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Ideologues and Ideologically Empty Pragmatists: The Key to an Authoritarian State

werner-best

Dr. Werner Best

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been looking at some of the nominees to various cabinet posts in the incoming Trump administration. Trump is a known quality, since his lack of character, integrity, narcissism, and thin skin are well known I was thinking about his picks. Trump has no ideology other than his own power and ego which makes him both dangerous and unpredictable, and this is not just to those who are his current lot of “enemies,” but even people who campaigned at his side like obedient lap dogs, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie comes to mind, but I digress because believe me there will be a lot more of his supposed friends and allies who make that list.

Some of them are hopeless right wing ideologues. They too are known qualities and actually fairly easy to predict and to defend against and many so so incompetent, divisive, and intolerable, that even people who agree with them will throw them under the bus.

But there are others, like Trump himself devoid of ideology, but even more dangerous because they are much more careful. In fact they can move from administration to administration, campaign to campaign. One can see a number of them in Trump’s entourage, including people who advised his GOP primary opponents and then abandoned them when they saw a winner. They are in it for their own personal achievement and whatever power they can gain.

Such people can be found in any government, any business, any military, and any church. One of the interesting things about history is that you can see them weave their way in and out of the picture, outmaneuvering and undercutting rivals, even selling out their bosses.

My regular readers know that I have spent a large amount of my life and academic study dealing wth the transition from Imperial Germany, to the Weimar Republic, and to the National Socialist or Nazi state of Adolf Hitler. The interesting thing is to see how many professional men, business leaders, bureaucrats, police officials, and military officers, many men; a good number of whom had opposed Hitler and never were Nazis until it became convenient served the Nazi State, especially in the ranks of Heinrich Himmler’s SS. One of the books that has been part of my study since college is Heinz Hohne’s The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS. The book which came out in 1966 was one of the first to confront the myths about the SS which allowed many Germans after the war to use the SS as their alibi, all that was wrong with Germany could be blamed on the SS. While the SS was certainly culpable of many crimes it was just one part of the Nazi state, a state as contradictory as it was totalitarian.

In his book Hohne discusses the types of men who found their way into the SS, which included the true believers as well as the pragmatists who had no ideology. One of these men was Dr. Werner Best who had been an official in the Gestapo. A gifted intriguer he maneuvered himself between various party factions and leaders and was promoted to SS Obergruppenfuhrer. Then, later as the head of the Nazi government in Denmark went against the final solution in that county by helping the Jews of that country escape to Sweden.

Best adapted the philosophy of Ernst Junger, the writer of the classic novel of the First World War Storm of Steel who wrote: “The important part is not what we fight for but how we fight.” Best transformed Junger’s philosophy into one of the pillars of the SS leadership, the ideal of “heroic realism.” Best wrote: “The fight itself is essential and permanent; the aims of the fight are temporary and interchangeable. There can therefore be no question of success in our fight… the yardstick of the new code of morality, therefore, is not its content – not ‘what’ but ‘how’.” 

Hohne noted that the ethic “with no specific aim, opened the door door to concentration on achievement for achievement’s sake.” Himmler put it succinctly, “The word ‘impossible’ must never be heard in the SS.”  The result was that even non-Nazis were attracted to the SS and because of their abilities or connections were brought in to the organization.

This is where it really gets interesting when one thinks of today’s opportunistic yet ethically deprived pragmatists of so many professions who have jumped aboard the Trump train.

Hohne wrote: “The call to energy and efficiency, the ceaseless challenge to action and trial, launched SS men into a primitive competitive struggle in which all normally accepted rules of conduct were forgotten.” Some believed that they were still were still only responsible to themselves but because they were subject to orders became prisoners “of an ethic linked to no purpose, an ethic which, ostensibly for purposes of political necessity, could suddenly order the commission of crimes and present them as goals of human technological efficiency.”  

Hohne quoted historian Hans Buchheim who wrote in his book The Anatomy of the SS State:

“If a man is concerned not with what he is fighting for but only with how he fights, he is conditioned to heroic action in a criminal cause. Although such a heroic fighter imagines that he must rely on himself alone… he can be swept into the service of an organization claiming complete totalitarian authority – and he will perceive that this has happened not at all or too late.”

Werner Best learned late and he tried to make up for his early activities in the Nazi State, even so he was convicted as a war criminal though he escaped the death sentence. Sadly there were a lot more men like him, non-Nazis who became part of the SS and conducted some of the worst crimes in human history.

So when you hear the man who will be President in just over a week’s time threaten reporters, denigrate intelligence officials, and conduct Twitter tirades against anyone who criticizes him, and then shamelessly lies about all of it you need to be concerned regardless of your political affiliation. Many of the men and women who are selling their souls to serve in the incoming administration are completely without any moral center, ethic, or guiding ideology; and it is them that all of us should be really concerned about. This is because they are the ones who will get things done, morality or convention be damned. Authoritarians or totalitarians cannot succeed without them.

Have a good day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Note: I do recommend Hohne’s book from which I drew much of this article. Sadly, it is still in print but not available in a digital format. You have to purchase and read it the old fashioned way. It’s actually kind of cool to read a book that smells like a book.

 

 

 

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Filed under ethics, History, nazi germany, News and current events, philosophy, Political Commentary

Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day: If Phil Simms Sees His Shadow Do We Get 6 More Weeks of Winter?

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Well it is Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day to boot, two great events that go great together. Unfortunately Phil Simms, victor of Super Bowl XXI and CBS NFL Commentator will not be helping to call the game since it is on Fox, but I digress… Had CBS had the game this year they could have had Simms out in the parking lot with the early tailgaters as the sun came up.

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Like the more famous Phil up in Punxsutawney, Simms has been able to keep a pretty good gig going for himself after his NFL career was over. Last night before I went to bed the significance of Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl being the same day astounded me.

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To my twisted mind it seemed like some sort of cosmic Karma. It would have been great if Punxsutawney Phil could have been at the new Met Life Stadium in east Rutherford New Jersey today.  Then the two events could have been even better orchestrated, a lot more money made by all, and as a bonus we could have watched Governor Chris Christie eat Phil during the game.

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Had the game been in New Orleans we might have been treated to Phil hiding out in Phil Robertson’s beard trying to avoid being eaten. On the other hand that would be kind of gross, but again, I digress…

I like watching the Super Bowl, I enjoy football, but it does not have the religious significance of baseball to me.  So tonight I will be watching it at my favorite hang out, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at Virginia Beach Town Center.

This is a good thing because it will get us out of the house for a few hours, and since Servepro can’t get out here until Tuesday to start dewatering my ground floor this is not a bad thing. The good thing is our upstairs has a nice living area, otherwise we would be in a hotel.

So for the next few days, maybe even weeks we will be living in a sort of water induced Groundhog Day as the house is dewatered, dried out, ripped up and reconstructed. But it could always be worse. Unfortunately the longer it takes for Servepro to get out here the worse the damage will be and the more that will need to be replaced or repaired. That is not their fault, because they, like so many other businesses like them are having lots of work to do after the big winter storm that his last week.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, damning us to 6 more weeks of winter hell. But can we hope that Phil Simms, wherever he may be today will not see his shadow and that somehow if he doesn’t that it will cancel out the other Phil’s prediction?

groundhog-day-screenshot

The one drawback to the two events coinciding for me is that I will have to put off my annual observance of watching the movie Groundhog Day until tomorrow. As Ross Perot would have said to Larry King back in 1992: “That’s just sad Larry.”

Have a great day and enjoy the game!

Oh, as a P.S. Go Broncos!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Ecumenical Jihadists and Hurricane Sandy: At Last Something that Christian, Moslem and Jewish Extremists can Agree On

While much of New York, New Jersey and West Virginia struggle under the effects of the damage of Hurricane Sandy and millions of people are either homeless, without power or transportation there are those that know why this happened. Close to 60 million Americans have been affected as well as people in Jamaica and Cuba.

While men like President Obama and Governor Chris Christie, elected officials from opposite sides of our partisan chasm work together to coordinate the assistance needed for the millions of people now homeless or without power there are some people that know why this happened.   I don’t know about you but I was impressed by how well Governor Christie and President Obama laid aside the partisanship and worked together to fulfill their respective Oath’s of Office and responsibility to the people that they were elected to serve. That is how real leaders deal with crisis, be it natural or manmade disasters, economic crisis or something like war.

However there are people out there that do not agree. To them the current crisis has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. No it has nothing to do with the fact that like most major metropolitan regions worldwide New York and New Jersey are maritime areas, what we in the Navy like to call the littorals. Over 70% of the worlds population lives on the littorals. The major trade, banking and industrial cities of the world, those on which the world economy depends sit alongside the oceans of the world.

No, geography, economics, or climatology have no answers. After all scientists are stupid political hacks dependent on the government who don’t believe in God anyway. According to those that really know the facts, you know, people that say that God talks to them and reveals things to them that non-believers don’t understand the issue is secular America, gays and abortion. In fact there is a broad ecumenical agreement among religious fundamentalists, Christians, Moslems and Jews that is almost taking a perverse Schadenfreude, or joy in the sufferings of others going on whenever a natural disaster occurs.

Yes my friends there are Christian ministers in the United States, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbis and Moslem Imams and Mullahs are all chiming in, all citing their Scriptures and their dark understanding of a God who hates his creation. Just google “Hurricane Sandy  God’s judgement” or “Katrina and God’s Judgement” or whatever disaster you want to name with “God’s judgement” and see what pops up. You’ll be surprised at the perverse joy that some religious people take in the sufferings of those that they believe to be God’s enemies.

The sad thing is that many of the people suffering are Christians, Jews and Moslems, which kind of makes me wonder about the people writing the screeds that say that God judging these people. I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot what they would be saying.

It is really amazing to me to see the amount of Ecumenical Jihad that a natural disaster inspires among the faithful. One would think that such zealots wouldn’t be able to agree about anything but but they are surprisingly in agreement when it comes to death and destruction of the people that they deem to be heretics, unbelievers or infidels. At least a leading Saudi Cleric has condemned the Moslem extremists comments but I don’t see many big name Christian leaders condemning the nutty and hateful views of Christians. Maybe it is just that they are too busy doing partisan campaigning for political candidates in states that are not affected by the storm to be bothered with caring about people in states that won’t vote for their candidate anyway. But then maybe I’m wrong and just have become cynical.

I wish that was so. However there is a reason that many if not most mainline Evangelical leaders won’t criticize the nut cases. That is because in their hearts many agree with them and actually say similar things year round and have said them for years but are smart enough not to say it during the storm because it might cut down on donations to their ministries, their market share in Christian broadcasting or their political influence before an election that they have gone all in for one party. Likewise almost all of the leaders of these ministries are have their headquarters in places far from any real danger of natural disaster other than blizzards, thunderstorms and tornados or drought. I hate to say but having lived through all of those disasters plus major hurricanes, floods and earthquakes I can say that those a child’s play compared to events such as Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, the Japanese Tsunami or a massive earthquake.

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time with those that decide that somehow they know all that is in God’s heart and are quite willing to throw other people that don’t believe like them under the wheels of their God’s bus. Well, c’est la vie.

Please pray and act to help the people in need. There is plenty of work to do and needs to be met. I posted information last night on how to give to the Red Cross and Salvation Army relief efforts. Those links are provided here again:

http://www.redcross.org/support

http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, leadership, natural disasters, Religion

Aftermath: Sandy Spreads Destruction along East Coast

Destruction in Atlantic City NJ

Sandy is still bringing destruction to much of the Northeast and the damage to areas affected is still being assessed. As of this evening close to 8 million Americans are without power, many more now homeless and much property and infrastructure is destroyed. At least 50 people are known dead in the United States. Over 16,000 airline flights have been cancelled leaving people stranded not just in New York and the Northeast but around the world. Estimates of the damage are just beginning but the costs to Americans could be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Tens of millions of lives have been affected by the storm. The fact that some of the most high density populations and vulnerable populations in the country and the seat of corporate America  will make Sandy one of the most destructive and expensive storms ever to hit the United States.

Massive flooding, devastation, power outages and millions of people cut off from transportation and communications. Subways, airports, ports and tunnels are flooded, water and sewage systems are heavily damaged and millions of people are at risk and winter is coming.  The area hit is the most populous in the country and what happens there affects all of us.

Less affected states are sending help to New York and New Jersey which have been the hardest hit areas.

La Guardia Airport

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has impressed me. His words to those that want to make this a political carnival were something that I admire. I don’t always agree with Governor Christie but the man is real. Christie has been one of the most aggressive Romney surrogates in the past few weeks and was the keynote speaker at the RNC. However, unlike some he is not simply a political hack. He actually seems to care about the people of his state and recognizes the necessity of Federal Government assistance. Likewise he seems to be able to separate political expediency for real life real time honesty. When interviewed by Fox and Friends host Steve Doocey this morning Christie was in rare form.

It started when Steve Doocy said, “Over the last couple of months, you have appeared throughout the country, Governor, on behalf of Mitt Romney… (W)e hear that perhaps Mr. Romney may do some storm-related events. Is there any possibility that Gov. Romney may go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?”

Christie answered: “ have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics and I could care less about any of that stuff. I have a job to do. I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don’t know me.”

First responders have done heroic things and the overwhelmed cities and states have requested Federal assistance, assistance that some on the political right say is either unnecessary, not the responsibility of the Federal Government or “better done by the private sector” are loathe to support, unless the disaster occurs in their neighborhood.  President Obama commented Monday when asked about how Sandy might impact the election:  “The election will take care of itself next week.  Right now, our number-one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives, that our search-and-rescue teams are going to be in place, that people are going to get the food, the water, the shelter that they need in case of emergency, and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track.”

Obama will meet with Governor Christie in Newark Wednesday. The two leaders will see the destruction and work together to help the people that need help. That is what America is about.

This is massive damage and will be take a long term effort to recover. This is an American disaster, it affects us all in some way. The most affected are those directly impacted by the storm but if we do not act together it is a storm that could cripple the nation as much of our economy and commerce is centered in the epicenter of where Sandy hit so hard. It requires that Americans band together to help other Americans. It requires that we as a people finally stop the political fratricide and actually become Americans again.

Pray and help as you can. One can donate to the American Red Cross through this link:

http://www.redcross.org/support

The Salvation Army Disaster relief link for Hurricane Sandy donations is here: http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf

There are other groups that provide help and support as well, but those are two that I have donated to in the past and will do so again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under natural disasters, News and current events

TV Tonight: Orioles vs. White Sox or GOP Convention?

 

 

Walt Whitman said “I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”  I agree wholeheartedly with Whitman on this opening night of the political convention season.

I think I have picked up a summer cold or perhaps am suffering from allergies related to all the mold in the air from all the rain that has inundated us over the past month. I have had a sinus headache since last night and thankfully I was able to take off a bit early to go home, lay down and try to clean out my sinuses.

Regardless of what the malady is I am deciding what to watch on television tonight. The MLB Channel features the Baltimore Orioles against the Chicago White Sox while the Republican National Convention and other reality TV dominates the airwaves elsewhere. I’ll have a similar choice when the Democrats have their convention next week though it may not be the Orioles playing.

The problem is that I love baseball, I am thrilled that for the first time in years and years the Orioles are in playoff contention in late August but I also am fascinated by politics in the same way that I am by shark attacks and train wrecks. I began watching political conventions and debates 1968 when I was just 8 years old. I worked for the campaign of Gerald Ford as a volunteer in 1976 and I have watched campaigns and conventions ever since. However this year it is different. I thought it might be gutter quality of the campaign and the absolute polarization of the parties or the unwillingness of the uber-partisans on both sides to actually work together for anything that might be the cause of my lack of interest this year.  However that is not the case, other elections in my life have been nasty and partisan.

Unlike other election years there is no drama. Neither party’s convention packs any drama this year. Obama was an unchallenged incumbent and Romney destroyed his fragmented conservative opponents by carpet bombing them when they started to gain traction. There will be no surprises. The nominees have been set for months, the VP picks are chosen, the platforms offer nothing really new. Gone are the days of tension waiting to find out the VP nominee of a close role call vote or an insurgent candidate that is allowed, unlike Ron Paul to speak at the convention. Even protestors, who are a staple of the American political drama are being cordoned off by massive police and security forces a half mile away from the convention site. What happens in Tampa will be followed next week by the same show under a different name in Charlotte.  It is as if the conventions of both parties are completely in the thrall of the special interests and that nothing unscripted can be allowed to interrupt the show.

The speakers will do their best to fire up their respective electoral base by demonizing the opposing party and at the same time will do their best to make their candidate look good. The pundits and preachers have all chosen sides and smelled armpits while the advertising barrages of both campaigns and their allied Super-PACs and mega-donors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in mostly negative advertisements. I get no respite from this since where I am stationed and where my home is are both swing states. Thus I and millions of others have to suffer through an unending bombardment of negativity, lies and distortion.

The one issue that really matters to me, that of what is happening to our military serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan will scarcely be addressed. There will be short tributes to “the troops” at both conventions but it will for the most part be bumper sticker patriotism devoid of any real depth, passion or empathy. But the fact is the vast majority of the country is not involved in the war and many don’t even know that there is a war going on or that we are on the verge of being sucked into other wars. Everyone is happy to “support the troops” especially if it doesn’t cost them anything. So for me that huge displays of red white and blue decorations and Old Glory flying over these conventions is somewhat askew with the reality that I see. It is cheap patriotism, except for the diamond, ruby and sapphire studded 24k gold pendants and American flag pins adorning the faithful. Those are expensive.

Please know that I recognize the profound differences between the parties and the choice that the voters of this nation will have to make in November. I just think that this year the conventions are lacking in drama, lacking in real passion and for that matter are simply places where the most partisan elements of both parties gather, surrounded by the big money people and treated as a new aristocracy by the media.

Streakers would make either convention more interesting

Because of this, and the availability of all the convention coverage by a multiplicity of sources from all sides of the American political-media spectrum as well as overseas media I don’t need to watch either convention. I might watch Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their acceptance speeches but I am not going to trouble myself with the rest of it, unless a hoard Ron Paul of streakers make a dash through the convention, Paul Ryan converts to Islam, Chris Christie makes the case for himself in 2016 or if Joe Biden shows up in Tampa and steals the GOP nomination. That would make it interesting. It would take similar events at next week’s Democratic Party convention to make me watch it.

So tonight it is baseball. The Orioles are having a magical year. They are three and a half games behind the Yankees in the American League East and tied for the lead in the American League Wild Card race. They have already won more games this year than they did all of last season. They have won 13 straight one run games and no-one, with the possible exception of me and maybe Buck Showalter thought that they would be in this race right now. With just over a month left in the regular season the Orioles matter. That my friends is drama, that is inspirational, that is worth watching. So to Mitt and the GOP faithful this week and President Obama and the Democrat faithful next week, I have better things to do than watch you. I have baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, News and current events, Political Commentary