Saturday, July 4, 2015

GOP: When the Billionaires Get Edgy

The None Too Promising Strategy of the Desperate GOP

A Quick Visit to Ancient Rome
How to transform a Republic into an oligarchy
and then into a perpetual dictatorship.

Naturally, when contemporary events seem to have risen to a state slightly more dynamic than the norm, we find ourselves roaming about through history in search of precedents -- similar situations which have occurred before -- in the hope of "tuning" our speculation about likely outcomes in our modern times. As MeanMesa watches the quite unusual "turn of events" with respect to contemporary American politics, it becomes clear that the evidence may be, shall we say, "begging for mis-interpretation."

Although the progressive "agenda" has definitely scored a few notable "wins" in the past few weeks, the "combat arena"  which defines strategic conditions in the on-going campaign to convert the democracy into an oligarchy hasn't really changed much. Rather than becoming ecstatic and foolishly emboldened by a couple of unexpected Supreme Court decisions, MeanMesa suggests that the tactical outlook may well have become even less stable than before.

Why make such a gloomy prediction?

The billionaires are becoming restive -- and, they should be.

To sew a little flesh on these bones, let's take a quick look at the history of the ROMAN TRIUMVIRATES. Don't groan. This may be more relevant than it appears at first glance.

In the late [Roman] Republic, two three-man political alliances are called triumvirates by modern scholars, though only for the second was the term triumviri used at the time to evoke constitutional precedents:

Rome's First Triumvirate [image]

The so-called First Triumvirate was an informal political alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great") and Marcus Crassus. The arrangement had no legal status, and its purpose was to consolidate the political power of the three and their supporters against the senatorial elite. After the death of Crassus in 53 BCE, the two survivors fought a civil war, during which Pompey was killed and Caesar established his sole rule as perpetual dictator.

Rome's Second Triumvirate [image]
The Second Triumvirate was recognized as a triumvirate at the time. A Lex Titia formalized the rule of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The legal language makes reference to the traditional tresviri. This "three-man commission for restoring the constitution of the republic" (tresviri rei publicae constituendae) in fact was given the power to make or annul law without approval from either the Senate or the people; their judicial decisions were not subject to appeal, and they named magistrates at will. Although the constitutional machinery of the Republic was not irrevocably dismantled by the Lex Titia, in the event it never recovered. Lepidus was sidelined early in the triumvirate, and Antony was eliminated in civil war, leaving Octavian the sole leader.   
 [Read the entire article here:  TRIUMVIRATE/WIKI]

Of course there have been many volumes of scholarly histories written about this period of Rome's politics, but MeanMesa sees one way to look at these events which has a chilling relevance to today's politics in the United States.

Rome had, among its citizens and other residents, an impressive collection of the extremely wealthy, powerful. Some were Senators [from the WIKI article, "senatorial elite"], but beyond even this prominence we see the Roman nobles whose ambitions would place them as "triumvirs" in the Triumvirate. Of course perhaps the most commonly known was Julius Caesar. When he led his 13th Legion, the Gemina, south across the Rubicon in January, 49 BC, the act effectively ended the old Roman Republic. The "senatorial elite" famously murdered him 5 years later on the Ides of March, 44 BC. [The first Triumvirate - above - had ended with the deaths of Crassus and Pompey a few years before the Rubicon crossing.]

The Second Triumvirate began almost at once after Caesar's assassination and last for ten years, 43 BC to 33 BC. [Read the WIKI articles here: First Triumvirate and Second Triumvirate]

This class of "problem Romans" was populated by successful generals, extremely wealthy oligarchs and noble men. Once the Rubicon "had been crossed," the old restraints of the Republic faded away rather quickly, leaving these ultra-powerful types to either "make a deal" with each other or "fight it out" with each other in civil war. Ultimately, at various times they did both. Apparently one of the few issues they agreed on was that the Roman Senate had to be castrated to secure the concept, durability and safety of this new position of "Roman Emperor" as a valid form of future government.

Of course there were a few complaints about the "new order of things" flying around Rome for a while -- especially from the Senate, but after some serious "pre-Imperial house keeping" and a few funerals things quieted down nicely, and the Romans had one Emperor after another for the next five hundred years. The "Roman Plan" for this "housekeeping" usually included confiscating the entire wealth, land, slaves and everything else from the "estates" of the deceased complainers, making the Triumvirs continually richer and more powerful as they went along.

Now, on to the "chilling relevance" part of the post.

Twenty or Thirty Greed Crazed Billionaires Are Simply 
Too Many for a Well Behaved Triumvirate
Plus, it's not likely that US oligarchs are inclined to...uh..."share."
So -- is it "pig skinin' time" in the old US Republic?
Will the Oval Office become the "Emperor's Chair"...

There are around 20 billionaires [FORBES' count as of 2013] in the US with more than $22 Bn in personal wealth. They tend to be a little secretive -- especially those exhibiting the worst behavior. Four of the twenty are Waltons of the WAL-Mart dynasty; two of them are the Koch brothers of the John Birch Society dynasty; there are Blomburg and Buffet with their respective investment dynasties; Israeli war monger and Las Vegas thug Adelson from his gambling dynasty; and finally, Gates, Ellison, Bezos and Page from the Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon and Google dynasties in that order.

When the field is "opened up" to additional US billionaires with wealth less that $22 Bn, around eighty or so more join the list. [Source: FORBES - US billionaires 2013] This part of the post is titled, "Twenty or Thirty Greed Crazed Billionaires..." because in the United States MeanMesa estimates that it  will require stable dynastic wealth of at least $20 Bn or more to claw and scratch one's way up from every day oligarch to potential Triumvir.

While there is no means for MeanMesa to "read the minds" of these plutocrats so as to determine their "favorite hobbies" in terms of modifying the nation even more as they search for their "advantages," we can speculate quite comfortably about what a few "possibilities" might be.

The Wal-Mart Waltons, for example, have a real appetite for not becoming snarled in a bunch of expensive labor regulations about minimum wages, benefits, unions and so on. The allegedly "libertarian" Koch brothers hate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every environmental regulation ever written. Sheldon Adelson, aside from his geriatric wet dreams of American H-Bombs plummeting out of the skies over Iran, would cut off his right hand for legalized, international on-line gambling. The "quiet Cuban" billionaires of Florida [If it's Havana, it's usually the US of the primary reasons the Castro revolution became popular in the first place.] would like a resurgence of the Caribbean Cold War -- an opportunity the parasitic military procurement corporatists would also find "appetizing."

When we look at these "junior Triumvir wanna'bes," it's not too difficult to pin point a few "favorite interests" for each one based on what information about them has been allowed to reach the media. It must be added, here, that a few of the names of our list really don't have such despicable notoriety at all. [In 1933 FDR's name would have been included.]

Nonetheless, we are, more than likely, headed for the "great divvying up" period as the most "potent" among the oligarchs gradually commence "thinning the herd." Perhaps the "big boys" are already planning for these more healthy types to have futures running more along the lines of "deceased Senators."

Of course both the reputations and reliability of these plutocratic "puppet masters" make void any possibility of their becoming Triumvirs in persona if anything akin to an election is involved. This means that as they select their personal "race horse" to become a well financed candidate, they must also take tactical steps to manage the great power which accompanies the Oval Office.

There can be no "gentleman's agreement" when there are no gentlemen. No matter how wealthy and powerful the oligarch might be, an elected President could theoretically overwhelm him with his civil authority. As a result there will be no "hand shake" on the way up. Instead it will inevitably become an issue of dependable and continuing "leverage," and that "leverage" will be exceedingly material. A threat of physical assassination can be countered by the White House Praetorate [Secret Service], and raw extortion or black mail could be frustrated by the FBI on executive orders to the DoJ. 

Continuing oligarchic control of a President, once elected, will be woven from dark thread indeed.

Having posed these arguments of "chilling similarity," it's clearly time for this post to begin discussing Republicans -- and especially the antics of billionaire controlled Republican Presidential hopefuls. Such a topic will, unavoidably, also include the picturesque, although occasionally terrifying, interplay between the billionaires and the few Democrats who are also aspiring to be candidates.

We needn't strain ourselves much at all to see these "structural similarities" unfolding before our eyes in this democracy.

Settling On the American Triumvirate:
Sorting Out the Finalists
Shelter in Place - Basements and Deep Wilderness Best Choices

Proposed Puppets [FOX]
Although clearly a bit shabby, these are the thoroughbred "ponies" US billionaires have selected for the big race from herds at the corporate "equestrian plantations." These steeds have been chosen above all the other "lesser hay burners" based on their obedient natures and manageability.

Once the "faces" had been chosen, it was to be simply a matter of applying enough billionaire dollars to re-frame individual cases of unquestioned incompetence into a  convincing "Presidential image" which could effectively focus the Super PACs' propaganda efforts and resources.

While the old Romans apparently only had few "five star" oligarchs vying for the top job in the ancient city, the modern United States is even richer and more populated, hence, capable of producing a far larger clutch of ambitious billionaires. Further, the Romans of Triumvirate days relied primarily on public speeches to communicate the persuasive "desirability" of autocratic rule, but this new US bunch enjoys a saturating industrial media -- all conveniently under corporate, oligarchic control -- to twist facts, incite outrage and instill fear.

Competing Puppet Masters
Whose Pony Will Win? [Brookings_Inst.]
Regardless of their individual 10 digit "port folios," this Patrician collection is actually growing quite "concerned" about how things are now going in their take over bid. As recently as two or three years ago everything seemed to be humming along "roses, just roses" for them, but the GOP's zombie-like, narcotic unanimity in which they had invested so heavily seems to be "blowing off a few fenders" now that they are realistically facing the prospect of competing with each other for total ownership of the final grand prize.

Murdoch's FOX emerged as the "unwilling spoiler" when it announced that there were simply too many for one stage in the FOX staged [and choreographed] "debates." What was a unified conservative "issue matrix" has been repeatedly fractured by conflicting ambitions among the oligarchs.

The more closely the "dream prize" approaches, the more the degree of cooperation and unity among the king maker hopefuls declines. Now, each individual billionaire is frantically trying to regain control of the luxury cruise ship even as its stern finally begins its descent below the waves of a cold ocean. Odds are good that the current oligarchic control of the Senate has become a lost cause, and even control of the House of Representatives -- now infamous under the brilliant bungling of Speaker Boehner -- may also be on the table.

As always, "joyfully uncontrollable," the Democrats have finally stumbled in on the scene of the slaughter. Let's have a look.

The Oligarchs' Horror Movie Begins
Hillary was just a warm up,
next comes Bernie.

Darn. Everything seemed
to be going so well. 
You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.
Winston Churchill

Even the utterly disaffected voters are considering the possibility of trying it just one last time.

As recently as a few months ago the hill billies and bigots of the GOP's base were reassuringly apoplectic in a continuing state of media induced, life threatening outrage. The current mouth pieces for the oligarchs' scheme were happily blathering about "the will of the people" as they nursed their 2014 "mandate" from 19% of the country's registered voters. Their in-house [network media], "puppy farm" opinion polling [Breaking News! THIS is what the puppies think!] was hinting at something close to a whimsically blissful 50%-50% chance for them in the 2016 election only last April.

Oh what a difference a few weeks can make!

For starters the oligarchs' obedient media which was supposed to be ushering in the final stages of the take over was, instead, slowly rotating blindly in the equivalent of a modern "editorial quandary." They had promised that they were prepared to handle Hillary, but handling Bernie was a "horse of a different color." Two months ago the media moguls, already salivating at the quadrennial prospect of receiving billions in political advertising dollars, envisioned this a no more than a dreamy, uneventful repetition of every other election since Eisenhower.

The network moguls were stunned as they realized that there was definitely not going to be enough "media lipstick" to turn this thing into another make-believe football game. Politics had suddenly become "real" again, and politics apparently intended to remain that way. The "voice" of oligarch check books had abruptly become much quieter.

Inside the artificial "conservative" political machines the command structure is faltering. Those reactionary "ground troops" which had once seemed so promising were now turning on one another -- so are their bosses. As usual in times of stress the order had been given to the Catholic Supremes to dole out a "little something" to quiet the masses [while not injuring their billionaire masters...], but this time it didn't seem to be having the desired effect. Even with same sex marriage and health care they just seemed to just be getting even wilder.

Everything appeared to be "rolling along" relatively well for the reactionaries for a while. The presumptive Democrat, Mrs. Clinton, was not only popular but also irritatingly "off target" as far as converting the country to an oligarchy was concerned, but these "short comings" only posed a temporary obstacle. The billionaires' take over scheme had run into this sort of thing before, and it had always turned out to be little more than a passing cloud.

Then came the actual "bull in the China closet" - Sanders. Worse, at least worse for the now trembling plutocrats, he didn't arrive alone, and he didn't arrive quietly. The Vermont Senator is giving speeches to crowds double the size of any attracted to anyone else -- Republican or Democrat -- so far.

Sanders, unlike Hillary, is not just an irritant. He looks much more like a dragon slayer. MeanMesa predicts that this "dragon slaying" status is only going to become even more terrifying as the days come and go now, and that would be terrifying to not only Mrs. Clinton's campaign but also to the dog food cart of Republicans, and especially to the Owners of the Republican Party, that is, to the oligarchs lurking in the shadows beyond the political "lights."

Frantic Wall Street CEOs are renting U-Haul vans to deliver their checks to any Republican candidate who promises to save them from Sanders. Some of them will soon even be desperately considering pumping their millions into Hilary's campaign.

These hedgies, banksters and other anti-democracy riff raff are feeling disturbingly un-sheltered, that is, naked. The usual hired media coverage which has toiled so valiantly to make the denizens of the clown car seem somewhat legitimate is fracturing. Oh sure, as ordered the networks have avoided Sanders' existence to date, but the scale of the story is rapidly escaping the alphabet networks' capacity to squelch it.

The industrial corporate media moguls are completely befuddled -- they have no idea what to do now. Their stale, repetitive pattern of re-imaging political contests into symbolic football games has suddenly become irrelevant. They may attempt to solve this by increasing the RPMs of their "rotating wheel" style of editorial coverage, but the media will realize soon enough: "The jig is up."

No one will be pleading with these network executives "not to jump."

MeanMesa's advice to the billionaires. Offer Bernie Sanders $100 Mn for a promise that he'll quit scaring you. It'll be a great investment! Good luck. Just think of it as a test for your old maxim: "Everyone has a price."

Hmmm. What an absolutely delightful turn of events.

Maybe we should be talking $200 Mn ... or maybe more. Why not $200 Bn?

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