Category Archives: economics and financial policy

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: COVID-19 and Our Future


At Kroger Today 
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Albert Marrin wrote in his book Very, Very, Very, Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918: 

“No other disease, no war, no natural disaster, no famine comes close to the great pandemic. In the space of eighteen months in 1918–1919, about 500 million people, one-third of the human race at the time, came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known. An early estimate, made in 1920, claimed 21.5 million died worldwide. Since then, researchers have been continually raising the number as they find new information. Today, the best estimate of flu deaths in 1918–1919 is between 50 million and 100 million worldwide, and probably closer to the latter figure.”

The current novel Coronavirus pandemic may not kill as many people as the Great Influenza pandemic did, but the numbers that it will kill will be catastrophic, not only in the number of lives lost, but in the unrest it causes in so many nations will lead to civil wars, usurpation of powers by authoritarian regimes of various ideologies, and subsequent wars that it helps spawn in the coming years. And frankly, after 75 years of relatively small wars, which admittedly have and tragically killed millions of people, the global order has remained relatively stable, until now.

The instability in the global markets, rising unemployment, shortages of so many items that we have come to rely upon, is just the beginning, and the virus has just begun. If it follows the course of the 1918-1919 pandemic, which most scientists believe that it will this is just the first phase. The second will be a slight lessening of infections and deaths in the summer followed by an explosion of it in the fall and winter, and the third wave will be far deadlier than today’s. It may even mutate into a far deadlier strain, as of now we know of two strains of it, and who knows how many there will be in the fall and winter? I cannot say, but I would put money on at least two or three, which even if we can produce a vaccine for the current ones, in record time, the mutations may be immune to it.

We were completely unprepared for this despite knowing that we were due for a pandemic. While industry can produce record numbers of ventilators and PPE, in a relatively short period of time, even which may not be deployed soon enough for this first phase of the pandemic; they cannot produce qualified ICU doctors, nurses and technicians that fast.

Even when we get the beds and ventilators, as well as additional rooms, we will have to staff them with doctors and nurses without or with minimal ICU experience, most gained during their medical or surgical residencies, or rotations through them during nursing school. It takes a special breed of physician or nurse to work in critical care, just as it does to be a cancer specialist, Emergency Medicine Doctor or nurse, or name the medical field. The fact is that you cannot make such specialists in a limited amount of time, and thanks to our managed care, for profit, system we don’t produce enough of them anyway. They are much more valuable than the equipment they have to use.

If the hospitals of the First World are being overwhelmed, just imagine what will happen when the virus begins to explode in the Third World, where a lack of basic medical care is standard, and critical care physicians and nurses are at the university and government run medical centers in major cities, most often the national capitals. The virus will spread through the major cities with a vengeance, and then to the hinterlands. Millions will die, simply because they live in countries too poor, and often politically unstable to deal with it.

As of tonight the numbers continue to explode. As of this moment there are 722,916 cases of the COVID-19 Virus worldwide, and 33,976 deaths. This is up from 532,362 cases of COVID-19 and 24,090 deaths Friday.  Today 536,454 of the cases are still active. Of the closed cases 151,756 have recovered and 33,976 have died for a 18% death rate, up from 16% less than 48 hours ago. That is a increase in infections of 190,553 cases and an increase of 9,886 deaths in just 48 hours. Say what you want, but the numbers don’t lie.

The same is true in the United States the numbers are not encouraging because we are so far behind the testing and preparation stage. As of now there 142,178 cases, and 2,484 deaths, and 4,559 recoveries a death rate among the closed cases of But at this same time on 27 March there were 85,984 total reported infections with 1,300 deaths and 1868 recoveries. Currently 135,135 of these cases are active. The mortality rate among the closed cases is 35%. Sadly we are nowhere close to the peak, which despite efforts to mitigate the spread in some states, others are refusing to make take any precautions, including those bordering some of the hot spots where the virus is now exploding.

Thankfully, despite his many lies, obfuscations, and refusal to take responsibility for anything, while blaming state governments and even health care providers for the growth of the virus, has at least admitted that many more lives may be lost and expanded his restrictions on gatherings to at least April 30th. I expect that he will have to push it further back.

But Americans, especially his supporters hate this, and are likely in states they control will ease restrictions as early as next week.

However, it is late and I have to get ready to go to bed so I can get to work in the morning.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

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Playing With Fire in a House Filled With Gas: Trump Places Stock Markets and Profits above People

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Bottom Line Up Front: As of this moment there have been 381,699 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with a total of 16,558 deaths. 262,657 of the cases are still active, of the closed cases 102,489 have recovered and as mentioned 16,558 have died for a 14% death rate.

I know that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but the response of the Trump Administration to it has been abysmal, despite the warnings of U.S. Intelligence Agencies that the pandemic was coming, the administration did nothing. The President made light of it, said that it would have little impact, and played the part of Denier in Chief for two months, but then the stock markets crashed, and all of a sudden the President decided it was no longer fake news and ordered Vice President Pence to head up the effort to contain the virus and its effects. To his credit Pence did. try, and some policy changes began to occur, but to tell the truth, it was too little too late. The Virus had been spreading in the United States for weeks before Pence even received the mission. As a result the virus spread to tens of thousands of people, many who didn’t or don’t know that they are even infected, who in turn spread the virus without realizing they are doing so.

Because I have worked in ICUs and ERs in major civilian and military hospitals in two past pandemics; AIDS during its most deadly period the early to mid-1990s before effective drugs were developed to help infected people live somewhat normal lives. The in 2009 I was in a different Medical Center dealing with H1N1. As such I have been following the COVID-19 infection numbers and death rates with interest since it first came on the scene, but much more so when the first case appeared in Washington in mid-January. Now for the last month I have been watching the progress of the virus by following the data supplied by the CDC, Johns Hopkins, WHO, and this website https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ .  It tends to be updated more frequently than the other sites, mostly because it is relying on updates as they are released by countries, and in the case of the United States, the states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories.  It is one of the sites mentioned in DOD and Navy message traffic to use in getting solid data and updates about COVID 19.

In the United States  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ there have 46,145 total reported infections with deaths. Currently 40,185 of these cases are active. 670 cases are closed and of that number 295 have recovered and been discharged, but 582 have died, giving us a 72% mortality rate. The biggest issue has been the delay in testing and unavailability of test kits. Likewise we are now facing an acute shortage of ICU beds and ventilators, as well as severe shortages of PPE for health workers and first responders, which would include police, fire, and EMS. Likewise there is a critical shortage regular hospital beds and places to put them because our system of managed care does not deem surge capacity important.

These numbers change multiple times a day depending on when countries, or in the case of the U.S. our states and territories report their daily data. The disturbing item to me is that with the exception of China, South Korea, and Japan and a few other Asian countries that instituted draconian measures to flatten the infection curve, the virus is showing exponential growth in the United States and western Europe. The reason it hasn’t exploded in many underdeveloped Second and Third World countries is that it was most likely late getting there because they are out of the way and do not get the kind of visitor, tourist, and business traffic that Western Europe and the United States have. Likewise they do not have the test kits or adequate medical care to document the spread. However, once it takes hold it will become a killing machine, wiping out millions in those unfortunate countries, and probably leading to more refugees, infections, and deaths.

Two weeks (March 8th)  ago the United States reported 541 infections and 22 deaths. By March 18th there were 9,259 cases and 150 deaths. Four days later we are at 46,182 cases and 582 deaths, a death rate of 66%, well over the worldwide percentage. But expect this to fall to somewhat  closer to the world average. However, that being said, statistics at the beginning of a season do not necessarily reflect those at the end of the season.

Since the virus is often spread through people who are asymptomatic, and many people refuse to self-isolate or in public violate the six foot buffer zone, I recommend that any person who reads this article practices an abundance of caution for two reason; first two protect themselves, and then, just in case they are infected but are asymptotic, protect themselves and others from getting the virus. This should be the case anytime they leave their homes to do necessary shopping, or go to a medical appointment. Anyone who goes out should not only observe the measures issued by the CDC, but go further. Personnel and their families should wear some kind of surgical, or other mask to reduce the possibility of transmission protecting them, and in case they are asymptomatic anyone they come in contact. These can be hard to find but there are a number of groups or individuals making relatively effective face masks, which though not to the N-95 standard would give them a modicum of protection. Some of the designs and patterns are online. Likewise I recommend that when leaving home that personnel wear vinyl disposable gloves, carry some kind of hand sanitizer (if you can get it) , wash your hands after every physical contact with a probably contaminated surface, and care antiseptic wipes in your car to wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, and gas pumps.

Call this an abundance of caution on my part, but the virus knows no borders, races, religions, rank or status.

However, yesterday and today, after occasionally acting the part of a real President, Trump went back to his baseline. He blamed everyone but himself, and 8 days into a 15 day campaign to try to stop the virus by social distancing and shutting down businesses, he threatened to revere a key public health decision because the “economic costs might be higher than the virus itself.”  In his news conference comments he tried to make his threat sound a little more humane by suggesting that isolated people were more prone to suicide, would outnumber the people infected and killed by the virus. While I know that social isolation can be a killer, its effects can be mitigated by people that care. However, if people go back to work, stores and restaurants are opened just as the virus is hitting stride the infection and death rate will make those of the past few days look like peanuts. Millions will be infected, and many of them will die, and the the economy will collapse like a house of cards. Not just because of the effects of the virus, but because the business leaders, stock holders, and even his cult followers will abandon him because they will finally realize that they mean nothing to him.

So, because I am tired I wish you a good night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“I Don’t Take Responsibility at All: Trump Tells the Unsettling Truth about Himself

 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

President Abraham Lincoln noted:

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”

I was able to watch both of President Trump’s speeches on Coronavirus 19 this week. Both were uninspiring to say the least, and he quite obviously understands nothing of being a leader, or even more so, the Commander in Chief.

However, in his Friday Afternoon the President, who is a man whose lies, evasions, of the truth, blame of others, and failure to stand on any principle,  finally spoke one truth. In the midst of other lies and evasions of responsibility, false claims about the availability testing kits, a website run by Google which has denied it would be running by the time the President said it would be, the availability of drive through testing, and the fawning praise of big business leaders, and members of the administration, he spoke the truth.

To NBC reporter Kristen Welker, who asked what responsibility he took for the delays and problems in rolling our the test kits. He replied:

“Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time. It wasn’t meant for this kind of an event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about.”

In a follow up question asked  NPR reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who nailed him with a question of his responsibility for eliminating the CDC Pandemic Response team and removing a member of it from the National Security Council. Her question was direct and to the point:

“You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House pandemic office. The officials that worked in that office said the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded.”

The President, having been caught twice responded and passed the blame. It was hardly a Harry Truman “the buck stops here,” moment. Nor was it a humiliated John F Kennedy, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He took sole responsibility for it, stating, “because I’m the responsible officer of the government…” time of honesty. Instead the President lashed back, attacking her, and blaming everyone but himself.

“I just think it’s a nasty question. When you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people, I could ask, perhaps my administration.” Turning to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who has been the most consistently honest official during this crisis; “Perhaps I could ask Tony about that? Because I don’t know anything about that. Perhaps they do that to people,” he said to Alcindor, a former New York Times who left it for PBS. “You used to work at another newspaper. Things like that happen.”

The President often states how he is the Commander in Chief, and his sycophants claim is therefor above the law, however he has never taken responsibility for anything, unless he is claiming success for that of others. The list of his evasions of responsibility for anything, including the deaths of soldiers that he sent into battle, defies the final responsibility of a true commander, at any level. A commanding officer in our military is responsibility is responsible for everything his unit, base, or ship is assigned to do. If he or she fails, there is no evading responsibility by blaming it on others. Numerous commanders in every branch of the military are relieved of their commands, and sometimes face trial at Court Martial, regardless, most are never promoted again, and find that their careers are over. Sir Winston Churchill, a man of legendary success, and failure noted: “The price of greatness is responsibility.”  President Trump, who has a bust of Churchill in his office should heed those words.

Another British military officer, whose life is shrouded in mystery and controversy, Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, did write truth in these words:

“A successful leader of men must have character, ability and be prepared to take unlimited responsibility. Responsibility can only be learned by taking responsibility; you cannot learn the piano without playing on one. Leadership is the practical application of character. It implies the ability to command and to make obedience proud and free.”

Admiral James Stockdale, who spent years in a North Vietnamese Prison, enduring constant torture, later noted:

“Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear… What we need for leaders are men of heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers.” 

President Trump has demonstrated none of this, except as Admiral Stockdale said, “posturing and… pandering to the mob,” and has shown his unwillingness to learn, unwillingness to listen to experts, and unwillingness to accept responsibility as President. That is a problem, especially in a time like this, General and later President Dwight Eisenhower said:

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

On Sunday afternoon the President opened an update on the COVID-19 pandemic stating the most obvious lie imaginable, that the virus “was completely under control,” only to be undercut by Anthony Fauci, who said that it would get much worse.

Trump is failing as President. His denial of the virus for months, his actions to delay any response, and his prior action in 2018 to disband a key component of our National Security Team, the CDC Pandemic Response Unit, created by President Barack Obama and his Administration was irresponsible and has made the situation worse, not better.

Our disease increase curve is similar to that of Italy. Within a few weeks we are going to see tens of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths. The measures taken by the administration were too little, too late. The current measures may help mitigate the effects, but COVID 19 is going to wreak havoc on our society, economy, and way of life.

If Trump was a real leader he would inspire us as Winston Churchill did the British in 1940, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.” Or those of Franklin Roosevelt who said at the opening of his first inaugural address:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

My friends, that is leadership, that is command, that is the mantle of supreme command that our President has never understood, before or after he became President.

I could write more, but I have been playing with this article for two days.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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COVID-19, Trump Policy, and “Life Unworthy of Life”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am reflecting about the present in light of the past, and how policy wise, the Social Darwinist policies of the Trump Administration, and the words of his cult propagandists regardless and  and followers direct me to the Eugenics movement of the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, Weimar Germany, and other European nations, as well as Japan. But the eugenics movement was nowhere more malevolent, evident and active than it was in Hitler’s Germany. Likewise it is hard to believe that members of the administration as well as its supporters seem to believe, if you take them at their word that the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and poor, especially those who are not white or Christian are a burden on the State, and are as the Eugenicists of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as Hitler’s Nazi Party believed, were ”Life unworthy of life .” 

It seems hard to believe for anyone born after the mid 1960s, that government through its laws, decrees, and policies could deem certain people to be “life unworthy of life.” The most malevolent of such governments was the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, but individuals and institutions in the United States promoted the same ideology, but could not carry it to its logical conclusion.

The life that was unworthy of life included the physically and mentally handicapped or disabled, those with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Polio, and people with other neurological conditions. Likewise the mentally ill, those suffering clinical depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses were considered to be life unworthy of life. Even the deaf were included, as well as veterans suffering from what we would now call PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury. Also included were people labeled as “asocial” a very loose definition that could include almost any metal disorder or criminal act, including being a homosexual.

Tens of thousands Of such people were liquidated at the T-4 Euthanasia centers, most located in former hospitals, psychiatric institutions, or sanitariums.

Once the Nazis decided to eliminate them the same day as they invaded Poland in 1939, most of these people gassed with carbon monoxide gas from the exhaust of trucks or Diesel engines, and their remains were cremated. Others, especially children were either starved to death or given a lethal injection while they slept. In every case the next of kin of each victim was sent a standard form letter telling them that their relative had died of influenza, typhus, or some other disease while being given the best of care. The next of kin were then given the option of paying for an urn that may or may not have contained the ashes of their loved ones for inurnment near their home town. If they could not afford an urn the ashes were disposed of in the cemetery nearest to where they were killed. At Hadamar, it was on the grounds of the institution.

Despite the Nazis attempts to disguise their crime they could not be hidden, and after over 70,000 Germans were Euthanized the official T-4 Euthanasia program was ended in Germany.  The gas chambers, cremation ovens and facilities were disassembled by SS experts, and sent east to Poland, where they and their experienced technicians became key components of the Holocaust of the Jews at Soribor, Belzec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz. 

But the Euthanasia program, despite Nazi lies to senior clerics and officials of neutral countries didn’t stop, it simply moved eastward as the SS Einsatzgruppen killed the patients at every mental hospital, sanitarium, old folks home, or orphanage they came across. Inside Germany at the four T4 centers over 80,000 were gassed. At Hartheim in Austria a Party was held on the gassing of the 10,000th victim. Richard Evans wrote:

“At Hartheim the staff held a party to celebrate their ten-thousandth cremation, assembling in the crematorium around the naked body of a recently gassed victim, which was laid out on a stretcher and covered with flowers. One staff member dressed as a clergyman and performed a short ceremony, then beer was distributed to all present. Eventually no fewer than 20,000 were gassed at Hartheim, the same at Sonnenstein, 20,000 at Brandenburg and Bernburg, and another 20,000 at Grafeneck and Hadamar, making a total of 80,000 altogether.”

The tolls in Poland, the Baltic States, and the Soviet Union were much higher, but outside of the T4 program which “officially” ended in 1941.

Now in the United States the laws guaranteeing health care to people are being challenged, the Secretary of Education has removed funding from the Department’s funding request for the Special Olympics, programs for the physically and mentally disabled under the SSI are being cut to the bone, and even care for disabled veterans is being threatened as not being economical because none of them are economically valuable to an administration for which profit is the bottom line of the insurance industry. Likewise, most supposedly pro-life Christians have no problems in cutting such programs because many have bought into the materialistic, Prosperity Gospel, whose fawning preachers have anointed President Trump if he were King Cyrus.

To them, criticism of the President cannot be tolerated, no matter how factual it may be. Thus, the  sick, then weak, then infirm, or mentally ill, who are not productive have no place in society. Inside the womb they are a remarkably powerful political issue; but once outside the womb they might as well be dead if you listen to Trump’s clique of Reichsbishofs, according to who cannot produce for the economy should not eat, get medical care, or live. They are life unworthy of life.

You see, in the authoritarian world in which we live, where an uninhibited and unhinged executive backed by profit minded billionaires, and greedy preachers, such lives; the old and infirm, the disabled, the mentally ill, the young but physically disabled, those with neurological issues, and birth defects stand in the way of profit, stand in the way of a “perfect” society.

If you directly challenged such people may not advocate euthanasia per say, they would not advocate for gas chambers, or firing squads. Instead they would turn a blind eye to depriving their victims of citizenship, starving them, depriving them of medical care, and turning them out of care facilities knowing that their families lack the capability of caring for them. and if they have any capacity for work, work them until they die, so long as they Confess Christ before they die.

How do we know that life does not matter to them? One way is to note the many times that pharmaceutical corporations have increased the costs of previously inexpensive yet vital life saving medicines by thousands of dollars a dose all for profit with little to no pushback from the White House, or the FDA, much less the Senate GOP majority, or the Evangelical supporters of Trump.

Please understand, this dystopian future need not happen if people of any faith, or no faith at all make a stand against a twisted idea of dictatorship backed up by billionaires and corporate entities that suck billions of dollars from the taxpayer and pay almost nothing themselves. Of course they couldn’t do it on their own in not supported by a de facto State Media, and a cult like legion of followers who would follow Trump even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. His words, not mine.

I will turn 60 in just over two weeks, and this does bother me enough to speak out. As a senior military officer facing the end of his career and retirement amid multiple physical and emotional issues, it does matter. I keep two things in mind today. First is that of my own responsibility to my Oath, and to fellow citizens.  In that I am reminded of the words of German General Ludwig Beck who wrote:

“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.”

And like Beck’s compatriot, Major General Henning Von Tresckow stated: “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.” Or in my case, Trump’s America.

Historian Timothy Snyder reminds of a certain truth, which should we forget, as I imagine a large number of Trump supporters have:

“The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”

Those are all hard truths to comprehend. As Americans we always presume that we are the good guys, when in fact many times we have acted in means contrary to the ideals of the Declaration as well as the Constitution, and other laws enacted by Congress. But our republic has survived, but its institutions are both resilient and fragile. History has proven this, we have even survived a civil war, but we may not survive an increasingly vindictive and unstable President, his compliant majority in the Senate, and the 35-40% of voters who are in effect no longer Republicans, but a Trump Cult which is largely buttressed by Conservative Evangelical Churches, and inspired by a President who uses force, legal, and extralegal alike to secure his rule.

We live in extraordinary times which call for extraordinary strength if our Republic is to continue in any form that resembles the intentions of the founders and their liberal enlightenment beliefs.

If we do not want to see the return of a full fledged government and industrial sponsored campaign to eradicate life unworthy of life, we have to fight. It is a fight that we did not chose, but if the Republic is to survive without becoming a criminal dictatorship we must speak up, and we must do so now. If we do not we have no one to blame but ourselves.

As Yehuda Bauer said: “Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”

The choice is ours, and the time is now.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.” The War Against Workers and a Capitalism that Adam Smith wouldn’t Recognize

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It’s not Labor Day, but it might as well be. It is time to speak up for workers. For decades organized labor has been demonized by the descendants of people who died to secure decent working conditions, wages, and benefits for regular hard working people. However, most of us, living in our own work or social media cocoons don’t realize this is going on until it hits people we know personally. I wrote about that in my last post.

The attacks on labor and workers have become much more pronounced under the Trump Administration than any prior administration since that of Herbert Hoover. But must of us who don’t work in big corporations, in the service industry, or in other fields where they have no employment protections and are victimized by CEOs, COOs, and the hedge funds that scoop up businesses and then sacrifice them for profit.

One can look at every economic depression or recession since Capitalism can be traced to the overreach of those who can make a profit out of scamming investors and victimizing workers, using the police power of government if needed. Sadly, the Trump Administration is the worst at doing this since the administration of President Herbert Hoover, who did nothing to help failing business, or unemployed, yet highly skilled workers during the Great Depression, and then ordered the Army, under Douglas MacArthur to attack veterans protesting to get their promised pensions from the First World War. Likewise, Hoover’s praise for the Italian dictator Mussolini was condemned by Marine Major General Smedley Butler, with the result that Hoover attempted to have the great Marine prosecuted and tried by Court Martial, the charges were dismissed, but Butler was denied the chance to become Commandant of the Marine Corps, and forced to retire.

Butler would later write the classic War is a Racket which serves as a reminder of how little many supposedly patriotic business leaders and politicians, would so easily defraud their country and at the same time abandon their employees and the soldiers who they claimed to support. Though not a union member, I marched in support of SEIU employees at Cabell-Huntington Hospital in the fall of 1998, and I have consistently spoken about the way workers have been denied collective bargaining, and been defined as “Human Resources” as if they were no better than any other “resource”.

They are considered fungible assets, easily disposed of when their corporation overreaches and places itself in immense debt. I saw that this week when Craftworks Holdings closed our version of Cheers with no notice, and scant severance for non-managerial employees.

So tonight I finish up with an old article about the struggle for workers and their rights.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Abraham Lincoln, who was perhaps our only President who was a real working man once said, “If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.” 

It seems that nothing about humanity ever changes, even so it is hard to believe that at one time American workers had no rights and I am not talking about African American slaves who as slaves didn’t even count as human beings. No I’m talking about the people Mel Brooks called in Blazing Saddles: “the white God fearing citizens of Rock Ridge” and for that matter every place and every race in America.

It was not until the mid-1800s in the United States and Europe that workers began to organize and protest for the right to decent wages and working conditions. But this came at a cost; the loss of jobs, homes, property, prison, deportation, deportation, and death.

There were many instances when this cost workers and labor organizers their lives. Employers, often backed by heavily armed private security contractors like the Pinkerton Agency, used deadly force to break up peaceful strikes. In the days of the Robber Barons, when business ran the government at almost every level, employers frequently called in local and state law enforcement, as well as the National Guard, and occasionally Federal troops to break strikes. They played various ethnic and racial groups off of each in order to divide the labor movement. There are hundreds of instances of such violence being used against workers, in some strikes the dead numbered in the hundreds.

                           Troops Putting Down the Pullman Strike 

Some of these attacks on workers occurred in major cities, others at isolated work sites and factories. Some are famous, the Haymarket Massacre of May 4th 1886 in Chicago, the Pullman Strike Massacre of 1894, the Homestead Strike and Massacre of 1892, the Latimer Massacre of 1897, the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, and the Columbine Mine Massacre of 1927.

Others less so, but there was more. In the Bisbee Deportation of 1917 1300 striking miners and their families were deported from their homes in Bisbee Arizona by 2000 armed deputies, put in box cars and transported 200 miles to the New Mexico desert, where without food, water or money they were left. There was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire where managers locked the doors in order to ensure that the fleeing women workers did not put anything unauthorized in their purses. One hundred forty-four workers, mostly young women died, many jumping from the burning building to their death.

Police and other Onlookers Looking up at the burning Triangle Shirt Factory with the bodies of Women Workers who jumped from it at Their Feet

Early labor organizations such as the Knights of Labor led the effort to bring about better conditions. For doing so they were labeled subversive and even called communists. Their meetings were often attacked and the leaders jailed and some lynched.

                                                      Eugene Debs

The sacrifices of those early workers, and organizers are why we have Labor Day. One of the early American labor leaders was a man named Eugene Debs. Debs eventually became a Socialist, but he said something remarkable which still is as timely as when he uttered the words:

“I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”

I wish that wasn’t true but it is. The Social Darwinists who follow Ayn Rand as if she were the Prophet and who populate Wall Street boardrooms and every major school of business ensure that it is. The disparity between wage laborers and CEOs is higher than it has ever been. But I digress…

On September 5th 1882 the first Labor Day was observed when members of several Unions in New York City organized the first Labor Day parade. The police came armed and ready to intervene if the workers got out of hand, but the parade was peaceful. It ended and the marchers moved over to Wendell’s Elm Park where they had a party. Twenty-five thousand Union men and their families celebrated, with hundreds of kegs of lager beer.

Within a few years many states began to institute Labor days of their own. In 1894, just days after the violent end of the Pullman strike in which Federal troops and Marshalls killed 30 workers and wounded 57 more, Congress and President Grover Cleveland rushed through legislation to establish a Federal Labor Day.

My Great Aunt Goldie Dundas was a labor organizer for the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union in West Virginia in the 1920s – 1950s. I wish I had gotten to really know her, but she died when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Sadly the workers represented by that Union have had almost all of their jobs in the textile industry outsourced to China, India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, and Bangladesh where cheaply made garments are produced, and workers abused. The examples of mass deaths due to safety issues and fires in Bangladeshi factories are too numerous to list. But then who cares? The fact is you can drive through many parts of the South and see the poverty created by the exodus of these Union employers, the textile industry, which was part of the fabric of the South is gone. Empty factories and poverty stricken towns dot the countryside. I saw a lot of them living in Eastern North Carolina, towns that once thrived are ghost towns, riddled with crime, unemployment and no hope, unless Wal-Mart opens a store in town. Ironically it sells the clothing made overseas that used to be manufactured by the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of the people who live there today.

Adam Smith, the father of Capitalism understood it in a very different manner than those who claim to be Capitalists today, especially those who inhabit the Trump Administration. He wrote in his magnum opus, The Wealth of All Nations:

“In regards to the price of commodities, the rise of wages operates as simple interest does, the rise of profit operates like compound interest. Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

The fact is that today, labor is under threat. Unions have been demonized by politicians and pundits and their power and influence much reduced. Some of this was due to their own success in improving conditions from workers, and not just Union workers. When my dad retired from the Navy in 1974, he went to work at one of the few non-Union warehouses of the John Deere Company in Stockton, California. While they were not union, the workers received every benefit won by the majority of the workers in the company who were members of the United Auto Workers Union. Due to that my dad had high wages, excellent working conditions and benefits. The company had a program for the children of workers, which allowed them to work in the summer in the warehouse and receive incredibly high pay and benefits while in college. I did that for two years, and it helped pay for much of my college. I was not a union member but I benefited because Union men and leaders did the hard work to make that job happen.

However, in many places, Unions and labor are under attack, sometimes not just by corporations, but also by state governments, and now the Federal Government. Job security and stability for most American workers is a thing of the past. Federal and State agencies charged with protecting those rights, including safety in the workplace are being cut in the mad rush to reduce government power. Corporations are offshoring and outsourcing jobs without regard to American workers or the country itself. Part of that is due to globalization and I understand that, but these companies frequently relocate jobs to places where they can exploit workers, deny them benefits, pay them less, and suffer no penalty for ignoring safety procedures or harming the environment. It seems to me that we are returning to the days of the Robber Barons. I wonder when violence against workers and those who support them will be condoned or simply ignored.

Pope Leo XIII wrote in his encyclical Renum Novarum:

“The following duties . . . concern rich men and employers: Workers are not to be treated as slaves; justice demands that the dignity of human personality be respected in them, … gainful occupations are not a mark of shame to man, but rather of respect, as they provide him with an honorable means of supporting life. It is shameful and inhuman, however, to use men as things for gain and to put no more value on them than what they are worth in muscle and energy.”

He also wrote:

“Equity therefore commands that public authority show proper concern for the worker so that from what he contributes to the common good he may receive what will enable him, housed, clothed, and secure, to live his life without hardship. Whence, it follows that all those measures ought to be favored which seem in any way capable of benefiting the condition of workers. Such solicitude is so far from injuring anyone, that it is destined rather to benefit all, because it is of absolute interest to the State that those citizens should not be miserable in every respect from whom such necessary goods proceed.”

But sadly there are far too few church leaders of any denomination who will take the side of workers or the poor, and when they do they are either condemned by the disciples of Ayn Rand or politely thanked and ignored by politicians and corporate leaders.

So please, when you celebrate Labor Day, do not forget that it is important, and that we should not forget why we celebrate it. If we forget that, it will become a meaningless holiday and our children may have to make the same sacrifices of our ancestors.

Labor Day is a day to remember the men and women, some of them former soldiers, workers, labor organizers, and leaders; some of whom were killed by National Guard and Federal troops for their effort, who paved the way for workers today. We cannot forget that. So when you see a politician attacking Labor and seeking to diminish workers rights or benefits ask them what Abraham Lincoln or Adam Smith would think. If they can’t answer, turn your backs on them and start fighting for what is right.


AFP PHOTO/FILES (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who always stood for the rights of workers no-matter what their race, creed, or color, said:

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” 

Likewise, one cannot forget that Dr. King was assassinated when he went to Memphis to support the Memphis Sanitation Worker strike.

This my friends is why Labor and the protection of working people from those who abase them, mistreat them, and exploit them for profit is so important. What passes for Capitalism today is a cruel form Social Darwinism that Adam Smith wouldn’t recognize. It is slavery without chains, called Right to Work which destroys families by making both parents work just to keep afloat, and in ways that separate them from their children. Racial and ethnic minorities pay a higher price than white suburbia, as do poor whites in the South, Midwest, and Appalachia, the latter who due to conservative regions beliefs, and racism, support by electing people bent on killing their jobs, economic, and educational prospects.

The fact is my friends is the truth. It’s an incredibly uncomfortable subject to discuss, but if we have a choice. We can join the perpetrators and use people to advance our own interests; we can be victims, or worse, we can be bystanders, who turn our backs and allow such evils to continue.

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The Night Our “Cheers” Closed: How Corporate America Destroys Community

 

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sunday night was the last night that our version of Cheers for the last fourteen years closed forever. About 5 PM at no notice a representative of the corporate headquarters came in and told our General Manager that our Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant would close at the end of the evening for good. The employees were given no notice, one day they had a job, the next day they didn’t. The fault was not theirs, it was an out of touch corporation, which over extended itself by buying up an already bankrupt restaurant chain, Logan’s Roadhouse, and then neglecting its thriving brewery restaurants of the Gordon Biersch, Round Rock, Chicago Pizza chains, and other brands. The CEO is the former CEO and Managing Parter of Logan’s, owned by the venture capital company Centerbridge Partners, L.P.

In fact, rather than a corporate owned operation, our brewery-restaurant had the feel of a local neighborhood bar, like the one called Cheers. It really was a place where everybody knew your name. It became a gathering place for friends, who along with the managers, cooks, bartenders, servers, and hosts became like an extended family. Yes, there were some who were assholes and acted overly entitled, and others that pretty much kept to themselves, but overall the clientele embraced a broad spectrum of people. Everyone from businesspeople and bankers, military personnel, reachers, professors, doctors and dentists, pensioners, day workers, shipyard workers, technicians and IT types, small business owners, retail workers, bartenders, cooks, and servers from other restaurants of a wide variety of races and, ethnicities, nationalities, and religions, straight and gay, with ages from the twenties to the nineties.

For the most part we cared for each other. We looked out for the bartenders and servers. We had each other over for dinner, for holidays, those with building or mechanical skills donated time to help those less proficient or unable due to illness or physical disability. We all pitched in when money needed to be raised for individuals or groups, proceeds from tapping parties went to charities.
In a way I became the unofficial chaplain, performing three marriages, one funeral, providing counseling, or just listening, and making hospital visits.

We gathered to visit, talk, listen, joke, on good days and bad. To watch football, soccer, baseball, hockey, the Olympic Games, the World Cup, to talk about our days, to have a listening ear, over a beer. We had parties there, celebrated Oktoberfest, the New Year, but mostly came together at the end of a day, to download and relax, to share and to care, each in our own way. A few of us, including me got a chance to work with the brewer to brew a beer of our choice. I got a chance to learn the process of how to brew what we called The Padre’s Pilsner, a crystal clear champagne like  German Pilsner, hoppy, but not overly so, crisp without being too bitter.

My wife Judy specialized in making people happy by making them beautiful jewelry and pendants, which she mostly gave to the servers, hosts, and bartenders. When Judy was in the hospital for cancer surgery and knee replacements it was bartenders and servers who visited her, and who came by the house to visit when she was recovering, not people from church or Navy Chaplains. It was our executive Chef who cooked her special menu items which she could eat based on gastrointestinal ailments.

At about 6:00 PM on Sunday we were informed that a representative from corporate had come in, and told our General Manager that the restaurant would close forever that night. Many of us came in for a final last call. There were tears, and laughs as we remembered the good times, tears as we thought of the closing, and friends who had passed away. We shared hugs, stories, and collected our steins, even for friends who couldn’t be there. Sunday night I was so discombobulated and unfocused that I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even focus on television or books.

But now as I previously mentioned, thanks to the CEO of Craftworks Holdings, a man who has managed restaurants, but never breweries, and the hedge fund managers at Centerbridge Partners. They are sacrificing the jewels of their corporation, the unique craft brewery restaurants to prop of a steakhouse that has been rescued from bankruptcy once, then acquired by Craftworks, whose CEO had been the CEO and managing partner of that steakhouse until 2018. But don’t take my word, just google these things these things and you will find articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Craft Beer Journal Brewbound, and many local papers, and you can see the history and scale of the decline of what were once the trademark brands of Craftworks, which were all once described as growing and innovative have been crushed by cut after cut, even extremely profitable location on Honolulu’s Waikiki, where landlords disputed the reasons Craftworks gave for shutting them down. In our case the restaurant still had over a year left on its lease, the lease was not expensive, and despite the best efforts of Craftworks to make it less competitive, by dropping Happy Hour prices on weekends and when major sporting events were going on, which drove some customers to other restaurants, who carried the NFL package and lowered prices of their drinks and appetizers, it was still profitable. If I was a betting man I would say that since 2018 that corporate has been trying to drive customers and staff away, yet they still came.

Now, our Gordon Biersch Cheers family has lost its home. Thankfully, many of us are still committed to friendships and will meet Tuesday night at another local brewery restaurant. It’s not as fancy, but it will do, and we know that the owners there, local people, not venture capitalists will appreciate our business, as will any number of the other locally owned craft breweries.

The sad thing is that the venture capitalists often back ventures that fail, making vast profits while leaving the businesses the leverage in ruins. Quality, sacrificed for cheapness, loyalty, for the mass market, community, for a mass of unknown and uncared for customers who are rushed in and out of restaurants at a rate slightly slower than fast food operations. The same can be said for almost every business organization that has been taken over by the venture capitalists. They have been destroyed, parted out, and many operations moved overseas to China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, the Philippines, and a host of other nations, whose people, environment, and living conditions we don’t care about while at the same time transferring the worlds wealth to the richest oligarchs.

It’s happening here. We have record employment but wages are still pitifully low, and many work more than one job to make ends meet. Even then, quite a few people are only a paycheck or two from bankruptcy. Our friends, other than management, who worked there did receive a severance, of two weeks pay at $2.13 an hour, the base minimum wage of restaurant workers, without tips, and of course all taxes will be diverted from what the corporate spokesman said was “compensating” the employees, regardless of the fact that quite a few have worked there a decade or more. It’s really shitty how corporate America treats hard workers, as well as those who are loyal to their employers. On Monday when the employees came in the trucks and men from corporate were already there, the move had been planned for some time, but the failed to notify Armada Hoffer, which holds the lease. They didn’t find out that the restaurant had closed until Monday. It’s immoral, it’s evil, and it will destroy our country. I talked to two friends tonight whose corporations are being reorganized even now. Both have their doctorates and the industries that they are in are making huge money, often assisted by agencies controlled by Trump appointees.

We didn’t learn the examples of 2008, and what happened to our little group, will happen again, and probably worse than in 2008, as the Trump Administration has loosed the bonds of the modern Robber Barons. Our little diverse family is now yet another victim of them. I worry more about our employees who are now out looking for jobs. But we will do our best to stay together.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Money, Power, and Election Spending 1933 and Today

    Hitler With German Industrialists 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Lord Acton noted:

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

Less than a month after his appointment as Chancellor by President Hindenburg and before the Reichstag Fire, Adolf Hitler met with German industrialists at Hermann Goering’s Estate on February 20th 1933. The purpose of the meeting was to secure financial support for the Nazi Party in the upcoming Reichstag election, an election that would be the last in Hitler’s Germany.

The invitees were a “who’s who” of German industrialists and by the end of the day they had pledged over Two Million Reichsmarks to the Nazi cause.

It wasn’t hard for Hitler to win them over. They feared a Communist counter revolution against the Nazis and they were still unsure of the economic plans of the Nazis, as the Nazis did have a Wing that believed in a more socialist vision. Their leaders included Ernst Röhm leader of the Brownshirt SA, or Stürmabteilung which numbered over three million members and eyed itself as a people’s army to replace the 100,000 man Reichswehr. Likewise, the Stasser brothers, Otto and Gregor, attempted to wrest leadership and policy of the NSDAP from Hitler, who they believed was to friendly with the industrialists. Röhm even openly talked of a second revolution. But the industrialists had nothing to fear, by the next summer Röhm most of the SA senior leadership  was dead, as was Gregor Strasser, murdered during the Night of the Long Knives, while Otto Strasser fled the country.  The threat of a second revolution was over, and the German conservative establishment was safe.

Knowing the industrialists better than they knew themselves, Hitler played to their worst fears as William Shier recorded in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

Hitler began a long speech with a sop to the industrialists. “Private enterprise,” he said, “cannot be maintained in the age of democracy; it is conceivable only if the people have a sound idea of authority and personality… All the worldly goods we possess we owe to the struggle of the chosen… We must not forget that all the benefits of culture must be introduced more or less with an iron fist.” He promised the businessmen that he would “eliminate” the Marxists and restore the Wehrmacht (the latter was of special interest to such industries as Krupp, United Steel and I. G. Farben, which stood to gain the most from rearmament). “Now we stand before the last election,” Hitler concluded, and he promised his listeners that “regardless of the outcome, there will be no retreat.” If he did not win, he would stay in power “by other means… with other weapons.” Goering, talking more to the immediate point, stressed the necessity of “financial sacrifices” which “surely would be much easier for industry to bear if it realized that the election of March fifth will surely be the last one for the next ten years, probably even for the next hundred years.”

Money and power, the sacrifice of hard earned freedoms, the selling out of political openness, workers, and Jews were irrelevant in the end. What mattered was profit and the protection of it and their status by an authoritarian state in perpetuity. As such the German industrialists, championed by Hjalmar Schachtsold their souls and their nation to Hitler. They included the head of Krupp Industries, Gustav Krupp, the head of Opel, Fritz von Opel, as well as the leaders of the electronics powerhouse Siemens, chemical and pharmacy giant IG Farben, one of the leading German insurance agencies Allianz, and numerous others. Hitler’s goal for the meeting was basically a shakedown of the industrialist leaders to raise enough money to ensure a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag to pass his Enabling Act which would enable Hitler to rule by decree, in effect, to establish a dictatorship, by parliamentary means. Historian Adam Tooze, the author of The Wages of Destruction wrote:

The meeting of 20 February and its aftermath are the most notorious instances of the willingness of German big business to assist Hitler in establishing his dictatorial regime. The evidence cannot be dodged.

Between the meeting and the election the Reichstag, scheduled for March 5th, the Reichstag was burned, and the Reichstag Fire Decree enacted. In the elections that followed the Nazis still not achieve a majority in the Reichstag, much less a two-thirds majority. Even so, with the surrender and acquiescence of every remaining party but the Socialists, the Nazis passed the Enabling Act. The leaders of the German economic and banking establishment, Nazi or not, were pleased, their mortal enemies could now be persecuted. By June, all opposition parties were liquidated, mostly by themselves, or outlawed, as was the SPD. All independent labor unions were dissolved and forcibly incorporated into Robert Ley´s German Labor Front, which ironically occurred the day after Hitler declared May 1st as a National Holiday to honor German Workers.

Hitler’s economic supporters included corporate and banking leaders from other countries, including Henry Ford of the United States, whose German factories as well as GM‘s German subsidiary Opel, produced much of Germany’s war materials.

The curious thing is that in many countries, including the United States, leaders of great corporations, the banking industry, builders, manufacturers are little different than their predecessors in Nazi Germany and so many other democracies that succumbed to dictatorship. Money needs power, and those that desire power need money, and are willing to spend it to their advantage, regardless of which candidate or party they donate.

Let’s take that as a warning for every politician who seeks the money of corporate lobbyists, and corporate leaders who seek political power, regardless of what ideology or party they represent, especially the religious, “patriotic,” or nationalist ones.

This is a lesson we all need to learn today. In 2016, some 6.5 Billion dollars was spent on Presidential and Congressional elections by all parties. Recent studies indicate that over 10 billion dollars, over 6 billion on traditional television and radio, media, as well as internet and social media advertising will be spent in the 2020 primary campaigns and general elections, the latter often manipulated by Russia, as it was in 2016. Regardless of the outcome in November, that cannot be a good thing.

Think about it, let it sink in.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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