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Bread and Circuses
by Gaurang Bhatt, MD Bookmark and Share

The Roman empire on which the American empire is fashioned adopted the principle that the ignorant, foolish and mercurial masses could be numbed into submission and passive acquiescence, as long as they were provided bread to blunt their appetites and circuses to blunt their mind to prevent serious rational thinking. This explains China's subsidies for fuel and food and Olympic pageants. In India and Muslim countries, the tools are subsidies for food and fuel and religious incitement.

In America, the Republicans have played this game better than Democrats. Richard Nixon used manipulative advertisements about the fear of crime like 'Vote this time as if your life depends on it'. What he actually did is to move crime from the streets into the White House. Reagan made up imaginary welfare queens bilking the system to divert attention from the bad economy from rising oil prices. Bush Sr., with his Willie Horton ads used the crime theme and the specter of black rapists run amok due to errant and irresponsible humane Democratic policies, to anger white men and intimidate white women to reject the inept Dukakis. Bush Jr., played on public emotions of family values by using gay and lesbian marriage and abortion to fool the blue collar whites to vote against their own economic interests. For his reelection in 2004, he and Karl Rove used the fear of terrorism and the ongoing wars to railroad the electorate a second time.

McCain was a Vietnam war prisoner who probably suffered torture. During his incarceration, his first wife took on the responsibility for the children and kept faith but suffered disfigurement and a prolonged recovery after a car accident. McCain who had become a celebrity after his release, lost no time after his return in resuming his philandering. He settled on a rich heiress, dumped his faithful first wife, parlayed his father-in-law's influence and wealth to get elected first to the House and later to the Senate. During his early Senate career, he was deeply involved in the Keating Five campaign contribution and returned favors scandal, but somehow managed to escape by the skin of his teeth, serious condemnation by the notoriously incompetent, unethical and toothless Congressional ethics committee. Thus he is unable to use the family values slogan and crime has declined due to the aging of the American population.

His choice of Palin as vice-president makes it difficult to hype the family values theme or harp on lack of experience. Gay marriage and abortion are becoming pass' with the judiciary at state and federal level sanctioning them. So now he is left to float all his hopes on his commander-in-chief credentials dinghy, while stealing the sail of the slogan of change from his rival Obama. This pig won't fly despite the lipstick. Bombing civilians from a plane on an aircraft carrier gives one no war management or security expertise and as General Wesley Clark rightly pointed out neither does being shot down by anti-aircraft fire and being held prisoner for five years. As to change and blaming Washington, it doesn't run well in Peoria or America when the talk comes from a Washington insider for a quarter century, whose top campaign managers are former lobbyists. Maybe like Nixon who cleared crime from the streets to bring it in the White House, what McCain will do is clear 'K' street of lobbyists and bring them into the White House and save the nation some gas money by eliminating the commuting expense of lobbyists.

Carter and Clinton, the two Democratic presidents of the last forty years also masqueraded under false colors. The first rode into the presidency because of his pious credentials with a nation reeling from Watergate scandals but then birthed Al Qaeda, the latter used the support of Labor only to succumb to Robert Rubin's wiles to pass NAFTA, eviscerate the unions, repeal the Glass Steagall Act to generate the current trillion dollar economic debacle, and continue the de-industrialization of America to generate obscene profits for his rich contributors. The problem really lies with the parties and candidates desiring to win office even by sacrificing principles and integrity, while the press colludes and the electorate is apathetic, ignorant and unintelligent. The major parties provide the circuses of conventions with delegates as cheerleaders and the media distract attention by trivia, scandals and celebrities irrelevant to the real problems.

Bush Sr., criticized Reagan's economics as Voodoo during the primary campaign, yet jumped to accept the selection as a vice presidential candidate, confirming his lack of integrity and abandoning his principles. The same applies to Biden's behavior and Obama's abandonment of his pastor, threats to Iran, change in troop withdrawal plan from Iraq and the ritual Haj of all candidates of both major parties to AIPAC with resultant public proclamation of their change of faith by shouting 'There is no god but AIPAC', without exercise of judgment, prudence or concern for America's interests. As Mearsheimer and Walt have made so abundantly clear, no one wants to jeopardize Israel's safety or survival, but no American should want to jeopardize America's safety and survival for the benefit of any ally. For nations altruism is only practiced reciprocally and sometimes not even then, as John Adams, the second president wisely chose (and as Washington's farewell address so beautifully expounded) during the post revolutionary war between France and Britain.

An even greater problem that the American emperor faces was also faced by Rome and brought about its decline and fall. It is running out of bread due to the economic hurricanes that devastate its infrastructure, increase unemployment and shrink its economy and drive it deeper into debt leading to default or debasement of its currency. And of course the barbarians are massing and clamoring at the gates.  

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