American Farce – Raising a Dictator

It’s obvious that Trump’s campaign slogans of 2016 had a hidden message, available to all but the truly naïve: when Trump wanted to “Make American Great Again”, he clearly meant to “Make White America Great Again”, and when he said “America First” he meant “White America First”.

When Trump ran for office, he did so as an economic move, a ploy to strengthen his position with the Russians. According to his own insiders, Trump never expected to win. His election to the presidency of the United States was the last thing he wanted and I’d wager the worst day of his life.

Unqualified, untrained, inept, and intent on his own aggrandizement, Trump set about conducting his office with all of those qualities pushed to the forefront. Trump is nothing but brazen and cannot be shamed. Anyone else would blanch at his own poor performance but Trump’s self-mythos demands he cannot do wrong, he cannot fail, and he never loses.

After tasting the power of his office, he’s become intoxicated. Always admiring of autocrats like Russian Premier Putin, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump imagines himself as the dictator of a New White America. After all, his self-mythos allows no checks and balances, no curtailing of power, no agreement from Congress, no reliance on a Supreme Court. He would dissolve all of these checks to his power if he could. As it is, he removed many key Inspector Generals, stacked the Attorney General’s office in his favor, removed the competent civilian commanders in the Pentagon, and surrounded himself with sycophants.

That his followers are delusional is both true and false. Some are, some aren’t. Those that are desire a return to the Jim Crow era of White Supremacy because they are too lazy to compete with their minority neighbor and would rather bemoan their plight than do better. Those that aren’t deluded are attempting to overthrow our democracy to make the return to the Jim Crow era of White Supremacy a reality, the only way they believe that will happen.

White, internal terrorists have been with us a long time. The bombing of the Oklahoma Federal building was the single largest loss of life through terrorism on US soil before 9/11. The Unabomber had an agenda. The sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco, whose events are disputed on both sides, were propagated by firearms infractions and charges of stockpiling illegal weapons.

Now, these terrorist extremists have found their leader. And Trump wants to lead them. He believes in many of the same things they do, but his motivation is more prosaic: their gains increase his power. They make great show or protecting their constitutional rights, then spit on our constitutional institutions and don’t seem to mind abrogating these great rights to a dictator. They worship a man who will toss them aside at his convenience, and later strip them of their power when they threaten him. The extremists believe they have a genie in a bottle, but they are unprepared for the day they liberate him.

So who is Donald Trump? What does he believe in?

I want to quote from historian Alan Bullock’s biography of another would-be dictator:

He never trusted anyone; he never committed himself to anyone, never admitted any loyalty.… He learned to lie with conviction and dissemble with candour. To the end he refused to admit defeat and still held to the belief that by the power of will alone he could transform events.

Alan Bullock, 1971

On this man’s professed use of legal means:

However much [he] underlined his insistence upon legal methods, the character of the [activists he led] was such that the idea of a [coup] was bound to come naturally to men whose politics were conducted in an atmosphere of violence and semi-legality.

Alan Bullock, 1971

This would-be autocrat developed his ideas over years while observing the people around him, watching how they reacted to his outbursts of political fury, noting who was strong and who was weak, what ethnic minorities he could hate with little backlash in order to whip up the jealous anger of his political base. He wrapped his will to dominate in nationalistic banter, promising to make his country great again. He would fulfill the promise of the republic.

It worked. Slowly, over years, this would-be autocrat stoked the embers of his national fire until appointed to high office. Then he revealed his actual program. His great achievement had been mobilizing his gangs of street thugs into a fighting force. From hundreds he formed them into hundreds of thousands. His propaganda machine never ceased and he turned out his followers at elections for gains in the parliament. With parliamentarian support, he found his legal way into the highest office. The rest is history.

That was the turning point. Now with authority over the state, he could begin his autocratic rule, first by weeding out and destroying his enemies (any who defended the republic or opposed his insane autocratic rants) until he surrounded himself with yes-men of similar delusional inclinations. Empire—from a whispered hope, it became the watchword of a nation now bent on conquest.

In the man’s own words:

“I also came to understand that physical intimidation has its significance for the mass as well as the individual … For the successes which are thus obtained are taken by the adherents as a triumphant symbol of the righteousness of their own cause; while the beaten opponent very often loses faith in the effectiveness of any further resistance.”

Alan Bullock, 1971

Echoes of this sentiment ring true today. Back and forth, lawmakers debated whether pursuing action against the president for inciting a riot at the Capitol Building was wise. Excuses fluttered like the dying embers of a fire: “…will only make it worse … will rile up his supporters more … will lead to escalation….” among other specious comments.

Like deciding to confront a bully, one might think escalation only brings more severe beatings, but inaction emboldens the bully to greater acts of terror against you and ever stronger opponents.

We’ll achieve de-escalation only through strength within the boundaries of our law and ethos. If neither side backs down, don’t blame our mostly Democratic (and some Republican) lawmakers for standing up to tyranny and terrorism—this is the extremists’ fight, but the law-abiding citizens, those respecting our great Constitution, will end it.

Alan Bullock’s biographical subject could not have succeeded in his tyranny without collaborators at the highest level of the political spectrum. Collaborators took several forms: his adherents, worshipping the cult of his personality; those deluded into thinking this man was a means to a greater good; and those he duped into believing they could trust him.

His lack of scruple later took by surprise even those who prided themselves on their unscrupulousness.

Alan Bullock, 1971

And who were these collaborators?

But the heaviest responsibility of all rests on the [the country’s] Right, who not only failed to combine with the other parties in defence of the Republic but made [him] their partner…. What the [country’s] Right wanted was to regain its old position … as the ruling class … to put the working classes ‘”in their places”…. Blinded by interest and prejudice, the Right forsook the role of a true conservatism, abandoned its own traditions and made the gross mistake of supposing that in [this leader] they had found a man who would enable them to achieve their ends.

Alan Bullock, 1971

Donald Trump cannot be trusted. He is a person who is only interested in his own acclimation, his gain, his power, and his money. We have seen favored advisors, fed up with his nonsense, step out of line. He quickly and efficiently denounces them as if they were never close to him in the first place, indeed, he hardly knew them, and had he known of their traitorous intentions he would never have talked to them. Then they are vilified in the foulest terms.

Trump requires worship. Nothing else satisfies him. He is unwavering in his own rightness. He must be. His identity is so tied up in his self-perpetuating mythos of invincibility that any crack in its foundation will cause his ego to tumble into a black abyss.

This is a picture of a man with a closed mind, reading only to confirm what he already believes, ignoring what does not fit in with his preconceived scheme.

Alan Bullock, 1971

I’m sure you’ve guessed that the subject of Mr. Bullock’s biography is Adolph Hitler. All quotations are acknowledged as Mr. Alan Bullock’s copyright from his excellent book:

Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Bullock, Alan, Perennial Library, Harper & Row, abridged edition, 1971.

I leave you with this image, chillingly applicable to both men:

When you lie, tell big lies…. Above all, never hesitate, never qualify what you say, never concede an inch to the other side, paint all your contrasts in black and white.

Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, abridged, 1971

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Spanikopita American Style

Scott Louie Cooks

For a nice vegetarian dish, I turn to Mediterranean food and nothing beats a good spanikopita. So what makes a spanikopita “good”? It’s easy: you must use phyllo dough, rather than a plain homemade flour dough. This isn’t a calzone. Phyllo dough makes this dish what it is (a tasty treat) along with generous portions of spinach and feta cheese.

If a scan of the ingredient list makes my choice of vegetables seem odd, this is why I call my version “American Style”. There is nothing unusual here, it’s just not a traditional type of Greek recipe.

Ready to cook

This dish is vegetarian, but clearly not vegan with butter and cheese (and some phyllo dough contains egg yolks). Do note that I leave out the eggs as a binding agent—without the eggs, there is nothing in this dish that can’t be eaten raw with the possible exception of the dough, though that’s debatable. My cooking time is enough to brown the top while well heating the filling without baking all the moisture out.

And, yes, I’ve seen it spelled Spanikopita and Spanakopita. For my American Style dish, I prefer the former. Pour yourself some wine, don’t worry about it, and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 24 oz Spinach (I use two 12 oz bags of frozen chopped spinach), thawed in refrigerator
  • 10 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • salt and ground pepper
  • rosemary and sage
  • 4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 8 oz Phyllo dough, thawed (1/2 of a 1 lb package)

Prepare the Filling

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Over a fine strainer, squeeze the thawed spinach until the water is pressed out. Frozen spinach has so much liquid content that the dish will be a soggy mess otherwise. With your hands, squeeze out all the water you can. Then add to the bowl and separate.

With the spinach prepared, add feta, the cream cheese (in small chunks, or use whipped), onion, shallot, parsley, cucumber, and celery. Add your spices.

Assemble the Dish

Handling the phyllo is the trickiest part, but it’s not rocket science. If frozen, thaw your 8 oz package of phyllo in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. When ready, unroll (or unfold) the sheets and lay the whole package flat.

Melt the 4 oz. of butter in a pan. Coat the bottom of your casserole dish with a thin smear of melted butter. See the notes at the end for a word on the casserole dish.

Using two sheets at a time, lay the phyllo into the pan. Then coat with a smear of butter. Note that I tried using a plastic kitchen “brush” but that can tear the dough. So I use the back of a tablespoon. It’s easier to have a light touch and it spreads the butter as thinly as you want. Since there are a lot of layers, you don’t need to overdo it with the butter.

Keep adding two sheets at a time with a smear of butter in between until you’ve used half (or a little more) of your phyllo (about 8-12 sheets). Then evenly spread the filling over the phyllo.

Halfway through, with melted butter in skillet

Now add two more sheets and apply the butter, layering two sheets of phyllo at a time with a smear of butter in between until you’ve used up your dough. Spread the last of your butter over the top, and now you can be generous.

Tuck any excess dough along the sides (or cut it off if it’s too bulky) and it’s ready to bake.

Ready for the oven

Bake

Bake at 325° F for about 40 minutes, or until the crust browns and its bubbling gently around the sides. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

Right out of the oven

Enjoy!

I served it with green beans for a delicious meal.

A tasty dinner is served

Make it Your Own

Optionally, spanikopita can include garlic, but I would use roasted garlic. Unless you want to sauté the garlic in a little butter first, I find raw garlic rather strong. Roasted garlic is mild and delicious.

Instead of the shallot, you could use a whole medium onion, or even a leek, which, on current reflection, I plan on trying the next time I make this.

Do dice the cucumber and celery—you don’t want hunks of the vegetables interfering with the taste of the spinach. Still, I include them since I can’t think Mediterranean food without thinking of cucumber, and it keeps the dish moist, especially since it’s important to squeeze the water out of the spinach or it will be too soggy.

Many traditional recipes use dill, which is excellent, but I like to shake up my spices and try different things. I have found savory spices like sage and rosemary work very well in this dish. Try oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, etc. The possibilities are many.

NOTES

Not to offend my Greek friends, but I believe people overuse Phyllo dough in their Spanikopita recipes. For the same amount of filling as above, most recipes call for an entire 1 lb package (½ on bottom, the other half on top), which I find makes the dish too bready. The star here is the spinach and feta, so let them shine. A half pound of Phyllo will make all the flaky goodness you need.

Note that I do not use eggs as a binding agent in my recipe. They are an unrequired filler, but use a couple of eggs if you want. I love eggs, and where fillings need binding I use them liberally, but not here. A little cream cheese (not to mention the feta) is all the binding required. Yes, the filling will be loose, but that will not be a bad thing in a casserole. It will be fine.

And while we’re talking about Greek dishes and wine, I am one of the few people I know that actually likes Retsina. This Greek white wine basically tastes like dirt, but its earthy qualities don’t bother me and I enjoy a bottle here and there. Probably an acquired taste. In the picture above, I’m drinking a malbec, so there you are.

On the casserole dish: I use my trusty #32 Le Creuset Au Gratin dish (~ 2 qts), but I believe the #34 (larger size, maybe ~ 3 qts) would work great. I don’t mind filling my dish to the very top (and even heaping) since I line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil in case any of the goods spill over. I rarely have much of a problem or clean up. Keep in mind, my recipe makes about 6 servings (great for 2 people with leftovers), so if you need more, you might want to increase the recipe accordingly. BTW, I make my lasagna with the same dish and have enough for several meals for 2 people.

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The Declining Value of Our Food: Another Step Towards Fascism

Remember day-old bread? I’m not saying it’s a fond memory, but if you’re old enough you can still see the carts of your childhood supermarket stacked with the day-old loaves of commercial bread priced at half off. My mother would buy a loaf or two of day-old if she was cooking with it, and buy fresh for her, my father, and the three boys (I was the youngest) for today’s meals and sandwiches.

I mean, seriously, half-priced loaves of bread that were only a day old. Was that better? I’m not saying so. Preservatives and advances in food preparation, processing, and delivery have been a godsend to the world, feeding those otherwise left to starve. In fact, I saw an article that said it wasn’t antibiotics, airplanes, automobiles, or the computer that qualified as the greatest advancement of the twentieth century: it was food processing, because it had the greatest impact on saving people’s lives.

Hard to argue. I can’t say my desktop pc has saved any lives lately. That’s flippant, since modern computing does its part in connecting us, securing resources, finding and delivery food, etc. Tangentially, the space program has done wonders for food processing, e.g., freeze-dried food is a direct result of research for the space program.

None of it is simple since food transport relies heavily on the speed and reliability of air transportation, communications, etc. But for saving lives, ok, the hated preservative has done its job.

Day-old bread got hard and crunchy. While good for turkey dressing, bread crumbs, bruschetta, and fillings, it was not ideal for a ham sandwich.

Preservatives changed that. Now bread lasts over a week, indeed two weeks or more and seems nearly indestructible. For a while, artisanal loaves were a throw-back to days of yore. A good Italian boule lasted about a day with a soft and fluffy interior and flaky, crusty exterior until the ravages of time (next day, that is) softened the crust and hardened the rest. In a couple of days, rigor mortis was evident and a day or two after that—the first signs of mold.

No longer. Artisanal bread (at least in the suburbs) has gone the way of all good, niche ideas that a majority discover, embrace, then immediately find impractical. The preservative strikes again.

I pulled a hamburger bun out of my bread drawer the other day that must have been three weeks old. It was stiffer, but not hard, edible but not savory, and had not one spec of mold apparent on its surface. How many preservatives does it take to do that?

And if I could say that was the only issue with the adulteration of our bread then that might be acceptable. But bread is as much water and sugar nowadays as it is wheat—if enriched, bleached flour can be called wheat anymore. I’m sure sugar adds taste (not that a good bread needed it) and the extra water adds bulk (to the detriment of flour). Add all the preservatives and binding agents (some of which are detrimental to human health by themselves) and it seems a slice of bread is a shadow of its former self.

I imagine I could place a slice of commercial white bread in a shallow dish of cold water and it would instantaneously dissolve like a breath strip on your tongue. It’s not quite that bad, but do you see how steamy bread gets out of the toaster? Take it out hot right away and lay it flat on a plate. It leaves a sweat behind of excess water about as appetizing as licking the arm of a weight-lifter.

Why? Well, we know why the commercial enterprises making our bread do it—to make more money. CEOs are under constant pressure to expand their companies and the quick and easy ways to do that are twofold: either reduce the cost per item made (make more with less) or if the market won’t bear that, sell at a higher price per unit of measure (by reducing the amount of inventory used per item) so that less sells for the same price.

In other words, make it smaller, but don’t reduce the price proportionately. That’s why all of our food products are shrinking. This affects even fruit where no apple, orange, or peach is allowed to grow to maturity and fully ripen on the vine when it can be picked pre-maturity and shipped to ripen in your refrigerator or on your countertop. It’s smaller, less tasty, but the yield to consumers is higher. That it’s inferior matters not. And consumers seem ok with this.

I see the clamor for organic and farm-fresh and produce bought fresher at farmer’s markets is on the rise. That’s good. But still, the great majority of Americans buy their produce at the supermarket and it’s unquestionably declined in quality from just a few decades ago.

Value for the consumer is not the riding concern of the commercial enterprises growing, processing, and shipping your food. But shouldn’t it be our government’s?

It seems that local, state, and federal agencies are complicit in this trend. I’ve talked before how there seems to be no truth in advertising when it comes to the commercialization of food. Why not? Did our government just give up? Is the chase for profit turning us into a nation of fascists?

We are barely a century removed from the rampart fascism of late nineteenth and early twentieth century big business. Carnegie, Frick, Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Ford—they all built empires and collected personal wealth on a scale still extraordinary by today’s standards. When Bill Gates crossed 60 billion dollars in wealth some years back, he was considered the wealthiest man on the planet. Rockefeller’s wealth (adjusted for today’s money) was 150 billion dollars. There are a few approaching this recently, where Jeff Bezos recently passed 200 billion while Bill Gates next trails at 116 billion.

Is this a good trend? I don’t begrudge the wealthy their riches. What we need to ask is not whether Mr. Bezos is worth his money but rather: is a company that makes its founder so wealthy under any control at all?

I’ve written before that I am rather anti-Socialist, but in the same way, I am vehemently anti-Fascist. And such wealthy individuals wield inordinate power over our elected officials. Case in point: the last four years under President Trump. He, his cronies in his cabinet and other high-ranking positions, et al (meaning those career governmental employees who didn’t resign out of disgust) bow to corporate America. The entire America First campaign was code for Corporations First, Consumers Second. The specter of Fascism rears its head.

I bring up Amazon since they are now (as of May, 2020 according to Progressive Grocer) ranked second only behind Walmart in food sales in the US. These two companies (Walmart and Amazon) offer differing delivery models, but both appeal to the convenience of choice, ease of purchase, and price satisfaction.

Two large retailers in my area (Giant Eagle and Shop N Save) offer remote shopping and food delivery. I love to cook and food shopping is one of my favorite ways to relax. Yet now, since about April 2020, I allow someone else to pick my apples, my oranges, my avocados—all of my fresh produce. Do they always pick the nicest and freshest out of the pile? No. They do well, but they aren’t perfect and I can’t expect them to be. I get what I’ve asked for.

This is another way our food delivery model is changing. Remote this and remote that is the name of the day. I remember once (years ago) a produce vendor in a farmer’s market chastised me for inspecting her apples before I purchased them. She expected me to pick two apples from the top of the pile and hope they were not bruised or unfit for purchase (some were). I took my business to the next stall.

Now I just take my chances.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

New World Cranberry Salad

Scott Louie Cooks

Cranberry salad was a staple in my house growing up. This is another of my mother’s recipes, but whether it came from my Polish grandmother or not, I can’t say, so I’m assuming it’s a new world recipe. You will need a food grinder. I use my mother’s old Osterizer Mixer grinder attachment, which has a plastic housing but steel workings and grate. This can be a bit tart, so add sugar to taste, but this is best made the day before so it sits in the refrigerator to blend and mellow.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh whole cranberries
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and slivered
  • 1 orange, peeled (no pith at all should remain) and sectioned
  • ¼ – ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (to taste)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (or more to taste)

Grind the fruit

In your food grinder, grind the cranberries, apple slivers, and orange sections. The key to this: in my grinder, juice will back up all the way to the opening every “round” (1 round = a couple of apple slices + a couple of orange slices + a good handful of cranberries). Stop the grinder and pour off this excess juice (can save to drink or add to a smoothie or discard). Don’t add it to the salad or it will make it too soupy.

Complete grinding the cranberries, apple, and orange (pouring off the backed-up juice between rounds) until all the fruit is ground. I usually have to pour the juice off 4-5 times.

Finish

Add the ¼ cup chopped walnuts and 1 cup sugar into the bowl and stir the salad until well combined. Add more walnuts or sugar to taste. Cover and store in the refrigerator at least overnight (it helps to pull the flavors together and tighten up the salad).

mixing the ingredients

Enjoy!

cranberry salad

Make it Your Own

If it’s only my wife and I for Thanksgiving (like this year), this is plenty. Or if having a few guests, it can be doubled very easily.

I like walnuts in this dish, but certainly any chopped nut will do such as almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, or a combo thereof.

NOTES: On Ingredients

This is a salad and not to be mistaken for a sauce or jelly. Use only fresh whole cranberries from your produce department (like Ocean Spray) or supplier.

I strain the leftover juice through a fine mesh strainer and add two teaspoons of sugar, mixing well. Very tasty. Add a little vodka for a nice drink.

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Shattered Utopias: The Utter Failure of Socialism

The United States is deeply divided. We all see that. Each side has its policy agenda, a truth that has not changed since our founding. What has changed is our definition of ourselves as a country and as a people.

I have believed my entire life (though I believe it’s changing) that Americans are 80% moderate, fairly equally divided between liberals and conservatives, and that 10% proclaim an extreme leftist policy and 10% proclaim an extreme rightist policy.

It’s that 80% however, no matter their disagreements, who’ve held the United States together through a national belief that our country and our democracy is more important than individual aggrandizement. We admire George Washington for many things, but most of all for his abandonment of absolute power when it was his for the taking (following the Revolutionary War) and again by walking away from power after two terms as president under the new constitution, which did not limit his terms in office. That made an exceptional general and statesman great. It set the example for almost all who followed.

No one dared break that precedent until Franklin Roosevelt in the middle of the twentieth century. I feel for him, though. After two terms in which he pulled the country out of its worst economic depression, running for a third term occurred in 1940 with the world at war and the US poised on the brink of the precipice. The people were divided then, very much so, between pro-war and anti-war sentiments. It was a dangerous time, when fascism nearly took over much of the world.

So Roosevelt won a third term and was elected to a fourth during World War II, a race he could not walk away from after D-Day (in the election year) turned the tide of war to our allies’ favor. So if we excuse Franklin for the hubris that led to the encoding by law of Washington’s precedent as a constitutional amendment, then we see a fairly unbroken string of the abrogation of power through to the modern day.

Donald Trump may or may not get to test that. This is not about that. I wish to discuss the polarization of our national pride into detrimental extremism. Hubris? Donald Trump has plenty. But he does not work alone. Seventy-one million voters think he should still be president even after a disastrous four years of lies, deceit, isolationism, tantrums, cruelty of policy (e.g., immigration) and immature vindictiveness.

I couldn’t believe the average parent would condone such behavior from a twelve year old child, much less cheer it on in their president. Remember, this man-child holds the nuclear codes, destroys alliances, ignores the pandemic, declares the death toll “it is what it is”, and so clearly resides under the thumb of Russian President Putin that our national security remains in doubt to this moment.

Many feel as I do. So I cheer on the election of President-Elect Biden and so far, his selections for high level positions seem fair and balanced.

But I still fear. I feel it in the pit of my stomach. I don’t doubt Biden will execute his office with grace, good sense, dignity, and skill. That is nearly a given (but we’ll see). I fear his political-savvy friends in the DNC will pressure him to include a great number of Socialists to high office, especially Bernie Sanders in some capacity (but not at all limited to him). I pray the Department of Labor remains with a moderate. I hope the backlash to Donald Trump isn’t more extremism, this time on the left.

I have meandered a bit to get to my point. I have just read Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies by Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs and I must say, someone who fears Socialism going in will be well convinced they are right. Niemietz argues against the Socialist’s apologia that the national socialistic economic policies of Russia, China, East Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, et al, that failed so spectacularly were not at all “true” socialism, as many say that real socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

Niemietz debunks this excuse on many fronts, but his most convincing argument addresses the concerns of Socialists who say that those countries (all two dozen examples) each chose a totalitarian regime (or the people had it thrust upon them) and that true socialism can only thrive in a democracy by definition. After all, you can’t distribute ownership and decision-making to the people without democratic process. The socialism was fine, they say, until totalitarian suppression squashed the freedom of group self-direction and therefore these nationalized “experiments” in socialism naturally failed.

A thesis Niemietz demonstrates has no teeth. In fact, he posits very convincingly that the above argument is backwards. People did not create a socialist economy, then choose (or have it thrust upon them) a totalitarian form of government, but rather totalitarianism springs from socialism as sure as belt-loosening follows Thanksgiving dinner.

Niemietz argues that the best intentions of social-democrats is thwarted by the very nature of socialist conventions, namely the abrogation of some individual freedoms for the good of the community. A tenet of a national socialist economy is that a commune (or collective, soviet, kibbutz, etc.) must serve the needs of the many at the sacrifice of the individual. Now, let’s not oversimplify—not all individualism is lost.

Let’s illustrate. In a free market economy, an individual (e.g., Sally) can sell goods (or work a farm, etc.) where she pleases. Due to market forces she may decide to move elsewhere. Suppose there was too much competition driving down the price of her goods. Let’s say two others created and sold the same goods. Sally could ally with them and price-fix their goods, but that is illegal in a free market system. If her goods do not sell, she has the right (indeed, perhaps the good sense) to travel elsewhere to find a market for her product.

In a commune, if Sally contributes her labor/manufacturing skill/know-how to a common enterprise, she is part of a community. Here, the contributions of the many provide the product which is either price-fixed by national mutual consent or by elected government representatives in the democracy. Sally gives up her right to set her own price or sell her own product. She gives this up freely for the benefit of the many.

Sally desires to leave the cooperative (say, on the east coast) to live on the west coast. What does this do to the commune? The loss of Sally’s expertise, her labor, her contribution to the good of the whole will be missed, perhaps detrimentally to the commune. They need her participation. This was her covenant with them, after all, when her local commune was formed. Well, this is bad for the many who decide by social decree that Sally cannot move away. She is called unpatriotic to the cause, not a team player, a selfish individualist. How can she hurt her neighbors with such a selfish move?

It would be defeating to the commune to allow its skilled workers to move. One of the first characteristics throughout history of socialistic communes is that they become self-protecting and some individual freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of the many. Freedom of movement is one of the first of individual rights to go. Communes need to restrict the movement of their key players (everyone in the commune, essentially) if they are to survive.

The old, now defunct oppressive emigration policies of the USSR, East Germany (including the Berlin wall), China, etc. were manifestations that developed quickly from their socialist economies. Such restrictions were not nascent, but rather were implemented years after the advent of these totalitarian regimes.

Eastern European spokesmen stress the debt an individual owes society because of benefits received. In socialist states, it is argued … society makes a large investment in each person, .. and one should therefore repay society by remaining a working member of it.

Dowty, Alan, “The Assault on Freedom of Emigration.” World Affairs, vol. 151(2), 1988

Moving on, let’s consider Venezuela. What began with many westerners proclaiming the victory of Chavez’s socialist agenda ended with governmental takeovers, oppressive policies, and failure of the economy. Again, Socialists proclaimed this socialist experiment flawed since Chavez essentially betrayed his own utopian plan through dictatorship.

The flaw is that Chavez felt he had no choice. His later oppressive policies were reactionary to the increasing failure of the communes to govern themselves for the national benefit, which was their purpose. Good intentions devolved into state oppression because the socialistic ideal of the unselfish, community-oriented “New Man” or “New Woman” is a myth. People do not always step up to their role. Venezuelan cooperatives (which became employee-owned semi-corporations) gained higher prices by selling their goods to foreign buyers instead of supporting their local markets. These additional funds were distributed to the cooperative “owners”. This hurt the local community so much Chavez stepped in and took them all over, destroying his own dream of mass cooperation for the common good.

People don’t always cooperate the way we desire them to. People do have self-interest at heart, which is not to say altruistic efforts aren’t part of the human experience, just that people are not a homogenous set of individuals that see eye to eye and want nothing more than to work hard for their neighbor while staring at rainbows.

Generally, people are not always selfish, but necessarily self-centered (but often selfish as well). It is human nature. Socialists say that any group of people can give up such individualism for the group, but I don’t see it that way.

Niemietz’s arguments go on from there, with far more concrete examples than I can provide here. I advise anyone on the fence to buy it. I did so on Amazon. It is easy to get and reads well.

Bless Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and let’s hope that America begins to come together from the fringes towards the middle road—the safer road well-traveled. Our lives, our constitution, and our very country depends upon it.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Spartan Roasted Potatoes Au Fromage

Scott Louie Cooks

Spartan potatoes are a favorite side dish that goes with any roasted meats, steaks, sausages, or chicken. The “Spartan” simply means a classic combination of SPinach and ARTichokes, to which I add roasted garlic and leeks. Plus I love cheese so any au fromage is a winner.

Ingredients

  • 2 russet potatoes, washed, skin-on, cleaned of eyes and rough spots
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (as needed to coat the potatoes)
  • rosemary, chopped finely if fresh, or powdered if dry
  • ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped leek (can use a little more if you like the taste)
  • 3-4 cloves roasted garlic (or use 1-2 cloves of fresh minced)
  • 1 bunch spinach, cleaned and mostly de-stemmed (about 8 oz)
  • 1 14 oz can whole artichoke hearts, cleaned of tough leaves and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tbsp sour cream (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp grated romano cheese (or pecorino romano or parmesan, etc.)
  • chopped parsley
  • paprika
  • 6 oz grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Roast the potatoes

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Slice the potatoes in ¼ to ½ inch thick rounds, trying to maintain a consistent thickness between the slices. In a large bowl, wash the potato slices to remove some of the starch, and drain. Lightly salt, tossing to distribute. Drizzle olive oil over the slices and mix up the slices with your hands, coating them as evenly as possible on all sides.

Distribute the slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly dust with rosemary. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the slices are somewhat browned on top and soft to a fork, i.e., ready to eat but not overdone.

Make the spartan filling

Over medium heat, sauté the leek in the butter. When just soft (1-2 min—leeks cook quickly), add the roasted garlic and mash and mix into the leeks. Add half the spinach leaves and let wilt, then do the same for the second half. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and mix until all is combined and well distributed (spinach tends to clump together) and remove from heat.

Make the cream sauce

Whisk the sour cream into the heavy cream. When mixed, add the grated romano cheese and whisk until combined.

Assemble the dish

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Into a glass 10×6 inch casserole dish (or your near same size equivalent), add a little of the cream sauce to barely coat the bottom. Swish the dish around to coat. Then layer half of the roasted potatoes along the bottom, piling them up as needed (may make 2 layers). Then sprinkle a little salt and pepper (not too much, or omit this step entirely, as the cheeses add a lot of salt already). Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the potatoes, then dust with paprika as if coating deviled eggs.

Scoop in the spartan filling to create the next layer. Cover with the remaining half of the roasted potatoes, layering as needed. Sprinkle more parsley and dust with more paprika. Carefully pour the cream sauce all over the spartan potatoes, ensuring it goes down all the sides and into the middle. Top generously with grated extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Bake

Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is crusty and golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Make it Your Own

Try substituting a hearty vegetable instead of potatoes for this dish, such as french endive or cauliflower. Instead of roasting, I would sauté the sliced endive with a little sugar to caramelize it. For cauliflower, you could simply steam the cauliflower if using florets, or sauté or roast the cauliflower steaks if using half inch slices.

To turn Au Fromage into Au Gratin simply mix the cheddar cheese with seasoned bread crumbs and distribute over the top of the dish before baking.

NOTES: On Ingredients

I keep an herb garden in the summer and I dry the leftover herb in my perpetually cool unfinished basement during the winter. Rosemary sprigs dry very nicely hanging by twine from a rafter. I also dry-hang thyme, sage, and oregano. If they dry properly, they will last forever (well, years). I take a few sprigs at a time, remove the dried leaves, and grind in a spice grinder (aka coffee bean grinder). Fresh is even better or if you have dried sprigs, grind them up.

I use Kerrygold unsalted butter for cooking and Kerrygold salted butter for the table. It’s just the best although Land O’Lakes does in a pinch. Never use margarine, which is oil that’s been emulsified to act like butter, but it gets the Razzie. Since trans fats are banned by the FDA, margarine is better for you than in the past, but still, butter wins the Oscar for taste every time. If concerned, use a little less or for a recipe with 2 Tbsp of butter, use 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp of a healthful vegetable oil like olive oil. I use this technique often anyway.

Leeks are a great onion substitute. When you want a mild but still very oniony flavor, leeks are best. If you want mild and less oniony, use shallots. If you want a full onion flavor, use an onion.

Roasting garlic is easy and tastes great. I use Jacques Pepin’s technique of slicing the whole garlic bulb through its middle, without slicing through and separating the halves. Then propping it open, I pour olive oil into its center, then shut the halves. I place the garlic bulb in a square of foil and wrap up all the edges so they meet at the top and seal it with a twist. Then roast in the over at 425° F for 30-40 minutes (careful—ovens vary, so at 30 minutes you might want to pull it out, carefully open the foil while minding the heat, and make sure it’s soft but not burning up). When done, let cool, unwrap and the gooey goodness can be squeezed out of the cut bulbs and used for a milder garlic flavor on toast, in dishes like this one, or any way you want. Wonderful.

Careful with cans of whole artichoke hearts, meaning they are not always ready to eat from the can (or jar). I prefer packed in water and not marinated. Drain off the liquid, then gently squeeze each heart to remove more liquid and test an outer leaf by pulling it off and seeing if the top is too tough to bite into (much less chew). Often the bottom half is soft and delicious while the top is still tough and unpleasantly chewy. Usually only one layer may be like that (or not at all). Check each one before quartering it and you have ready to eat artichokes in your fridge for salads and other dishes (like this one).

Stay Friendly and Healthy.