Bob Schwartz

Month: August, 2018

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?

The Economist Global Liveability Index 2018: The World’s Most and Least Liveable Cities

The brilliant and essential publication The Economist has just released its annual ranking of the world’s cities based on liveability (see complete list below).

The Economist applies a complex formula to assess liveability:

Category 1: Stability (weight: 25% of total)
Prevalence of petty crime
Prevalence of violent crime
Threat of terror
Threat of military conflict
Threat of civil unrest/conflict

Category 2: Healthcare (weight: 20% of total)
Availability of private healthcare
Quality of private healthcare
Availability of public healthcare
Quality of public healthcare
Availability of over-the-counter drug
General healthcare indicators

Category 3: Culture & Environment (weight: 25% of total)
Humidity/temperature rating
Discomfort of climate to traveller
Level of corruption
Social or religious restrictions
Level of censorship
Sporting availability
Cultural availability
Food & drink
Consumer goods & services

Category 4: Education (weight: 10% of total)
Availability of private education
Quality of private education
Public education indicators

Category 5: Infrastructure (weight: 20% of total)
Quality of road network
Quality of public transport
Quality of international links
Availability of good quality housing
Quality of energy provision
Quality of water provision
Quality of telecommunications

Like all ranking of places, your weighting of factors may differ and your needs and experiences may vary. Many of us are living in, have lived in, have considered living in, or have friends who live in, one or more of these cities. Your comments are invited.

The Economist Global Liveability Index 2018

1. Vienna
2. Melbourne
3. Osaka
4. Calgary
5. Sydney
6. Vancouver
7. Tokyo
7. Toronto
9. Copenhagen
10. Adelaide
11. Zurich
12. Auckland
12. Frankfurt
14. Geneva
14. Perth
16. Helsinki
17. Amsterdam
18. Hamburg
19. Montreal
19. Paris
21. Berlin
22. Brisbane
23. Honolulu
24. Luxembourg
25. Munich
26. Wellington
27. Oslo
28. Dusseldorf
29. Brussels
30. Barcelona
30. Lyon
32. Pittsburgh
32. Stockholm
34. Budapest
35. Hong Kong
35. Manchester
37. Singapore
37. Washington DC
39. Madrid
39. Minneapolis
41. Dublin
42. Boston
43. Reykjavik
44. Chicago
44. Miami
46. Milan
46. Seattle
48. London
49. San Francisco
50. Atlanta
50. Los Angeles
52. Cleveland
53. Detroit
54. Lisbon
55. Rome
56. Houston
57. New York
58. Taipei
59. Seoul
60. Prague
61. Lexington
62. Buenos Aires
63. Santiago
64. Bratislava
65. Warsaw
66. Nouméa
67. Montevideo
68. Moscow
69. Dubai
70. St Petersburg
71. Abu Dhabi
72. Athens
73. San Jose
74. Suzhou
75. Beijing
76. Tel Aviv
77. Tianjin
78. Kuala Lumpur
79. Sofia
80. Lima
81. Shanghai
82. Belgrade
82. Bucharest
82. Shenzhen
85. Kuwait City
86. Johannesburg
87. Doha
88. Rio de Janeiro
89. San Juan
90. Dalian.
90. Muscat
92. Pretoria
93. Sao Paulo
94. Bahrain
95. Guangzhou
96. Panama City
97. Qingdao
98. Amman
98. Bangkok
100. Almaty
101. Bandar Seri Begawan
102. Asuncion
103. Manila
104. Baku
105. Quito
106. Tunis
107. Hanoi
108. Bogota
108. Istanbul
108. Riyadh
111. Mexico City
112. New Delhi
113. Jeddah
114. Guatemala City
115. Casablanca
116. Ho Chi Minh City
117. Mumbai
118. Kiev
119. Jakarta
120. Al Khobar
121. Tashkent
122. Nairobi
123. Cairo
124. Abidjan
125. Phnom Penh
126. Caracas
127. Lusaka
128. Tehran
129. Kathmandu
130. Colombo
131. Dakar
132. Algiers
133. Douala
134. Tripoli
135. Harare
136. Port Moresby
137 Karachi
138. Lagos
139. Dhaka
140. Damascus

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit Global Liveability Ranking 2018

Why Trump Is a Horror Movie and Not a Reality Show

Reality shows dramatize and exaggerate “real” human behavior and situations. People do and say bad, even horrible, things. We may be repulsed, we may find it endearing and entertaining, but when we watch reality shows, we are never scared.

The most frightening horror movies are based on a powerful premise: Within our seemingly ordinary life in our seemingly ordinary world, there is an inconceivable terror lurking. It may emerge at any time without warning. We must be always on our guard because everything that used to seem benign is now menacing. What is worst, on top of the constant uncertainty, is that we have no defense.

That is why when we watch a horror movie, no matter how prepared we think we are, we jump out of our seats anyway. That is why in America, while we long for the benign ordinary, we prepare each day for what is lurking, and still jump when it arrives. That is why Trump is a horror movie and not a reality show.

For a While

For a While

After the desert heat the dusk
with low growl whisper of thunder then
the roar and the cracked sky
emptying the rain.
Every night it will be this way
for a while.
Wall shaking and roof patter
call me out to see what the
matter it is.
Sound light and blessed water
and when I stand skin to air feel
a trickle of cool breeze streaming my way
for a while.




The border of melancholy and joy
is the color of washed out orange gray
late sunset in lingering heat.
The playlist alternates
requited longing to despair
with no choice.


Reviving the Angel of Friendship

“Everyone has a light burning for him in the world above, and everyone’s light is unique. When two friends meet, their lights above are united, and out of that union of two lights an angel is born. That angel has the strength to survive for only one year, unless its life is renewed when the friends meet again. But if they are separated for more than a year, the angel begins to languish and eventually wastes away.

“That is why a blessing over the dead is made upon meeting a friend who has not been seen for more than a year, to revive the angel. According to the Talmud two friends who have not seen each other for a year say the blessing: ‘Blessed is He who revives the dead.’”

Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism

Moses, Elijah and Jesus (Plus Four) Meet on a Mountain: The Feast of the Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated today in many Christian communities. It marks one of the most fascinating stories reported in the Gospels. From the Gospel of Matthew:

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. (Matthew 17:1-8, NRSV)

Among those Christian communities, the transfiguration has been subject to different interpretations:

The Transfiguration refers to the appearance of Jesus to his disciples in glorified form. The three synoptic Gospels record the episode: Matthew 17:1–9; Mark 9:2–10; Luke 9:28–36. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him onto a mountain. (Tradition locates it on Mount Tabor, but many scholars prefer Mount Hermon.) He appeared there before them in a luminous form with Moses and Elijah at his side. Peter proposed that they build three tabernacles, or tents. A heavenly voice declared Jesus to be the “beloved son” and enjoined the disciples to heed him. Jesus then appeared in his usual form and commanded his disciples to keep silence.

There are various interpretations of the episode. Some view it as a misplaced account of a resurrection appearance. Others view it as a mystical experience that Jesus’ disciples had in his presence. Others as a symbolic account devised by Matthew or the tradition on which his Gospel relied. Whatever its origin, the episode of the Transfiguration serves at the very least as a literary device to place Jesus on the same level as the Law (represented by Moses) and the Prophets (represented by Elijah) and as a foreshadowing of his future glory. He is the authentic source of divine truth for those who would listen to him.

The feast of the Transfiguration originated in the East and became widely celebrated there before the end of the first Christian millennium. The feast was not celebrated in the West until a much later date. Pope Callistus III ordered its celebration in 1457 in thanksgiving for the victory over the Turks at Belgrade on July 22, 1456, news of which reached Rome on August 6. The feast is on the General Roman Calendar and is also celebrated by the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church in the USA. (Lives of The Saints: From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa by Richard P. McBrien)

However you view this story as a matter of fact, faith or theology, it is a big meeting of some heavy hitters. It begins with Jesus plus three apostles, which is not by itself particularly unusual. Then Moses and Elijah arrive. This meeting now qualifies as a big deal, one of the highest-level conclaves in the Bible. But of course there’s more. God shows up—and speaks. (Note that Moses and Elijah both had experience with this: we aren’t sure what kind of voice Moses heard, but Elijah reportedly heard something still and small.)

Maybe the most fascinating detail of the story is the offer by the apostles to build three separate tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Some think this is a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jewish pilgrimage festival at which tents/booths are built. But it seems more a gesture of welcome: You guys have traveled a long way to get here for this meeting; the least we can do is give you someplace to rest and refresh. Would they have gone ahead and built those tents for Moses and Elijah if God had not interrupted? It’s a thought.