Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey

In a time when democracy doesn’t seem to work any more, and politicians seem to be under the control of the EU or the UN or anybody but the people who elected them, it might be worth considering the end of the Roman Republic circa 60 BC.

In 100 BC the Roman Republic had been in existence for about 400 years, with a variety of officials elected to a multitude of offices, the highest of which was the position of Consul (of which there were usually two). But by 30 BC it had become an empire under the control of a single emperor. After 30 BC, real power was invested in the emperor Augustus, although consuls and senators continued to be elected to the largely powerless senate.

Between 100 BC and 30 BC, a number of individuals rose to power and prominence. Marcus Licinius Crassus was the richest man in Rome. One of the ways he got rich was to keep an team of firefighters who would show up at house fires and offer to buy the burning houses at knock-down prices, and who would only fight the fire once the sale had been agreed.

Another figure who emerged in this period was Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (aka Pompey), who was a highly successful Roman general. At the time the Roman empire was expanding rapidly, and Pompey campaigned successfully in Spain, Gaul, and Asia, and against the pirates that infested the the Mediterranean.

A third figure who emerged, a little later, was Gaius Julius Caesar, who also became a successful general, bringing the whole of Gaul under Roman control.

Circa 60 BC, these three men formed the first Roman Triumvirate, working together – initially in secret – to further their goals. All (except Crassus) were also elected Consuls at one time or other. Their Triumvirate controlled almost everything in Rome.

First_Triumvirate_of_Caesar,_Crassius_and_Pompey

Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey

The main point I wish to make about them all is that they were all very rich men (with Caesar perhaps the least rich, at the outset). Successful Roman generals would a) capture lots of booty from defeated enemies, and b) subsequently receive the income of taxes raised in captured colonies. They were the super-rich men of their time, in a frugal Roman Republic in which vast personal wealth was hitherto more or less unknown. They could probably buy anything they wanted, including political influence.

The comparison with our time is that we also have quite a few super-rich individuals (the 1%?), who are also able to buy more or less anything they like, including political influence. Names that come to mind, in no particular order, are Gates, Bloomberg, and Soros. There are others with names like Rockefeller and Robert Wood Johnson. They are (or were) successful businessmen in a time of rapid economic growth, which is the modern equivalent of the expanding Roman empire. Many of them share the same political goals (e.g. they almost invariably want smoking bans). And they are mostly men who, as CEOs of large companies, are used to exercising top-down control of their private empires. And who now seem to be turning their attention to the whole world, and seeking to exercise top-down control over that also.

Could it be that we are now living in a time when the American Republic (and UK parliamentary democracy) are coming under the control of an oligarchy of very rich men, much like during the Roman triumvirate? Could this be why we no longer seem to be living in a working democracy, responsive to its electorate (who didn’t want smoking bans), but instead have politicians whose priorities seem to be determined by undemocratic organisations like ASH and the EU and the UN as well as various corporations (e.g. big pharma)?

A similar process seems to have already overtaken the USSR, after whose disintegration a rich oligarchy emerged (made up of people who had bought up state assets cheap), before being ousted by a single ‘emperor’ in the form of Vladimir Putin, who – like Augustus before him – preserves the outward appearance of democracy in the Russian duma.

I don’t know the answer to these questions. But if history is repeating itself, the oligarchs will eventually fall out with each other and fight civil wars (much as in post-Soviet Russia). And many of them will wind up dead.

For Crassus died after being captured by the Parthians at the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, and having molten gold poured down his throat. And Pompey died after losing the battle of Pharsalus to Julius Caesar in 48 BC, and being murdered in Egypt after fleeing there. And Julius Caesar was in turn murdered in 44 BC, beneath the statue of Pompey in Pompey’s Theatre in Rome, where the senate was temporarily meeting.

And if history is repeating itself, we may also expect the emergence of ‘emperors’ or dictators in the Western world, after the oligarchs have fallen out with each other.

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Hunter-gatherer Moralists with Cell Phones

More on lunatic “health” experts from James Delingpole:

There was a letter to the Daily Telegraph last weekend which depressed me more than anything I’ve read in ages. It reported the visit by a social worker to an elderly woman who made her a cup of tea. The young social worker was shocked by what she saw. Not only did this bewildered old woman insist on using leaves rather than a bag but she first poured some hot water into the pot, swirled it round, then wasted it by putting it straight down the sink. Here, clearly, was evidence that grandma was incapable of looking after herself and should be put into care immediately.

This put me in mind of another experience I had recently. I was having dinner with a group of friends in an upmarket London pub and we all wanted our burgers cooked medium rare. ‘They won’t allow it,’ said a local friend in the know. ‘We’re under Westminster Council jurisdiction, here.’ Sure enough, when the time to order came we had to beg and plead with the manager for our burgers not be overcooked, as local health laws now require.

What the old lady was doing was make tea the way it used to be made (and very often still is). You poured hot water into the teapot to warm it up, and then emptied it, put in a few teaspoons of loose tea, and poured boiling water in, and let it stand for a few minutes. These days I just drop and tea bag in a mug, and add boiling water. And this was probably how the young social worker made it too. But now, it seems, you have to make tea in the state-approved fashion if you don’t want to be taken into care. And definitely no Steak Tartare, obviously.

Elsewhere, from a talk given recently in the House of Lords:

According to evolutionary psychology, our minds were mostly formed in that very very long period when we lived as hunter-gatherers, in groups of perhaps at most 150 people, when there was no extensive commerce, little division of labour, and no voluntary employment; when working for others meant literally being a slave. And when there was no technological advance, no money, and no economic growth.

I believe that we are still haunted by the assumptions of such a world, and thus easily confuse employment with exploitation, income and wealth inequality with inequity, and the command of economic resources with dangerous political power.

These aren’t so much economic perceptions as moral ones, since morality is significantly rooted in the sharing of, and struggle for, resources; in tribal solidarity, but also in predation and the demonization of outsiders.

and

I believe that the insight that we are essentially hunter-gatherer moralists with cell phones makes it easier to understand persistent convictions about corporate conspiracy. It also helps explain naïve Do It Yourself Economic beliefs in grand, centrally-planned solutions to allegedly global problems.

I’m no big fan of evolutionary psychology, but I think this may explain some of the very simplistic ways some people seem to think. It’s only a few thousand years since we were living the lives of hunter-gatherers, and now everything has completely changed, and yet it may well be that the moral imperatives of that time still retain a deep hold over us, and make some of us long to go back to a simpler social organisations with top-down control by wise men (aka “experts”).

I quite often think that socialism isn’t the future, but was instead the past. Back then we all worked together to bring in the harvest, or to hunt antelope, and we all ate together around the campfire afterwards, and everybody knew their place in society, and who sat nearest to the fire, and who furthest.

 

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Creeping Fascism

Well, that didn’t take long. Last night I wrote:

The next revelation might well be that she’s actually the real public health minister, and Jane Ellison is just one of her stooges.

H/T Taking Liberties, Deborah Arnott has gone one better and become Jane Ellison:

BBC_Arnott520

 

Moving on from one health fascist to a whole army of them, Chris Snowdon reports:

The medical establishment’s bid for world domination continued today, with the Royal Society for Public Health (whoever they are) demanding the right to decide which shops are allowed to open and where they should be allowed to position their goods. In the same way as Lord Darzi has a fascist desire to turn public parks into ‘Beacons of Health’, this mob wants to live out their Albert Speer fantasies in our town centres.

We believe that business has a responsibility to ensure that what they offer doesn’t undermine the public’s health

Do you? Is that what you think? Because I think it should be up to us what we buy and we can “undermine” our health if we damn well please.

And we want to ensure that local authorities have the powers they need in order to curtail those business practices which may undermine the public’s health and the great work that many public health teams are doing.

Eurgh. The totalitarian tendencies of the ‘public health’ lobby are on full display in this document. There is no aspect of life that they don’t want dominated by lectures and harassment. For example…

On a healthy high street businesses would create opportunities for health optimisation. This could include signposting customers to health services, high street employees engaging customers in healthy conversations, health promotions in local shops, such as health shopping trolleys and outreach activities in pubs and bars, including smoking cessation or health checks.

“Engaging customers in healthy conversations”? What does that even mean?

This what comes of making “health” (which translates into longevity of life) the only measure of value. So next we are to have people having “healthy” conversations on “healthy” high streets. I think these people are monomaniacs, and deeply sick.

And so to simple fascism, with Brendan O’Neill:

And on it goes. Across Europe, from Britain to Scandinavia, from the former Stalinist bloc to the Mediterranean countries, people are being arrested and convicted and fined and jailed for expressing themselves. Not for violence or theft or criminal damage, but for expression; not for action, but for speech; not for behaviour, but for thought.

And those cases are just some of the better known ones. There are hundreds more incidents from the past few years where people in Europe have been arrested under public-order or hate-speech legislation for the crime of saying shocking or offensive or simply non-mainstream things.

Christian preachers who have argued that gay sex is evil; historians who have called into question the Armenian genocide; young Muslims who have expressed support for certain Islamist groups in the Middle East —such people, and many others, are being arrested in their hundreds in 21st-century Europe.

Some are let off, some are punished. But the clear message sent by all this heavy-handed state intervention into the arena of thought and speech is that there are certain things you cannot say; certain views you cannot hold; certain opinions you must not express.

So if you want to see regimes which still, in the 21st century, punish people for singing songs or which destroy decadent art, you don’t have to look to the Islamic State.

It is happening here, all around us, on this apparently Enlightened continent. Freedom of speech no longer exists in Europe.

O’Neill also mentions Holocaust Denial as one form of forbidden speech. I’m no sort of Holocaust Denier myself, but I must say that I have always regarded this to be a very stupid thing to forbid – because the likely effect will be to make everybody into Holocaust Deniers, as what they’re forbidden to say becomes what they must say.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that there are Holocaust Deniers. It may quite simply be impossible for some people to reconcile the Holocaust with, say, a belief in an idea of the existence of an advanced European civilisation, or the perfectibility of human nature, or something like that. So they reject the Holocaust in order to preserve their belief system.

And in fact I wish that Holocaust Deniers were right, and that it did never happen. But the reasons they put forward for their denial (when they are allowed to express them) always seem to me to lack substance. For example, one historian (whose name escapes me) said that the reason for his scepticism grew from the fact that there were no written records of the genocide. There were no train schedules, no written orders, etc. I suppose that for historians who rely on such records, the absence of them must be the equivalent of absence of evidence. But for a non-historian like myself, the absence of such evidence is completely unsurprising. It’s a bit like denying that there was any conspiracy to assassinate JFK, because there are no minutes of the meetings of the conspirators, no records of purchase of telescopic rifles, no detailed plans for the positioning and coordination of the assassins. Once again, I’m not surprised there aren’t any. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a conspiracy. Nor does it mean that there was one.

But if I’m not a Holocaust Denier, I’m most certainly a Global Warming Denier, and even worse a Smoking-Causes-Lung-Cancer Denier. And at the present rate of creeping fascism, I can expect to have my blog closed down, and myself sent to prison.

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Who Runs The Government?

I wrote last night that the government will always do whatever ASH tells them to do.

H/T Simon Clark, we now perhaps know why.

Breaking news.

Whether by accident or design, public health minister Jane Ellison has just revealed what we all secretly thought.

Deborah Arnott, CEO of taxpayer-funded fake charity Action on Smoking and Health, is actually part of the “dedicated” Department of Health team that was last week awarded the Luther L Terry award for Exemplary Leadership in Tobacco Control.

Here’s the picture Jane Ellison (right) tweeted today:

DHgovuk

 

So Deborah Arnott is now revealed to be part of the UK government. The next revelation might well be that she’s actually the real public health minister, and Jane Ellison is just one of her stooges.

I wonder if we’re going to find out that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are more or less running the Department of the Environment (or whatever they call it these days). And the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are running the Ministry of Defence. And the League Against Cruel Sports running the Ministry of Agriculture. And so on.

It may well be that the entire government is being run by zealots from every walk of life. It certainly seems like that. And the MPs we elect never get a look in.

Maybe the Prime Minister doesn’t really run the country either. He recently ruled out running for a third term as Prime Minister. He doesn’t seem to have noticed that he hasn’t had a second term yet. Which seems a bit remiss of him.

I really ought to add that I’m also ruling out running for a third term as Prime Minister

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In The Pocket of ASH

Too sleepy to even think tonight. So here’s Dick Puddlecote on ASH’s latest wheeze:

Paul Burstow is a particularly oleaginous, one-track minded anti-smoker who is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health. This group is secretaried by ASH and acts as the political arm of their lobbying operation.

With this in mind, here is what Burstow presented to Westminster yesterday on the subject of George Osborne’s proposed annual levy on tobacco companies (which he stole from Labour).

The potential benefits to public health can be fully realised only if the levy is used to fund tobacco control action, which is designed to increase the rate of quitting tobacco use over and above what might otherwise be expected as a result of price rises.

If the programme of research proposed in this Bill were carried out, it would show that the recurring cost of tobacco control activity at every level – local, regional and national – could be met from the proceeds of the levy.

Or, to put it another way, the government should steal money from legal businesses and hand it to Burstow’s pals at ASH and other already state-funded fake charities and lobbying quangos.

This latest wheeze was revealed by Philip Davies MP, who said:

The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else. It is like those companies that tell us their washing powder is absolutely magnificent, only to bring out a new one a couple of years later and tell us that the previous one was actually terrible and that really we need to buy the new one. ASH cannot now hand over the keys to the company car; it has to keep going and justifying its role. It will keep coming up with new, innovative solutions to try to keep its jobs, which no doubt the Government will accept, because they do not have a mind of their own and just have to do what ASH tells them to do.

And that’s the awful and depressing truth of the matter: the government will always do whatever ASH tells them to do.

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In What Year?

The Ebola epidemic drags on:

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the head of the United Nations mission against the Ebola virus in Africa, told the BBC he expects the outbreak that began in February 2014 to be vanquished “by the end of the summer.”

In what year?

Noting that Ahmed initially mentioned “August” as the estimated date for the end of the virus’ reign over Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the BBC notes that Ahmed also admitted its prolonged ravaging of West Africa was partially exacerbated by “arrogant” decisions made on the part of United Nations officials. “There was probably a lack of knowledge and there was a certain degree of arrogance, but I think we are learning lessons,” he told BBC. He added, “We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer.”

His remarks on the failures of the UN in combating the Ebola virus follow revelations last week by the Associated Press that the World Health Organization refused to declare an official state of emergency in west Africa over Ebola for fear of disturbing the politics of the region. According to emails the AP obtained, among the reasons listed for not calling the outbreak an emergency were the potential of outrage on behalf of African politicians and the possibility that such an announcement would disturb the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

The WHO isn’t fit for purpose. It’s lost its way. It devotes more of its attention to preventing smoking than preventing communicable diseases.

While the virus’ spread has been curbed significantly, fears are resurfacing that a resurgence of the outbreak is underway. In Liberia, the first Ebola case in two weeks was confirmed over the weekend: a cook in Liberia whom the Liberian Observer reports worked in a “cold bowl shop,” a common eating establishment with few sanitary precautions. Authorities are currently working to find every person the new Ebola patient personally served during the time frame she may have been contagious.

From CNN:

In a scathing new report, published Monday, Doctors Without Borders puts the blame squarely on a “global coalition of inaction” that waited months to respond to the epidemic.

“The Ebola epidemic proved to be an exceptional event that exposed the reality of how inefficient and slow health and aid systems are to respond to emergencies,” said said Dr Joanne Liu, the organization’s international president in the report, “Pushed to the Limit and Beyond.”

For example, by March 21, 2014, 78 victims had died, mostly in Guinea. The World Health Organization said at the time that while the Ebola outbreak is serious, it is “relatively small, still.”

“For the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control required many institutions to fail,” said Christopher Stokes, the director general for Doctors Without Borders. “And they did, with tragic and avoidable consequences.”

Local hospitals were overwhelmed. International response was weak.

Vox:

In Guinea, where the outbreak started, new cases continue to be identified. In the latest reporting period for the week prior to March 15, officials found 95 new Ebola cases — the highest weekly total in the country in 2015, according to the WHO.

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Isn’t Antismoking Anti-American?

The smoker Petunia Winegum, writing sympathetically about smoking on Anna Raccoon..

Virginia tobacco plantations provided a fast track to a fortune for enterprising British colonists as, regardless of the odd voice raised against the practice, the smoking of the addictive plant quickly permeated every strata of society back in the Mother Country. Its widespread popularity inevitably saw the price drop, dealing plantation owners such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson a severe economic blow they perceived as a conspiracy on the part of London. As much as taxation on tea gets the credit for lighting the fuse of the American Revolution, it’s feasible to speculate tobacco had as significant a part to play on the road to independence; I wonder if American health fascists have ever considered that possibility?

…reminded me of my first ever Skype conversation, with Winston Smith of New York state, who told me that America had been “built on tobacco”.

I often see smoking bans as primarily part of a cultural war, masquerading as a health campaign, on absolutely everything that ordinary people regard as normal and right and good. I see the UK smoking ban as primarily a cultural war on a British beer-and-cigarettes way of life, currently personified by Nigel Farage of UKIP. In fact I rather suspect that he’s as much hated as he is for his cultural identity as his politics. His is the world these malcontents grew up in, and which they most want to tear down and consign to history. They want to be rid of not just beer and cigarettes, but also double-decker London buses, bright red post boxes, fox-hunting, and both the Crown and the Church. All must be blown away, perhaps with the help of an army of windmills.

But if there’s a cultural war going on in Britain, how much more so in America? Aren’t American antismokers engaged in a profound cultural war on America and American values? Isn’t antismoking something that is profoundly anti-American? The same can’t be said of Britain or Europe, because neither of them were “built on tobacco”. But if America was built on tobacco, as Winston Smith told me, then it seems to this Briton that American antismoking zealots are making war on the history and the idea and the very essence of America. And that for Americans to defend smoking is to defend America itself from its enemies.

I write this on a day when thousands of people lined the streets of Leicester to welcome the return of King Richard III, where he was met by representatives of the Crown and the Church, and accompanied by knights on horseback, in what was a both a reminder and a re-affirmation of a deep English culture and history – the very sort of thing its enemies wish to denormalise and eradicate.

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