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Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Lenin’

TWO DICTATORS–STALIN AND TRUMP–AND TWO CRISES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2020 at 12:27 am

Two dictators. Two crises.

Next up: Donald Trump.   

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin received multiple warnings that his supposed ally, Nazi Germany, would soon invade Russia. He ignored all of them. And when the invasion came—on June 22, 1941—the result was the loss of 26 million men, women and children and four years of devastation. 

President Donald Trump similarly received warnings that Coronavirus was now a major world threat—and would likely hit the United States. Like Stalin, he ignored those warnings—with similarly disastrous consequences for the United States.

The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019.  Its first reported victim became ill on December 1.

By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

According to the March 21 edition of Rolling Stone magazine: “The United States intelligence community has been warning the president since January and February about the dire consequences that would occur when coronavirus reached America, but the president seemed determined to play down the threat, leaving the country largely unaware and unprepared.”

An anonymous Intelligence official cited by the Washington Post said: “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red.”

Trump first learned of the virus on January 3, 2020. This did not prevent him from playing golf on January 4, 5, 18 and 19.

On January 19, the first Coronavirus case appeared in the United States.

On January 27, then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to get the President to act. But, according to officials who spoke with the Post, Trump was “dismissive” of early briefings “because he did not believe that the virus had spread widely throughout the United States.”

Trump fired Mulvaney one month later.

Then, for Trump, it was back to the golf course—on February 1, 2, 15. 

Image result for Trump Corona Timeline

Refusing to take action against the emerging Coronavirus threat, Trump repeatedly made statements that minimized it. 

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 30: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment –five—and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us .…that I can assure you.”

February 10: “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do—you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat—as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases—11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” 

February 28: “[Democrats] tried the impeachment hoax…They lost…. And this is their new hoax.”

A major reason for the spectacular early victories of the German army in Russia was that, from 1936 to 1938, Stalin had gutted his own military by a series of systematic purges. Thus, there were few experienced, competent officers—from army corps commanders to four-star generals—to mount a strategic defense. 

Similarly, upon taking office, Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the Centers for Disease Control, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services.

In April, 2018, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.

On February 29, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

Trump continued to be unconcerned about the growing threat.

On March 7, reporters asked him if he was concerned that Coronavirus had arrived in Washington, D.C. He replied:  “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it.”

And in a March 9 tweet, Trump wrote: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”  

Perhaps most dangerously of all, Trump has from the outset blatantly contradicted health officials—even when standing next to them at press conferences.

On March 21, Trump insisted he had a “very good” feeling about using a malaria drug to combat the virus. It fell to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to set the record straight: “No.”

As of March 26, the United States had 68,489 Coronavirus cases—with 1,032 deaths.

TWO DICTATORS–STALIN AND TRUMP–AND TWO CRISES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2020 at 12:25 am

Two dictators. Two crises.

First up: Joseph Stalin.

“I know what Hitler’s up to. He thinks he’s outsmarted me. But in actuality, it is I who have outsmarted him.” 

So spoke Joseph Stalin, absolute dictator of the Soviet Union, to his future successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1939.

Less than two years later, on June 22, 1941, three million German soldiers poured across the western border of the Soviet Union.

On August 23, 1939, Stalin had signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. The reason: Each dictator got what he wanted—for the moment. Hitler was planning to invade Poland in a matter of days—and he wanted to avoid a war with the Soviet Union. And Stalin got what he wanted: The eastern half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

The agreement stunned the world. Since 1919, Nazis and Communists had fought bitter battles against each other in the streets of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

When this was replaced in 1933 by the Third Reich, German Communists were rounded up and imprisoned, if not murdered, by Hitler’s ruthless secret police, the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”).

For the moment, however, all of that was conveniently forgotten.

But Hitler hadn’t forgotten his life’s ambition to conquer the Soviet Union and utterly destroy “the scourge of Jewish-Marxism.”

Stalin received numerous warnings from the United States and Great Britain about the coming invasion. But he dismissed them as efforts by the West to trick him into violating the pact and turning Nazi Germany into his mortal enemy. 

When informed of the attack, Stalin at first believed it was being made by rogue German forces. He refused to order an immediate counterattack. Upon being convinced that the Wehrmacht intended to wage all-out war, he went into a funk in his dacha and shut himself off from everyone. To his closest associates he wailed: “Lenin left us a great inheritance and we, his heirs, have fucked it all up!”

Meanwhile, the Red Air Force was destroyed on the ground by the awesome Luftwaffe. And the Wehrmacht was advancing at a rate of 25 miles a day.

German soldiers marching through Russia

On July 3, after 10 days of brooding (and probably drinking heavily) in his dacha, Stalin finally took to the airways. He didn’t speak live; Radio Moscow played a recording of his voice across the Soviet Union.

Never a spellbinding orator, Stalin spoke in slow and faltering tones. Nevertheless, his opening words were startling: “Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters! Men of our army and navy! I am addressing you, my friends!”

Stalin had never addressed an audience this way, and he never would again. Born Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, he had given himself the name of “Stalin”—“Man of Steel.” And he had lived up to it, sending tens of thousands to the Soviet penal system known as the Gulag while ordering the executions of tens of thousands of others.

He said the “peace loving” Soviet Union had been attacked by “fiends and cannibals.” He claimed the non-aggression pact with Germany had given the army much-needed time to rearm and reorganize its forces. He claimed the Germans wanted to restore the rule of the landlords and re-establish Tsarism.

He repeatedly spoke of the treachery of the enemy—and of the need for constant vigilance against traitors: “We must wage a ruthless fight against all disorganizers of the rear, deserters, panic-mongers and rumor-mongers.”

This was accompanied by orders unprecedented in any other army: Those taken prisoner by the Germans were to be considered traitors—and shot or imprisoned. Those suspected of wounding themselves to avoid combat were also subject to summary execution. So were soldiers who had been legitimately wounded in battle but were suspected of inflicting those injuries.

The first two years of the war—1941 to 1943—proved disastrous for the Soviet Union.

During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war (POWs) fell into German hands. Of these, at least 3.5 million died in custody.

But then the infamous Russian cold and snows of winter halted  the Wehrmacht before Moscow. In the summer of 1942 German forces once again mounted a ferocious offensive, driving all the way to the Volga—and Stalingrad.

But they became bogged down in bitter house-to-house fighting. With the arrival of winter, Soviet forces surrounded the Wehrmacht’s powerful Sixth Army. The besiegers became the besieged. On February 2, 1943, Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus surrendered what remained of his army. The battle cost Germany 500,000 men, including 91,000 taken prisoner. 

As the Red Army finally began to go over on the offensive, Stalin relaxed the iron controls that had long stifled creativity on the part of his commandeers. 

The infamous political commissars were removed from control over Russian generals. Gold braid and fancy uniforms were manufactured and rushed to the front as morale boosters.

At last, Stalin realized there was no way to win a life-and-death struggle than to give his soldiers the flexibility they needed.

The war would last another two years—costing the Soviet Union at least 26 million citizens—before it ended with the Red flag flying over Berlin.

THE RICH (LIKE THE PLAGUE) ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2020 at 12:07 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 RICH (LIKE THE PLAGUE) ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2020 at 12:10 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.

Biden 2013.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.

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 CORRUPT SOCIETY” MEETS THE CORRUPT PRESIDENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2020 at 12:21 am

According to a January 18 CNN story, President Donald Trump can’t understand why he’s been impeached.

“Why are they doing this to me,” an anonymous source quoted Trump as saying repeatedly.  Over the weekend of January 18-19, Trump told people around him at Mar-a-Lago that he “can’t understand why he is impeached.”

For starters, he could read the legal brief that Democratic House managers filed with the Senate:

“President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain, and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct.

“The Constitution provides a remedy when the President commits such serious abuses of his office: impeachment and removal. The Senate must use that remedy now to safeguard the 2020 U.S. election, protect our constitutional form of government, and eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security.”

But Trump has completely dismissed such arguments, despite the overwhelming evidence backing them up. 

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Donald Trump

Trump has become internationally notorious as a liar. By December 16, 2019, The Washington Post  reported that he had made 15,413 false or misleading statements.

But there is no reason to doubt his sincerity when he says he doesn’t know why he’s been impeached.  

And backing up that assertion would be no less an authority than the late British historian and author, Robert Payne. 

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. Among the epochs it covered were the civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America.

Forty-one years before Donald Trump entered the White House, Payne offered a terrifying examination of the future President’s character.

In his chapter, “The Corrupt Individual,” Payne writes: “The corrupt man walks alone, gathering more and more power and wealth to himself, leaving a trail of destruction wherever he passes until he finally destroys himself.”

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“One aspect of him is immediately recognizable: His contempt for his fellow men. Hence his ruthlessness, his celebration of himself at the expense of everyone else, his absorption in his own affairs to the exclusion of all other affairs.

“Hence, too, his secretiveness, his intense sensitivity to real or imagined slights, for his contempt does not exclude a certain fear. He is necessarily a conspirator who imagines that his fellow men are conspiring against him.”

The corrupt man holds human life in contempt. He does not care how many people he kills or destroys on his march to fame, wealth or power—and to maintain himself in any or all of them.

When a nation is weak and divided, “a tyrant arises to take advantage of their weakness and divisiveness. He comes usually from the middle or upper class.”

He quickly identifies himself with a political party offering revolutionary changes. Then he takes control of it and turns it into his vehicle to power. 

“He acts decisively and ruthlessly, driving wedges between people and setting them in opposition to one another. He is the master of corruption, and if necessary he will seek to corrupt the whole state to maintain his power. His weapons are the familiar weapons of subversion, treachery, and lies.”

Tyrants plunge into dangerous foreign adventures because it allows them to assert power over others with almost no domestic oversight. This makes them feel important—and distracts their subjects from worrying about internal affairs.

Tyrants shout, “We need law and order!”—while they are the most lawless thieves and murderers.

Tyrants learn nothing from the past or their own failures. Their characters do not change or develop. They surround themselves with sycophants and regard disagreement as treason. Because others fear to approach them with bad news—such as their armies have revolted—tyrants live in a world of lies and delusions.

Only when it is too late do they learn how widely-hated they are—and how determined their enemies are to destroy them.

Writes Payne:

“In our own age it becomes more and more difficult to wage war against corruption. The corrupt tend increasingly to acquire power, and the uncorrupted want more and more to be left alone.

“This is why it is so necessary to recognize the corrupt individual, the potential tyrant, to observe him closely, and wherever possible, to destroy him.”

Most Americans ignore history, believing that it has nothing worthwhile to offer them. When American military advisers in Vietnam were warned that the French had fought a losing war against the Vietcong, they responded: “They didn’t kill enough Vietcong.”

When Americans think of Fascistic dictatorships, they think of Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Benito Mussolini’s Italy—both of which ended 74 years ago in 1945.

They don’t think that such a dictatorship could ever happen here—or that, under a Republican party obsessed with holding absolute power, it has already happened. 

LOVE THE RICH, IGNORE THE REST: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2019 at 12:15 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

He 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.

“Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century.

“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.”

LOVE THE RICH, IGNORE THE REST: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2019 at 1:21 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. A pointed example:

On June 18, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joe Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. Money is, after all, the lifeblood of all political campaigns, and Biden wanted to guarantee he got more of it than any of his 23 Democratic rivals.

So the former vice president had a message he felt sure would appeal to 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.

Biden 2013.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.

Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders, 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.

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, had 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.

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Among the epochs it covered were 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.

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.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

Donald Trump owes his victory to a wide range of circumstances. Among these:

#10 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign–and then she quashed any benefits that might have come from it.  

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9.  It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic –you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people–now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But the other basket–and I know this because I see friends from all over America here….but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

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

After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her.

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’–that was wrong.”  

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes–who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive.

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Donald Trump, she made no effort to follow up.  

She could have used this moment to offer an economic package that would quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care. 

But that would have required her to put one together long ago. And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”  

It did.  

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#11 Neither the Democrats nor the TV networks dared reveal the full intensity of hatred and violence that were hallmarks of Trump’s rallies–and campaign.  

Three New York Times reporters who covered Trump’s rallies for over one year routinely witnessed his supporters hurl vulgar taunts such as:

At Hillary Clinton: “Trump that bitch!” “Kill her!” “Lock her up!” “Hillary is a whore!” “Hang the bitch!”

At protesters: “Get out of here, you fag!” “Get him!” “Get the fuck out of here!”

At Latinos: “Build a wall–kill them all!” “Fuck those dirty beaners!” “Send them bastards back. I’m sure that paperwork comes in Spanish.”

At Muslims: “Fuck Islam!” “Islam is not a religion, partner. It’s an ideology.” “You don’t come and talk about America when you’re supporting Muslims.”

At President Barack Obama: “Fuck that nigger!”  

H. Allen Scott, a reporter for Fusion, attended a Trump rally and overheard conversations that startled him.

In one, a man marked Arabs as the enemy: “Those sand niggers are out to get us. We need to bomb the hell out of them.”

In the other, the supposed threat came from a different source: “The Donald will get all those Jews out of Washington.”

When protesters were ejected, Trump supporters went wild–and usually turned violent. Protesters were beaten and kicked–often with Trump’s encouragement.

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Protesters and supporters duke it out at a Donald Trump rally

Audiences at Trump rallies were overwhelmingly white. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.” Confederate flags were commonly displayed.

TV news networks and the Hillary Clinton campaign could have aired–repeatedly–such footage. Had they done so, Americans would have gotten a brutal, firsthand look at the anger and racism inherent in Trump’s candidacy–and followers.  

Instead, Trump was allowed to appear on late-night shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show where he was treated with kid gloves for fun and laughs. 

Thus, it is pointless to blame any one person (such as Hillary Clinton) or group (such as those who voted for third-party candidates) for Clinton’s loss. Many factors played a part–including some that, to keep this series at a reasonable length, could not be mentioned.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2016 at 12:05 am

Fans of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have loudly claimed that if he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Donald Trump at the polls. 

Since he didn’t get the nomination, we will never know.

But Sanders would have carried his own negatives–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  Among the issues he championed:

  • Make college tuition free and debt-free.
  • Medicare for all.
  • Strengthen and expand Social Security.

Although worthy positions, they would have allowed Republicans to label him a “big-spending liberal.” 

In addition, Sanders had labeled himself a “democratic Socialist.” For millions of proudly ignorant Americans, “socialist” means “Communist.” And Fox News and the Republican party would have gladly assured them they were correct.  

Liberty Maniacs, a Minnesota-based brand that designs and sells political and satirical apparel, literally cashed in on this image with an eye-catching T-shirt.

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It depicted Sanders’ face alongside those of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. And underneath were the words: “Bernie IS MY COMRADE.”

No doubt Republicans would have flooded the airways with similar images.

Sanders’ partisans continue to insist he was “cheated” out of the nomination by Hillary Clinton. But this still leaves unanswered the question:

If Sanders couldn’t prevail against the alleged ruthlessness of Clinton in the primaries, how could he have done so against Trump in the general election? 

As the saying goes: “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times

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If comments on Facebook are any guide, many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

If many Democrats/liberals didn’t vote, one reason may be that they expected others to do it for them.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 For years, Republicans had waged a vicious campaign to demonize Hillary Clinton.

This included even falsely accusing her of conspiring to murder American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Kevin McCarthy, a Republican member of the House of Representatives unintentionally admitted this on Fox News on September 30, 2015:   

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today?

“Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

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Kevin McCarthy

Thus, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its true purpose was not to investigate the killings of four American diplomats during a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • It’s actual purpose: To destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

#8 Republicans attacked Clinton for using a personal email account–while ignoring that her two Republican predecessors had done the same.

General Colin Powell served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He not only used a private email account but advised Clinton to do so as she was about to move into the same job in 2009.  

Powell’s successor as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, similarly used a private email account during her tenure (2005-2009).

Yet while Republicans hounded Clinton, accusing her of recklessly endangering national security, they totally ignored Powell’s and Rice’s uses of private email accounts.

#9 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan–and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters went for the man who promised them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all. 

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

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

WHY TRUMP WON: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

Since November 8, Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have been in shock.

“How could this happen?” they keep asking–themselves and others. “How could the country go from electing a brilliant, sophisticated, humane man like Barack Obama to electing an ignorant, coarse, brutal man like Donald Trump?”

Efforts have been made to blame one person/group or another. But the truth is that many factors were involved, and the fallout will be felt for months–if not years–to come.

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

Finally,  as a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#3 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton.  Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

And when Obama supporters compared the President and First Lady with Clinton, they found her wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#4 Not enough Democrats entered the Presidential race. Among those few who did:

  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland;
  • Lincoln Chaffee, former governor of Rhode Island;
  • James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia;
  • Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School;
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders;
  • and former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Of these candidates, it’s worth noting that O’Malley withdrew during the primaries. Chaffee, Webb and Lessig withdrew before the primaries started.

Many liberals wanted Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. As a specialist in consumer protection, she had become a leading figure in the Democratic party and a favorite among progressives.

But, without giving a reason, she declined to do so.

Thus, at least on the Democratic side, the stage was already set at the outset of the race.

No matter who the Republican nominee would be, the Democratic one would be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders fans have loudly claimed that if only he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Trump at the polls. 

But Sanders would have carried big negatives as well–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  

These will be explored in Part Two of this continuing series.

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