Bob Schwartz

Month: June, 2021

We would need superhuman superheroes to fix the American mess. What we have are very human politicians.

At the time of World War II, superhero comic books were growing in popularity. Even more so in the following decades.

A big question emerged: Why didn’t Superman just end the war quickly? He certainly could have.

The answer is obvious, even to those who admire him. He is a comic book character. Like all great characters of myth and fiction, he may exist as an all-powerful ideal in the psyche, spirit and imagination, but not in the real hard world.

We are thankful we do have human heroes in dire situations, and that is exactly how the force of evil was vanquished in World War II. In the overall social and political sphere, once in a while we do find individuals who can help “bend the course of history with their bare hands.” But we shouldn’t count on it.

Instead, as deep into undemocratic evil as we are sinking, what we have are very human politicians, which means that some will try their best, or what they think is best, which may not be enough. If we are waiting for Superman, or superheroes, or just heroes, know this: they are us.

The Arizona election audit* will falsely claim Trump won the state. That is the point of no return for America.

You knew the plan all along, or should have. Arizona Republicans hired a company called Crazy Ninjas (officially Cyber Ninjas) to lead an audit* of the Maricopa County, Arizona ballots. Incompetent and partisan, they have worked chaotically and as much as possible in secret. When it is over, they will declare Trump the winner in Arizona. What choice do they have?

That declaration would carry no official weight, as the Arizona election has been officially certified. But that wouldn’t matter. Republicans in other states would use this as proof of their claim that the election had been stolen, and insist that their states should pursue the same type of audit*. Millions of Trump supporters who had been screaming “Stop the steal!”, accompanied by an invasion of the U.S. Capitol, would now scream “We were right!”

And that would be it. No turning back.

When lying and cheating no longer matter at all, not even a little, what’s to stop liars and cheaters? You might say that lying and cheating have been in grand style since the previous president took office, and you’d be right. But there was hollow hope that once he was stripped of his powers, official America would resume the status quo ante.

No. When the Arizona audit* issues its false finding, every American election will be vulnerable to a charge (without evidence) that it is fraudulent. Many of the new voter suppression bills just passed remove final election determination from the officials who have traditionally performed that sworn function (Secretaries of State, Supervisors of Elections, etc.) to the state legislatures. Those legislatures could change the election results, based on their own investigation* and on audits* conducted by companies like Crazy Ninjas.

It would be so heartening, so democracy-affirming, if none of this happened. But all this talk of Trump’s “reinstatement” (not an actual constitutional thing) says that Trump Republicans are thinking about just such a future.

Read about the last deluded days of Hitler

“Though the Third Reich was going up in flames and explosions, Hitler could not bear to die without naming his successor and dictating the exact composition of the government which that successor must appoint.”

I’ve been thinking about powerful men deluded into thinking that their lost cause isn’t lost.

That led me to my copy of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The last chapters chronicle the last days in the Nazi bunker in Berlin. If you don’t know that story, or the entire history of the Third Reich, there is no better place to start than this book. (Note: Maybe read the 1,250 pages in chapters and bits.)

Hitler’s conduct in the bunker, as the Russians overtook Berlin, is by now famous. Up to the end he was appointing a successor and was dictating plans for the future of the movement. And up to the end, he was blaming his disloyal and incompetent generals, but mostly still and forever blaming the Jews.

Powerful men past their power and deluded in thinking otherwise is a classic theme, and in some creative hands (e.g., Shakespeare), the story can elicit pathos. The story of Hitler’s inglorious defeat—a Thousand Year Reich gone in twelve—is pathetic. So pathetic and so incalculably tragic.

If you happen to see an old man stewing away deluded in his bunker, planning for his return to power, it is pathetic. Please be mindful that the tragic damage he and his kind can yet do remains immense.

From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich


[dictated in the bunker]

These two documents survive, as Hitler meant them to, and like others of his papers they are significant to this narrative. They confirm that the man who had ruled over Germany with an iron hand for more than twelve years, and over most of Europe for four, had learned nothing from his experience; not even his reverses and shattering final failure had taught him anything. Indeed, in the last hours of his life he reverted to the young man he had been in the gutter days in Vienna and in the early rowdy beer hall period in Munich, cursing the Jews for all the ills of the world, spinning his half-baked theories about the universe, and whining that fate once more had cheated Germany of victory and conquest. In this valedictory to the German nation and to the world which was also meant to be a last, conclusive appeal to history, Adolf Hitler dredged up all the empty claptrap of Mein Kampf and added his final falsehoods. It was a fitting epitaph of a power-drunk tyrant whom absolute power had corrupted absolutely and destroyed.

The “Political Testament,” as he called it, was divided into two parts, the first consisting of his appeal to posterity, the second of his specific directions for the future.

More than thirty years have passed since I made my modest contribution as a volunteer in the First World War, which was forced upon the Reich.

In these three decades, love and loyalty to my people alone have guided me in all my thoughts, actions and life. They gave me power to make the most difficult decisions which have ever confronted mortal man…

Next he placed “sole responsibility” not only for the millions of deaths suffered on the battlefields and in the bombed cities but for his own massacre of the Jews—on the Jews. Then he turned to the reasons for his decision to remain in Berlin to the last.

After six years of war, which in spite of all setbacks will one day go down in history as the most glorious and heroic manifestation of the struggle for existence of a nation, I cannot forsake the city that is the capital of this state… I wish to share my fate with that which millions of others have also taken upon themselves by staying in this town. Further, I shall not fall in the hands of the enemy, who requires a new spectacle, presented by the Jews, to divert their hysterical masses.

I have therefore decided to remain in Berlin and there to choose death voluntarily at that moment when I believe that the position of the Fuehrer and the Chancellery itself can no longer be maintained. I die with a joyful heart in my knowledge of the immeasurable deeds and achievements of our peasants and workers and of a contribution unique in history of our youth which bears my name.

There followed an exhortation to all Germans “not to give up the struggle.”

the seed has been sown that will grow one day… to the glorious rebirth of the National Socialist movement of a truly united nation.

What the pandemic should have taught Americans but sometimes didn’t: Admit ignorance, study hard, learn.

It is an unspoken motto of good schools and teachers: admit ignorance, study hard, learn. In real life one or more of those elements might be missing. It is an ideal. During the pandemic, when it matters most, this is not always followed.

We should still be admitting our relative ignorance, as even the smartest experts do. At the beginning, Covid was referred to as a “novel coronavirus” because it was new. And to a great extent still is. What we don’t know—how long natural immunity lasts or how long vaccine immunity lasts, for example—continues, because, for example, outside of trials, the population has been vaccinated for six months or less.

Even if people were willing to admit ignorance, which some weren’t and aren’t, the pandemic provided a confusing array of information, some of it tentative (see novelty), some of it simply wrong. The only way through that jungle was studying, which many people didn’t have time or inclination for, and some people couldn’t understand.

This is a reminder to remain fully and continuously informed by reliable sources. Keep learning. It matters because 924,000 Americans* have died from Covid so far, millions more Americans have been infected so far, some of whom are suffering chronic serious consequences. And while the pandemic has slowed for now in America, it is roaring in other parts of the world—the world we live in, among the people who are our human brothers and sisters.

Admit ignorance, study hard, learn.

* This number is from the respected Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, which says “To fully account for the impact of COVID-19, our estimates now include the total number of COVID-19 deaths, which is greater than what has been reported.”