In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2015 at 12:03 am

The ad opens with ominous music–and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.”

The voice belongs to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force–and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

It’s a video produced by the 2016 Presidential campaign for John Kasich.  Kasich, the governor of Ohio, has been peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.

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John Kasich

But he remains far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month–from September to October.  Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, is backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich has decided to take off the gloves.  He’s invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continues Moe.

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one.

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one.

“And you might not care of Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this:

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you.  And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”

Click here: Trump’s Dangerous Rhetoric – YouTube

The above is indeed a paraphrase of a famous quote by Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984), a prominent Protestant pastor.  Although he had been a U-boat commander during World War 1, he became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.  But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom.

Martin Niemöller (1952).jpg

Martin Niemoeller

For his opposition to the Third Reich, Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps. With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed–and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947.

During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But Trump is furious.

“I will sue him [Kasich] just for fun,” said Trump, if he can find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

So says the man who has called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and born outside the United States.

The Kasich ad is by far the darkest attack so far made against Trump by any candidate–Republican or Democrat.  And it raises a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump is America’s Adolf Hitler, who will be its Claus Von Stauffenberg?

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943 when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world–and they feared the worst.  This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg–more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “1,000 year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans–even members of the Wehrmacht–were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces–well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

For Stauffenberg, arresting Hitler wasn’t enough.

Stauffenberg wanted him dead. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But–how to do it?


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2015 at 11:55 am

“Thirty years after her death, Ayn Rand’s ideas have never been more important.

“Unfettered capitalism, unregulated business, bare-bones government providing no social services, glorification of selfishness, disdain for Judeo-Christian morality—these are the tenets of Rand’s harsh philosophy.”

So reads the jacket blurb for Ayn Rand Nation: The Struggle for America’s Soul, by Gary Weiss.

“The timing of this book couldn’t be better for Americans who are trying to understand where in the hell the far-out right’s anti-worker, anti-egalitarian extremism is coming from,” asserts Jim Hightower, New York Times bestselling author of Thieves in High Places.

Ayn Rand Nation introduces us to the godmother of such Tea Party craziness as destroying Social Security and eliminating Wall Street regulation. Weiss writes with perception and wit.”

For those who believe that Rand’s philosophy is the remedy for America’s economic and social ills, a 2013 60 Minutes news story sounds a warning.

New England Compounding Center (NECC) pharmacy, based in Framington, Massachusetts, is under criminal investigation.  The reason: Shipping, in the fall of 2012, 17,000 vials of a steroid to be injected into the joints or spines of patients suffering chronic pain.

But instead of relieving pain, this steroid–contaminated with fungal meningitis–brought only agony and death.

The vials went out to thousands of pharmacies scattered across 23 states.

Forty-eight people have died, and 720 are still fighting horrific infections caused by the drug.

Just as Ayn Rand would have wanted, the pharmacy managed to avoid supervision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

NECC was one of thousands of pharmacies that Congress exempted from FDA oversight. The reason: By law, they are allowed to make custom drugs for just one patient at a time.

But within a few years, NECC went national–and vastly expanded the quantities of drugs produced.

“The underlying factor is that the company got greedy and overextended and we got sloppy, and something happened,” John Connolly, a lab technician for the company, told 60 Minutes, the CBS news magazine.

And, also as Rand would have wanted, the four family members who founded the pharmacy were enriched by it–receiving over $16 million in wages and profits, from December 2011 through November 2012.

Bankruptcy records show the family members racked up $90,000 on corporate American Express credit cards, including charges made after the company shut down in early October.

A month before the first steroid death, Connolly says he warned his supervisor: “Something’s gonna happen, something’s gonna get missed and we’re gonna get shut down.”

His supervisor just shrugged.

NECC was shut down by the authorities.  Barry Cadden, the president and lead pharmacist of the company, was subpoenaed by Congress to testify.  In true gangster fashion, he pleaded the Fifth.

He claimed he didn’t know how the contamination started.

In May, 2015, a federal bankruptcy judge approved the establishment of a $200 million compensation fund for victims of the meningitis outbreak.

This would have outraged Ayn Rand, who believed that greed was sacred–and should not be punished, whatever its consequences.

Which brings us back to Ayn Rand Nation.

Among the themes explored in Weiss’ book:

  • Atlas Shrugged–Rand’s 1957 novel–depicts a United States where many of society’s most productive citizens refuse to be exploited by increasing taxation and government regulations and go on strike. The refusal evokes the imagery of what would happen if the mythological Atlas refused to continue to hold up the world.  The novel continues to influence those who aren’t hard-core Rand followers, who are known as Objectivists.
  • Ayn Rand’s novels dramatically affirm such bedrock American values as independence, creativity, self-reliance, and above all, a permanent distrust of government.
  • In Rand’s 1936 novel, We the Living–set in Soviet Russia–her heroine, Kira Argounova, tells a Communist: “I loathe your ideals; I admire your methods.” Objectivists believe in defending capitalism with the same ruthless methods of Communists.
  • In Rand’s ideal world, government would control only police, armies and law courts.  To her, a   government which performs more than these three functions is not simply impractical or expensive: it is evil.

Many of those who embrace Rand substitute rage for logic: Tea Partiers are furious about the 2008 Wall Street crash, yet they blame the government for it.

(Ironically, in a way, they are right: The government can be blamed–but not for too much regulation of greed-fueled capitalists but too little.)

Weiss asserts that Tea Party members resent the social and economic realities facing the nation, but lack a coherent intellectual framework to help them focus and justify their rage.  But Objectivists have–and offer–such a framework.

Thus, Tea Partiers form the ideological part of the right wing, and the clarity–and fanaticism–of their views gives them a power far out of proportion to their numbers.

Weiss believes that Rand is presenting a moral argument for laissez-faire capitalism, which means eliminating  Social Security, Medicare, public road system, fire departments, parks, building codes–and, above all, any type of financial regulation.

Weiss maintains that Rand’s moral argument must be directly confronted–and defeated–with moral arguments calling for charity and rationality.

Given the fanaticism of Tea Partiers and the right-wing Republicans they support, success in countering Rand’s “I’ve-got-mine-and-the-hell-with-everybody-else” morality is by no means assured.


In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2015 at 8:58 am

It’s a scene you couldn’t imagine seeing in John Wayne’s 1960 film, “The Alamo.”  Especially with The Duke playing a hard-drinking, two-fisted Davy Crockett.

John Wayne as Davy Crockett

But it occurs in the novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd.  And it is no less affecting for its being–so far as we know–entirely fictional.

It’s the last night of life for the Alamo garrison–the night before the 2,000 men of the Mexican Army hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 Texian defenders.

The fort’s commander, William Barret Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.

And the garrison–except for one man–chooses to stay and fight.  That man is Louis “Moses” Rose, a Frenchman who has served in Napoleon’s Grande Armee and survived the frightful retreat from Moscow.

He vaults a low wall of the improvised fort, flees into the moonless desert, and eventually makes his way to the home of a family who give him shelter.

But for the garrison, immortality lies only hours away.  Or does it?

An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the dark of night, Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear.

“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr.  “You understand that, Persius?  We’re going to die!”

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“I know, Davy.  But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr.  “We’re born to die.  Every one of us.  Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.”

“But I can’t be afraid–not me.  I’m Crockett.  I’m Canebrake Davy.  I’m half-horse, half-alligator.”

“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. ”So do all these men here.  That’s why you’re going to get past this.

“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are.  The fear’s come and now it’s gone.  This is our time, Davy.”

“The glory-time,” says Crockett.

“That’s right, David.  The glory-time.”

And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump–who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans.

“There’s men out there with their eyes on you.  You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them.  You’re joking and grinning and fiddling-–it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you.

Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy–to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men.  You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy.  Remember who you are.

“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come.  Don’t you miss a bit of it.”

The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo.  Crockett embraces his glory-time-–and becomes a legend for all-time.

David Crockett (center) at the fall of the Alamo

David Crockett (1786-1836) lived–and died–a poor man.  But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens–and even his former enemies.

David Crockett

During the War of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson.  His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama–and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s neighbors in Tennessee.

As a Congressman from Tennessee, he championed the rights of poor whites.  And he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty.

To Crockett, a promise was sacred–whether given by a single man or the United States Government.

And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders.

It’s a matter of historical record that he and a Scotsman named MacGregor often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise.

It was MacGregor with his bagpipes against Crockett and his fiddle.

Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” as Persius Tarr called them, with the attitude of Donald Trump, the currently-favored Republican candidate for President in 2016.

Donald Trump

On June 16, while announcing his candidacy, Trump said:

  • “…I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
  • “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world….”
  • “So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well-over $10 billion.”
  • “But here, a total net worth of–net worth, not assets, not–a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets–Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York–many other places all over the world. So the total is $8,737,540,000.”

Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved as heroes.  Those who dedicate their lives only to their wallets are rightly soon forgotten.


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