Bob Schwartz

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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.

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.

Would the Buddha Trim the Bodhi Tree?

Back in December on Bodhi Day (the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment), I gave myself a present:

This Bodhi Day, I gifted myself a bodhi tree, just like the one that the Buddha was sitting under when he was enlightened. Almost just like it. This bonsai ficus religiosa is about 8 inches high, so I will not be sitting under it.

I’ve taken good care of this very hardy bonsai and it has grown well. That leaves me with a conundrum. The aesthetics of bonsai includes appropriate trimming to maintain a certain balance. But each time I consider taking scissors to growth, I stop. If it grows lush and green, let it grow.

Then I thought of the Buddha’s own Bodhi tree. There are no tales of his considering trimming that tree. That doesn’t mean he didn’t think about it—or not think about it.

So, as I continue to water this beautiful little tree, a new koan appears: Would the Buddha trim the Bodhi tree?

Trump Tweets to the Soccer Ball When He Misses Putin

The mystery of the soccer ball that Putin gave to Trump has been solved. The ball does contain a transmitter, but only for nearby phones.

It is now so clear. Trump can access secret videos from Putin broadcast from the ball. And when Trump really misses Putin but can’t get him on the phone, Trump can tweet to the ball as if Putin were right there with him.

Isn’t love grand!


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s gift of a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump last week set off a chorus of warnings — some of them only half in jest — that the World Cup souvenir could be bugged. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham even tweeted, “I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”

It turns out they weren’t entirely wrong. Markings on the ball indicate that it contained a chip with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones.

But rather than a spy device, the chip is an advertised feature of the Adidas AG ball. Photographs from the news conference in Helsinki, where Putin handed the ball to Trump, show it bore a logo for a near-field communication tag. During manufacturing, the NFC chip is placed inside the ball under that logo, which resembles the icon for a WiFi signal, according to the Adidas website.

The chip allows fans to access player videos, competitions and other content by bringing their mobile devices close to the ball.

To faithful Trump supporters: God doesn’t hate you but Satan loves you

The Trump administration said yesterday that 463 parents separated from their children at the southern border were no longer in the United States, having likely already been deported.

This is part of an announced plan to use border separations as a way to discourage migrants from coming to America. It is a sort of terrorism. What could be more terrorizing to a parent than the threat of being separated from your child forever?

Theology seems to play a major role in support for Trump among a number of faithful Americans. We frequently hear, for example, that Trump’s election was part of God’s plan. So that whatever Trump’s shortcomings relative to Christian morality, God still approves, and so should we.

Looking at the tragic border policy that Trump is pursuing and can’t (and doesn’t want to) fix, and the fact that hundreds of children will unnecessarily never see their parents again, it is worth thinking about theology.

What if God doesn’t really care about our elections? Frankly, God might beneficially stay as far away as possible from that nonsense and focus on more important human situations.

But Satan, that’s another story. Sowing chaos and tragedy is his stock in trade. How better to crush true faith than to disguise every evil impulse and inclination as the embodiment of good? In this scheme, separating loving parents from children appears not just as a good idea but as a divine directive. Trump couldn’t do better if he was working for Satan himself.

Trump: “The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2018

Trump is not even my 45th favorite President. My favorite Presidents (out of 45):

46. Donald Trump


The government didn’t “break into” Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel room. It was properly executing a difficult-to-obtain search warrant.

New York is a one-party recording state, that is, the permission of only one of two parties is needed to legally record a conversation.

The New York City Bar Association advises that a lawyer may tape a conversation without disclosing to the other party “if the lawyer has a reasonable basis for believing that disclosure of the taping would impair pursuit of a generally accepted societal good.”

We know that Trump does not understand or respect the proper administration of justice or “generally accepted societal good.” Which is just one more reason he is my 46th favorite President.