Posts Tagged ‘SPARTACUS’
The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.
In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.
While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba, slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus.
Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome. Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.
After all, Gaius Gracchus, the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and stands ever ready to oppose his every move.
“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”
Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, so, too, are billionaires now buying the 2012 Presidential election.
Consider the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives. Were it not for the endlessly deep pockets of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich would have dropped out long ago.
Perhaps no other major presidential candidate in recent times has relied so heavily on the contributions of a single donor, as Gingrich has on Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson, 78, has spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.
In a primary season dominated by the mega-spending of super PACs, Adelson’s efforts on Gingrich’s behalf speak volumes about the corrupting influence of the super-rich on American politics.
Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.
In January, Adelson gave $5 million to a PAC run by former close aides to Gingrich.
Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American. But Adelson is clearly not the average American. He’s listed by Forbes as the eigth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.
Naturally, Adelson denies he has any selfish motives for shelling out so much money to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:
“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”
Unfortunately, Gingrich is not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is relying heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.
A quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign has come from just 41 people. Each contributor has given more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors have contributed $1 million or more.
Some of Romney’s biggest supporters include executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.
In short: This last contributor has directly profited from the suffering of others.
All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.
The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs–outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate.
Meanwhile, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don’t like all the political ads unleashed as a result: Change the channel or turn off the TV.
“I don’t care who is doing the speech–the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”
On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid–or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.
As proof of this: Nevada has the country’s highest foreclosure rate and the nation’s highest unemployment rate.
So what is Mitt Romney’s solution for the foreclosure crisis threatening the homes of millions of Americans?
“Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”
On February 4, Romney claimed victory in Nevada’s caucuses by a decisive margin.
So much for Justice Scalia’s comment: “People are not stupid.”
It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives. And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.
Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.
–Plutarch’s biography of Alexander the Great
Mitt Romney suffered a “Plutarch moment” during his December 10 debate encounter with Rick Perry.
The faceoff came in Des Moines, Iowa. The former Massachussetts governor found himself once again accosted by the current governor of Texas.
It was the same annoying accusation that Perry had made in past debates: That Romney had supported national healthcare reform in the hardcover edition of his book, No Apology.
According to Perry, that passage was removed from the paperback edition.
The United States remains the only major Western nation without a national health insurance program. About 60 million Americans lack medical insurance.
So you would expect a hero’s laurels for the man who could bring medical care to those most in need of it.
But President Obama had made healthcare reform a major part of his 2008 election campaign and his new administration. Thus, such an accusation put Romney–for Republicans–into the same category as The Anti-Christ.
“I’m just saying, you’re for individual mandates, my friend,” Perry said to Romney.
Romney had to quash the charge. The question was: How to do it?
So Romney–whose fortune has been estimated at $250 million–did what comes naturally to the sons of privilege: He used his wealth as a bludgeon.
“You’ve raised that before, Rick, and you’re simply wrong,” said Romney.
Then: “Rick, I’ll tell you what: $10,000 bucks? Ten thousand dollar bet?” Romney asked, extending his hand to shake.
Perry, a Christian evangelical, may have a principled stand on betting. Or maybe, at the last minute, he decided he was wrong about the book. So he declined.
“I’m not in the betting business but I will show you the book,” Perry said.
It was the bet heard round the world.
“For someone to go and throw around a $10,000 bet, just goes to show even more that he’s not the same level as the people of Iowa or the country,” said Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for would-be President Michele Bachmann.
And Bill Burton, an organizer for President Obama’s re-election campaign, wrote on Twitter: “Not a lot of 99%’ers are out there making $10,000 bets.”
Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s press spokesman, tried to laugh the incident off, saying it was not a serious bet.
“I’ve made bets with friends and family for $1m,” Fehrnstrom said. He added that Romney had made the bet because he knew Perry would not take it.
But others were having none of it.
“Romney promises that his butler will ‘personally deliver’ the $10,000 check if he loses,” Jonah Goldberg of the National Review tweeted.
Jonathan Martin, who covers the GOP race for Politico, asked tongue-in-cheek: “Who among us doesn’t wager $10,000 at a time?”
With at least 14 million Americans unemployed, some perspective can be gained from the wealth of those who seek the nation’s highest office:
Mitt Romney: Former Massachussetts governor. During his 2008 White House bid, he put his personal wealth at between $190 and $250 million, most of it from his time in business.
Jon Huntsman: Former U.S. ambassador to China. He listed his personal assets this year as between $15 and $66 million, much of it from a chemical company set up by his father.
Newt Gingrich: Former Speaker of the House of Representatives. He earned $2.5 million last year from speeches, book and his work as a lobbyist. As a lobbyist he has earned an estimated $100 million over the past decade.
Ron Paul: Congressman from Texas. His assets are between $2.29 and $5.3 million, based on his disclosure in the 2008 White House race.
Rick Santorum: Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. His personal assets range between $522,000 and $1.8 million.
Michele Bachmann: Congresswoman from Minnesota. She is worth $1 to $2.5 million, mostly profits from a therapy clinic. A family farm brings in $5,000 to $15,000.
Rick Perry: Governor of Texas. He claimed that his wealth, in 2009, was $896,000, held in a blind trust. He has made his money mainly from buying and selling houses.
Barack Obama: In 2009, the President filed disclosure forms stating that his wealth totaled between $2.3 and $7.7 million. Much of this comes from royalties from his two best-selling books: Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.
Americans watch movies like “Spartacus” and “Gladiator” where rich, toga-clad Roman senators ruthlessly decide the fates of their poor constituents. And they think–and even say: “Thank God that couldn’t happen here.”
But those with a greater sense of history–past and present–know the brutal truth: It has happened here.