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What Would Franz Rosenzweig Do? And Our Secret Swiss Source Writes

For many years I was addicted to reading “Spengler” on Asia Times on-line. This Spengler (ohne Oswald) wrote about the decline of the west with a more modern mordant appeal. He was a strong advocate of Franz Rosenzweig's theological musings, most of which you have to be German Jewish (like me) to appreciate, and even for my ilk it is tough going.

Last year, Spengler was outed as being in fact David P. Goldman, a harpsichordist and economist who had co-authored a book called “Dope Inc.” for Lyndon LaRouche, the right-wing populist and conspiracy theorist. Goldman had gone to work for First Things, a Catholic monthly, but he continues to put out the occasional Spengler piece. Usually they are opinionated, philosophical, and hysterically funny. He is still strongly promoted as a writer for Asia Times.

Over the last three days I have vainly sought Asia Times's view on the Google plan to cease observing Chinese censorship rules, and to possibly pull out of China search and e-mail. Google announced its plans because of hackers were tracking Chinese dissidents by phishing their G-mail accounts, exploiting loopholes in Microsoft Internet Explorer, and planting trojans in Adobe attachments. This enabled Beijing to silence them. Rumor has it that Yahoo Chinese users are being similarly betrayed.

There has been no word from Asia Times. Now I call upon Mr. Goldman who is after all gainfully employed with a publication in my city, to either write about the hacking by China in Asia Times, or end his relationship with those toadies to the PRC. I am sure he will be guided, not by me, but by the original Spengler and Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweig, who had been raised as a secular Jew, like Goldman, famously planned to convert to Christianity but decided to visit the synagogue on Yom Kippur before rejecting his birth religion. He was so moved by the service that he stayed a Jew.

*A secret Swiss source reports on the CEO of Novartis which is trying to short-change US shareholders of Alcon (NYSE:ACL) like us. Daniel Vasella is an MD and PMD (the Harvard Biz School short degree) Last month Vasella (who has shaved his beard) won sympathy when animal rights activists painted slogans on the graves of his parents, and his sister, who died at age 18 of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

But my source writes: Il n’est tout simplement pas fréquentable. Here's more.

I met Vasella once. He is an arrogant nerd who likes to dress up as a tough Harley-Davidson biker and now lives across the lake of Zug, my hometown, where we have been for generations generally nice to each other. (Robin Williams calls the Swiss the “nice” Germans. I won’t go there.) Anyway, while [Jean-Marie} Messier was piling assets together to create Vivendi, {which collapsed], Vasella, of similar ilk, put together Ciba Geigy with Sandoz to create Novartis. He spends his time squeezing and screwing my friends, carpenters and painters etc. he hired to build his new villa.

Why would a multi-millionaire try to cheat workmen building his villa? Says the Swiss source:

It’s funny how some people’s behavior never varies whatsoever and how easy it seems to be to judge them by the 'small' things they do (wrong).

So some Swiss with high ethical standards are not enchanted with Vasella either. Others are unhappy because Vasella is bringing more bad publicity to the Helvetian Confederation after scandals about everything from US tax cheats' diamonds in toothpaste tubes to denying the heirs of Holocaust victims money in Swiss bank accounts. To say nothing of helping the Duvaliers loot Haiti.

Citigroup downrated ACL to neutral from buy yesterday. We also rate it a hold on the assumption that the lowball offer will not prevail.

Novartis executives are insisting that “a contract is a contract” over overproduction of swine flu shots and is binding on governments. Vasella's team take their lead from the boss. “We consider the contracts binding, but we will discuss options with different governments. However this will be done within the framework of the contracts,” Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff told Bloomberg. Among the countries where NVS is trying to enforce contracts despite flu jab oversupply is its native Switzerland.

Disclosure: 400 shares ACL long