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The rise and fall of the Roman Republic: part 1 of 4: Structure and Background

The rise and fall of the Roman Republic: part 1 of 4: Structure and Background

“Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny,” by Edward J. Watts
“The Storm Before the Storm,: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic” by Mike Duncan
“Ten Emperors: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine,” by Barry Strauss

I’ve recently mentioned that lately I’ve been unable to read most American history books, with their currently unwarranted chipper optimism. Instead my recent reading has focused on other periods of crisis.

One question I’ve been considering is, just how rare, and how stable have Republics historically been? There are few antecedents for the experience of the US, because it has aspires to both be a Republic under the rule of law and simultaneously a superpower.  In fact I believe there are only four, in reverse historical order:

  1. The British Empire (yes, I know, it’s technically a monarchy, but it has been a parliamentary democracy really ever since the Glorious Revolution 400 years ago).
  2. The Dutch Republic (I’m not sure if this really qualifies, since it was more a confederation of principalities, but it was styled a Republic, and it did have global interests.)
  3. The Republic of Venice (this is a dark horse contender, but this Republic lasted almost 1200 years, from roughly 600 A.D. until it was conquered by that other “republican,” Napoleon, in 1797).
  4. The Roman Republic.

In these four posts, I’m going to summarize what I’ve learned about the Roman Republic from the three books that lead this post.

While we’re all familiar with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and probably all had to read Shakespeare’s Tragedy of that name (but really about Brutus and Cassius) in high school, I don’t think much attention has been paid in modern education to the Roman Republic, which lasted 450 years – almost as long as the subsequent western Roman  Empire – and was avowedly the model that inspired the Framers of the American Constitution. None of the books that have come out in the past few years, to my knowledge, have discussed either the Roman Republic or other historical antecedents to the US. I believe studying the rise and demise of the Roman Republic, which during its existence was extremely – probably too – successful, is well worth the effort.

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Former Senator Harry Reid on President Trump

David Axelrod interviewing former Senator Harry Reid on the Axe Files

There is too much going on with Trump and I believe he is purposely doing much of this as a distraction and also to antagonize Democrats. Abandoning the Kurds certainly draws a response from Democrats and most of the Republicans remain silent on things they know to be wrong. For some reason I believe he is setting the stage for something else to occur. If we as Democrats are wrong, all of our actions will reflect poorly on us and for sure he will make fun of our failures.

Reid — a savvy political operator whose moves reshaped Senate procedures such as the elimination of filibusters for most nominations by president, were criticized by Republicans during his time in Congress. Reid in the Axelrod interview acknowledged, Trump’s strategy in discrediting Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry into his actions with Ukraine.

Reid: I don’t think he is an intellectual powerhouse; but, he is basically a very, very smart man. Any argument he involves himself in and no matter what the subject, it is on his terms. You’re always arguing against him. He never, never, is willing to debate an issue on terms that aren’t his.

When asked how he would advise a candidate running against Trump, Reid warned,

Reid: Anyone that thinks Trump’s going to be beaten easily will have another thing coming.

The “evidence is very clear” that Trump was withholding foreign aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine, on a July phone call, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed the foreign aid was withheld so European allies could contribute their fair share. Democrats have accused Trump of a quid pro quo and abusing his power of office.

Reid: All you have to do is have a basic understanding of what the law in America: You can not do what he did and go unpunished.

Trump’s modus operandi has been to deflect on the accusations and make light of them publicly to his followers uses he stumbles into the truth in his words. There is no heart in the Republican party to denounce his transgressions even though they know he is wrong.

I see this in Michigan with the blaming of Democrats for issues with the state roads, schools, Detroit, etc. Except, an exception Michigan Republicans do not acknowledge, they the Republicans have had control of the state Senate since 1992, the state House 2/3rds of the time since 1992, the Governorship 2 of 3 times up till now, and a trifecta twice during the time period 1992 – 2018. Republicans control the legislature now. Typical argument:

“common sense doesn’t need to be documented. It’s very easy to blame everything on Democrats. Mainly because they’re guilty.”

“Sorry, your version of common sense can not alter the reality of what took place.”

It is a distortion of the facts on a national stage which has tickled down to the states and blathered on social media by Republican trolls.

And the politicians in Congress? The politicians are too interested in keeping their jobs as senators and congressional representatives to acknowledge the facts or tell the truth. And Democrats are too quick to jump on Trump’s transgressions and provide entertainment for Trump. He is playing the Democrats and laughing as he has the backing of his followers at the state level similar to the mini-conversation I had who denies reality, and those supporters in the Senate. He knows Democrats are toothless.

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The Ultimate Solution

The Ultimate Solution

Yes, Trump really said that.  The Syrian Kurds, who have been where they are about to be ethnically cleansed out of, are welcoming “the ultimate solution,” just like Jews in you know where were welcoming “the final solution.”  Of course they must accept this because they are “no angels,” “communists,” and “worse then ISIL.” So much for a “post-socialist” Bookchinite cooperative system.  But, hey, they are all so fortunate to have “the ultimate solution.”   What else is there to say?

(Dan here…Rosser updates in comments)

 Well, there is more. Trump has declared that the Syrian Kurds should be “happy” to have this “ulitmate solution” to leave this area they have lived in for 4000 years. And just to emphasize the point, Erdogan has declared that if they do not move in the next few days, he will have his troops “crush their skulls.” How happy can one get?

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Mike Pompeo Reminds Me of Al Capone

Mike Pompeo Reminds Me of Al Capone

How to say in Latin that our Secretary of State is pompous and dishonest as it gets? Oh yea – if one says “quid pro quo” in English, it never happened. These unbelievable stupid excuses for denying what is plainly true – that Trump extorted dirt on Democrats from Ukraine by withholding military aid – is insulting as they are treating us like “chumps” to paraphrase Leon Penatta. But even more insulting is this:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fiercely criticized the House impeachment inquiry, saying his department is being treated unfairly as Democrats seek to remove President Donald Trump from office … “They’re not letting State Department lawyers in the room … they have not let State Department lawyers be part of these hearings,” Pompeo said. “That’s unheard of … I haven’t seen you all report that.”

First of all, we do know that the brave members who served the State Department honorably have turned down Pompeo’s lawyers in lieu of bringing their own so this last sentence of his is a lie as this fact has been reported on. Secondly, Pompeo is whining that HE is being treated unfairly. Look Pompeo is clearly a mobster style criminal – hence my reference to Al Capone. Can you imagine a grand jury investigation of a mob boss where the mob boss gets to send his own lawyer into the testimony before the grand jury? Witnesses might be reluctant to appear out of fear that the mob lawyer would tell his client who to knock off. Pompeo is all about witness intimidation as he fears the truth. And yea – I bet Pompeo and his boss (Trump) would stoop to killing anyone who dares to stand up to their treasonous crimes.

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Unsubstantiated Drug Price Increases

The ICER (Institute for Clinical and Economic Review)

Is an independent and non-partisan research organization. Its purpose is to evaluate the clinical and economic value of prescription drugs, medical tests, and health care and health care delivery innovations. ICER conducts rigorous analyses of all clinical data with key stakeholders to include patients, doctors, life science companies, private insurers, and the government and translate the evidence into policy decisions that lead to a more effective, efficient, and just health care system.

As explained by their site information, ICER is known as the nation’s independent watchdog on drug pricing. It’s drug assessment reports include a full analysis of how well each new drug works and the resulting “clinical value, quality of life, benefit to the health-care system and society” used to establish a price. Using the drug assessment report, a “value-based price benchmark” is established  reflecting how each drug should be priced addressing all four factors. Reports also evaluate the potential short-term budget impact of new drugs to alert policymakers to situations when short-term costs may strain health system budgets and lead to restrictions on patient access. Ensuring objectivity in its work, all ICER reports are produced with funding from non-profit foundations and other sources that are free of conflicts of interest from the life science industry or insurers.

What I have seen in the past is the ICER establishing pricing for new drugs taking into consideration these factors; “the patient’s quality of life, and the resulting benefits to the health-care system, and society.” This is the first time I am seeing the ICER looking at price increases and determining whether the value delivered substantiates a price increase. By the numbers: Here are the drugs (and manufacturers) highlighted in a recent ICER’s report, with the increase in net spending attributable to each drug’s price increase, and citing the increases could not be justified by the value delivered.

The figures reflect the dollars Americans spent on drug copays and other out-of-pocket costs in addition to the higher amounts people paid through health insurance premiums and taxes.

Past the leap is an explanation on how the ICER reached its conclusions for the nine drugs and the limitations to this findings.

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Eeeeeeeeemoluments And How Bad Bruce Springsteen Is

Eeeeeeeeemoluments And How Bad Bruce Springsteen Is

I have almost never watched through a Trump speech to one of his rallies, but I was curious what he would say at the first one after the impeachment inquiry officially started, which he held a few days ago in Minneapolis, supposedly trying to take MN away from the Dems in 2020.  I missed the opening, but listened to all of it after that.

Much of it was just boilerplate stuff he says all the time, much of it blatant falsehoods, but whart we have heard.  News reports focused on his especially nasty remarks about Ilhan Omar, who iis from Minnesota, so he made a special point about denouncing her and those supporting her pretty harshly.  But I want to mention are two odd items I saw no reports on, but that strike me as signs of Trump losing it, setting himself up for trouble in both the impeachment and if he survives that in the election next year.

The first involves the emoluments clause, something I would think he would not be saying anything about.  But he has long seemed to deal with problematic matters by essentially admitting the problems and then just doing a “So what? No big deal” line that he then tries to get established as the line for his followers at Fox News and elsewhere to spout and spread.  However, as with releasing the summary of the phone transcript with Zelensky, I think this may not work out so well for him as this is potentially another article of impeachment.

So there he went.  I do not remember what immediately preceded it, but then he said the word in this long drawn-out way as if to ridicule it: “Eeeeeeeeemoluments?  Then he said, “Whoever has even heard of this word?” (more attempted ridicule)  He then effectively admitted guilts, sort of, but clearly in a way to dismiss it.  “So what if some people I do not even know stayed in some of my hotels?”  Yes, this red shirt-wearing audience ate it up, if not perhaps as raucouslyi and enthusiastically as some other lines.  But there it was, and, of course, they ate up anything and everything he said.

 

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Medicare for All

Medicare for All

The abstract for “Does Medicare Coverage Improve Cancer Detection and Mortality Outcomes?” by Rebecca Mary Myerson, Reginald Tucker-Seeley, Dana Goldman and Darius N. Lakdawalla:

Medicare is the largest government insurance program in the United States, providing coverage for over 60 million people in 2018. This paper analyzes the effects of Medicare insurance on health for a group of people in urgent need of medical care – people with cancer. We used a regression discontinuity design to assess impacts of near-universal Medicare insurance at age 65 on cancer detection and outcomes, using population-based cancer registries and vital statistics data. Our analysis focused on the three tumor sites with recommended screening before and after age 65: breast, colorectal, and lung cancer. At age 65, cancer detection increased by 72 per 100,000 population among women and 33 per 100,000 population among men; cancer mortality also decreased by 9 per 100,000 population for women but did not significantly change for men. In a placebo check, we found no comparable changes at age 65 in Canada. This study provides the first evidence to our knowledge that near-universal access to Medicare at age 65 is associated with improvements in population-level cancer mortality, and provides new evidence on the differences in the impact of health insurance by gender.

I can’t vouch for the results, not having read the article in full, but the study design looks good, provided they avoided the spurious results from higher order nonlinear relationships separated by the discontinuity.

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Extremely Implausible Deniability

“The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland,” is a law abiding citizen and also a team player. He has been subpoenaed and will have to testify about Trump and Ukraine. Also he seems to be very well understood by some guy who is talking and talking and talking with Washington Post Reporters Aaron C. Davis and John Hudson

This mysterious source seems to have the impression that Mr Sondland is going to try to toss Trump under the bus. The extremely funny part about this article is the way in which anonymity can be a total joke. I quote some bits

“Sondland declined to comment through his lawyers.” Sondland says Sondland is keeping his mouth shut. The other guy … well he talks a lot and he seems to know Sondland really really really well and to have both ESP and precognition.

Sondland plans to tell lawmakers he has no knowledge of whether the president was telling him the truth at that moment. “It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,” said the person familiar with Sondland’s planned testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

“Sondland will hold out the possibility that Trump wasn’t truthful”

“Whether he’s deciding it’s getting too hot to handle and he backs off whatever his position really was a month earlier, I don’t know,” the person said of Sondland’s understanding.

“That’s when Sondland, according to the person’s understanding, called Trump, ”

“If people find that incredulous, it strikes me that the incredulity is hindsight bias,” said the person familiar with Sondland’s testimony. “The things that seem so clear to people now didn’t seem so clear in real time.”

“according to Sondland’s perspective.”

“Sondland, while acknowledging a close relationship with Trump, viewed Volker as more of a presence on the Ukraine issue. “

” Giuliani’s requests for investigations seemed odd but not overly concerning to Sondland, the person said.”

“By Sept. 9, Sondland, however, had grown increasingly concerned,”

“The person said Sondland was never briefed about Biden being part of the issue and was not aware of it until the transcript of the phone call was released. “If he had known earlier, he never would have touched this.””

At this point I half expected to read “the person demanded we be particularly careful to protect his anonymity as he mentioned the personal matter that he was wearing Sondland’s underwear while talking with us”

I mean what’s the point of refusing to name someone who happens to be familiar with Sondlands thoughts, feelings and plans.

I think the point is that Trump is so obviously depraved and utterly selfish that only selfish dishonest people will work with him. The are all trying to stab each other in the back. We have a Republic if we can keep it better than they can keep a secret. Frankly, I am beginning to have some hope.

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From Intellectual to influencer

Interesting stuff from the One Handed Economist

From Intellectual to influencer: “In the case of the public intellectual, the institution was the academy and the role was thinking. In the case of the public influencer, the institution is the corporation and the role is marketing. The shift makes sense. Marketing, after all, has displaced thinking as our primary culture-shaping activity, the source of what we perceive ourselves to be.”

How true does this seem?

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Closing The Open Skies

Closing The Open Skies

Trump’s stonewalling on impeachment is the top story, snore.  Lower down and more important is Trump allowing Turkey to attack the Kurds in Syria with the support of Russia. Even GOP senators do not like this and ISIS fighters may get out. But, heck, those will go to Europe, and unlike the Btis and Canadians, the Kurds did not help us out in Normandy in WW II.  And, probably most important, Trump has major business interests in Turkey.

However, much less reported (although covered by David Ignatius in WaPo today), but arguably more important than either is Trump’s decision to withdraw from the “Open Skies” agreement with Russia to allow oversight flights by each over the other to test for “doomsday weapons” development, an idea initially proposed by Eisenhower in 1956.  This continues an ongoing collapse of nuclear arms control agreements, with Trump having withdrawn from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement last year, much to the consternation of most of Europe, although arguably Russia had been in violation of it for a long time.  Back in 2002 Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile agreement, which his people thought was a much more important thing to do than fight al-Qaeda.

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