W. Dieter Tede (1933-2019)

I was privileged to present a tribute at the memorial celebration for the life of Wolfgang Dieter Tede, on Saturday, October 19, 2019, at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. He was a member of the Board of Directors for the Independent Institute for over twenty years, and here is an edited version of my presentation:

I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to speak in tribute about our very dear friend and colleague Dieter Tede, the remarkable immigrant who became a model global entrepreneur.

I first met Dieter in 1994 and visited with him and his beautiful wife, the late, renowned mezzo-soprano singer, Margery Crockett Tede, in their lovely home in San Francisco. I already knew of his highly successful work in maritime shipping as Founding Partner of Marine Chartering Company, the world-wide, multi-service ocean transportation brokerage firm (see his engaging, illustrated book, The First Forty Years: Marine Chartering Company, Inc.) and other ventures, including producing vintage wines (Audubon Cellars and later the Hooper Creek Winery).

During my visit however, I further learned that as a small boy, Dieter had come to understand firsthand the horror of tyranny and economic hardship, having been born in Krefeld, Germany, a few months after the Nazis seized power, and then later living under the Soviet occupation. In the aftermath of World War II and at the age of twelve, having survived the air raids of Berlin, rationing, and food and other shortages, he and his family abandoned their home and all of their possessions to move for liberty into what became West Berlin. That personal experience lasted throughout his lifetime as he became a devoted supporter of individual freedom, economic opportunity, private entrepreneurship and innovation, and human rights and well-being.

We were deeply privileged to have him as a member of the Board of Directors and a devoted supporter of the Independent Institute’s many publications, events, and media projects for almost 20 years. He especially enjoyed our recent event, “An Evening with Jordan B. Peterson: The Meaning and Reality of Individual Sovereignty.” His keen insights and wise counsel on our Board, including his chairing the Audit Committee, always reflected his enormous knowledge and experience, immense integrity, good will, and personal charm.

In reflecting today on those many years with him, two of many memorable moments especially come to mind. The first was when in 2014 I presented at a Board meeting copies of our then new, path-breaking and already widely acclaimed book, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” by the distinguished historian and legal scholar Stephen P. Halbrook. Dieter immediately sat up, picked up the book, grasping its significance, and began translating for the other Board members from the front cover the wording from the reproduced original German document of the ominous Nazi edict to disarm the Jews.

The second memory occurred when he came by to visit with me one day and surprised me by pulling out of his bag seven Deutsche Mark notes from the German hyperinflation in the early 1920s after World War I. The notes track the the irresponsible debasement of the currency from 1921 to 1923 by the Reichsbank (Germany’s central bank, 1876-1945) to fund the huge reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty, which plunged the already devastated German people into massive unemployment, destitution and misery. The notes he gave me include one for 500 marks and then 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 200,000, 2 million, and 5 million, literally until the notes became worth less than the paper they were printed on. Dieter knew that the government central bank’s malfeasance was a major factor in the rise of fascism in Germany, and he wanted Independent to educate people of this historic catastrophe, which has since similarly plagued Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Peru, Congo, China, Turkmenistan, Belarus, and many other countries. (You can see why we were so delighted to him as chairman of our Audit Committee.)

We are framing these notes in his honor and as a warning from history for today and future generations.

We deeply miss Dieter and may God bless him; late wife Margery and sister Ulla (Wertenbruch); sister Helga (Semmer); and three children, their spouses and five grandsons: daughter Kirsten Tede Ritchie (Steven Ritchie), and grandsons William and Michael; daughter Nikola Tede (Joseph Ferraro), and grandson Brian Ferraro; son Karl Tede (Jeanine Steele Tede) and grandsons Colin and Matthew; and the entire Tede family.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Is Right-to-Try Legislation a Bust? Time for a Second Opinion.

In 2001, twenty-one-year-old Abigail Burroughs was dying of cancer. After all conventional treatment methods failed to improve her condition, Abigail’s oncologist pleaded with the Food and Drug Administration to allow her to try Erbitux. At the time, Erbitux had not fully passed the FDA’s drug approval process. Abigail was denied access and lost her battle to cancer shortly after. The FDA eventually approved Erbitux in 2004 to treat the same cancer which cost Abigail her life.

Heartbreaking stories like Abigail’s (and thousands of others) provoked a country-wide movement to allow terminally ill patients the right to try experimental treatments to prolong their lives. This movement became the impetus for right-to-try legislation. Right-to-try legislation grants patients with terminal illnesses access to potentially lifesaving drugs before the FDA fully approves them. By side-stepping the FDA’s formal approval process, decisions to try unproven, although potentially beneficial, treatments are left to patients, physicians, and drug producers.

A Long Overdue Remedy for NCAA Madness

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, is not known as an athletic powerhouse, but in 2016 the school won the Division III football championship. Three years later, the National Collegiate Athletic Association took the title away, as Fox News reports, “because the head coach let a player use his car for more than 18 months.” The NCAA ruling means that 29 of the school’s victories between 2016 and 2017 will be vacated. The losses will stand, even though, like the wins, they had nothing to do with a player’s use of a coach’s car. The NCAA also placed the program on probation for two years and imposed enhanced compliance training, along with a $2,500 fine. This absurd action is hardly the only problem with the NCAA.

Fed Confirms That Federal Borrowing a Cause of Liquidity Crisis

Robert Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has confirmed that the surge in U.S. government borrowing in September 2019 was a primary cause of the liquidity crisis affecting the nation’s money markets. Reuters reports that revelation from Kaplan’s speech on Friday, October 11, to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco:

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan on Friday blamed U.S. borrowing to fund a growing deficit for the liquidity crunch in overnight funding markets that the central bank earlier on Friday addressed with a new program to buy Treasury bills.

“The dramatic increase in Treasury issuance takes liquidity out of the system,” Kaplan said at the Commonwealth Club. “That I think is at the top of the list for reasons we need more liquidity.” The other reason, he said, is post-financial-crisis regulation that forces banks to hold more reserves.

Kaplan said the liquidity issue the Fed is addressing is not a sign of a bigger problem and the action the Fed is taking to address it is technical and separate from monetary policy.

Joker Earns Its Accolades, but Offers Much More

Joker is billed as a psychological thriller, and indeed it is... to the core. An origin story for the Batman villain, this dark drama is the blockbuster its creators had hoped, already earning nearly $300 million worldwide. Joker deserves the accolades and the revenue. Perhaps more importantly (long term), the movie has the potential to change the public discussion on an important dimension to a pressing social issue: violence, particularly mass violence perpetrated by so-called “lone wolves”.

Unlike the camped-up version in the TV series or the serious but comic DC Comics versions in the various earlier Batman movies, this Joker is disturbingly real. Combined with a masterful performance by Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk the Line, The Master) in the title role and an unusually artful and complete plot written by writer-director Todd Phillips (Borat, The Hangover Trilogy), Joker will probably compete for all the major awards this year. Certainly, Joker is one of the most, if not the most, inventive, irreverent, and sophisticated movies yet to appear in wide release in U.S. theaters.

How Well-Funded Are Government Employee Pension Plans in Your State?

Oakland, California. New Jersey. Illinois.

These are just three places in the United States that we’ve talked about in The Beacon because their recent history has been defined by the fiscal problems each faces. Fiscal problems that arise only because they don’t have the money to fund the generous retirement benefits their politicians have promised to their government employees.

It’s scary to think that there might be more than three, but there are. Is your state one of them? Or might your state avoid the risk of diverting your tax dollars to its retired bureaucrats?

More Freedom, Not More Government (or Persistent Blackouts), Needed to Fight Wildfires

Nearly 1 million Californians may find themselves without power this week as a result of pre-emptive blackouts imposed by electric utilities Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison in an attempt to mitigate wildfire risk. But neither denying power to consumers whenever it is dry and windy nor throwing more money at the problem, which appears to be the state legislature’s preferred solution, represent satisfactory long-term solutions. What is really needed is less government interference in the energy and housing markets.

Beginning today, PG&E announced that as many as 800,000 electricity customers in Northern and Central California, including about 250,000 in the Bay Area, could find themselves subject to the pre-emptive blackouts. Edison followed suit announcing that more than 173,000 Southern California residents could be affected by a similar action.

The NBA’s Teaching Moment on Totalitarianism

The government monopoly education system does a poor job teaching about Communism, and the millennial crowd has little knowledge of events such as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Fortunately, the National Basketball Association steps up to provide some enlightenment.

Communist China is cracking down on Hong Kong, an enclave of democracy. “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” read a recent tweet from Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets NBA franchise. As CNBC reported, this message displeased the Chinese Consulate-General spokesperson in Houston, who attacked the tweet and urged the Rockets to “correct the error.” The Chinese Basketball Association expressed “strong opposition to the remarks and will suspend communication and cooperation with the Houston Rockets club.” 

Bureaucrat Benefits Crowd Out Public Services

“We are not investing in education, we are not investing in the areas that we want because all the money is going to pensions and health care.”

That’s how New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney described what his state’s politicians are doing with the tax dollars they collect, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, where he exclaimed “we are in worse shape than Illinois.”

That’s really surprising because Illinois’ public finances are in absolutely awful shape for exactly the same reasons. In the Land of Lincoln, Wirepoints Ted Dabrowski and John Klinger find that several cities in the state are being forced to cut police, fire, and other public services to fund city government employee pension plans and health benefits. It’s gotten so bad that the pension funds are demanding the state comptroller intercept and divert city revenues for their benefit—money that city officials were counting upon to provide public services for their residents.

Ken Burns, “Country Music,” and the PBS Two-Step

Ken Burns’ marathon “Country Music” documentary series did not air on CMT, originally Country Music Television, a pay channel owned by Viacom Media Networks. “Country Music,” from Burns Florentine Films, ran the Public Broadcasting Service. PBS operates the Corporation for Public Broadcastinga private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.” That raises questions about the proceeds for Ken Burns’ series and the aftermarket products.

As critic Steve Ramm notes, besides the 16-hour film seen on PBS there is also a “Concert at the Ryman” on PBS, plus a 450-plus page coffee-table “companion book” to the series. Don’t forget the DVD and Blu-ray offerings, and a five-CD and 68-page book set from Sony/Legacy. How the aftermarket products shake out is not readily apparent, but might be enlightened by Andrew Ferguson’s 1991 examination of Bill Moyers in The New Republic

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