Friday, June 01, 2012

Parallel Lives: Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Barack H. Obama

[Commanders like Sulla*] were men who had risen to the top by violence rather
than merit; they needed armies to fight against one another rather than against the
public enemy; and so they were forced to combine the arts of the politician with
the authority of the general. They spent money on making life easy for their
soldiers and then, after purchasing their labour in this way, failed to observe that
they had made their whole country a thing for sale and had put themselves in a
position where they had to be slaves of the worst sort of people in order to become
the masters of the better.
(Plutarch, pp. 8182)
Presidents, like Barack Obama**, are men who had risen to the top by politics and public relationsrather than merit: they needed blocks of voters ( SEIU, ACORN, G.E., NBC, ABC, CBS, NYT, Chicago Tribune, WaPo, ACLU, DNC, NOW & etc.) to rail against any opposition ( Rep. Bobby Rush, Jack Ryan, Allan Keyes, Sarah Palin. Sen. John McCain) rather than argue for the public good; and so they were forced to combine the arts of the politician with  voice of a demagogue.  They spent money making life easy for their friends and then, after purchasing their labour in this way, failed to observe that they had made their whole country a thing for sale and had put themselves in a position where they had to be advocates of the worst sort of people in order to become the masters of rest.

*Sulla, Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
(138-78 BC)

Lucius Cornelius Sulla stemmed from a good, though not very wealthy Roman family. He came to prominence most of all in the Social War (91-89 BC). When in 88 BC Mithridates, King of Pontus, attacked the Roman province of Asia, where a alleged 80'000 Romans and Italians were massacred, the senate decided on Sulla, who was then one of the current consuls, to be commander of the army against Mithridates.
But the Tribune of the People Suplicus Rufus called for the command to be given to Marius. The concilium plebis backed this proposal. But Sulla proved a man not to be messed with. He marched on Rome at the head of six legions and forced the reversal of this decision.
This type of action was to prove typical of Sulla's methods.
After successfully completing his campaign against Mithridates Sulla returned back to Italy. Other than having command of a battle-hardened army he held no office. Sulla was not to wait for anyone to offer him any political position. Far more he simply marched on Rome and took it by force. The consuls Gnaeus Papirius Carbo and Marius the Younger could not raise an army powerful enough to fend him off. And so Sulla took charge. He was not to take power as an elected consul, but in the position of dictator, a post specially set aside in the Roman constitution for times of military crisis.
Though this was not a military crisis and Sulla hardly cared. The position simply allowed him complete power.
He now introduced a new judicial device called 'proscription'. This meant the publication of lists of any people he deemed undesirable. Rewards would be made to those who brought them in, be they dead or alive. It goes without saying that Sulla used this device in order to annihilate any political opposition, rather than to track down any real criminals.
40 senators and 1600 equestrians supposedly died in this first wave of gruesome proscriptions.
Sulla undoubtedly had all the hallmarks of a Stalin, Mussolini or Hitler. He even revelled in calling assemblies at which he would hold grand speeches, threatening and intimidating all those he claimed to be his enemies, as well as his own audience.
But dictators like Sulla don't just stop killing because the names on the list are exhausted. Instead he began adding new names of people who had become 'enemies of the state'. There was no place people, once on those lists, were safe. Even those who took refuge in temples were killed. Some might have ben hauled before him and thrown at his feet. They were killed nonetheless. Others fell victim to the mob, being literally lynched by a bloodthirsty crowd. Those suspects who only had all their belongings confiscated and were then thrown out of Rome were indeed the lucky ones among those who felt Sulla's wrath.
and shoudl any have managed to flee, then an intricate network of spies sought to track them down overseas.
Alas, Sulla was not only to be remembered as a butcher. He also used his position to reform the constitution. Strangely for a man who himself ignored the senate's wishes and who killed an unprecedented number of its members, he did much to restore its authority.
After the damaging conflicts with the Gracchi brothers and their infamous use of other assemblies, the senate was now reaffirmed as the highest body, entitled to veto any decision reached by another assembly.The power held by the Tribunes of the People was virtually abolished, as they now no longer possessed the power to challenge the senate.
Membership to the senate was roughly doubled, many equestrians and magistrates of other cities being added to their ranks.
Further he introduced a law by which any new member to be admitted to the senate had at least to have held the position of quaestor beforehand. This was no doubt to assure the senate remained a body of political and administrative experience.
Also, in order to prevent the re-emergence of serial office holders like the Gracchi, Sulla restored the ten year waiting period before one could hold the same public office a second time.
Additional to this, perhaps to prevent any meteoric rise to power by people like the Gracchi brothers, he introduced a rule by which anyone holding office would have to wait at least two years before he could be nominated for the next higher office.
Of course such restrictions were to make the struggle for power among the ambitious young sons of powerful families all the more intense.
Sulla also instituted legal reforms, which created new courts for particular types of crime. Also his reforms highlighted between civil and criminal legal procedures. Here, too, the senate found its authority strengthened, as Sulla's reforms allowed only senior senators to sit as judges.
Unusually for a tyrant, Sulla retired in 79 BC. He spent his last years on his country estate, writing his memoirs. Within a short time he died of old age.


Biography forBarack Obama More at IMDbPro »

Date of Birth
4 August 1961Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Birth Name
Barack Hussein Obama II

The One
No Drama Obama

6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Biography
Barack Obama was born to a white American mother, Ann Dunham, and a black Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr., who were both young college students at the University of Hawaii. When his father left for Harvard, she and Barack stayed behind, and his father ultimately returned alone to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist. Barack's mother remarried an Indonesian oil manager and moved to Jakarta when Barack was six. He later recounted Indonesia as simultaneously lush and a harrowing exposure to tropical poverty. He returned to Hawaii, where he was brought up largely by his grandparents. The family lived in a small apartment - his grandfather was a furniture salesman and an unsuccessful insurance agent and his grandmother worked in a bank - but Barack managed to get into Punahou School, Hawaii's top prep academy. His father wrote to him regularly but, though he traveled around the world on official business for Kenya, he visited only once, when Barack was ten.

Obama attended Columbia University, but found New York's racial tension inescapable. He became a community organizer for a small Chicago church-based group for three years, helping poor South Side residents cope with a wave of plant closings. He then attended Harvard Law School, and in 1990 became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He turned down a prestigious judicial clerkship, choosing instead to practice civil-rights law back in Chicago, representing victims of housing and employment discrimination and working on voting-rights legislation. He also began teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, and married Michelle Robinson, a fellow attorney. Eventually he was elected to the Illinois state senate, where his district included both Hyde Park and some of the poorest ghettos on the South Side.

In 2004 Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, representing Illinois, and he gained national attention by giving a rousing and well-received keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. In 2008 he ran for President, and despite having only four years of national political experience, he won. In January 2009, he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, and the first African-American ever elected to that position.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Michelle Obama(3 October 1992 - present) 2 children

Trade Mark
When making informal public visits, often rolls up shirt sleeves and "joins in" on a job site.
Passionate, fiercely idealistic speeches.
Distinctive, clipped manner of speaking.

His first name comes from the word that means "blessed by God" in Arabic.
In the Kenyan town where his father was born, the long-brewed "Senator" brand of beer has been nicknamed "Obama."
U.S. Senator from Illinois since 3 January 2005.
Won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word for the CD version of his autobiography "Dreams From My Father" (2006).
Lives in Hyde Park (Chicago).
On "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (1993), he revealed that President George W. Bush nicknamed him "Bama" and "Rock".
The movie he saw on his first date with Michelle Obama was Do the Right Thing (1989).
Related to Park Overall.
Has two daughters, Malia Obama (born in 1998) and Sasha Obama (born in 2001).
Candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 US presidential election.
Several celebrities including; Halle BerryGeorge ClooneySheryl CrowBob DylanTopher GraceMacy GrayBruce SpringsteenOprah Winfrey Tom HanksScarlett JohanssonHayden PanettiereZachary QuintoEddie Murphy and John Cleese support his 2008 presidential campaign. Robert De Niro gave his endorsement at the same rally where Barack was endorsed by Caroline and Ted Kennedy.
Enjoys playing basketball and poker.
At his wife's suggestion, he quit smoking before his campaign to win the Democratic nomination began.
His paternal relatives still live in Kenya.
Confessed teenage drug experiences in his memoirs "Dreams from My Father".
One of his ancestors was Mareen Duvall, also an ancestor of actor Robert Duvall.
Shares his surname with a small city in western Japan, which means "small shore" in Japanese.
Plays basketball.
Born to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. (1936-1982) and Ann Dunham (1942-1995), married from 1960 to 1965.
Named one of Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world" list in 2005 and 2007.
Chosen as one of "10 people would change the world" by New Statesman magazine (2005).
Won his second Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for "The Audacity of Hope" (2008).
On June 3, 2008 he won the Montana primary election giving him enough delegates to become the first Black American presidential candidate to win a major political party's presumptive nomination for the office of President of the United States.
Is a die-hard Chicago White Sox fan.
More than 215,000 people attended his speech in Berlin on 24 July 2008.
Has one half-sister, Maya, born to his mother and stepfather in 1970.
Has his look-alike puppet in the French show "Les guignols de l'info" (1988).
Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham died Sunday November 2, 2008 in the early evening in Honolulu from cancer. She was 86.
Is the first African-American man to be elected President of the United States (November 2008).
When elected President, he won the battleground states of Florida, Virginia and Colorado - all of which had voted Republican in 2004.
Is the first American president to be born in Hawaii.
Was the 27th lawyer to be elected American president.
Was elected to be the 44th president of the Unites States of America on 4 November, 2008.
As a child growing up in Hawaii, his classmates knew him as Barry.
Presidential campaign slogan: "Change we can believe in".
Is primarily of Kenyan, Irish, and English ancestry.
Favorite movies are Casablanca (1942), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Godfather (1972), and The Godfather: Part II (1974).
Is a fan of "The Wire" (2002).
First ever US President to address a Muslim community at an inaugural speech.
Shares the same birthday as long-time White House correspondent and journalism legend, Helen Thomas. On her 89th birthday (and his 48th), they celebrated by blowing birthday cupcakes together in front of the press corps.
First United States Senator to be elected President since John F. Kennedy.
October 2009, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Fourth US President to win a Nobel Peace Prize (2009) after Theodore Roosevelt (1906), Woodrow Wilson (1919) and Jimmy Carter (2002).
Defended his decision not to issue a formal written statement on the death of controversial pop star Michael Jackson on 25 June 2009.
Half-brother of Maya Soetoro-Ng.
Brother-in-law of Konrad Ng.
Merited a position in Time magazine's - The 100 Most Influential People in the World ("Leaders" category) - with an homage contributed byDavid Remnick (Issue: May 10, 2010).
Received a gift of a Portuguese water dog from Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife Victoria. Because the particular breed is reportedly hypo-allergenic, the First Family and friends were highly unlikely to suffer any allergic reactions in the pet's presence. [2009]
Obama's appearance on "The View" (1997) (29 July 2010) made him the first ever sitting US President to appear as a guest on a daytime TV talk show.
Obama's birthplace of Hawaii makes him the first U.S. president not born in the continental United States.
Brother-in-law of basketball player, coach and author Craig Robinson.
The character of Matt Santos in 'The West Wing' is based on him.
The first US President to be born after the Vietnam War started.
Is a big fan of the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man and collected the comics as a youth.
Counts "Homeland" (2011) as one of his favorite TV shows.
First U.S. President to be personally presented with an Apple iPad 2 by Steve Jobs before it was officially released domestically.
Notable for being the first United States President to participate in social media. He is the first President to have a personal Facebook page and a Twitter account, and the first President to hold Q&A sessions via those forums and YouTube. He is also the first sitting President to own and use an iPod, Blackberry (custom made for security purposes), and iPad.
His daily newspapers are The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He claims to not watch cable TV news stations.
Introduced the 50th anniversary television broadcast of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
Can speak Indonesian to a certain degree, having lived in Indonesia for a number of years during his childhood.
The TV presidential election campaign commercial for Obama featured, Carl ReinerGarry MarshallLarry GelbartValerie HarperDanny DeVitoRhea PerlmanJerry Stiller and Anne Meara (slogan: "This Ain't Funny, it's a serious election. Don't vote out of fear, vote for hope - Vote for Obama").

Personal Quotes
[from keynote speech given at the 2004 Democratic party national convention] There's not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war, and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
And it lives on in those Americans -- young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American, gay and straight -- who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was President of the United States of America.
[regarding former President Bill Clinton's support for his wife--and Obama's opponent for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination--Hillary Rodham Clinton] Sometimes I don't know who I'm running against.
[when asked whether he would call on Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton to release their tax returns, after Hilary loaned $5 million of her own money to her campaign] I'll just say that I've released my tax returns. That's been a policy I've maintained consistently. I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from. But I'll leave it up to you guys to chase it down . . . I think we set the bar in terms of transparency and disclosure that has been a consistent theme of my campaign and my career in politics.
In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
When I am this party's [Democratic party] nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq; or that I gave [George W. Bush] the benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I supported Bush-Cheney [former VP Dick Cheney] policies of not talking to leaders that we don't like. And he will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is okay for America to torture - because it is NEVER okay. That's why I am in it. As President, I will end the war in Iraq. We will have our troops home in sixteen months. I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda. And I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century - nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now."
This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
Change is coming to America.
In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.
In Washington, the call this the Ownership Society, and it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life's lottery, that we're the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won't be the chump who Donald Trump says: "You're fired!"
In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.
In Washington, we call this the Ownership society, and it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life's lottery, that we're the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won't be the chump who Donald Trump says: "You're fired!"
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and the structural feminists and punk rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism and patriarchy. When we ground our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.
(visiting Ireland) My name is Barack Obama of the Moneygall O'Bamas. And I've come to find the apostrophe we lost along the way.
Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow a part of the larger story of how we're going to reshape America in a way that is less mean spirited and more generous. I mean I really hope to be a part of the transformation of this country.
I'm not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me. And I'm not interested in isolating myself. I feel good when I'm engaged in what I think are the core issues of the society, and those issues to me are what's happening to poor folks in this society.
It's crucial that people don't see my election as a sign of progress in the broader sense that we don't sort of point to a Barack Obama any more than you point to a Bill Cosby or a Michael Jordan and say "Well things are hunky dory".
To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, or at least as it's been interpreted and Warren court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or the state government must do on your behalf, and that has shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.
Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
It's great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom, or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.
You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we're talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them and frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective. (May 9, 2012)
I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married. (May 9, 2012)

Where Are They Now
(November 2008) Elected the 44th President of the United States of America


Unknown said...

Sulla unilaterally rewrote large portions of Roman law. The Senate ceded power to him voluntarily. This is another parallel to the life of Barack H. Obama. Fortunately, Sulla's laws were corrected after his retirement. Unfortunately, his time in power hastened the end of the Roman Republic which even future emperors, such as Claudius, were unable to restore.

pathickey said...

Well said, Bill. It seems that the Praetorian Progressives want Claudius Biden to fill his sandals.