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Posts Tagged ‘WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’

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.

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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 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.

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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. 

WHAT’S AT STAKE IN THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2019 at 12:07 am

On March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr received the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government had seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—suddenly went on the offensive.

On March 28, all nine Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence demanded in a letter that Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) resign as its chairman.  

On the same day, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”

Other Republicans quickly joined the chorus:

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California): Schiff owes “an apology to the American public” and should step down from his post as head of the Intelligence committee.
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel: “They [Schiff and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York] should be removed from their chairmanships. They owe the American people an apology. They owe this President an apology, and they have work to do to heal this democracy because this is our country we are talking about.”
  • South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “He’s getting into conspiracy land and he’s acting like an Oliver Stone type figure. That to me is not helpful to him but I’m not going to ask him to resign from Congress.” 
  • White House Adviser Kelleyanne Conway: “He’s been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years, promising Americans that this President would either be impeached or indicted. He has no right, as somebody who has been peddling a lie, day after day after day, unchallenged. Unchallenged and not under oath. Somebody should have put him under oath and said, ‘You have evidence, where is it?’”

On March 28, Schiff—speaking in a firm and controlled voice—addressed his critics in the House and beyond. 

It was a speech worthy of the one William Shakespeare put into the mouth of Mark Antony at the funeral of Julius Caesar.

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

“My colleagues may think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for President as part of what was described as ‘the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign.’ You might think that’s okay.

“My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the President, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the President’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help of the Russians. You might think it’s okay that he took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public.

“You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that when it was discovered a year later that they’d lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the President is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s okay. I don’t. 

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“You might think it’s okay that the Presidential chairman of a campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay.  I don’t.  

“You might think it’s okay that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that the President himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, ‘if they were listening.’

“You might think it’s okay that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

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“You might think that it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that an associate of the President made direct contact with the GRU  [the Russian military Intelligence agency] through Guccifer 2 and Wikileaks, that is considered a hostile Intelligence agency.

“You might think that it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile Intelligence agency had to say, in terms of dirt on his opponent.

“You might think it’s okay that the National Security Adviser-Designate [Mike Flynn] secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that’s all okay.

“You might say that’s just what you need to do to win, but I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.”  

Not one Republican dared challenge even one accusation Schiff had made.

WHAT’S AT STAKE IN THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2019 at 12:15 am

“Friends, Romans, countrymen—lend me your ears!”

It’s the opening line of a speech once widely memorized by schoolboys in English literature classes. It’s from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and it’s a far more sophisticated piece of writing than most people realize.

Mark Antony, addressing a crowd of Romans at the funeral of his former patron, Julius Caesar, faces a serious problem.

Caesar has been murdered by a band of conspirators who feared he intended to make himself king.  The chief conspirator, Marcus Brutus, is one of the most honored men in ancient Rome.  And he has just addressed the same crowd.

As a result, they are now convinced that the assassination was fully justified. They assume that Antony intends to attack the conspirators. And they are ready to attack him—maybe physically—if he does.

But Antony is too smart to do that—at least initially.  

Instead, he assures the crowd: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” 

And he praises the chief conspirator: “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If so, it was a grievous fault—and grievously hath Caesar answered it.”

Then he introduces a line he will repeat with great effectiveness throughout the rest of his speech: “For Brutus is an honorable man—so are they all, all honorable men.”

The “Death of Julius Caesar,” as depicted by Vincenzo Camuccini.

For Antony, the line is ironic. But it serves his purpose to appease the crowd. Later, he will wield it like a sword against the same conspirators.

“He was my friend, faithful and just to me.” And then: “But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.”

Antony then goes on to extol Caesar as the foremost Roman of his time:

  • As a military victor: “You all do know this mantle. I remember the first time ever Caesar put it on. ‘Twas on…that day he overcame the Nervii.”
  • As a humanitarian: “When that the poor hath cried, Caesar hath wept.”

And then, as if against his better judgment, he says: “But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar. I found it in his closet—’tis his will. Let but the commons hear this testament—which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—and they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds.” 

This inflames the crowd’s curiosity and greed: What has Caesar left them? And Antony’s refusing to read the alleged will only makes them determined to hear it.

Now the crowd is entirely at Antony’s disposal. They hurl abuse at the conspirators: “They were traitors!”  “They were villains, murderers!”

So Antony, claiming to read Caesar’s will, pronounces: “To every Roman citizen he gives…seventy-five drachmas.” 

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Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in the 1953 film, “Julius Caesar”

Is this truly Caesar’s will?  And, if so, does it really make this bequest?  No one knows.

In addition, claims Antony, Caesar has left his fellow citizens “his private arbours and new-planted orchards on this side Tiber. He hath left them you, and to your heirs forever, common pleasures, to walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.”

By now the crowd is fired up—against the conspirators.

“Here was a Caesar!” cries Antony.  “When comes such another?”

A citizen shouts: “We’ll burn [Caesar’s] body in the holy place. And with the brands fire the traitors’ houses.”

The crowd disperses—to pay fiery homage to Caesar and burn the houses of Brutus and the other conspirators.

Caesar’s assassins flee Rome for their lives. In time, they will face the legions of Antony and Octavian, the young nephew of Caesar—and choose suicide over capture and execution.

Apparently Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is familiar with Shakespeare’s play.

Because, on March 28, 2019, he used the same repetitive technique in addressing his “Republican colleagues” on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Days earlier, Attorney General William Barr had claimed to summarize the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government had seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—were going on the offensive.

On March 28, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and all other eight Republicans on the Committee demanded in a letter that Schiff resign as its chairman. 

“Mr. Chairman,” the letter read, “since prior to the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017, you’ve been at the center of a well-orchestrated media campaign claiming, among other things, that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

“On March 24, 2019, the special counsel delivered his findings to the Department of Justice….The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election….

“Despite these findings, you continue to proclaim to the media that there is ‘significant evidence of collusion.’

“The findings of the Special Counsel conclusively refute your past and present conclusions and have exposed you as having abused your position to knowingly promote false information, having damaged the integrity of this Committee, and undermined faith in U.S. Government institutions.”

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.

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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 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.

ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 2, 2019 at 12:10 am

On March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr received the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government has seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—suddenly went on the offensive.

On March 28, all nine Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence demanded in a letter that Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) resign as its chairman.  

On the same day, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”

Other Republicans quickly joined the chorus:

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California): Schiff owes “an apology to the American public” and should step down from his post as head of the Intelligence committee.
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel: “They [Schiff and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York] should be removed from their chairmanships. They owe the American people an apology. They owe this President an apology, and they have work to do to heal this democracy because this is our country we are talking about.”
  • South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “He’s getting into conspiracy land and he’s acting like an Oliver Stone type figure. That to me is not helpful to him but I’m not going to ask him to resign from Congress.” 
  • White House Adviser Kelleyanne Conway: “He’s been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years, promising Americans that this President would either be impeached or indicted. He has no right, as somebody who has been peddling a lie, day after day after day, unchallenged. Unchallenged and not under oath. Somebody should have put him under oath and said, ‘You have evidence, where is it?’”

On March 28, Schiff—speaking in a firm and controlled voice—addressed his critics in the House and beyond. 

It was a speech worthy of that given by Mark Antony at the funeral of Julius Caesar.

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

“My colleagues may think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for President as part of what was described as ‘the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign.’ You might think that’s okay.

“My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the President, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the President’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help of the Russians. You might think it’s okay that he took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public.

“You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that when it was discovered a year later that they’d lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the President is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s okay. I don’t. 

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“You might think it’s okay that the Presidential chairman of a campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay.  I don’t.  

“You might think it’s okay that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that the President himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, ‘if they were listening.’

“You might think it’s okay that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

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“You might think that it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that an associate of the President made direct contact with the GRU  [the Russian military Intelligence agency] through Guccifer 2 and Wikileaks, that is considered a hostile Intelligence agency.

“You might think that it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile Intelligence agency had to say, in terms of dirt on his opponent.

“You might think it’s okay that the National Security Adviser-Designate [Mike Flynn] secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that’s all okay.

“You might say that’s just what you need to do to win, but I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.” 

Not one Republican dared challenge even one accusation Schiff had made.

ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2019 at 12:07 am

“Friends, Romans, countrymen—lend me your ears!”

It’s the opening line of a speech once widely memorized by schoolboys in English literature classes. It’s from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and it’s a far more sophisticated piece of writing than most people realize.

Mark Antony, addressing a crowd of Romans at the funeral of his former patron, Julius Caesar, faces a serious problem.

Caesar has been murdered by a band of conspirators who feared he intended to make himself king.  The chief conspirator, Marcus Brutus, is one of the most honored men in ancient Rome.  And he has just addressed the same crowd.

As a result, they are now convinced that the assassination was fully justified.  They assume that Antony intends to attack the conspirators.  And they are ready to attack him—maybe physically—if he does.

But Antony is too smart to do that—at least initially.  

Instead, he assures the crowd: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” 

And he praises the chief conspirator: “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If so, it was a grievous fault—and grievously hath Caesar answered it.”

Then he introduces a line he will repeat with great effectiveness throughout the rest of his speech: “For Brutus is an honorable man—so are they all, all honorable men.”

The “Death of Julius Caesar,” as depicted by Vincenzo Camuccini.

For Antony, the line is ironic. But it serves his purpose to appease the crowd.  Later, he will wield it like a sword against the same conspirators.

“He was my friend, faithful and just to me.” And then: “But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.”

Antony then goes on to extol Caesar as the foremost Roman of his time:

  • As a military victor: “You all do know this mantle. I remember the first time ever Caesar put it on. ‘Twas on…that day he overcame the Nervii.”
  • As a humanitarian: “When that the poor hath cried, Caesar hath wept.”

And then, as if against his better judgment, he says: “But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar. I found it in his closet—’tis his will. Let but the commons hear this testament—which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—and they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds.” 

This inflames the crowd’s curiosity and greed: What has Caesar left them? And Antony’s refusing to read the alleged will only makes them determined to hear it.

Now the crowd is entirely at Antony’s disposal. They hurl abuse at the conspirators: “They were traitors!”  “They were villains, murderers!”

So Antony, claiming to read Caesar’s will, pronounces: “To every Roman citizen he gives…seventy-five drachmas.” 

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Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in the 1953 film, “Julius Caesar”

Is this truly Caesar’s will?  And, if so, does it really make this bequest?  No one knows.

In addition, claims Antony, Caesar has left his fellow citizens “his private arbours and new-planted orchards on this side Tiber. He hath left them you, and to your heirs forever, common pleasures, to walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.”

By now the crowd is fired up—against the conspirators.

“Here was a Caesar!” cries Antony.  “When comes such another?”

A citizen shouts: “We’ll burn [Caesar’s] body in the holy place. And with the brands fire the traitors’ houses.”

The crowd disperses—to pay fiery homage to Caesar and burn the houses of Brutus and the other conspirators.

Caesar’s assassins flee Rome for their lives. In time, they will face the legions of Antony and Octavian, the young nephew of Caesar—and choose suicide over capture and execution.

Apparently Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is familiar with Shakespeare’s play.

Because, on March 28, he used the same repetitive technique in addressing his “Republican colleagues” on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Days earlier, Attorney General William Barr had claimed to summarize the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government has seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—were going on the offensive.

On March 28, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and all other eight Republicans on the Committee demanded in a letter that Schiff resign as its chairman. 

“Mr. Chairman,” the letter read, “since prior to the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017, you’ve been at the center of a well-orchestrated media campaign claiming, among other things, that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

“On March 24, 2019, the special counsel delivered his findings to the Department of Justice….The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election….

“Despite these findings, you continue to proclaim to the media that there is ‘significant evidence of collusion.’

“The findings of the Special Counsel conclusively refute your past and present conclusions and have exposed you as having abused your position to knowingly promote false information, having damaged the integrity of this Committee, and undermined faith in U.S. Government institutions.”

THE PIRATES OF THE RIGHT

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2016 at 12:02 am

As supporters of President-elect Donald Trump demand that “everyone must get behind our President,” it’s worth recalling how Right-wingers “got behind” President Barack Obama.

On April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama when it was located 240 miles southeast of the Somalian port city of  Eyl.

The ship, en route to Mombasa, Kenya, was carrying 17,000 tons of cargo, including 5,000 tons of relief supplies for Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.

As the pirates boarded the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room. To buy time for his crewmen, the captain, Richard Phillips, surrendered to the pirates.

Captain Richard Phillips

The crew later overpowered one of the pirates, and sought to exchange their captive for Phillips. The crew released the pirate, but the other three pirates refused to release Phillips.

The pirates left with Philips in a lifeboat which carried ten days of food rations, water and basic survival supplies.

On April 8, the destroyer USSS Bainbridge and the frigate USSS Halyburton were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden to deal with the hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9.

On April 9, a standoff began between the Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama’s lifeboat, where they continued to hold Phillips hostage

On April 12, marksmen from SEAL Team 6 simultaneously opened fire with telescopic-sighted assault rifles and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat.

U.S. Navy SEALS

The SEALS believed Phillips faced an immediate threat of execution, having received a report that one of the pirates was pointing an AK-47 at his back. 

The SEALS, known for their legendary marksmanship, took out all three pirates with shots to the head.

Phillips was rescued in good condition.

The vast majority of Americans rejoiced. The Maersk Alabama had been the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. And the encounter had ended with the ship and crew safe and its captain rescued without injury.

But not everyone was happy about the outcome. Naturally, the pirates infesting the Somali coastline were infuriated at this setback.

But, surprisingly, there were some Americans who felt more sympathetically toward the Somali pirates than the man who had ordered Phillips’ rescue: President Barack Obama.

One of these was Rush Limbaugh, the American Right’s chief spokesman.

Rush Limbaugh

The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens–and acts as he decrees.

On April 14, 2009, Limbaugh gave his take on the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips:

“The Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers who took a US merchant captain hostage for five days were inexperienced youths, the defense secretary, Roberts Gates, said yesterday, adding that the hijackers were between 17 and 19 years old.

“Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas….

“They were kids. The story is out, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently the hijackers, these kids, the merchant marine organizers, Muslim kids, were upset.

“They wanted to just give the captain back and head home because they were running out of food. They were running out of fuel, they were surrounded by all these US Navy ships, big ships, and they just wanted out of there. That’s the story.

“But then when one of them put a gun to the back of the captain, Mr. Phillips, then bam, bam, bam. There you have it, and three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama.”

And there you have it–an American Fascist making common cause with the heirs of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan.

Click here: President Obama Ordered the Killing of Three Black Muslim Kids – The Rush Limbaugh Show

In Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare lets Marcus Brutus give his reason for murdering Caesar, his onetime friend: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”

Limbaugh and his Rightist stooges could have said they opposed the rescue mission for a similar reasono: “Not that we loved the Somali pirates, but that we hate Obama more.”

Consider the comment then-Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) made on an Iowa radio program on October 3, 2011.

One caller, “Donna,” told Bachmann that the president was a “walking nightmare” who was “blowing up our country.”

“I would vote for Charles Manson before this guy,” she said. “But I’m pulling for you big time, all the way, go Michele!”

“Thank you for saying that,” Bachmann replied.

Thus, Bachmann–who supposedly represented the democratic system–chose as her hero a convicted psychopathic murderer over a legally-elected President.

The rescue of Richard Phillips has been dramatized in the 2013 movie, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks in the title role.

Audiences cheered at the climatic moment when the three pirates met their deserved fate.

But what they didn’t see depicted was Limbaugh’s Greek chorus for the Right–and the sheer hatred he and they have for anyone who doesn’t share their Fascistic views.

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