Bob Schwartz

Month: August, 2018

Big and Small People

Thinking this morning about the disgraceful way Trump is treating John McCain at the time of his death—no different than the disgraceful way Trump treated him in the final days of his fatal illness—this came to mind: Trump is a small, small person.

That’s appropriate, but what exactly does “small person” mean?

I think it means small of spirit. Our traditions urge us to be bigger of spirit. Not just better, though that might be nice, but bigger. As big as whatever we conceive the biggest to be.

There is a small, hard and dark place inside of us. Small, but we can live there, once in a while, for a little while, or in the case of some people, most or all of the time.

The traditions want to get us into a bigger space with unlimited dimensions. So big that it encompasses everybody and everything. That doesn’t mean that we care about everybody and everything or act in ways consistent with such universal care. Nor does it mean that the small, hard and dark place inside dissolves and disappears. It just means that some of the time, more and more of the time if possible, you live in the space of the bigger spirit. That’s all.

The small, small person is the one trapped in that small, hard and dark place. You may be disturbed that you have to hear about such people, but you should be hopeful and joyful that it is not you.

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Dean Chamberlain: Light Paintings of Elder Psychedelic Pioneers

Timothy Leary © Dean Chamberlain

Dean Chamberlain is an extraordinary photographic artist. He works in a technique known as light painting, using hand-held lights to illuminate and color a scene photographed in long exposure. While versions of the technique have been known and used since the early days of photography, Dean was the first artist to work exclusively in the medium.

From Light Painting Photography:

Dean Chamberlain is the father of light painting photography and has been capturing photographs since 1967. It was his passion for photography that led him to the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1974 to pursue a fine art degree. During Dean’s time at Rochester in 1977 he discovered light painting photography. Dean was the first person to coin the term “Light Painting” for his open shutter long exposure photographic technique. He has worked with his unique art form ever since in his various works. Dean has created stunning portraits of well-known individuals such as David Bowie and Paul McCartney. He has also directed numerous music videos. Chamberlain’s work has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. He has received an MTV breakthrough award for directing music videos for Arcadia (Missing), Paul McCartney (This One) and Duran Duran (All She Wants Is).

Along with light painting rock stars, landscapes and other subjects, Dean created a unique series called Elder Psychedelic Pioneers. This includes Timothy Leary, Albert Hofmann, Alexander Shulgin, and others—many of whom have now passed on.

Albert Hofmann © Dean Chamberlain

 

Alexander and Ann Shulgin © Dean Chamberlain

 

Laura Huxley © Dean Chamberlain

Trump and Rudy predict economic apocalypse and civil war if Trump is impeached. One of them may be right.

“Après moi, le déluge” (“After me, the flood”)
King Louis XV of France, predicting the disaster that would follow his overthrow

Today, Trump predicted what will happen if he is removed from office:

“If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”

The same day, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani offered an even more dire prediction:

“The American people would revolt if Trump were impeached.”

Usually, Trump and Rudy are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of mendacious and idiotic nonsense. In this case, though, while one of them is as ridiculously wrong as ever, one of them may actually have a point.

If Trump’s departure had any effect one way or the other on the market and the economy, it would likely be a boost, as the majority of Americans would be giddily celebrating.

Rudy also means to be apocalyptically strategic, like Louis XV. But Rudy, in his own un-American and seditious way, may be on to something.

We don’t know exactly how many die hard Trump supporters there are, ones who believe unconditionally in his leadership no matter what happens or is uncovered. It may be 10%, 20% or 30% of Americans. The exact percentage doesn’t matter. Even if it is “only” 10%, that is still tens of millions of people—often unreasonably committed people.

For those people, Trump’s removal would be seen as final proof that this country is rigged and moving in the worst possible direction. Even if you reduce the percentage, and get down to just a few million Americans, do you doubt the possibility that those people might try to set America back on the right track by taking matters into their own hands?

The Difficult Realities of Impeaching Trump

Yesterday was an encouraging day for those who hope to see the uncovering and dismantling of the corrupt and un-American Trump enterprise. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted; Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty and directly implicated Trump in his criminality. Even the likelihood that Manafort and others who haven’t turned on Trump will be pardoned doesn’t take away from the day’s significance.

This has raised hopes that Trump will be impeached if the Democrats are successful in the midterm elections. Which means—not wanting to burst the rare bright balloon of yesterday’s news—it is time for a reality check.

Let us say that the Democrats win a majority in both houses of Congress.

The impeachment process begins in the House, with hearings and a simple majority passing articles of impeachment. In a Democratic House, that should be no problem.

The trial for removal of a president then takes place in the Senate. If the Democrats do win a majority in the Senate, it will be a small majority at best. Let us say that they have a 53-47 majority. Conviction for impeachment requires a two-thirds majority, which is 67 votes. So 14 Republicans would have to vote to remove the president.

You may think that what we will have learned by then about Trump’s corrupt presidential conduct and fitness for office will finally move Republican Senators to agree to his removal. (As a matter of fact, if you privately asked Republican Senators today whether they would rather have Mike Pence in the White House immediately, the answer would be a unanimous yes.) But not a single thing we have seen indicates that any sitting Republican Senator—that is, those who are not leaving office—is willing to stand up to Trump. Why would we think that we can find 14 or so Republican Senators with the courage to remove him from office, no matter how egregious the evidence?

Okay, enough reality. I would like to be totally wrong about this. Let’s enjoy this moment of hope for American restoration.

“The un-celebrity president: Jimmy Carter shuns riches, lives modestly in his Georgia hometown”


Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walk home with Secret Service agents along West Church Street after having dinner at a friend’s house in Plains, Ga.

The Washington Post story on the current life of former American president Jimmy Carter (excerpted below) is worthwhile and uplifting, even if you do not think much of Carter’s presidency, even if you are not an American.

It is the story of a good, faithful and humble man of 93 who loves his country, loves his God, and especially loves his wife of 72 years. A man who wanted to serve and did, and does not believe that his former exalted position entitles him to more than an average portion—even though most recent past presidents have assumed an entitlement to much more.

In these times, it is more than moving to read this story. It is a privilege to share a country with Jimmy Carter and know that this is possible. It must be possible.


The un-celebrity president

Story by Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan
Washington Post

PLAINS, Georgia
Jimmy Carter finishes his Saturday night dinner, salmon and broccoli casserole on a paper plate, flashes his famous toothy grin and calls playfully to his wife of 72 years, Rosalynn: “C’mon, kid.”

She laughs and takes his hand, and they walk carefully through a neighbor’s kitchen filled with 1976 campaign buttons, photos of world leaders and a couple of unopened cans of Billy Beer, then out the back door, where three Secret Service agents wait.

They do this just about every weekend in this tiny town where they were born — he almost 94 years ago, she almost 91. Dinner at their friend Jill Stuckey’s house, with plastic Solo cups of ice water and one glass each of bargain-brand chardonnay, then the half-mile walk home to the ranch house they built in 1961….

The 39th president of the United States lives modestly, a sharp contrast to his successors, who have left the White House to embrace power of another kind: wealth.

Even those who didn’t start out rich, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have made tens of millions of dollars on the private-sector opportunities that flow so easily to ex-presidents.

TOP: The Carters have dinner at their friend Jill Stuckey’s house, where they drank ice water out of plastic Solo cups and each had a glass of bargain-brand chardonnay. LEFT: Carter enjoys his Saturday night dinner at Stuckey’s house on a paper plate. RIGHT: The Carters hold hands as they walk home. The couple — he, almost 94, and she, almost 91 — have been married 72 years.

When Carter left the White House after one tumultuous term, trounced by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election, he returned to Plains, a speck of peanut and cotton farmland that to this day has a nearly 40 percent poverty rate.

The Democratic former president decided not to join corporate boards or give speeches for big money because, he says, he didn’t want to “capitalize financially on being in the White House.”…

“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter says over dinner. “It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”

Carter was 56 when he returned to Plains from Washington. He says his peanut business, held in a blind trust during his presidency, was $1 million in debt, and he was forced to sell.

“We thought we were going to lose everything,” says Rosalynn, sitting beside him.

Carter decided that his income would come from writing, and he has written 33 books, about his life and career, his faith, Middle East peace, women’s rights, aging, fishing, woodworking, even a children’s book written with his daughter, Amy Carter, called “The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer.”

With book income and the $210,700 annual pension all former presidents receive, the Carters live comfortably. But his books have never fetched the massive sums commanded by more recent presidents….

Carter is the only president in the modern era to return full-time to the house he lived in before he entered politics — a two-bedroom rancher assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside….

Carter costs U.S. taxpayers less than any other ex-president, according to the General Services Administration, with a total bill for him in the current fiscal year of $456,000, covering pensions, an office, staff and other expenses. That’s less than half the $952,000 budgeted for George H.W. Bush; the three other living ex-presidents — Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama — cost taxpayers more than $1 million each per year.

Carter doesn’t even have federal retirement health benefits because he worked for the government for four years — less than the five years needed to qualify, according to the GSA. He says he receives health benefits through Emory University, where he has taught for 36 years.

The Plains general store, once owned by Carter’s Uncle Buddy, sells Carter memorabilia and scoops of peanut butter ice cream in honor of Carter, who was a peanut farmer.

The federal government pays for an office for each ex-president. Carter’s, in the Carter Center in Atlanta, is the least expensive, at $115,000 this year. The Carters could have built a more elaborate office with living quarters, but for years they slept on a pullout couch for a week each month. Recently, they had a Murphy bed installed….

Carter’s gait is a little unsteady these days, three years after a diagnosis of melanoma on his liver and brain. At a 2015 news conference to announce his illness, he seemed to be bidding a stoic farewell, saying he was “perfectly at ease with whatever comes.”

But now, after radiation and chemotherapy, Carter says he is cancer-free….

When Carter looks back at his presidency, he says he is most proud of “keeping the peace and supporting human rights,” the Camp David accords that brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, and his work to normalize relations with China. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

“I always told the truth,” he says.

Carter has been notably quiet about President Trump. But on this night, two years into Trump’s term, he’s not holding back.

“I think he’s a disaster,” Carter says. “In human rights and taking care of people and treating people equal.”

“The worst is that he is not telling the truth, and that just hurts everything,” Rosalynn says.

Carter says his father taught him that truthfulness matters. He said that was reinforced at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he said students are expelled for telling even the smallest lie.

“I think there’s been an attitude of ignorance toward the truth by President Trump,” he says….

He points out the Plains United Methodist Church, where he spotted young Eleanor Rosalynn Smith one evening when he was home from the Naval Academy.

He asked her out. They went to a movie, and the next morning he told his mother he was going to marry Rosalynn.

“I didn’t know that for years,” she says with a smile.

They are asked if there is anything they want but don’t have.

“I can’t think of anything,” Carter says, turning to Rosalynn. “And you?”

“No, I’m happy,” she says.

“We feel at home here,” Carter says. “And the folks in town, when we need it, they take care of us.”

Every other Sunday morning, Carter teaches Sunday school at the Maranatha Baptist Church on the edge of town, and people line up the night before to get a seat.

This Sunday morning happens to be his 800th lesson since he left the White House.

He walks in wearing a blazer too big through the shoulders, a striped shirt and a turquoise bolo tie. He asks where people have come from, and from the pews they call out at least 20 states, Canada, Kenya, China and Denmark.

He tells the congregation that he’s planning a trip to Montana to go fishing with his friend Ted Turner, and that he’s going to ride in his son’s autogiro — a sort of mini-helicopter.

“I’m still fairly active,” he says, and everyone laughs….

They walk past a pond, which Carter helped dig and where he now works on his fly-fishing technique. They point out a willow tree at the pond’s edge, on a gentle sloping lawn, where they will be buried in graves marked by simple stones.

They know their graves will draw tourists and boost the Plains economy….

Their house is dated, but homey and comfortable, with a rustic living room and a small kitchen. A cooler bearing the presidential seal sits on the floor in the kitchen — Carter says they use it for leftovers….

On this summer morning, Rosalynn mixes pancake batter and sprinkles in blueberries grown on their land.

Carter cooks them on the griddle.

Then he does the dishes.

Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower ©

Cactus Flower

The rare rains have come and gone.
Only in the first hours of the dry sun day
splendid petals unfold then hide.
Catch them capture them
with words brush or camera?
We are as arrogant and grateful
as they are beautiful.

©

Organ Pipe Flowers ©

Prospects for American Tyranny

Two factors contribute to Americans dismissing the highest level and most experienced military and intelligence leaders when they warn us about the dire state of the presidency and the possible descent into tyranny.

One factor is widespread American ignorance of history, geopolitics, law, etc. There is no blame in this. People can choose how knowledgeable or not they want to be. But knowledge might lead them to realize that in history and in the contemporary world, no nation is immune from tyranny.

The second factor for people is that this is America. America is the greatest and most durable democracy in the history of the world. There is no way—no way—that this democracy can be injured, let alone killed. Knowledgeable people know that American democracy has been injured before, though it generally recovered. As for killing democracy, it is repeated: no nation is immune from tyranny. Not even America.

Among the growing number of military and intelligence leaders speaking up this week, below is an interview today with Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a former Fox News military analyst who left after accusing the network of “assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law.”

Please view.

Aretha: Listening to her you’ll never walk alone

The passing of Aretha Franklin captured the world and toppled a lot of less worthy and less uplifting stories from the news. As it should have.

After hours of relistening to her music, and reading and watching lots of moving and illuminating tributes, I haven’t much to say.

I will mention that Aretha would have been the best and most famous singer in whatever genre she chose to focus on. Instead, she ended up creating and then being royalty of modern soul music. But gospel music was her beginning and end, her alpha and omega.

In 1972, on top of a glorious string of popular singles and albums, she released the gospel album Amazing Grace. I’m not an expert on gospel music, and not a Christian, but that doesn’t matter. I have ears and a soul, and I can tell when somebody has a gift—the gift—and is channeling the spirit.

Listen, because if you are listening to Aretha, you will never walk alone.

Trump as the Only Reliable Source: Who Are You Going to Believe, Me or Your Lying Eyes and Ears?

Every time Omarosa releases another recording of an embarrassing or even incriminating conversation involving a Trump person, the rapid response is to question her credibility.

Please stop to consider this. The identity of the participants in those recordings has been clear and the question of whether the recordings were manipulated mostly hasn’t been raised. Yet the counter to the recordings is that the person who made and played them is not credible. Which of course doesn’t matter as to the recordings themselves. The recordings literally speak for themselves.

This is consistent with everything Trump has said and done about reliable information. It will not come, he says, from the discredited media. It will not come from discredited colleagues and insiders. It will not come from discredited experts. It will not come from anybody who disagrees with Trump or who crosses him. It will not even come from discredited government institutions, even those whose mission is truthful and reliable information, such as the justice and intelligence agencies.

Reliable information will only come from Trump.

As always, it is hard to narrow focus on a single matter that makes Trump’s power and leadership so very dangerous. But of all of them, his assertion and attempts to establish that he alone is the single arbiter of reliable information, in a nation of hundreds of millions of Americans, in a world of billions of people, is the madness at the top of the list.

The One and Only Question EVERY Republican Candidate Should Be Asked: The Role Model Thing

Republican candidates are going to be asked lots of questions about their attitudes toward Trump, his character and his policies. The answers will be a combination of party-line loyalty, evasion, gibberish or silence.

All those questions should be avoided, or at least not central. There is only one question these Republican candidates should be asked—one that is not hypothetical, one that demands a yes-or-no answer, one that has been asked in public opinion polls but is not (yet) a part of our political discourse:

Do you believe that Donald Trump is a good role model for your children and grandchildren?

We already know that in public opinion polls, many Republicans still say they believe he is. But those respondents are answering a poll; they are not answering publicly as candidates for office.

Any candidate who says they believe that Trump is a good role model for their children or grandchildren should be automatically disqualified for public office. In fact, if I were interviewing people for any job, I might ask the same question, and might reject the job candidates who say “yes” for the same reason: Without going into any of the other obvious character or moral deficiencies, Trump is demonstrably a chronic (some would say pathological) liar.

You can try to defend or explain away certain character or moral problems. But a lie is a lie (the Washington Post counts 4,229 presidential false or misleading statements so far).

So any Republican candidate who says they want their children or grandchildren to “be like Trump” are wishing on their beloved young ones a life marked by, among other shortcomings, telling a constant stream of lies about virtually everything. Are those candidates really the sort of people you want anywhere near your government?