing his loneliness, with only his gigantic plans for company.  His relationship with Eva Braun may seem to contradict what I have written. But it is obvious that she could not have had any influence over him. And this is unfortunate, for it could only have been a softening one.

* * * * *

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:  

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, almost 63 million ignorant, hate-filled, Fascistic Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency.  

On November 3, 2020, 75 million equally ignorant, hate-filled, Fascistic Americans voted to give Trump another four years in office. This despite his ignoring the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and alienating America’s longtime allies like England and Canada while clearly showing preference for its mortal enemies like Russia and North Korea.

Future historians will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to

  • Lies
  • Censorship
  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania,
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy and
  • Threatening the use of force against those who desired to live as citizens in a republic, instead of a dictatorship..

Fortunately, 80 million Americans braved the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts by Republicans to overturn their voting rights—and elected Joseph Biden President of the United States.

CHARACTER AS DESTINY IN HITLER’S GERMANY AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART ONE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on March 29, 2021 at 12:14 am

Less than one week after Donald Trump became President of the United States, many of those who voted for him came to regret their decision.

A new Twitter account emerged to voice their rage and disappointment: Trump_Regrets.  By March 20, 2021, it had acquired more than 284,000 followers.

Yet many of Trump’s behaviors–his egomania and vindictiveness, his plans to gut the Affordable Care Act and give tax breaks to the wealthy—were known long before the 2016 election.

Among those who discussed them: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who appeared every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On March 25, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Trump, then the Republican Presidential front-runner.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

Eerily, their conclusions echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about  the character of German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

As a result, Guderian enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.  

Heinz Guderian.jpg

Heinz Guderian 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-139-1112-17 / Knobloch, Ludwig / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Moderator Judy Woodruff opened the discussion by alluding to the blood feud then raging between Trump and his fellow Republican, Texas United States Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz.

Both were ruthlessly seeking their party’s Presidential nomination.

Cruz accused Trump of being behind a recent National Enquirer story charging him with having a series of extramarital affairs.

An anti-Trump Super PAC posted on Facebook a photo of a scantily-clad Melania Trump–his wife. The photo had been taken 16 years ago when, as a model, she posed for British GQ.

Its publication came just ahead of the primary caucuses in sexually conservative Utah, which Cruz won.

Trump quickly responded on Twitter, accusing the Cruz campaign of leaking the photo, warning Cruz: “Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife.”

Cruz struck back, defending his wife, Heidi, and calling Trump a coward. The next day, Trump retweeted an unflattering image of Mrs. Cruz.

This “war of the wives” had cost Trump dearly in his standing with American women. In March, 2016, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 64% of women felt highly unfavorably disposed toward him.

DAVID BROOKS: “The Trump comparison of the looks of the wives, he does have, over the course of his life, a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat.

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Donald Trump

“It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent. And so we have seen a bit of that show up again.

“But if you go back over his past, calling into radio shows bragging about his affairs, talking about his sex life in public, he is childish in his immaturity. And his—even his misogyny is a childish misogyny….

“He’s of a different order than your normal candidate. And this whole week is just another reminder of that.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: As Hitler’s self-confidence grew, and as his power became more firmly established both inside and outside Germany, he became overbearing and arrogant. Everyone appeared to him unimportant compared to himself.  

Previously, Hitler had been open to practical considerations, and willing to discuss matters with others. But now he became increasingly autocratic. 

Judy Woodruff asked Mark Shields if the uproar over Donald Trump’s disdain for women could really hurt his candidacy.

MARK SHIELDS: The ad featuring a scantily-clad Melania Trump “elicited from Donald Trump the worst of his personality, the bullying, the misogyny, as David has said, brought it out.  

“But I think it’s more than childish and juvenile and adolescent. There is something creepy about this, his attitude toward women.

“Take Megyn Kelly of FOX News, who he just has an absolute obsession about, and he’s constantly writing about, you know, how awful she is and no talent and this and that.

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Megyn Kelly

“And I don’t know if he’s just never had women—strong, independent women in his life who have spoken to him. It doesn’t seem that way….

“She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else’s standards.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler’s most outstanding quality was his will power. It was by this that he compelled men to follow him. When Hitler spoke to a small group he closely observed each person to determine how his words were affecting each man present.   

If he noticed that some member of the group was not being swayed by his speech, he spoke directly to that person until he believed he had won him over. But if the target of his persuasive effort still remained obstinate, Hitler would exclaim: “I haven’t convinced that man!”

His immediate reaction was to get rid of such people. As he grew increasingly successful, he grew increasingly intolerant.   

REPUBLICANS: “WHAT TREASON? I DON’T SEE NO STINKING TREASON”–PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 29, 2021 at 12:06 am

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States. Donald Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

On January 6, 2021, Trump ordered thousands of his Stormtrumper followers  to “stop the steal”—by stopping the count of Electoral College votes that would make Biden President.

Tens of thousands of Stormtrumpers attacked and breached the United States Capitol. Many of the lawmakers’ offices were occupied and vandalized. One Capitol police officer was killed and more than 50 others were injured. Meanwhile, terrified legislators huddled behind locked doors.

It was horrific to watch': Students talk about U.S. Capitol attack - YouTube

Stormtrumpers attacking the Capitol

On February 8, 2021, Trump—although no longer President—will be impeached for a second time.  

And, once again, Republican United States Senators are refusing to act on evidence that almost engulfed them—that of the January 6 mob that Trump sent to attack the United States Capitol.

A January 22 story in The Hill reports: “Only five or six Republican senators at the most seem likely to vote for impeachment, far fewer than the number needed, GOP sources say.”

And Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) claims that 45 Senate Republicans doubt the constitutionality of Trump’s impeachment trial. 

A two-thirds majority vote would be necessary for a conviction, requiring at least 17 GOP votes if every Democrat votes to convict Trump.

Among the GO’s excuses for this:

  • Trump didn’t pardon any of the insurrectionists. Said one anonymous GOP Senator: “If he pardoned people who had been part of this invasion of the Capitol…that would have said, ‘These are my guys,’”
  • “He’s out of office and impeachment is a remedy to remove somebody from office,” said another Republican Senator.
  • If Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refuses to preside, and the chair is instead occupied by Vice President Kamala Harris or Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont.), the process will appear like a partisan exercise.
  • “It’s freedom of speech!” Said Senator Rand Paul: “Are we going to put every politician in jail—are we going to impeach every politician who has used the words ‘fight’ figuratively in a speech? Shame!”

Image]Never let fear conquer you : GetMotivated

In answer to these excuses:

  • It doesn’t matter that Trump didn’t pardon any of the seditionists. His lying tweets brought them to Washington, and his fiery, lie-studded rhetoric launched the attack.
  • If a retired Senator or Supreme Court Justice was found to have violated the law, s/he could still be tried—so long as the statute hadn’t expired. The President should not be held above the law.
  • Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has said he doesn’t want to preside over Trump’s second impeachment trial. So what? The Constitution dictates: “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” He should be required to live up to his assigned duty—or resign his position.
  • The “freedom of speech” defense ignores a fundamental truth: Even the First Amendment doesn’t allow speech that incites deadly violence. When Trump proclaimed “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong” his supporters—many of whom had come with firearms, scaling devices and twist-ties for taking hostages—knew exactly what he wanted them to do.

* * * * * * * * * *

So why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Donald Trump despite his having sent a mob to attack the Capitol—and threaten their own safety?

During the six-hour siege, they feared for their lives. But now they fear they will lose their powerful positions—and the privileges that go with them—to Trump’s angry supporters at the next election.

For them, that counts far more than protecting the country from a ruthless tyrant who nearly destroyed America’s most cherished democratic institutions:

  • A free press.
  • An apolitical Justice Department.
  • The peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims. Germany will rule the world, our enemies will be our slaves….”

Like Hitler, Trump offered his Republican voters and Congressional allies intoxicating dreams: “I will enrich all of you. And I will humiliate and destroy those Americans you most hate.”

And, again like Hitler, his audience had always possessed those desires. Trump offered them nothing new. But as a lifelong opportunist, he realized that he could use those desires to catapult himself into a position of supreme power.

He despised his followers—both as voters and Congressional allies—for they were merely the instruments of his will. 

In 1960, the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, published “Conversation With an American Writer”—a stinging indictment of the cowardly opportunists who had supported the brutal tyranny of Joseph Stalin: 

I was never courageous.

I simply felt it unbecoming to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Too many Republicans know all-too-well how it feels to stoop to the cowardice of their colleagues for a transitory goal.

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