The Whole Nine Yards

Why the lethargy in finding out whether the President of the United States and his immediate subordinate have committed actions which could well amount to  treason?

How come, then, is it the demonstrable case that the worst it gets with Trump,  the more dedicated Trumps radical supporters get in pushing what they think is his cause?  It must be some basic facet of human character that makes such devastation possible:  it happened in Nazi Germany and nothing seems able to stop if from happening again, right here in River City,

Everyone knows that if this were anyone else in the chair in the Oval Office, the sky would have fallen in on him or her and he or she would either be history or on trial in the US Senate.  Why not DT?

A friend urged me to read Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, probably to help me see where I’m still stuck in adolescence at age 75….

So I still have some growing up to do:  tell me something I don’t know!

OK, from Rohr,  here it is:  the same division of individual life into two phases applies in Rohr’s book to societies aka nations.  What Rohr has to say about that in regard to the US answers the questions above which have been rattling around in my mind ever since January 20. (Text in brackets […] is mine, not Rohr’s).

“Law and tradition seem to be necessary in any spiritual [read:  attitudinal] system both to reveal and to limit our basic egocentricity, and to make at least some community, family, and marriage possible.  [Rohr’s italics].  …

Without laws like the Ten Commandments our existence here on the earth would be petty precarious indeed.  What if you could not rely on people to tell you the truth?  [Sound like anyone we know in government today?]  What if we were not expected to respect our elders, actually to dismiss the age old role of community elder, and we all based our lives on cynicism and mistrust of all authority?  [Sound like any current generations you know?]  What if “I love you” between partners was allowed to mean nothing? [Know any prominent couples where love would be an empty formula?] What if covetousness, which Rene Girard calls “mimetic rivalry”, was encouraged to grow unstopped, ,as it is in capitalist countries today?  [Any particular consumer minded societies come to mind, where the people — some of them — have gone way beyond conspicuous consumption in their greed?  Where certain politicians and churchmen have actually preached that greed, one of the original cardinal sins, is good?] Such shapelessness would be the death of any civilization or any kind of trustworthy or stable world.

I wonder:  Are we there already? …

If you want a job well done, on time, with accountability and no excuses, you had best hire someone who has faced a few limiting situations.  [Give me your tired, your poor, your teeming masses…and they will do the work that Americans think is beneath themselves.]. He or she alone has he discipline, the punctuality, the positive self image, and the persistence to do a good job. [Research has shown for decades that the best leaders essentially fail their way to success by learning from failures. Can we say that about DT?] If you want the opposite, hire someone who has been coddled, been given “I Am Special” buttons for doing nothing special, had all his or her bills paid by others, and whose basic egocentricity has never been challenged or undercut.   Rohr states that , to be honest, this seems to describe much of the working population and the student body that one hears about in the USA.  Many of the papers he received teaching in summer graduate courses at major universities were disturbingly deficient.  It was embarrassing to read their undisciplined style and purloined, unattributed content.   Yet those same “adults” are shocked if the do not get an A.  This does not bode well for the future of our country.  (from Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 28 ff)

  • Rohr’s text was written in 2011.  I wonder now if he might feel that his last sentence above was prescient at the time but too weak for our present context– needing  now to  written with much more indignant outrage.
  • We now have placed the future of our country in the hands of a man who has been coddled, given all sorts of Attaboys for doing nothing exceptional or worse, has always been financially cushioned and so has no idea whatsoever of the needs of those who have not been padded by greenback dollars all their lives. His colossal and poisonous ego not only is never challenged or undercut, but taken as affirmation by all the other adolescents in our society that they do not have to grow up.
  • We have put all the inmates in charge of the asylum.  The country which invented teenage, and all of its cultural expressions, now may be swamped by it and drown.

The reason that Trump gets more popular as he gets worse is that he is the emblem, the symbol, ,the embodiment of  the adolescent culture we have planted, fertilized, cultivated, grown and harvested over and over again for decades.  He is their self image become flesh.  They accept his dark blessing as white because their ability to make distinctions, by and large, ended with that of a fourth grader.  They cannot see or abide the grays of life.  Just like children they want it all black or white:  absolute predictability and validation of themselves.  Before they are willing to change that, if indeed they ever do, they will have to hurt a whole lot more than the discomfort of a few blog posts, marches, investigations and adamant speeches will create.   They clearly would rather fight than switch–not an unusual response to change, even if it does not ever work. And if the history of post WW2 right wing reactions is any guide. many of them will wind up defeated but unconvinced.  they will wait in the wings, teaching their progeny the litany of ignorant indignation and blame, waiting for the next Emperor to come along.

To think otherwise is to deny.  Denial:  the best friend of the irresponsible and a sure path to everlasting ignorance and the eventual collapse its pervasiveness will trigger.  We have armies of citizens, really armed to the teeth, who are determined to force the rest of us to admit that the Emperor really does have new clothes….

Even more than that, they will have to be willing to accept that DT, just as Hitler and Stalin and all the rest of the autocrats ever did, has hoodwinked them to  keep them forever bound to their character defects.  In the midst of an era when nothing is constant except upheaval, and when our world’s Gretchens of Faust find it ever more elusive to hand onto old rituals, he  told them that he knows all the right answers and will take all the responsibility.  And they say:  it’s a deal, Big Guy!

There is only one power on earth stronger than that. Eisenhower described it in warning our enemies in WW2:  there is no force stronger than an aroused democracy. To arouse my own democratic indignation and that of any of the handful of people who may ever read this, mainly, is why this essay is here.  I must write and publish whatever I perceive, think, reflect on, sense about this most critical of crises since the Civil War.  A moral statement without committed action in its name is just whistling wind..

The moral worth of a man only just begins at the point where he is ready to offer up his life for his own convictions.  General Henning von Treschkow, final words of farewell before taking his own life after his efforts failed in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler.

And why a commitment whose price could well be our own mortality?  Bernard Shaw said it:  Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it.

There are things more important in this theater of morality we call life than our individual lives.  One of them is liberty and justice for all.  Can we let what untold numbers of humans have died for just slip away?

If we want liberty, then we must be willing to commit to making it happen, even if it looks hopeless in the short run.  I cannot tell you what you must do.  But I must be ready, even at 75, even or maybe especially because it frightens me, to go the whole nine yards.

High Time

The citizens of this country have every cause legitimately to feel untempered indignation about DT and his cronies.  They have violated with contempt and cynical abandon the physical, legal, moral and spiritual underpinnings of the United States.  They have discolored the bright, developing light of the worlds only constitutional republican experiment in multicultural democracy with the fetid dank, putrid stain of self-seeking, bigoted, unthinking, dull  cynicism.

They, not the mainstream Republicans, not the mainstream Democrats, not the Progressives, not the Libertarians, not the Mexicans or Catholics or Intellectuals: no one but they and their dedicated collaborators alone have brought on the time of remorseless reckoning. They have created and surely earned the unsparingky intolerant earthquake-like shockwaves of the moral and legal bombs they’ve been dropping.

The honest and decent, long suffering cituzens of this great nation pause now in rapt attention.  We are observing, not missing a stitch of who is taking right action or ourbehalf  and who, like Matshmallow McConnell is still dodging and weaving, trying yet again first to save his own you know what.  We are awaiting the chance to get even with the collaborators and to mark the removal of the DTs with a heartfelt:  good riddance!

As for the DTs and their collaborators:  it would be high time to prepare to exchange your golden cufflinks and hand made Italian shoes for hardened steel handcuffs and US made shackles. That–or get out of Dodge pronto!

Once Upon a Time,  ….

The woman had to stop talking to me because she began to cry.

I did not speak any German then in the summer of 1959, so her son had been translating what she was trying to tell me. I had been lodged with her for a night or two while the group with whom I was on concert tour in Europe, stayed in and performed in Berlin. I do not remember her name, but it was not her name that moved me so deeply that I remember it clearly today.

We had been talking about something in her living room — I recall that it seemed somehow unsuited to be a living room and was puzzled as to why until she asked me to join her through the door beside the kitchen to her former living room.  She opened it out onto a hole in the rest of the building where the rest of her living room had been until an air raid in 1945 destroyed it.  But from the doorway you could see the runway at Tempelhof airport.

She looked up at me with tearing eyes and began again to talk.  He son translated:  my mother wants to tell you that she is eternally grateful to the United States of American.  I was curious why she was crying with gratitude.  He said:  she is crying because the United States saved her life in the airlift.  She wants you to know that without the airlift she would have either frozen to death or starved to death.  The US saved her with the airlift.

I returned to Germany in 1961 to study for a year in Munich with the Junior Year in Munich program from Wayne State University in Detroit.  That year is imprinted on my mind in ways that no other year of my now 75 can claim.  Of the many many reasons for that, two stand out:  my landlady in Munich and Herr Hildebrandt.

My landlady had one hand blown off in a daytime bombing raid on Berlin during the last months of the war.I did not then know that the Brits bombed during the night and the USAAF during the day mostly.  At any rate I had no need to know that because she told me so.

I had been very uneasy about seeing her manage that Munich apartment with one hand and rubber bands for pencils and notes around the stump where the other hand had been.  My roommate and I were not the first American students to sublet rooms in her apartment — well not rooms but just one room for the two of us.  She knew from former experience that her guests would want to know how she had been wounded so badly.  So she took the initiative and told us.

It was not the recounting of the bombing that impressed me.  Actually she went over it rather perfunctorily.  And I think hat was her intention – not to dwell on the events — so that her guests, whose Air Force had harmed her and cost her a hand, would remember her point.  She told her two American guests that her missing hand was a constant reminder to her of the evil of war, of the crimes of the Third Reich and she did not want ever to forget it.

I’ve since realized that she had two messages for us, because she could well have chosen not to rent to any citizens of the country whose military had cost her a hand, driven her from her home city of Berlin and flattened 80% of her country’s cities by the end of the war in 1945.  She could have but instead she went out of her way to rent to JYM students. She and her apartment and situation had to be approved by JYM.   So she chose to have us there to be a symbol of the ruin attendant upon a nation gone power mad with a people who had given up the right to govern themselves.  And she had to trust the sons of the soldiers and airmen who just 14 years earlier had done their best to try to kill her.

I saw those messages every day I lived with her.

You were not allowed to spend the year in JYM without a mandatory meeting with the administrator of the JYM office in Akademiestrasse, Herr Hildebrandt.

Herr Hildebrandt was a native of Munich, a Bavarian, who had lived there all during the Third Reich.  His round, red-flushed face, wore the round spectacles that one sees on Hollywood Nazis in the World War Two propaganda films commissioned by the War Department to keep the public buying war bonds.  I think they needed to do that:  to make propaganda or not to make propaganda is not the issue.  the issue is what he told me.

It did not take long but again the messages sent by his words and his choosing American students have made an imprint on me that has not faded, have given me and additional model of human dignity and integrity to add to those of the woman in the still blasted out apartment in Berlin and my landlady in Munich.

He said — as nearly as my mind will recall it 55.5 years later:  People here will all tell you that they did not know what we were doing in Dachau, to the Jews, in war.  they are lying.   I knew and we all knew.  BUt I did not speak up.  I cannot undo the crimes we have committed but I can make amends.  And so I ask every American student who comes here to study to come and listen to me, to hear me make amends and say that I regret it all.

And that was it.  He never asked for forgiveness.  He did not try to defend the crimes.  He made no excuses. He simply said that he had been wrong and now needed to admit it.

He could have decided to admit it every night to a friend in Bürgerbräukeller or sitting at a table in a cafe upnear the Uni.  Or only to his wife and kids.  Or a priest.  Instead he chose American students.

The woman in Berlin chose Americans.

My landlady chose Americans.

And finally Mrs Zielski

She and her husband were refugees from Nazi Europe who had gotten here in time. Viktor was an engineer working for one of the auto companies in Detroit.  They were our neighbors in Ferndale where I grew up.

She made her own sauerkraut,-she baked her own bread and made my favorites, krullers.  Her house had exotic odors that tickled my palate and calmed my soul and she loved America.  Her son, Stanley, had been a captain in the US Army and might well have fought on her home continent.  I do not know. I do know she was proud as anyone can be that he was in the US Army and an American citizen.

She chose a little American boy, the son of her neighbor, not only to tell abaout her pride in the US, but also to love and care for as if I had been her son also.  

To me those choices speak for themselves.  All my life I have had immense pride, humble pride, taht my country for the first tie in human history chose to feed a conquered people at our expense and with great danger to pilots who flow DC-3s in and out of Berlin during the Berlin Airlift.  The sharing of my landlady and Herr Hildebrand made them my heroes and me just glow with pride in being from a country which for once on this earth had not totally squandered on vain wars and sad memories respect due to moral integrity.  I know today that we have not been saints, but I also know that we have on occasion acted in ways that won the hearts of men for our moral integrity.

The Marshal Plan.  The Nürnberg War Crime Trials instead of summary executions.  The Amerika Haus-es all across Germany.  FDR’s fourth inaugural address.  Washingtons farewell address. The Gettysburg Address. The Peace Corps. To Easter Europeans behind the Iron Curtain, the Voice of Amrita, the Berlin Airlift,, the Candy Bomber, foreign exchange programs, Care Packages, all the aid we have given at our expense to peoples all across the globe whe were in need, the Statue of Liberty and the chance of a new life she represented to so many immigrants who washed our clothes, dug our ditches, cleared our offices, drove our cabs, cooked our food

Their choices made me proud of the America which did all that.

I am a proud American who is ashamed and repulsed that we have placed into the chair of Lincoln, FDR, Washington, Jefferson, TR a man who has in a few days destroyed all of the goodwill and moral respect that made me so proud and that I want back.  NOt via any more Lilly-livered investigations of what everyone else already has documented been the point of doubt and ad nauseam.  I want the internal crying for shame and losss to stop.  I want the suspicion of my conservative friends to be wiped clean.  I want the pain and heat of hate and invective to cool and return to full bore political debate on how to solve or problems.  I’ve had it with hearing dodging and weaving and PR nonsense intended to distract, divide and negate.  I want the man defiling that honored chair in the estimable OvalOffice out. 


On our ridge here in the mountains outside of Asheville, the breezes of the valley become winds as the coves act like funnels, compressing the moving air and speeding it up;  nature’s jet engines at times (not especially last night, however).

Last night northwestern winds blew away our winter’s 70 degree hazy day and pulled in a 37 degree day with those high definition NC blue skies.

I hear the silence loudly and my awareness flows quietly into it.  I want to convey the serenity of being the observer of beauty.

The sense of serene beauty calls up for me Goethe’s great poem, Wanderer’s Nightsong II (Wanderers Nachtlied II).  I want so much to be able to share the beauty I have enjoyed in my life from my lifelong passion for the cultural gifts to the world from Germany, but haven’t yet found a way to pass that on to those who do not understand German.  My limping translation does not even begin to hint at the masterful union of sound, image and thought in the original — which he wrote without corrections, strikeouts, correction fluid, erasers, autocorrect, iCloud backup or an Apple wireless keyboard connected by bluetooth to an iPhone6, which is what I’m harnessed to here.

Should anyone want to get some sense of beautiful serenity this poem offers, see Mathias Goerne — some say he is the gold standard for baritones in the world today — sing Schubert’s setting of this most magnificent of German poems.  It is available on YouTube.  Sad that I can only offer my poor ersatz, here it is anyway:

Calm covers the


In all the treetops

you scarcely sense

even a breath;

The little birds are hushed

in the coppice.

Tarry a bit, soon

you too will find rest.

America: do you still have it better?


America, you have it better

than our continent, the old one,

you’ve no castle ruins

and no green rock deposits*

your vital moments aren’t

fundamentally upset

by futile remembering

and useless strife.

Use the present auspiciously

And if your children write fiction

Perpetuate for them the good fortune of not

writing about knights, bandits and ghosts.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832

translation by G Forsythe Ph D

* green rock or basalt were seen as ossified volcanic rock — i. e., the young United States was still active and erupting, Europe was petrified.

So let’s see now some 180 years later:

  • any castle ruins?  how about the Rust Belt?
  • any ossification?  how about Congress?
  • any futile remembering?  how about elections where the winner of the popular vote lost?
  • any useless strife?  how about filibustering, refusing to go along with the President on anything, the name calling, insulting verbal attacks on those with differing political views?
  • any fiction about knights, bandits and ghosts?  Looked at the new TV shows lately?  How about the movies such as the ones about the Superheroes (our knights), the horror shows with oceans of bloody gore and nightmare zombies and vampires, etc?
  • any fiction about bandits?  who needs fiction when we have 1% of the US population owning 90% of everything in the US and now being given more tax breaks while the middle class is finding it harder and harder just to survive, let alone prosper?

And how about that Old Continent?  They must also have all of the above, but:

  • the European Union is or has the potential to be the strongest economic force on earth;
  • we, not they, have dug up and used up all our natural resources;
  • we, not they, refuse officially to believe in human causation for global warming;
  • we, not they, have to rebuild an infrastructure;
  • and the city of choice on this planet to which people go to live in the greatest liberty and affordable creativity?  Berlin, not New York, LA, Atlanta or any other American city.
  • we, not they who have had the experience of autocratic governments for ages, now have Donald Trump with 44% of the population still supporting a lying, irresponsible, bullying, dishonest wannabe tyrant

America:  do you still have it better?


I am not an expert on Hitler. But my father is. He toured post-war Germany extensively in 1957 and ’58 as a child performer. And he often recounts the stories. He befriended  teenage Lebensborn chi…


It is good to make sure that our comparisons are not too facile, and that we do not dismiss real danger through fear of being politically incorrect in calling one person a “Hitler”.
On the other hand, the assertion that it can never happen here is just flat wrong.
First of all, of course another Hitler, an exact replica, would not be an American way of moving into totalitarianism. the times, the culture, the tools and the issues are not, at least superficially, the same as they were in 1932. Anyway, it is irrelevant to debate about how Hitler could return, although one should see the great German movie, Look Who’s Back (Er Ist Wieder Da), that deals with that issue nicely.  The reflection on the regiehammblog misses the point entirely: it is not that we could have a Hitler, but that we could elect someone who will try to drag use into an autocratic government just beause he or she thinks he or she has all the right answers. That’s who Hitler thought he was: the greatest Führer of all times (der größte Führer aller Zeiten or in a sarcastic twist of the German tongue to belittle the Corporal fromm Austria then holding their country in an iron hand, der Groefaz (sounds a bit like great fart!).  Do we have anyone now in power who has said he knows best?  If you think not, you haven’t been listening to DT for most of his public life.
Next, Mr Hamm does start by admitting he is no expert on Nazi Germany.  He certainly got that right.  His aim source of knowledge is, as he asserts proudly and with the naive assumption that it is valid, childhood osmosis, carrying another’s learning about Hitler et al into his brain.  We have universities where that history is studied.  The Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte is still trying to catalogue and then study just the documents from Germans who were of official import during the 1000 Year Reich’s 13 years and they have about 60% of just that still to go.  The history of World Wat 2 is the largest body of documentation and data of all sorts in the field of history.   Not much of the learning about that most significant even in the last 2000 years has been obtained by “osmosis” from children.

For that matter, the experiences of a young child on tour there in the ’50s might provide colorful stories and compelling determination to learn as much as possible about it.  But it is not on the same level of reliability and validity as, for example, the studies of Guido Knopp, Sohnke Neitzel, Steven Ambrose, et all, the diaries of Viktor Klemperer or even of Joseph Goebbels.  That information belongs in Mr.Hamm’s family history or as part of a professional study of the development of understanding of the Third Reich by people who did not endure it.  It is not the basis for any argument which would assume accurate and reliable knowledge about Hitler and his rise — and Mr Hamm’s blog makes precisely that assumption.

Perhaps Mr Hammm’s father was able through his reading to get a balanced and challenging presentation on the why, how, who, when, where and to what extent of the Third Reich, but Mr Hamm does not even assert that.  Moreover, thinking that untutored, self guided reading in the largest body historical record ever could lead to anything more than interesting, perhaps even challenging, personal revelations is like saying that a monkey with word processing would, if given time and freedom, write Hamlet.  

Mr Hamm has no credible, substantial base for his opinions.  He is capitalizing on one of the flaws of internet blogging:  the tendency of the uninformed to mistake categorical assertions as facts.  Caveat emptor!

The scholars who have something valid to offer,  however, have also lived there, studied the documentation exhaustively, conducted planned, structured interviews with participants and survivors,  seen the films made at the time, used the National ARchives, the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte, the Imperial War Museum, records of the armies, navies, air forces, of industrial production, of the general staffs, read all the other research done on the topic , carefully formulated their theses, tested them and then had them reviewed, redacted, revised, tightened and finally published by professionals.  And I, at least,, as a peripheral member  of that group with a lifelong study of German language, literature, culture, history based both on formal education here and in Germany as well as personal research as part of a professional career directly involved with German history and way, suggest therefore that Mr Hamm’s opinions are unfounded, misinformed, far too glib for such a nightmare, unreliable and invalid, very shallow and precisely because US readership of blogs has on the average a 4th to 6th grade level of reading skill, irresponsible and therefore, especially now, dangerous,

His attempt to find balance, circumspection and forbearance in expression is to be encouraged, but only with a founding in the facts.
Some of his ‘facts’ or interpretation of ‘facts’ are incorrect.
For example, Hitler did not introduce socialized healthcare and ‘socialized” everything else. All that was introduced in the 1870s by Otto von Bismarck in an effort to undermine the growing popularity of Social Democrats. The Nazis realized that in so doing, Bismarck had effectively made the populace into uncritical consumers of government actions rather than into participating democrats. It was easy then just to keep thos things going and then begin to use them as part of the pseudo-philosophy of “Gleichschaltung”.
You should ask yourself: isn’t that precisely that consumerism has done to the spirit of participation in democracy in the US?
Another example: our assertion that Hitler got elected by the use of violence. True, the SA–not the SS–regularly engaged in street fights prior to the 1932 election. But those battles were aimed primarily at the Communists and secondarily at the Jews. They had little effect on the vote. As a matter of fact, Hitler in 1932 did not win a majority in the Bundestag, but he had enough brownshirts in the Bundestag to control. And eventually he was able to show Hindenburg, who was concerned about street violence, that if he, Hitler were Kanzler, things could be controlled. In the 20s Hitler and the then fledgling Nazi party had tried a putsch in Munich. Hitler wound up in jail. He concluded that a violent revolution would not work. So he decided to win by non-violent means. He uses Goebbels to spread propaganda lies, he was the first politician in history anywhere to use the airplane in combination with the radio to make himself known. And he was an expert public speakeer who knew just what to say to the multitudes: a demagogue of immense skill that we would call marketing savvy today. you should ask yourself: hasn’t our version of that just happened here?
You assert that our checks and balances make the advent of an autocrat here impossible. Really? Have you read the history of Huey Long in Louisiana, the reign of terror of Joseph McCarthy and the House Unamerican Activities Committee in the 1950s? Don’t you understand that those checks and balances were put in place precisely because the founders knew all too well how easily authoritarian government can develop from a republican form (we have a constitutional republic with some democracy, not a democracy). ONe of those checks and balances was the Electoral College. In the event of popular election of an autocrat, the Eletoral College was supposed to vote independently of the popular vote and insure that the autocrat did not take office. You should ask yourself: has not the Electoral College been converted into a rubber stamp and did it not just fail to do what it was intended to do? Thinkk about it: the checks and balances are not needed unless the founders were not 100% convinced that popular self government would work. Indeed, Jefferson’s belief was that a well educated populace could govern itself. We have let our average reading level in the US fall from around 11th grade in 1932 to between 4th and 6th in 2016. ou should ask yourself: given that democracy means compromise, negotiation, slowness in responding to crises, living in the grey areas, just how well does someone who cannot read beyond 4th grade level handle that?

Additionally the assertion that Hitler came to office with he SS private Army which he then used as elite infantry in battle.  The Army which was upon the assumption of the Kanzleramt in 1932 his large private army was the SA, not the SS.  And his tool of terror was the Gestapo, not so much the SS, at that time.   It was not until 1934, two years after Hitler became Kanzler and then named himself Fuehrer that the SS was made an independent organization for its role in murdering Ernst Roehm, the head of the SA and the SD, the intelligence office of the SS, given authority to collect political intelligence domestically in the Reich.  It was the SA which fought the Communists, which marched in the election victory parade in 1932, which had developed into an army capable of overthrowing Hitler by 1932. True, the SS under Himmler and Heydrich were growing in power, but  itwas only after 1932 that the SS was substituted by Hitler for the SA to be his private army, Hitlers terror and military instrument.

That is just a sampling of the errors in Mr Hamms assertions, on the German side of things.  One could go. on and on, but if he knew better what actually happened, he could easily see that different events led to the same type of fertile field for autocracy in 1932 Germany as had slowly but very surely developed in the US by 2016.  At the War Crimes Trials in Nürnberg after The War, Justice Jackson, the chief prosecutor for the US, allegedly came to believe that the guilty verdicts and the evidence produced in mountains made ‘aggressive war’ and crimes against humanity impossible.  It has taken just 71 years for the country that sponsored those unique trials to become the one, under Mr Trump, advocating and now rehearsing engagement in aggressive war (make the US military more lethal….) and practicing both de-humanizing segments of the population and depriving straw man groups of their constitutional and human rights (the travel ban, the attack on Planned Parenthood, the drive to deprive 20-30 million Americans of affordable health insurance without offering a substitute).

I would add that Mr Hamm’s understanding of constitutional government leaves much to be desired.

The Unites States is a republic not a pure democracy — in its basic documents:  the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

True the founders created checks and balances, but they do not operate automatically.  They work when our elected leaders and their constituents respect and honor them.  Stop and think about it.  The President of the US is supposed, by law, to ask Congress for authorization to go to war.  But in practice as Commander in Chief, he has been able more and more to ignore that requirement.  Congress does not command the military.  It does fund it, but when in recent memory has Congress withheld any money from our forces who are in action all over the globe and often out of the the most exaggerated sense of national self defense. They aren’t going to hobble the forces when there is an ISIL, a Putin, drug cartels,etc,etc,and so forth.  They like living without war on their doorsteps too.

Now imagine a President who thinks he knows all, whose M. deception and bullying, and who has no opposition inn Congress or the Supreme Court.  Let’s also say that it is discovered that he has willingly let his subordinates collude with an inimical foreign power on fundamental issues of national security.  Congress decides to impeach, wich they do and then to try him in the Senate.  He refuses to show up, announces that he has a mandate to do what he knows is best,refuses to leave office and instead mobilizes the Marines and exists the FBI to deal with he enemies who have infiltrated — Congress.  What are Congress and the Supreme Court to do?

He has violated the Constitution, our laws and our historical values — or has he?  In the 2016 election pollsters discovered that a substantial portion of Republican voters would tolerate, even support a violent overthrow of the US government!  And now add in to that the imaginative scenario above–which anyone should recognize as anything but fiction these days.

Finally, this:  there are two modes of leadership which come naturally to humans. they are:  autocratic and Laisser-faire.  The trouble is that each of them winds up with poor output, bickering and squabbling and divisiveness amongst those wo need to hang together.  They each lead to shattering commonality, which winds up then with all, figurately and often actually, hanging separately.  In th 1950s a German Jewish sociologist named Kurt Lewin had lived under the aegis of bothHitler and FDR,  He began to wonder about and explore the differences in impact and motivation of each.  He began his experiments with the assumption that Laisser-faire  was the democratic way, while authoritarian was the autocratic way.  He found out he was half right:  Hitlers was the autocratic way and it did not work.  But he also found out that Laisser-faire was not FDR’s way and that Laisser-faire failed just as much as autocratic.  the conclusion was, and has been irrefutably confirmed repreatedly since then, that democratic leadership is a learned leadership style, which is aimed basically at encouraging and tough-loving others to do and be the best they can be.  It is a lifelong endeavor, involving the development of the appropriate competencies to empower everyone  and winds up being the hardest style for which to work:  the responsibility to learn, engage, manage oneself and produce rests upon the one doing the work, and not the leader,

Consider, in the context of all of the above, then threesalient points:

1.  Democracy depends on education, yet the ability  to read on the average in the US has fallen from about 11th grade in the 1930s to about the 4th and 5th grade during the last eletion.  Trump’s speeches and diatribes are all at 4th grade level.  No fourth grader can understand one iota of Know-how in empowering others.  INto the breach steps DOnald.J Trump with his sound bytes and misinformation.  The voters who back him have no way of distinguishing fact from opinion.  Hillary talked over their heads.  they chose our own Groefaz.

2.  Donald J Trump, just as Hitler did, has said he knows best.  He says it over and over.  Why don’t we believe him?

3.  Research is clear and has been for decades:  leaders in the US are not developing leadership skills.  they get hired on the basis of lower level know how and then use a facade of celebrity and pretend know-how or just appearance to rise to the top.  Some research shows that organizations like to choose taller men for leadership.  And all too often they learn, wrongly, that win-lose competition, opposing others just to be tough (aka bullying), nitpicking opposition to death, and gathering position, power, status and preside are the styles of success.   After an initial bubble of success, they fail and their organizations and nations eventually fail but they think they are right, even in the face of failure, because the harshness of their relationships discourages anyone from telling them the real truth.  They become the Emperors in the New Clothes.  And in a short-message culture which is, was and will still be adolescent and anti-intellectual, nobody remembers their history or wants to.  The Newly Clothed Emperors wind up ruling of the Palaces of Casino CApitalism, in which nobody but the Palace wins.  Just like with Donald, J Trump.

Instead of resting on the laurels of an old piece of paper called the Constitution, perhaps you will begin to see that written words will not stop a determined demagogue when those who could oppose him won’t.   It is a well educated population that is capable of self government and maintaining the checks and balances.  And those are not my words. They come from Thomas Jefferson on whose ideas the foundation is of this counry’s unique experiment in multi-cultural self government rests.

Glibness, which you seem to have mastered along with a need to make things all black or white, is no substitute for the learned abillity to make valid distinctions based on an ongoing processing of the real data in this world. I am older than your father. 

So, you might want to get some education before you speak up again about just how impervious we are to autocrats.   it is close to too late but maybe not. And at any rate if we want democracy and those checks and balances not to perish from the face of the earth,, then we need to know what we are facing all the time.
Read the memoires of Ambassador Dodd to Germany during the rise of the Reich — his daughter’s;
Read The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt or see the movie about her and her world shaking insights into te nature of evil in the movie about her on Netflix;
Read the remarks of Albert Speer, Hitler’s Architect, in Nurnberg before the International Military TRibunal as his last statement at sentencing;
Read: It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Read: They Thought they Were Free by Milton Myer
See: the movie, Experimenter about the Milgrim experiments in obedience and his very unsettling findings about whether “it” cannot happen here;
See; the extremely relevant German movie, made well before our recent election and without amy mention of us at all but with 100% relevance, Look Who’s Back (Er Ist Wieder Da in German but with superb subtittles).

Then ask yourself if all this concern about the advent of a Hitler type autocrat in the United States is nonsense. If you still think it is, then you will have earned the whirlwind. Just ask the Germans.

Divining Rod

To be sure, these are one of those times which try the souls of mankind.

We (I include myself) apparently have attack as the default reaction, especially when we sense that this time it is our ox who will be gored.   Maybe threats to security trigger that old reptilian part of the brain:  we cannot flee mostly, so we fight.

In all of that swirling slashing and parrying, I have come to love the thought and urging in this 19th Century poem:

Wuenschelrute/Divining Rod..


Schlaeft ein Lied in allen Dingen,/There sleeps a song in all of being


Die da traeumen fort und fort/which slumbers, dreaming, nothing heard,


Und die Welt hebt an zu singen/And then the world rings out with singing,


Triffst du nur das Zauberwort./If you but touch the magic word.


Joseph Baron of Eichendorff, 19th Century German Nobelman, Government Administrator for Prussia and the quintessential German Romantic Poet



What’s Up?



Thank heavens for the sunrise!  (This shot was not this morning, but a while back.  It looks like this a lot up here on our ridge, so this works.  Anyway with jus 8 weeks left in this house, I’m rehearsing the things I want to remember.  Like this.)

Contemplation of the sheer splendor brings peace of mind and awe at the beauty of creation.  Even more importantly, it reminds me that all we really have is today:  this sun will also set today.  All the joys and sorrows sufficient for a lifetime are here during our one day at a time.  I can choose to live it with gratitude or or worry.

There’s so much happening these days which is not what I’d come to expect or want or condone.  About all I can do about most of it is to say my piece.  But even there, I’ve come to realize that when I’m spewing out venom, even well phrased venom with footnotes, in the end all I can be certain of is that I’m upset.  For an Old Guy like me, being upset could be fatal.

So what then is the voice I want to use, the thought that I want to rehearse by writing and publishing it that won’t wind up with a backfire too strong for my old body and mind to handle?

The only way I know involves working at being spiritually fit to be of maximum service to those around me.  For those who think spirituality involves religion, let me  explain:  I do not mean religious.  I don’t want organized religion involved in this at all. For so much of it, the belief systems cast in concrete for every sect make denominiational religion exclusionary rather that inclusive.  That’s exactly the problem right now:  every interest group seems to have the one and only right “answer”, a well justified and staunchly defended self righteousness.  That’s a negative spirituality.  A close synonym for spiritual is attitudinal. 

It’s hard.  It feels like being irresponsible.  Shouldn’t I be cutting up those I dislike with razor sharp sarcasm?  Shouldn’t I be arguing in public, right here, to show how dangerously wrong and evil “they” are?   Isn’t that my responsibility in the shoot first and talk later culture?

How can it be responsible, however, to act in ways which only make matters worse?   When has escalation of aggression ever achieved anything but more of the same, building pressure until it all explodes?  Aren’t we running awfully close to that line?  Take a look around.  Have we not let our exchanges become like verbal shootouts?  Have we not become the dwelling place of grim pain, a rolling ball of false joys?   Is not our dominant culture now infused with a negative, exclusionary, divisive spirituality, in the divisiveness of which powerful groups have deeply vested interests?  And just how well is that working?

I’m tired of all the tempest and tribulation, the verbal shoot-outs in the sheeps clothing of “conversation, chats, interviews, etc..”.   I’m worn down by the constant animosity and televised discussions in which even the moderators join in the verbal melees, even when I agree with them.  I’m angry at those who work to increase the animosity rather than find common ground.   Their growing success frightens me.  I’m tired of having to shave, shape and wordsmith what I say to whom so as not to trigger some explosion of self-righteous indignation that will kill what little common context is left.  And the childish name calling and adolescent bullying:  see the name of the Penn and Teller Showtime series.

I suppose we must ride this rollercoaster of rage all the way to the bottom before it begins to come back up and lose its searing steam, finally.  It is hard to think of an example of any nation so addicted to adversarial animosity as we may be, which had decided to talk its way out of its conflict.  30 Years War?  No.  World War I:  no.  World War 2:  no.  Vier Nam:  no.  The US Civil War, no.  The Brits and the Falklands:  no.  The US in Afghanistan or Iraq?  No. No. No.  

Throw in this:  in order to actually hear and understand what others are saying, I-you-we must have enough cool and confidence in out self images to be able to table our thoughts long enough to check whether we have understood the other correctly.  And that’s not just saying glibly:  I understand.  Penn and Teller again!  You don’t understand squat until the person sending the message says you repeated it back correctly.  Just how often have we heard that happen recently anywhere with anyone?  Seldom if never? Then how on earth do we ever expect to find common ground?  And without common ground, how on earth can a democracy survive?

As usual, it comes down to me.  I can’t ask you to change unless I do.  Quid pro quo.   And it won’t be perfect.  We will hav to collaborate to rebuild.

I hope against hope that we won’t hit bottom and just shatter.  I must remember that I am part of what created this rolling disaster because it happened on my watch.  If this is to change, then I need to change my tune also.  Saying that “they” did this and “they” must be defeated, changed, eliminated etc will still leave us with the Divide.   Resisting what is clearly inconsistent with the principles of democracy and human rights(see:  A. Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address):   yes, but passive only.  And in the process, at least I can try to offer something which builds and reflects my gratitude and joy, rather than pouring more gasoline onto the conflagration.  

At least for today.