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Posts Tagged ‘THE DAILY BEAST’

ANN COULTER: HATRED IS MY MOTIVE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 6, 2022 at 12:10 am

On November 6, 2012, Ann Coulter, the Right-wing activist and propagandist, was devastated by the re-election of President Barack Obama. 

“People are suffering. The country is in disarray,” she whined during an interview. “If Mitt Romney [the Republican Presidential nominee] cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.

“Mitt Romney was the president we needed right now, and I think it is so sad that we are going to be deprived of his brain power, of his skills in turning companies around, turning the Olympics around, his idea and his kindness for being able to push very conservative ideas on a country that no longer is interested in conservative ideas. It is interested in handouts.”

Mitt Romney

Note the chief reason for her regret: Romney would have been “able to push very conservative ideas on a country that no longer is interested in conservative ideas.”

Unfortunately for Coulter, a majority of Americans rejected this mentality—and the repressive measures that would have accompanied it.

So, naturally, Coulter and her fellow Rightists felt dejected. 

One of these was Donald Trump, then a real estate mogul and host of the “reality show” The Apprentice.  

Donald Trump

When it became clear that Romney was not going to be America’s 45th President, Trump went ballistic on Twitter. Among his tweets:

  • More votes equals a loss…revolution!
  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice!  The world is laughing at us.
  • We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.  Our nation is totally divided!
  • The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation.  The loser one!
  • He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election.  We should have a revolution in this country! 

To put Trump’s rants into real-world perspective:

  • According to Trump, the electoral process works when a Republican wins the Presidency.  It only doesn’t work when a Democrat wins.
  • “We should march on Washington” conjures up images of another Fascist–Benito Mussolini—marching on Rome at the head of his Blackshirts to seize power. Which, in a democracy, is treason
  • “The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!”

Ironically, the 2012 Republican Platform had fully embraced preserving the Electoral College: “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.

“We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

And the loser didn’t win: He lost.

Obama got 60,652,238 votes. Romney got 57,810,407. 

But by 2016, Coulter no longer felt dismayed. She felt rejuvenated—for she had found her perfect Presidential candidate: Donald Trump.

Appearing on the Right-wing radio program, “The Eric Metaxes Show,” she said: “It is like the fall of Rome but, thank God, and I am not using the Lord’s name in vain, I mean that absolutely literally, thank God for raising up Donald Trump and giving us a chance to save the country.

“What is the point of talking about abortion or anything else unless you get Donald Trump in to build the wall, deport illegals, end this ‘anchor baby’ nonsense, stop importing 100,000 Muslims a year, in addition to two million Third Worlders per year. It’s madness what this country has been doing.” 

Coulter not only spoke on Trump’s behalf—she sang his praises in a 2016 book: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Ann Coulter

According to its dust jacket: “[Ann Coulter] argues that a bull in the china shop is exactly what we need to make America great again.

“In this powerful book, Coulter explains why conservatives, moderates, and even disgruntled Democrats should set aside their doubts and embrace Trump:

“He’s putting America first in our trade deals and alliances, rather than pandering to our allies and enemies.

“He’s abandoned the GOP’s decades-long commitment to a bellicose foreign policy, at a time when the entire country is sick of unnecessary wars.” 

To Coulter’s delight, Trump defeated Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on November 9, 2016.

Although Clinton got almost 2.9 million more popular votes, he swamped her in the Electoral College—304 votes to Clinton’s 227. 

Suddenly, for Trump, the Electoral College wasn’t “phoney.”  

But by May, 2017, four months after Trump had taken office as President, Ann Coulter was ready to abandon him. Her chief complaint: He hadn’t built the wall along the United States-Mexican border he had promised to erect.

“We want the ruthless businessman we were promised,” she told the conservative website, The Daily Caller.

I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out.

“This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.”

In short: She backed a monster to wreak destruction on those she hated.

WHY FETUS FANATICS HATE ROE V. WADE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 5, 2022 at 12:15 am

On May 2, POLITICO released a bombshell of a story: The United States Supreme Court intended to strike down Roe v. Wade.

The proof came in an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, circulated within the court and obtained by POLITICO.

The draft opinion completely repudiates the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights. 

The Supreme Court: The Judicial Power of the United States | NEH-Edsitement

The Supreme Court

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”  

Some 36 million women could then lose abortion access, according to research from Planned Parenthood, a healthcare organization which provides abortions.

Making this possible was the appointment of three Right-wing Justices by President Donald Trump:  Neil Gorsuch (2017); Brett Kavanaugh (2018); and Amy Coney Barrett (2020).

This has been a dream for Right-wing anti-abortion fanatics since the Court struck down abortion restrictions almost 50 years ago.

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism?  

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag.

Every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc. And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.  

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women. 

They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control—or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do. They see this as a personal rejection.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males. And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban. They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

Third, many fetus fanatics are “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses, but hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.

Fourth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites.

For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion. He also agreed that his wife should have two abortions.

Scott DesJarlais, Official Portrait, 112th Congress.jpg

Scott DesJarlais

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do.  And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fifth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions—especially if these resulted in pregnancy.

And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others—regardless of what those people may need or want.  

Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals.

On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.” That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman. That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting birth control or an abortion—even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.  

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus fanatics movement are independently wealthy. 

This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor—here or abroad—to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.  

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”

They totally oppose abortion under most—-if not all—circumstances. But they also fully support:

  • making military-style assault weapons available to nutcases;
  • capital punishment;
  • going to war for almost any reason;
  • wholesale massacres of wildlife;
  • despoiling of the environment; and/or
  • even nuclear war.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity.  It’s people I can’t stand.” With fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses. Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians. These are the same people who condemn Muslims—such as those in Saudi Arabia—for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors—loose, usually black robes.

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches. Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. 

Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

TRUMP AND TRAGEDY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 4, 2022 at 12:12 am

For historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson, Donald Trump possesses an unappreciated self-awareness and sense of what it means to be a tragic hero.

Trump was into the first year of his Presidency when Hanson penned his article, “Donald Trump, Tragic Hero,” published on April 12, 2018. 

To make his case, Hanson cites a series of popular Western movies featuring lethal men who risk—and sometimes sacrifice—their lives on behalf of others too weak to vanquish evil on their own.

Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) | Twitter

Victor Davis Hanson

Thus in the classic 1960 film, The Magnificent Seven, the Seven slaughter the outlaw Calvera and his banditos—and then ride into the sunset. As they do, Chris (Yul Brynner) tells Vin (Steve McQueen): “The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”

Writes Hanson: “He knows that few appreciate that the tragic heroes in their midst are either tragic or heroic — until they are safely gone and what they have done in time can be attributed to someone else. Worse, he knows that the tragic hero’s existence is solitary and without the nourishing networks and affirmation of the peasant’s agrarian life.”

Chris may know this, but there is absolutely no evidence that Trump does. He has never shown even an awareness of sensitivity and self-knowledge, let alone the possession of either. Trump is at best semi-literate. The concept of tragedy—as expressed in the Greek tragedies to which Hanson refers throughout his article—means nothing to Trump.

Moreover, the Seven have risked their lives—and four of them have died doing so—on behalf of villagers who can pay them almost nothing.

It is inconceivable that Trump would risk anything—especially his life—for people he regarded as poor and thus unworthy of his concern.

The Magnificent Seven (1960 poster).jpg

Copyright © 1960 – United Artists Corporation.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In their first encounter with Calvera (Eli Wallach) the bandit chief offers to make the Seven partners in his ravaging of the village. Of his intended victims, Calvera sneers: “If God had not wanted them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”

If Trump had heard Calvera’s offer, he would have instantly accepted it.

In June 2016, USA Today published an analysis of litigation involving Trump. Over the previous 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. Federal and state courts.

Of the 3,500 suits, Trump or one of his companies were plaintiffs in 1,900; defendants in 1,450; and bankruptcy, third party, or other in 150. Trump was named in at least 169 suits in federal court.

Many of those cases centered around his refusal to pay contractors for their finished work on his properties. Most of the contractors didn’t have the financial resources—as Trump had—to spend years in court trying to obtain the monies they were owed. As a result, they never received payment—or, at best, only a small portion of what they were owed.

When he ran for President in 2015-16, Trump repeatedly promised poor and middle-class Americans a far better plan for medical care than the Affordable Care Act. 

He spent the next four years thuggishly trying to dismantle “Obanacare,” the signature achievement of Barack Obama, America’s first black President. But never did he offer even a general outline of his own alleged plan to “replace” it. 

Hanson tries to draw a further parallel between Trump and the fictional Tom Doniphon, the unsung hero of John Ford’s 1962 movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962 poster).jpg

Copyright © 1962 Paramount Pictures Corporation and John Ford Productions, Inc.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hanson sums up the movie thus:

“Tom Doniphon (John Wayne)…unheroically kills the thuggish Liberty Valance [Lee Marvin], births the [political] career of Ranse Stoddard [James Stewart] and his marriage to Doniphon’s girlfriend [Vera Miles] and thereby ensures civilization is Shinbone’s frontier future. His service done, he burns down his house and degenerates from feared rancher to alcoholic outcast.” 

It is inconceivable that Trump would take the risk of committing a crime on behalf of someone else—or being able to resist bragging about it if he did. It is equally inconceivable that he would give up a woman he wanted for the happiness of another man.

Most unbelievable of all is the suggestion that Trump would imitate Doniphon by quietly riding off into the sunset.

Trump has often “joked” about becoming “President-for-Life.” After losing the November 3 Presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden, he filed 60 lawsuits to overturn the will of 80 million voters. Those failing, he tried some old-fashioned but unsuccessful arm-twisting of several state lawmakers to “find” non-existent votes for him.

Finally, on January 6, he incited a mob of his fanatical followers to attack the United States Capitol Building. Their mission: Stop the counting of Electoral College ballots certain to give Biden the victory.   

Victor Davis Hanson is a brilliant scholar and colorful writer. But his effort on Trump’s behalf is embarrassing and appalling.

In a series of bestselling books, he has eloquently chronicled the heroism of the ancient Greeks in defending their budding democracy.

It is depressing—and frightening—to discover that this same man can blatantly ignore the criminalities and even treason of the greatest and most destructive tyrant to ever attain the Presidency.

TRUMP AND TRAGEDY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 3, 2022 at 12:13 am

Victor Davis Hanson has long been a distinguished historian and classicist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

On April 12, 2018, the year before the publication of The Case for Trump, Hanson offered a preview of its upcoming contents in an article published in the well-known conservative magazine, National Review

Its title: “Donald Trump, Tragic Hero.”

“The very idea that Donald Trump could, even in a perverse way, be heroic may appall half the country,” begins his first paragraph. 

“Nonetheless, one way of understanding both Trump’s personal excesses and his accomplishments is that his not being traditionally presidential may have been valuable in bringing long-overdue changes in foreign and domestic policy.”

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Donald Trump

Having laid out his thesis, Hanson writes: “Tragic heroes, as they have been portrayed from Sophocles’ plays (e.g., AjaxAntigoneOedipus RexPhiloctetes) to the modern western film, are not intrinsically noble.”

On the contrary: A true tragic figure is a noble character with a fatal flaw, which ultimately destroys him.

To cite one from literature: Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet believes that his father, the king of Denmark, has been murdered. He believes the murderer may be his uncle, Claudius, who has seized the throne. Hamlet is brilliant, athletic, supremely eloquent and conscientious. But he’s not completely certain that Claudius is guilty, and in his hesitation to strike he lays the seeds for his own destruction. 

To cite one from history: British General Charles George Gordon, sent by the British government in 1884 to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum. But instead of evacuating its citizens, he chose to stay and fight the oncoming army of Mohammed Achmed, an Islamic religious fanatic who called himself The Madhi (“The Expected One”).

Although Gordon’s dynamic leadership enabled the city to hold out for almost a year, the British relief force arrived too late. The city was overwhelmed and Gordon himself killed.

Various theories have emerged to explain his motive: He was a religious fanatic; he had a death wish; he was arrogant to believe he could hold off an entire army. Any one or more of these theories could be correct. 

Charles George Gordon - Wicipedia

Charles George Gordon

But the fact remains that for almost an entire year he kept alive about 30,000 men, women and children. It was only the failure of the British to send a relief army in time that allowed the city—and Gordon—to perish. 

Tragic heroes always have a cause that is bigger than life—something that makes giving up life worthwhile. They always recognize this, and they have the ability to put into perspective the ultimate sacrifice—giving up life—for the good of something bigger. 

Which brings us back to Trump. Apart from being a five-times draft-dodger during the Vietnam war, he has never made an act of professional or personal sacrifice for anyone.

On the contrary: he has been forced to shut down both his Trump Foundation and unaccredited Trump University.

Trump was forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds at the Foundation for political purposes.

And his university scammed its students, promising to teach them “the secrets of success” in the real estate industry—then delivering nothing. In 2016, a federal court approved a $25 million settlement  with many of those students.

This is hardly the stuff of which tragic heroes are made.

The Controversy Surrounding Trump University - ABC News

Hanson cites several examples from famous Western movies to make his case that Trump deserves the status of a tragic hero. 

One of these is the classic 1953 “Shane,” starring Alan Ladd as the soft-spoken gunfighter who intervenes decisively in a range war.

Writes Hanson:

“He alone possesses the violent skills necessary to free the homesteaders from the insidious threats of hired guns and murderous cattle barons. Yet by the time of his final resort to lethal violence, Shane has sacrificed all prior chances of reform and claims on reentering the civilized world of the stable ‘sodbuster’ community.”

Comparing Trump to Shane is unbelievably ludicrous. Shane doesn’t boast about his past—in fact, this remains a mystery throughout the movie. Trump constantly brags—about the money he’s made, the buildings he’s put up, the women he’s bedded, the enemies he’s crushed (or plans to).

Moreover, Shane takes the side of poor homesteaders at the mercy of a rich cattle baron, Rufus Ryker. Ryker tries to bully the homesteaders into leaving. When that fails, he hires a ruthless gunman named Jack Wilson (Jack Palance).

In the film’s climax, Shane kills Wilson, and then Ryker, in a barroom showdown. Then he rides off—much to the sadness of Joey (Brandon de Wilde), the homesteaders’ son he has befriended.

“There’s no living with a killing,” says Shane. “There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. And a brand sticks.”

And so he rides on, knowing that his gunfighter’s skills make him an outcast among those very homesteaders whose lives he’s saved.

If Trump appeared in the movie, it would be as Ryker, not Shane.

Shane empathizes with the plight of others. Ryker–like Trump–hires others to do his dirty work. 

TRUMP AND TRAGEDY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2022 at 12:10 am

“America needs the outsider Trump to do what normal politicians would not and could not do.”

That was the assertion made by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.

Among his bestsellers on military history:

  • The Second World Wars
  • Carnage and Culture
  • Wars of the Ancient Greeks
  • The Western Way of War
  • The Soul of Battle: How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny

Historian Victor Davis Hanson said there has been no consequences for the wrongdoing by elites in society and warned that republics and successful states fall apart when the elites fall out of touch with the people."We have a whole bunch... here at home, that feel they can dictate to people and they're never subject to the ramifications of their own ideology and policy," he said of elites. "And it's like the emperor has no clothes and then they're surprised that Trump won or surprised that peo

Victor Davis Hanson

In 2019, Hanson turned his attention to politics—specifically, The Case for Trump.

Its dust-jacket provides a useful summary of its contents:

“This New York Times bestselling Trump biography from a major American intellectual explains how a renegade businessman became one of the most successful—and necessary—presidents of all time.

“In The Case for Trump, award-winning historian and political commentator Victor Davis Hanson explains how a celebrity businessman with no political or military experience triumphed over sixteen well-qualified Republican rivals, a Democrat with a quarter-billion-dollar war chest, and a hostile media and Washington establishment to become president of the United States — and an extremely successful president.

“Trump alone saw a political opportunity in defending the working people of America’s interior whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn, Hanson argues. And Trump alone had the instincts and energy to pursue this opening to victory, dismantle a corrupt old order, and bring long-overdue policy changes at home and abroad.”

The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hanson | Basic Books

Hanson’s book appeared before Trump:

  • Tried to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joseph Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowed the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, killing more than 400,000 Americans by the time he left office. 
  • Attacked medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordered his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to stay-at-home and wear masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.
  • Became the first President in American history to refuse to accept the results of a Presidential election.
  • Tried to overturn the November 3, 2020 election of Joe Biden through 60 lawsuits and the arm-twisting of several state lawmakers.
  • Sent a mob of his fanatical followers  to attack the United States Capitol Building. Their mission: Stop the counting of Electoral College ballots certain to give Biden the victory.         
  • Was twice impeached during his four years in office—the only President to be impeached twice (and acquitted by a Republican Senate which ignored his litany of crimes).

But his book appeared after Trump had:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for pursuing ties between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who was assigned to investigate those ties after Trump fired Comey. 
  • Attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for refusing to fire Mueller.
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges whose rulings he disagreed with.
  • Given Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.
  • Amassed an infamous record as a serial liar, in both personal and Presidential matters.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Branded America’s longtime ally, Canada, as “a national security threat.”
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
  • Shut down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded. 

So much for Hanson’s claims that Trump had been “one of the most successful—and necessary—presidents of all time.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s Hanson’s claim that “Trump alone saw a political opportunity in defending the working people of America’s interior whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn.” 

In November, 2017, Trump and a Republican-dominated House and Senate rammed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 through Congress. It became law on December 22, 2017.

According to Chye-Ching Huang, Director of Federal Fiscal Policy, the law did nothing to help ordinary Americans.

Testifying before the House Budget Committee on February 27, 2019, Huang stated that the law:

  • Ignored the stagnation of working-class wages and exacerbated inequality;
  • Weakened revenues when the nation needed to raise more;  
  • Encouraged rampant tax avoidance and gaming that will undermine the integrity of the tax code; 
  • Left behind low- and moderate-income Americans—and in many ways hurt them.

For American corporations, however, the law was a godsend: 

  • Cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent;
  • Shifting toward a territorial tax system, where multinational corporations’ foreign profits go largely untaxed;
  • Benefitting overwhelmingly wealthy shareholders and highly paid executives.

This was hardly an attempt at “defending the working people of America’s interior.”

Trump never made another attempt to “reform” the tax laws.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Payne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

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

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

But this situation need not remain permanent.

THE MYSTERY OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2022 at 12:12 am

They seem to come out of nowhere—people who have never had military training nor even any experience with violence. Yet they display an utter fearlessness and eloquence that inspires others to great deeds in the face of overwhelming danger.

For 13 days—from February 23 to March 6, 1836—about 200 frontiersmen defended a ruined mission in San Antonio, Texas, against an army of 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

Few of them had known each other before finding themselves besieged. None of them had had professional military training. Some had served in local militias or as irregulars fighting Indians under the command of frontier officers such as Andrew Jackson.

One of these was David Crockett, recently a Congressman from Tennessee. 

Since the vast majority of the garrison were volunteers, they could have deserted the fortress at any time.

Holding them in place was a former lawyer named William Barret Travis. Gifted with an eloquence beyond his 26 years, he gave purpose to their stand. 

William Travis — Badass of the Week

William Barret Travis (with sword) at the Alamo

As historian T.R. Fehrenbach writes in his monumental book, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans:

“From the Alamo, from his first message before the arrival of the Mexicans to his last, his words had the ring of prophecy. The Texas historian who stated publicly that few people would want to have a son serve under William Barret Travis had forgotten, in the comforts of long security, the reasons why men make war.”

When the final assault came before dawn on March 6, 1836, the roughly 200 defenders killed and wounded about 600 of their enemies—inflicting a casualty rate of 33% on the Mexican army.

Travis’ body was found near his cannon on the north wall.

The garrison’s sacrifice inspired Sam Houston’s ragtag army to fall on the Mexican army at San Jacinto on April 21. Slaughtering about 800 soldiers, the Texans captured Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna—and forced him to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky (January 25, 1978 – ) is a former attorney, actor and comedian who, as the sixth president of Ukraine, now leads his country in a life-or-death struggle against the aggressive Russia of Vladimir Putin.

After earning a law degree from the Kiev National Economic University, he pursued a career in comedy. He created his own production company, Kvartal 95, which produced films, cartoons, and TV shows. His comedy, Servant of the People, starred Zelensky as the president of Ukraine.  

Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait.jpg

Volodymyr Zelensky

In 2019, he announced his candidacy for president of Ukraine. He opposed the corruption that had been rife under the country’s luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

(In 2014, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted Yanukovych. And that didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”—Russian President Vladimir Putin.)

A second feature of Zelensky’s presidential campaign: He promised to resolve the Russia-sponsored separatist movement in Donbas and end Ukraine’s protracted conflict there with Russia.

Zelensky won election by a landslide, with 72% of the vote.

In 2021, his administration came under mounting pressure from Russia. On February 24, Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

In the early hours of February 24, shortly before the start of the Russian invasion, Zelensky recorded an address to both Ukraine and Russia. As a Jew, he refuted Putin’s claims that there were Neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian government. 

And he appealed to Russians—in Russian—to pressure their leadership to prevent war.

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

As CBS correspondent Scott Pelley put it: “The moment Zelensky told his people he refused to flee, they refused to fall.”

Russia expected Kiev to fall in three days. But 61 days after the invasion, Kiev still remains defiant—and in the hands of Ukrainians.

When he wasn’t broadcasting defiance at Russia and rousing Ukrainians to heroism, he was often visiting the battlefront.  

Interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Zelensky said: “I don’t want to make myself out to be a hero. I love my family. I want to live many more years, but choosing between running or being with my people, of course I’m ready to give my life for my country.”

Since the start of the invasion, he has reportedly been the target of more than a dozen assassination attempts.

Other world leaders have applauded his courage and leadership. Historian Andrew Roberts compared him to Winston Churchill. 

The Harvard Political Review said that Zelensky “has harnessed the power of social media to become history’s first truly online wartime leader, bypassing traditional gatekeepers as he uses the internet to reach out to the people.”

Zelensky sees Ukraine’s struggle as the opening round of Russia’s war against the West.

“Some are….saying, ‘We can’t defend Ukraine because there could be a nuclear war.’ I think that today, no one in this world can predict what Russia will do. If they invade further into our territory, then they will definitely move closer and closer to Europe. They will only become stronger and less predictable.”

THE MYSTERY OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2022 at 12:10 am

Joan of Arc.  William Barret Travis.  Volodymyr Zelensky.

The first two names long ago burned themselves into the pages of history. The third one is now doing the same.

They seem to come out of nowhere—people who have never had military training nor even any experience with violence. Yet they display an utter fearlessness and eloquence that inspires others to great deeds in the face of overwhelming danger.

  • Joan of Arc (c. 1412 – 30 May 1431) was an illiterate peasant girl who, in France’s darkest hour, became its greatest hero. 

In 1428, when she was about 17, Joan traveled to Vaucouleurs and asked for an armed escort to King Charles V11. She said that she had received visions from the archangel Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine of Alexandra, instructing her to deliver France from English domination.

An image of a woman dressed in silver armor, holding a sword and a banner.

Joan of Arc

Her request was rejected twice, but eventually Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander, relented and gave her an escort to meet Charles at Chinon. She had never seen Charles, but even though he disguised himself among his courtiers, she instantly recognized him.

After their interview, Charles sent Joan at the head of a relief army to lift the siege of Orléans.

She had never wielded a lance or sword, or even ridden a war horse. She had never studied military strategy nor even seen a battlefield. Yet nine days after arriving at Orléans, she lifted the siege on May 8.

On May 4, her army attacked the outlying fortress of Saint Loup. She arrived just as the French soldiers were retreating after a failed attempt. Her sudden appearance roused the soldiers to cheer and launch another assault—which overwhelmed the fortress.

In June, Joan decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Patay. She then advanced on Reims,  entering the city on July 16. The next day, Charles was consecrated as the King of France in Reims Cathedral with Joan at his side.

These victories paved the way for the final French victory in the Hundred Years’ War at Castillon in 1453.

Joan never attributed her success to anyone but God. She referred to herself as “Joan the Maid” and demanded that her soldiers refrain from sexual activity. At her orders, prostitutes—the camp followers of both French and British armies—were driven out of her encampments.

She did not expect to live a long life—and warned that the French had only about a year to claim their victories before she died.

On May 23, 1430, while relieving the siege of Compiegne, she was captured by Burgundians troops and exchanged to the English. Tried for heresy, she was declared guilty and burned at the stake on May 30,1431. 

Only 19 when she died, she had, through her inspired leadership, restored the kingdom of France.

  • William Barret Travis (August 1, 1809 – March 6, 1836) was a South Carolina lawyer whose courage and eloquence inspired 200 Texans to hold back a Mexican army at the Alamo.

An early advocate of Texas’ independence from Mexico, Travis entered the newly-formed Texas army as a regular officer. Although he had no experience in battle, he burned for glory as a cavalryman. But he accepted the order of Governor Henry Smith to go to San Antonio and defend the Alamo from the approaching Mexicans.

William B. Travis by Wiley Martin.JPG

William Barret Travis

Arriving there, he found himself overshadowed by the popularity of co-commander James Bowie, the legendary knife fighter. But when Bowie collapsed with pneumonia on February 23, 1836—the first day of the siege—Travis took command.

According to historian T.R. Fehrenbach:

“The true measure of this man, with his soldier’s cap, his sword, his exalted ideas of honor, and his florid rhetoric, was that he captured these violent frontiersmen and bent them to his purpose.

“No competent Texas historian really believes Travis drew his line on the ground with his sword and invited his men to leave or stay. That was not Buck Travis’ style. He intended to keep his command on the walls regardless of what the men wanted. He was consciously guarding the ramparts of Texas.”

A sprawling complex of buildings with low walls sits in a shallow valley overlooked by rolling hills.

The siege of the Alamo

On February 23, 1836, Travis penned one of the most famous letters in early American history. Addressing it “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” he wrote: 

“I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna [the president and dictator of Mexico]….

“The enemy has demanded our surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword. I shall never surrender or retreat. Thus, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to my aid with all dispatch…

“If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. VICTORY OR DEATH.” 

On March 3, Travis wrote his last letter, addressing it to the newly-declared Republic of Texas. “I shall have to fight the enemy on his own terms….The victory will cost the enemy so dear it will be worse for him than a defeat.”

On March 6, 1836, his prophecy came true.

“DON’T EMBARRASS THE BUREAU–OR THE BUSINESS”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 25, 2022 at 12:10 am

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, has been dead for almost 50 years. But his rule—“Don’t embarrass the Bureau”—is very much alive and well in corporate America.

In 1959, Hoover—against his will—declared war on the Mafia.

On November 14, 1957, 70 top Mafia leaders from across the country had gathered at the estate of a fellow gangster, Joseph Barbara, in Apalachin, a small village in upstate New York.

The presence of so many cars with out-of-state license plates converging on an isolated mansion caught the attention of Sergeant Edgar Crosswell of the New York State Police.

Crosswell assembled an army of state troopers, set up roadblocks, and swooped down on the estate.

The mobsters, panicked and fled—many into the surrounding woods. Even so, more than 60 underworld bosses were arrested and indicted following the raid.

Hoover had vigorously and vocally denied the existence of a nationwide Mafia. He had carefully kept the FBI well out of the war on organized crime. Several theories have been advanced as to why:

  1. Hoover feared that his agents—-long renowned for their incorruptibility—would fall prey to the bribes of well-heeled mobsters.
  2. Hoover feared that his allegedly homosexual relationship with his longtime associate director, Clyde Tolson, would be exposed by the Mob. Rumors still persist that mobster Meyer Lansky came into possession of a compromising photo of Hoover and Tolson engaged in flagrante delicto.
  3. Hoover knew of the ties between moneyed mobsters and their political allies in Congress. And he feared losing the goodwill of his political allies—and ever-larger appropriations for the FBI.
  4. Hoover preferred flashy, easily-solved cases to those requiring huge investments of manpower and money.

Suddenly, however, ignoring the Mob was no longer possible.

J. Edgar Hoover

He set up a Top Hoodlum Program and encouraged his agents to use wiretapping and electronic surveillance (“bugging”) to make up for lost time and Intelligence.

But planting “bugs” demanded illegal trespass into mob hangouts.

Making this even more hazardous: Hoover imposed restrictions on these assignments that could destroy an agent’s professional and personal life.

William E. Roemer, Jr., assigned to the FBI’s Chicago field office, was one of the first agents to volunteer for such duty.

William Roemer | C-SPAN.org

William Roemer

In his memoirs, Man Against the Mob, published in 1989, Roemer laid out the dangers that went with such work:

  1. If confronted by police or mobsters, agents were to try to escape without being identified.
  2. If caught by police, agents were not to identify themselves as FBI employees.
  3. They were to carry no badges, credentials or guns—or anything else connecting themselves with the FBI.
  4. If they were arrested by police and the truth emerged about their FBI employment, the Bureau would claim they were “rogue agents” acting on their own.
  5. Such agents were not to refute the FBI’s portrayal of them as “rogues.”

As summed up by Roemer, Hoover’s greatest concern was always: ‘Do the job, by God, but don’t ever let anything happen that might embarrass the Bureau.”

In the business sector, Hoover’s rule still forcefully apples. Anyone who doubts this need only examine the public scandal involving Applebee’s International, Inc.

AB Brand Refresh Logo R.png

Applebees Restaurant LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

On March 9, Wayne Pankratz, an executive with Apple Central, a Kansas City-based company that operates Applebee’s restaurants, sent an email to managers saying high gas prices could help them cut employees’ wages.

He noted that most Applebee’s employees live “paycheck to paycheck.” But instead of suggesting a pay raise, he advocated the opposite: 

“Any increase in gas price cuts into their disposable income. As inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to go up that means more hours employees will need to work to maintain their current level of living.”

Because workers were no longer supported by government stimulus, desperate workers would be forced back into the workforce regardless of wages, giving the company the upper hand when it came to compensation.

Pankratz said competing restaurants had been raising wages to attract more workers, leaving Applebee’s struggling to keep up.

“We all saw businesses hiring team members at $18-$20 an hour. They will no longer be able to afford to do this,” the memo said. 

Pankratz predicted that the labor market was “about to turn in our favor.”

The memo was posted to an r/antiwork forum on Reddit and then picked up on social media. At that point, it took on a life of its own. 

Twitter users expressed outrage at the memo. Some said they would spend their money at other restaurants.

At least three managers quit their jobs at a Kansas Applebee’s over the memo, CBS News reported. 

Suddenly, it was Pankratz who was desperate for employment—he was fired.

In line with Hoover’s dictum of disavowing anyone who caused embarrassment for the organization, Kevin Carroll, Dine Brands’ chief operations officer for Applebee’s, rushed to repair the damage:

“This is the opinion of an individual, not Applebee’s. We understand that the franchisee who owns and operates the restaurants in this market has placed the individual on leave.

“Our team members are the lifeblood of our restaurants, and our franchisees are always looking to reward and incentivize team members, new and current, to remain within the Applebee’s family.”

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