Bob Schwartz

Month: February, 2017

I x P = D! The Will Robinson Governmental Danger Formula

danger-will-robinson

Danger, Will Robinson!
Robot B9, Lost in Space

Here is a simple formula to determine the level of danger posed by the actions of a government leader.

The theory is that the danger (D) posed is directly proportional to the idiocy of the leader (I) and the power of the leader (P):

I x P = D!

Thus, as the idiocy or the power increases, so does the danger.

You may find this formula handy.

Note: The exclamation point (!) does not denote an element of the formula. Rather, it indicates that the mere word “danger” does not convey how intensely dangerous the state of affairs might get, under the least optimal circumstances.

 

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Coffee Paradise

Bodum

Coffee Paradise

The coffee’s not making itself
Arriving on its own
No cook or chef
No waiter or waitress
No server or servess.

The discipline of
Water pot
Grounds and heat
Is good for you
Poor stir press pour
Mindful walk
To kitchen and back.

But where is the angel or
The winged cup
This is a morning
For that lazy heaven.

Tomorrow Belongs to Me

tomorrow-belongs-to-me

There are two outstanding movie moments—one light, one dark—that tell two stories about Nazi Germany.

We will start light, from the movie The Producers (1968). In it, Mel Brooks incorporated an unthinkable stage musical called Springtime for Hitler. The title song-and-dance number mocks the lunatic aspirations and monstrosity of the Third Reich—mockable because just twenty-three years earlier, they had lost the war. It provides the most laughs anyone has provided or will provide on the subject. It is the most audacious thing any movie director has put on film.

Germany was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new leader to restore
Its former glory
Where, oh, where was he?
Where could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me

And now it’s
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Deutschland is happy and gay!
We’re marching to a faster pace
Look out, here comes the master race!
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Rhineland’s a fine land once more!
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Watch out, Europe
We’re going on tour!

Springtime for Hitler and Germany!
Winter for Poland and France
Come on, Germans
Go into your dance!

The second, darker vision is from the movie Cabaret (1972). It is set in 1931 Berlin. The characters sit at an outdoor café. A young man in a brown shirt begins singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me. It is a sweet tune at first (“The sun on the meadow is summery warm…”), but as the crowd stands to join in, the song grows belligerent and menacing. We know how the story turns out, and though some may think rehashing it is overdone and almost clichéd, we are chilled each time. Because the threat is never as far as we might think.

The sun on the meadow is summery warm
The stag in the forest runs free
But gathered together to greet the storm
Tomorrow belongs to me

The branch on the linden is leafy and green
The Rhine gives its gold to the sea
But somewhere a glory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me

Now Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign
Your children have waited to see
The morning will come
When the world is mine
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs
Tomorrow belongs
Tomorrow belongs to me

The Beverly Hillbillies Go To Washington

clampetts-in-washington

I was thinking about a very rich family with more money than sense, and about their beautiful daughter and a son who thinks he is a lot smarter than he is. They eventually go to Washington.

The Clampetts of The Beverly Hillbillies.

In 1970, for the first three episodes of the hit show’s ninth and last season, the Clampetts (Jed, Granny, Elly May, Jethro) go to Washington, initially to solve the pollution problem.

It is a very long, complicated, politically incorrect and stupid story. At one point, Jed buys the White House from a fake Native American so that the Clampetts can move in. He later buys the Capitol. And that’s not even the stupidest part (taken to the Psych ward, Jethro tries to figure out where the countries of Paranoia and Schizophrenia are).

Following are descriptions of the episodes (from TV.com) and links to the videos. The descriptions are fun. As for watching the videos, you will not laugh once, you will occasionally cringe, but you may come away thinking that the Clampetts buying and moving into the White House is not the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard.

The Pollution Solution (9/15/70)

Drysdale is trying to get his money back, while Jed is trying to prevent him from doing so. And Jethro is trying to come up with a way to beat the smog problem. Drysdale sends Jane over to get the money, posing as a guard. When Jed doesn’t give it to him, Drysdale tells him what he’s got is a drop in the bucket, and only the President could really do anything. Jed returns the money and says he plans to give all his money to the President. To help out, Jethro comes up with the electric car, after inventing the smog-causing steam car, and says he can drive them to D.C. in it. Drysdale arranges a comic to pose as the President over the phone to keep them from giving their money away, telling him Jed thinks he is worth 95 million. Rich Little, posing as Nixon, tells them to do what the man in the white coat says. When a milkman at the mansion reads a note Granny left and tells Jethro the message says they’re going to Washington, the Clampetts get on a plane, and Drysdale is too late to stop them. They tell the stewardess about their plans when they meet Mr. President, which sound outrageous, and when Jed asks her how high they are flying, she tells them a lot higher than the plane.

The Clampetts in Washington (9/22/70)

The Clampetts head to Washington D.C. to give their money to the President, and Honest John and Flo follow. Honest John convinces the Clampetts that he knows the President and that they can give him money, which he will in return give to the President. Flo poses as Sitting Hawk, the last of the District Of Colombia Native Americans. She sells Jed the White House for one million. After that, the Clampetts go to the White House to move in, but are stopped by the guard. They use some of their new District Of Colombia words to the guard. He sends for a car to take the Clampetts away. They get in the car, expecting to go visit the President, when in reality they were taken away in a police car.

Jed Buys the Capitol (9/29/70)

The Clampetts are confused after being taken to a place called a Psych ward and being called “Paranoiacs and Schizophrenics.” They ask Honest John what it is about. He tells them it is a mistake and promises they can see the President, just as soon as some trouble is settled. He returns to Flo and tells her he is going to take the Clampetts for another two million. She wants to go to Guatemala, but he gets her to pose. They sell Jed the Capitol, and much more of the property. Meanwhile, Jethro is trying to figure out where the countries of Paranoia or Schizophrenia are. Jed and Granny return to say they’ve bought more land. Honest John sells them more and more property, and at the end, he has ten million in property sold. But Elly is looking for a kitten and walks in on Honest John and Flo. The Clampetts all see this and think he is still the salt of the earth for taking in a 150 year old Native American woman. He admits she is his wife, and they are crooks. They misunderstand and still praise him, and he tears up the checks worth ten million. The Clampetts think they have over-praised him yet again.

Arrangement

Arrangement

The body has its way
The mind has its way
Time has its way
Arrange them
As you would
Arrange the ocean

The Republicans Didn’t Get the trump Thing. Now They Don’t Get the Alt-Right Thing.

Bannon

Whether some people like it or not, the future of the Republic is in the hands of the Republicans. They dominate the states, and for the moment they dominate the federal government. Are they up to the task?

The Republican Party didn’t see trump coming. He didn’t look, talk or act like a conventional mainstream politician, candidate or President. He didn’t look, talk or act like a Republican. They could find no way of responding. He got the Republican nomination and the presidency.

Now the so-called alt-right comes along, which doesn’t look, talk or act like a conventional political movement, Republican or otherwise. Not only do the Republicans not know how to respond, but a leading figure of the movement is one whispered-in-the-ear directive away from the President.

Comparisons to movements like the Tea Party or the Liberty Caucus are dangerously silly. This is not a matter of degree or differences in positions. This is something else.

If the trump phenomenon is the example, the Republicans will do all kinds of things and make all kinds of noises to distance themselves from the alt-right and try to push it away from the party, just as they did with trump. It didn’t work then. And it won’t work now.

Republicans, right now the Republic is in your care and at your tender mercies. Let’s hope you get it very, very soon—and figure out what to do about it.

Pope: The Scandal of Christian Hypocrisy

Pope Francis

Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’

In a homily yesterday morning, Pope Francis said this:

“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it’s enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers. In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction….

“[Y]ou will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: ‘Here I am, Lord!’ – ‘But don’t you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?’ ‘Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life….

“It would be good for all of us, each one of us, today, to consider if there is something of a double life within us, of appearing just, of seeming to be good believers, good Catholics, but underneath doing something else; if there is something of a double life, if there is an excessive confidence: ‘But, sure, the Lord will eventually forgive everything, but I’ll keep going as I have been…’

Thoreau: Life Without Principle

thoreau

Please read a little Henry David Thoreau if you have the chance. Maybe no American writer has made a plainer case for living a life of truth, a life of principle, a life that matters.

You may know of his most famous works.

There is Walden, about his choosing to live for a time in the woods, within nature and by himself (“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”) There is Civil Disobedience, about determining how, when and why defying the powers that be is a conscientious imperative.

There is much more Thoreau beyond these (see Walden and Other Writings). Following are some brief excerpts from Life Without Principle, published posthumously in the Atlantic Monthly in 1863.


In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself this long while…. [Note: If you substitute “greatest number of followers” for “greatest number of letters”, you will see just how timely and relevant this is today.]

I am astonished to observe how willing men are to lumber their minds with such rubbish,—to permit idle rumors and incidents of the most insignificant kind to intrude on ground which should be sacred to thought. Shall the mind be a public arena, where the affairs of the street and the gossip of the tea-table chiefly are discussed? Or shall it be a quarter of heaven itself….

Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not….

We may well be ashamed to tell what things we have read or heard in our day. I do not know why my news should be so trivial,—considering what one’s dreams and expectations are, why the developments should be so paltry. The news we hear, for the most part, is not news to our genius. It is the stalest repetition….

Really to see the sun rise or go down every day, so to relate ourselves to a universal fact, would preserve us sane forever. Nations! What are nations? Tartars, and Huns, and Chinamen! Like insects, they swarm. The historian strives in vain to make them memorable. It is for want of a man that there are so many men. It is individuals that populate the world….

It requires more than a day’s devotion to know and to possess the wealth of a day.

Donnie Doesn’t Mean It: U.S. Officials Explain Their Bad Boy to the World’s Principals

principals-office

He might have said the c-word. Or the p-word. Or any of the other bad words he knows. Instead he said that the U.S. doesn’t need Europe or NATO. That he was going to steal another country’s oil. That the free press is an enemy of the state.

Whatever he says, officials are busy telling the world that Donnie doesn’t mean any of it. That he doesn’t understand what he’s saying. That he’s basically a good boy.

Except…

Donnie is not a junior high school kid. He’s a grown man. And the most powerful grown man in the world. And, as far as his limited knowledge goes (he may not be the brightest in the class), he means every word.

What did happen in Sweden on Friday night? Maybe this…

curious_yellow_cover_large1b

From Trump at his Saturday night rally:

“We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.”

Was there some terrorist activity in Sweden on Friday night? No. What was Trump talking about? Who knows? Sweden has officially asked the State Department what Trump was talking about.

I have a guess.

curious

The Swedish film I Am Curious—Yellow (1967) is one of the most controversial movies of the 20th century. It is both sexual and political. The Criterion Collection writes:

Seized by customs upon entry to the United States, subject of a heated court battle, and banned in numerous cities, Vilgot Sjöman’s I Am Curious—Yellow is one of the most controversial films of all time. This landmark document of Swedish society during the sexual revolution has been declared both obscene and revolutionary. It tells the story of Lena (Lena Nyman), a searching and rebellious young woman, and her personal quest to understand the social and political conditions in 1960s Sweden, as well as her bold exploration of her own sexual identity. I Am Curious—Yellow is a subversive mix of dramatic and documentary techniques, attacking capitalist injustices and frankly addressing the politics of sexuality.

Yes, there was sex on Friday nights in Sweden in 1967. Yes, there was sex in I Am Curious—Yellow in 1968, when Trump was 22, old enough to get in to see the restricted movie, which he no doubt saw (many times). Yes, there was sex last Friday night in the social democracy of Sweden.

And that, I believe, is what Trump was talking about. “Look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” Yeah, look.

curious-2

Of course, I could be wrong.