Thursday, January 5, 2017

Managing the Outrage

My "Haiku Garden," in Belton, Texas (2004-2007)
On the first day of 2017, Tom and I measured an area near our house here in Arizona in which I am planning an herb garden. A previous owner had covered the area with black plastic and then gravel. Years ago at our house in Belton, Texas, I had created a small garden area that had been compacted by parked cars. Tom helped me put in raised beds, and then I covered parts of the garden area with plastic and white gravel. Each year I removed the accumulated leaves and dirt from the gravel with a leaf blower in order to prevent debris build-up. Gravel-covered areas, which are meant to be as maintenance free as possible, still require some maintenance. I was reminded of this as I began removing the gravel from the area in which I want to create an herb garden here: the gravel was heavily infiltrated with dirt which had accumulated over the years. Weeds, ornery survivalists, had begun to poke through the plastic, too.
snowy earlyJanuary morning--dreaming of an herb garden here
It was quite a job to remove that gravel and dirt; I still have some gravel removal to complete, and Tom is going to build me a box with a screen so that I can screen the dirt from the gravel.

Gardening and writing have been my ways of dealing with troubling times, depression or emotionally-intense experiences--the writing since I was in 6th grade, when my parents gave me a five-year diary as a Christmas gift, and the gardening since I was a young adult in my twenties when Tom and I created our first shared summer gardens as students at Texas A&M University. Now I am 59-years-old, and I need the hard work and joy of gardening more than ever as we face at least four years of a Donald Trump presidency.

Every day as I read the headlines that worry me, I try to imagine the people who MUST read them with satisfaction, as they voted for Donald Trump for President of the United States--headlines such as these:

Who are these people, I wonder, who hate that 20+ million Americans now have access to health insurance or who think it's a good idea to turn over federal lands to states that are too often cash-strapped and therefore probably more willing to sell those lands to developers or oil and mining corporations? 

I worry about friends my age who do not have employer-based health insurance, who depend upon the Affordable Care Act and the marketplace exchanges it created, for their insurance. I worry about a president who praises a foreign power and its authoritarian leader whose opponents have met with mysterious deaths or not-so-mysterious jail sentences. I worry about leaders who not only dispute but who mock and disparage hard science. 

I worry about an authoritarian populist president who tweets his own outrage every day, for all the world to see, outrage which is sometimes even directed toward private individuals, and which encourages threatening behavior of some of his supporters.

But when the worry and outrage seem to overwhelm me, my well-tested methods of handling stress come to my aid: gardening, making things, and writing. I have also made my usual New Year's resolution to read more books rather than spending too much time online getting all worked up over Donald Trump's latest tweet. And I've made a recent pact with a neighbor to exercise together two or three times a week. 

I worry about our country's being led by a narcissistic, revengeful, policy-ignorant authoritarian, but I plan to channel my outrage constructively. Yes, I will be resisting; I will be daily monitoring the news; I will refuse to normalize the bizarre and aberrant behavior of our new president; I will be writing letters and calling my senators and representatives to express my views. But I plan to remain sane while doing so. And gardening will certainly help me to do that!

tentative plan for an herb garden

Friday, November 18, 2016

Making Sense of it All #2: What Are We Letting into the White House?

For the past week, I've been immersed in commentary on why Hillary Clinton lost the election: some pointed out that millennials didn't have the love for Clinton that they had for President Obama; others blamed Democrats who stayed home; still others blamed the Democratic Party for losing the votes of an alienated working class whose rage was inflamed by Trump's trumpeting racism. Or perhaps it was FBI director James Comey's two letters about the Clinton e-mails that tipped the balance in the election. Day after day I consulted Twitter for the latest commentary, the latest analysis. Then, yesterday I decided I didn't care why Clinton lost the election. What I care about the most--and what was bothering me throughout this presidential campaign--is the moral crisis the 2016 election seems to represent. Enough of the American voters (not a majority, but enough for Trump to win the Electoral College)--and 81% of white evangelical Christians--gave their support:

  • to a man who proved over and over again that he is ungovernable (see his Twitter account); 
  • is a pathological liar (as Politico and other fact-checking sites demonstrated over and over again); 
  • is not only a sexual harasser but brags about it
  • has made money mainly by selling the Trump name to enterprises he doesn't own and didn't build;
  • who has failed to pay federal taxes probably for two decades;
  • whose rich daddy helped him out of tough financial spots, and then banks that loaned him money helped him out to protect their own interests;
  • who stiffed his contractors--often small business owners;
  • who is exceedingly ignorant about government policies (just listen to those three presidential debates) and of the requirements of the presidency;
  • who appeared in a soft-porn film;
  • who has been married three times, whose first wife accused him of rape, whose second wife was his mistress before he left his first wife...blah, blah, blah.
If that list isn't enough to make people think twice about a Trump presidency, perhaps the choices that Trump and his transition team are making now will cause some to sit up and take notice. 
  • Donald Trump has appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist. Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which is known as an "alt-right" news source, a safe haven for misogynists and white nationalists. Here is what a former editor-at-large at Breitbart News has to say of Bannon:
"Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers....
Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies....[H]e's an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination." (Ben Shapiro, "I Know Trump's New Campaign Chair, Steve Bannon. Here's What You Need to Know," The Daily Wire, updated 13 November 2016.)
  • The word is out (though not confirmed as of this writing) that Trump has nominated Jeff Sessions, Senator from Alabama, as Attorney General. Sessions is a hard-liner on immigration, even on legal immigration. He has maintained a "tough on crime" attitude in opposition to the recent movement to reduce mandatory minimums and to institute other criminal justice reforms. Years ago, he was denied a judgeship because of racist comments. We can expect him to support voting suppression laws. So, this: Of course: Another reminder of just how far right Jeff Sessions is:
  • Rudy Giuliani is being considered for the position of Secretary of State. What is so ironic about this possibility is that Giuliani's conflicts of interest are so much worse than what critics accused of Hillary Clinton. In one year alone he made $11.4 million in giving 124 speeches. In addition, his firm, Giuliani Partners, has had business dealings with: the government of Qatar, the energy company TransCanada (Keystone XL Pipeline), Bear Stearns, Uber, and CB Richard Ellis (real estate giant), Purdue Pharma, TriGlobal Strategic ventures (company that helps their clients in ventures in former Soviet Union states and that has provided PR for Russian oligarchs and others with Kremlin ties):
"James A. Thurber, the director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, said Mr. Giuliana's consulting work over the last 15 years should disqualify him from taking the secretary of state job.
'It creates an immediate conflict of interest with leaders of nations that he has worked with,' Mr. Thurber said. 'People asked about Hillary Clinton and donations to Clinton Foundation. It is very different than being paid directly by foreign countries to represent them.'" (Mark Landler, Eric Lipton, Jo Becker. "Rudolph Giuliani's Business Ties Viewed as Red Flag for Secretary of State Job." 15 November 2016. The New York Times)
Here's what ties all these guys together: male, of course--all middle-aged or older--white, and very, very troubling, the racist views they have either expressed themselves or supported when expressed by others. New Yorkers of the right age will remember Rudy Giuliani's support of a demonstration in 1992, in which off-duty New York City police officers led 10,000 demonstrators through New York city, screaming racist slogans, trapping people in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and terrifying them by jumping on their cars. Many of the people in the demonstration were carrying guns and drinking alcohol, and there "[i]n the center of the mayhem, standing on top of a car while cursing Mayor Dinkins through a bullhorn, was mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani," leading the crowd in chants. And all of this because Mayor Dinkins was calling for a Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate police misconduct.

So, yeah, it's hard not to feel very, very worried about the incoming Trump administration and to wonder why Democrats in the Senate are trying to find ways to work with Donald Trump's presidency.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The President we might have had

For the first time since her concession speech, Hillary Clinton spoke in public at the Children's Defense Fund's 26th annual Beat the Odds Celebration in Washington, D.C.. As I write this, Clinton has won the popular vote at 1, 125, 855 more votes than Donald Trump. She talks movingly of the need to lift American children out of poverty: 
When I talk about children in or near poverty, this isn't someone else's problem. These aren't someone else's children. This is America's problems because they are America's children.
 Later in the speech, she says:
I know this isn't easy. I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was. The divisions laid bare by this election run deep. But please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it. Our children are worth it. Believe in our country. Fight for our values and never, ever give up.
And at 17:30, she speaks very movingly of her mother.

 [Here is a link if the video doesn't play: ] --

Preparing for Winter....when it comes

honeybee on California poppy flower 
This past weekend and into this week, Tom and I have been cleaning up our place, preparing for winter. Winter seems to be tarrying elsewhere, though. Yesterday I stopped by a local antique shop and while paying for my purchases, asked the owner if it seemed unseasonably warm here. She told me yes, that the area usually gets its first snow in October. However, last winter, our first here, we didn't get snow until December, if I remember correctly.  The U.S. climate data website supports my memory. In November of last year, the highest temperature in November was on the second of the month, with a high near 74°F, while highs the rest of the month varied between 66°F and 42°F, with lows between 45°F and 7°F. Well, we've had a balmy fall, with highs in the 60s and 70s almost every day, giving us a great opportunity to work outside.

Tom cleaned out the greenhouse this past weekend, pulling out tomato and pepper plants and replacing them with onion plants. We have a lot of onions in the outside garden, so we'll see how well the onions outside survive the winter as compared to those inside the greenhouse. 
Tomato plants stacked up in front of the greenhouse, Tom and Cassie on the right
greenhouse cleared of tomatoes and peppers
onions, radishes, greens, cabbage still growing in the garden
Tom also affixed a rain gutter to the greenhouse and used plastic gutter material to direct precipitation into the greenhouse.
gutter added to the greenhouse, with downspout for directing precipitation inside
drainage gutters for directing precipitation in the greenhouse
I finally turned to a project that I had procrastinated on because it was a little overwhelming, repairing the gravel walkway in our backyard which the previous owners' dogs had torn up. To do this, I would be tackling two projects at once, adding to the walkway the gravel I'm removing from an area where we plan to put in an herb garden. Photos might describe these projects best.
The area where we plan an herb garden: I am removing gravel and the underlying plastic.
I'm recyling the plastic ground cover and gravel to cover bare areas in this gravel walkway.
Here is the area repaired, with gravel covering the plastic.
When I get all the plastic ground cover and gravel removed from the area where we are planning an herb garden, Tom will dig up the ground (I've asked for his assistance in this), and then we will put in walkways and separate raised beds. I hope we can get this done in time for spring planting. 

Another project I'm working on this week is repairing the rock "creek" that was part of the original landscaping of a previous owner. The "creek" was neglected and filled with debris.
The rock "creek" that had been neglected (photo taken in March)
Dirt, gravel, and other debris had filled in the rock "creek" bed.
This week, I cleared out the debris and uncovered buried rocks in the "rock creek."
Tom said yesterday that I was going to get the yard all in order in time for us to move again. "Well," I replied, "that would be par for the course." The 2016 presidential election has already impacted some of our hopes for the future. I just hope that the fallout will not be as bad as we imagine.
scrub jay at my makeshift bird feeder--some flowers still blooming in mid-November

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Making sense of it all #1: Election Night 2016

Tom and I voted early, stuffing our ballots in the early ballot box at our county courthouse on October 21st. I missed going to a polling place for early voting. The lines were long but the people happy and festive in Dekalb County, Georgia, when we voted for Barack Obama in 2008. The lines short but the courthouse workers pleasant when we voted early for Barack Obama the second time in 2012 at the St. Tammany Parish Courthouse in Louisiana. We got a sticker for our trouble each time.

So watching the election night coverage here in Arizona was our way of joining the great throng of citizens as the final votes were tallied. We prepared tacos with meat from a rooster Tom had butchered months ago; I made salsa from tomatoes from our garden that Tom had canned and from peppers and onions we had grown. Tom mixed us up some margaritas. I was planning to make a Nasty Woman cocktail from a recipe that my son's girlfriend posted for me on Facebook, but Tom forgot the cherry juice when we went to the grocery store. The item was written "below the fold" on the grocery list, and, pulling the list out of his pocket, Tom didn't think to unfold the paper or flip it to check for additional requests.

I guess pollsters also forgot to look "below the fold" when totting up their numbers for the winner and loser of the 2016 Presidential election. There was a surprise there that none of us were prepared for--not the Clinton campaign, not the Trump campaign, not the Senate or the Congress or any of the voting citizens. Clinton was projected to win by a comfortable margin, but as the votes came in, it became apparent that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States.

Tom and I were stunned, as were so many people around the world. It's not that we didn't entertain the idea that Clinton could lose; we had talked about how Donald Trump's winning could very well be possible. It's just that the experts had seemed so sure, their numbers seemingly supported by this percentage and that percentage, that we had come to think that maybe the election was a given. Even when the spread seemed low, the conclusion was still that Clinton was the likely winner.

For us, that such a bigoted, incurious, authoritarian, impulsive, "pussy-grabbing" blowhard would become the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, was not unthinkable, just seemingly very, very unlikely. I had watched videos and read in-depth articles that dissected the man's business practices, that described how he lost other people's money and stiffed contractors while making a bundle for himself. I had watched documentaries that described his history, speeches that revealed his psychology. I read to add to what I already knew of Hillary Clinton's public service and policies, and watched a documentary or two on her, as well, but not with such obsessiveness. Hillary Clinton has been on the public scene as long as I have been a voter; I have read plenty about her over the years and had at first supported her in the 2008 election before choosing to vote for Barack Obama.

Donald Trump was, at the beginning, an unknown to me when it came to judging him as presidential material. I hadn't taken seriously his earlier run for president in 2000. He was someone whose name I had seen in the headlines of tabloid magazines at the grocery check-out counter. I had seen his ads on television but never bought his products. I had never watched his reality-TV shows except for a minute or two while flipping channels. His support of the birther conspiracy movement indicated his taste for racist propaganda.

As it became clear that Clinton was likely to lose to an immoral, incurious, narcissistic born-with-money billionaire, I called up my best friend in another state for comfort. I texted my children and called my daughter. I finished up the margaritas and started in on the wine.

Later, I tried to make sense of it all, to become philosophical, to take the long view. Maybe a Trump presidency wouldn't be as bad as I thought it would be, but then I remembered the people around Trump, the sycophants, the CEO of the alt-right Breitbart media, the creepy-eyed Rudolph Guiliani, the smug and self-righteous hypocrite Newt Gingrich, the vindictive Chris Christie. 

Vindictiveness seems to be a particularly abhorrent characteristic of Donald Trump, too, as over the years he has carried out feuds with--and publicly demeaned--people who have dared to criticize him, from journalists to talk show hosts to ordinary people. That vindictiveness comes out in the people around him, too: "Omarosa Manigault, a surrogate of Donald Trump and former contestant on the reality television show The Apprentice,  said the GOP presidential nominee will keep a list of Republicans who vote against him." She called those who didn't support Trump his "enemies" and that Trump had "a long memory," suggesting vindictive retribution against anyone with whom he disagrees or decides hadn't shown sufficient support of his candidacy. Months earlier, in an interview for the Frontline documentary, The Choice, Omarosa had said: "Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump."

So, yeah, it's difficult to take the long view when confronted with vindictiveness couched in such authoritarian--even monarchical--language. But as the day after the election wore on, as I listened to Hillary Clinton's gracious and thoughtful concession speech, I did attempt to hold on to that long view. I replied to a friend's concern on Facebook:
It disturbs me, too, that President Obama will be handing over the Oval Office to a man who rode the tide of birther conspiracy crap while kicking up the wind that propelled it. However, I do take some comfort from President Obama's words today. And I think the people who vilified Barack Obama will, in the long run, be judged very negatively by history. Meanwhile, I look to Donald Trump, his administration, and all the people who voted for him, to prove their promises of MAGA (this I say with a great deal of disdain for the slogan, which I think is wrong-headed in so many ways). Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have asked of us to hope for the best, essentially, and I am working on that attitude. If it all goes south, I will be out the door campaigning  for the next Democratic prez with better DNC leadership. Meanwhile, I will be vigilant for the freedoms and support all Americans should enjoy...and do what I can to promote the ideas I think are important. Well, that's the attitude I'm working on, anyway.
And so I maintained a sort of equanimity until the evening, when I chanced to see a headline when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed on my cell phone. It was about how Hillary Clinton was handling the pain of disappointment and defeat with the kind of grace that women do--and I started bawling. Mixed up in with my disappointment over the election--that half of my fellow voting citizens had chosen the dark version of America that Donald Trump's campaign clearly promoted--were my own experiences as a woman over the years: the career choice that meant I was always underpaid for my work, no matter how hard or how long I worked; the ways in which men in my field tended to be judged less harshly than women--by students as well as colleagues; the ageism one encountered over fifty; and just the weariness of bearing up in circumstances not of one's particular choosing.

But the tears, like everything, came to an end. And now I'm reading in my Twitter feed of increased racial attacks on individuals and of the possible choices in a Trump administration. Reality is sinking in, and I am working on a way to face it head-on.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The End is Near...Thank God? (two views of Americans and their country)

Early in this campaign season, someone signed me up for a Facebook group that consisted of women for Hillary. At that point, I supported Hillary Clinton (after first leaning toward Bernie Sanders at the beginning of the primary), but every day, as I opened up FB, post after post from members in that group greeted me with complaints about Bernie Sanders or about "Bernie Bros." Some Bernie Bros certainly deserved criticism, but to see this criticism day after day, described in excrutiating detail, became wearing. And then women started criticizing Bernie's wife (and her appearance). That's it, I thought, and uninvited myself from the group. 

Then, this past week, someone else signed me up for another Facebook group of people for Hillary Clinton--Pantsuit Nation. Here the posts have been mostly positive, with people posting why they are voting for Hillary Clinton. Several claim to be life-long Republican voters. Others are people who live in places where Hillary supporters are so few and far between--or so criticized for their political views--that they feel isolated. Pantsuit Nation has become a support group for them. The posts are much more positive than the ones of the earlier group, and I find myself smiling at the encouraging comments.

I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton, but I happily voted for her, and I think she has the potential to be a good president. As David Frum, Republican, neoconservative and former speechwriter for George W. Bush says, Hillary Clinton "above all...can govern herself; the first indispensable quality for governing others." I saw that in her 11 hours of testimony before the Republican-led Benghazi investigation. I saw that in the three presidential debates in which she came prepared and loaded for bear. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has throughout this campaign demonstrated how ungovernable he is. His campaign advisers couldn't get him to focus sufficiently to prepare for the presidential debates. He is easily goaded, he lashes out, he holds grudges very publicly and very long, he has encouraged violence at his rallies, and he has campaigned on xenophobia, racism, and fear.

Here at the end of the presidential campaign, the last ads that these presidential candidates are running compel us to draw some final conclusions about the character of these two people as well as their view of the country they wish to lead.   Sure, ads are the work of commercial teams that have researched their target audiences and have at their disposal film, music, actors that help kindle emotions in their viewers. But the presidential candidates "approve" those ads--the content, the tone, the message.  Their choice for the closing ad has special significance as a "wrap"--the final message they hope will propel their followers to the voting booth.

Here are the last ads of the two candidates, the ads with which they are wrapping up their campaigns. 

Hillary Clinton's ad is accompanied by Katy Perry's pop song "Roar," which is upbeat but also defiant in the repeated phrases: "you held me down, but I got up" and "You're gonna hear me roar."  The defiance in those phrases IS Hillary Clinton. She has been in the public eye for thirty years, criticized, praised, endlessly investigated (with no conclusions of wrongdoing, despite the conspiracy theories), hated, admired. The theme of the song, as well as the image of a woman roaring her strength and defiance, also harkens back to Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar," a song from 1972, when Hillary Clinton was a young woman and first getting involved in politics. And in the ad, viewers get glimpses of this younger, dedicated Hillary, with her law books and her speeches, as well as the older Hillary on the campaign trail. Thus, the ad connects Hillary Clinton and her young idealism to young women of the woman's movement. 

The ad celebrates diversity, too, as the people who appear in the ad represent different races, different social classes, different ages. The words that scroll across the screen focus on the reasons these people are voting: for respect, courage, equality, community, fairness, higher wages, the planet, our future--and against hate. The ad begins with an image of solar-powered windmills, suggesting a commitment to a clean energy future. The ad ends with the image of Hillary Clinton standing in front of smiling supporters. The upbeat music, smiling faces, and focus on policy voting create a very positive message.

Here is Donald Trump's last ad for the presidential campaign: 

Donald Trump speaks throughout the ad, accompanied by somber piano music and occasional clashes of cymbals and drums. The overall message is one of a nation controlled by a powerful cabal of politicians who are totally unsympathetic to the American people. The nouns describing this cabal are grim, cold, inhuman: establishment (mentioned four times), interests, leverscorporations, entities, structuremachine. The adjectives and verbs are dark and foreboding: failed, corrupt, disastrous, controlled, bled, robbed, stripped. In the entire ad, there are only about three or four minority faces. When Donald Trump says "the only force strong enough to save our country," he appears in the ad, speaking the words, and the camera pans over a sea of white faces at a Trump rally. At the end of the ad, Donald Trump looms up, larger than life, in front of a background of dark, ominous clouds.

This ad appeals to fears, and not just to the fear of helplessness in the face of dark, powerful forces. It appeals to xenophobia (the jobs "flee" to other countries while "foreign policies" and "massive" numbers of immigrants enter our country) and...anti-Semitism. As Josh Marshall points out, the ad is "packed with anti-Semitic dog whistles, anti-Semitic tropes, and anti-Semitic vocabulary." And that vocabulary is subtly connected to recognizable Jewish people who appear in the ad: "The four readily identifiable American bad guys in the ad are Hillary Clinton, George Soros (Jewish financier), Janet Yellen (Jewish Federal Reserve Chair), and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs CEO)."

The anti-Semitic message is clear: A corrupt political establishment" control[s] the levers of power in Washington" and advances "global special interests." And the faces that are highlighted in the ad connected to this establishment are well-known American Jews. As Marshall concludes: 

This is an anti-Semitic ad every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms 'white hands' ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic. You could even argue that it's more so, given certain linguistic similarities with anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s. But it's not a contest. This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas . That's the only standard that really matters. 
This is intentional and by design. It is no accident. 
(Josh Marshall, "Trump Rolls Out Anti-Semitic Closing Ad," TPM, 5 November 2016)
The contrasts are stark between the closing argument for her presidency that Hillary Clinton makes in her ad and the closing argument for his presidency that Donald Trump makes in his ad: the first message is uplifting, with individuals highlighted as voting for well-defined, positive improvements while cheering, diverse crowds act as encouraging backup; the second message is dark and foreboding, suggesting that only Donald Trump and crowds of white people can wrest control of the government from a corrupt political establishment represented by well-known American Jews. 

I know which argument I find inviting.

Josh Marshall first discussed the normalization of anti-Semitism in the political discourse of the presidential campaign in early October:
"Storm and Menace," TPM, 7 October 2016.

Note: I wrote this post late last night and into the early morning and later this morning made a few word changes and corrected some errors. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

A Statesman and a Demagogue Got on Stage

Updated: Also, see below

President Obama had some difficulties quieting a crowd in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when a protester for Trump interrupted the rally. Folks just wouldn't "hold up!" But Obama's response to the protester stands in sharp contrast to Donald Trump's response to protests. I am so going to miss our 44th President.

And here is Donald Trump:

See how Donald Trump described to his followers Obama's reaction to the protester:

See another report of Donald Trump's unbelievable description here:

The more I see of Trump (, the more I wonder, "What is WRONG with that man?!"

RedState contributor Ben Howe produces a Trump film

Fun watching to get in the mood for November 8th--What has happened to the world when a RedState contributor and I agree on something (and, no, it's not policy or his view of Barack Obama):

The Conspiratorial World: I choose not to live there and neither do those Republicans refusing to vote for Trump

I realize that a lot of otherwise fairly nice people prefer listening to Rush Limbaugh to NPR. I realize that otherwise fairly nice people prefer watching Fox News or reading alt-right to reading The New York Times or The Washington Post or The LA Times or even locally-run, independent newspapers such as Last Best News or their local and state newspapers, such as The Arizona Republic or online media such as Slate or Vox or online/print media such as The Atlantic. That preference, though, to rely on the voice of hate and innuendo (Rush Limbaugh) and a news outlet that promotes one political party's far-right agenda (Fox News) turns otherwise fairly nice people into uninformed, rather not-nice people. 

No, it's not nice to call the person one thinks should not be president "evil" and "demonic." No, it's not nice to claim that the first black president, with a perfectly legitimate birth certificate from Hawaii, is not "American." No, it's not nice to claim that a man who has been attending a Christian church with his family for years is a secret Muslim--because he's black and has a Muslim name. (I'm white, and I have a Spanish first name and a French maiden name. What does that make me?) No, it's not nice to take a report of perfectly legitimate military maneuvers and turn it into a conspiracy of government takeover (ahem, Jade Helm).

And sources such as Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and trigger and ignite latent fears and inflate conspiratorial leanings.

I choose not to live in the conspiratorial worlds that such sources help create. And I'm careful to sort through the left-leaning sources, too, as some of those sources nudge one toward conspiratorial thinking, as well. Or they are so partisan as to raise my blood pressure even though I might be sympathetic to some of the ideas expressed.

What is crazy about this election, though, is that many of the people on the right with whom I have little in common when it comes to politics are either voting for the Democratic candidate or protest-voting for a third party instead of the Republican candidate they would usually support.

Such decisions indicate to me that those voting for Trump are in a special kind of conspiratorial bubble, one that others of their political persuasion are very loathe to enter. 

Even Charles Krauthammer recognizes the threat of a Trump presidency: 
"At a time of such tectonic instability, even the most experienced head of state requires wisdom and delicacy to maintain equilibrium. Trump has neither. His joining of supreme ignorance to supreme arrogance, combined with a pathological sensitivity to any perceived slight, is a standing invitation to calamitous miscalculation." ("Final days, awful choice," in The Washington Post, 3 November 2016.)

Michael Gerson, George W. Bush's chief speech writer and senior policy advisor in the Bush administration, pleads, yes, pleads, with the Republican electorate, not to vote for Donald Trump: 
The GOP has largely accommodated itself to a candidate with no respect for, or knowledge of, the constitutional order. Every constitutional conservative should be revolted. Those who are complicit have adopted a particularly dangerous form of power-loving hypocrisy. 
But now, with polls tightening, it may not only be Republicans who abandon central tenets of their democratic faith. It is almost beyond belief that Americans should bless and normalize Trump's appeal. Normalize vindictiveness and prejudice. Normalize bragging about sexual assault and the objectification of women. Normalize conspiracy theories and the abandonment of reason. Normalize contempt for the vulnerable, including disabled people and refugees fleeing oppression. Normalize a political tone that dehumanizes opponents and excuses violence. Normalize an appeal to white identity in a nation where racial discord and conflict are always close to the surface. Normalize every shouted epithet, every cruel ethnic and religious stereotype, every act of bullying in the cause of American "greatness."
In the end, a Trump victory would normalize the belief that the structures of self-government are unequal to the crisis of our time. And this would not merely replace the presidential portrait above the fireplace. It would deface it. ("One final election plea, on the behalf of U.S. ideals," in The Washington Post, 3 November 2016) 
 David Frum, neoconservative political commentator and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, pleads with all voters:
To vote for Trump as a protest against Clinton's faults would be like amputating a leg because of a sliver in a toe; cutting one's throat to lower one's blood pressure. ("The Conservative Case for Voting for Clinton," in The Atlantic, 2 November 2016)
And he pleads especially with other Republicans not to let their support for a particular issue get in the way of their realizing the damage that a President Trump would do to democracy:
That Donald Trump has approached so near the White House is a bitter reproach to everybody who had the power to stop him. I include myself in this reproach. Early on, I welcomed Trump's up-ending of some outdated Republican party dogmas--taking it for granted that of course such a ridiculous and obnoxious fraud could never win a major party's nomination. But Trump did win. Now, he stands within a percentage point or two or at most four of the presidency of the United States.
Having failed to act promptly at the outset, it's all the more important to act decisively before it's too late. The lesson Trump has taught is not only that certain Republican dogmas have passed out of date, but that American democracy itself is much more vulnerable than anyone would have believed only 24 months ago. Incredibly, a country that--through wars and depression--so magnificently resisted the authoritarian temptations of the mid-20th century has half-yielded to a more farcical version of that same threat without any of the same excuse. The hungry and houseless Americans of the Great Depression sustained a constitutional republic. How shameful that the Americans of today --so vastly better off in so many ways, despite their undoubted problems--have done so much less well. 
I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton.....[here he states some differences]...
But she is a patriot. She will uphold the sovereignty and independence of the United States. She will defend allies. She will execute the laws with reasonable impartiality. She may bend some rules for her own and her supporters' advantage. She will not outright defy legality altogether. Above all, she can govern herself; the first indispensable qualification for governing others. 
So I will vote for the candidate who rejects my preferences and offends my opinions. (In fact, I have already voted for her.) Previous generations accepted infinitely heavier sacrifices and more dangerous duties to defend democracy. ("The Conservative Case for Voting for Clinton" 
In these times, it gives me no pleasure to agree with David Frum that he is partly at fault--and the GOP even more so--in letting a dangerous man come close to becoming the most powerful man in the world. (And 4 days out from the election, we don't know whether or not Trump will actually succeed.) It gives me no pleasure to remind Frum and others like him that their letting Fox News carry their political torch did--and does--no favors for democracy. These men, and others, have woken up to the fact that we're all--reasonable Democrats and reality-based Republicans--being pulled into a conspiratorial world in which none of us wants to live.

Some fun political reading by a man who served in two Republican administrations:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Donald Trump Attacks the Press as "Dishonest"-- hints of 'L├╝genpresse'?

See Rick Noack's "The ugly history of 'L├╝egenpresse,' A Nazi slur shouted at a Trump Rally," The Washington Post, 24 October 2016.

Also, see Katy Tur's response here: Kristen Bellstrom, "What is Donald Trump's Beef with NBC Reporter Katy Tur? Here's the Backstory," Fortune, 3 November 2016.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This is It for Me--repudiation of a culture that accepts a Donald Trump

Updated note at the end of this post.

Until the Iraq war, I was a genial voting citizen. A lifelong Democrat, I even voted for a Republican president once when I was young and impressionable, was persuaded to believe that Republicans really meant to balance the budget, and hadn't yet learned of the Southern Strategy. And, of course, in some areas of the country where I've lived, voting in local elections meant voting for Republicans or very right-leaning Democrats. I just tried to choose the best person for the job. But I care more about the outcome of this election even more than previous ones, for one person running for president is so unfit for the office that it's (almost) unimaginable to me that decent people are voting for him.

Oh, yes, I understand why this guy is voting for Donald Trump:

And I understand why these people are voting for Donald Trump:

To some extent, I even understand why people who are worried that their manufacturing jobs are gone want to vote for Donald Trump (though why they don't see the irony in voting for a man who sends his manufacturing overseas is beyond me): "Inside a Donald Trump Rally: Good People in a Feedback Loop of Paranoia and Hate." 

But what I don't get, and what I will never get, is why a large number of evangelical Christians plan to vote for Trump. Watching the emotional hysteria, anger, and hate that Trump's rallies inspire sends chills up and down my spine. Yes, I hesitate to call Donald Trump a Hitler or Mussolini, but there are certainly telling points of comparison between the man who is using xenophobia, racism, resentment, and jingoism to heat up his base and fascists who have used those same techniques. Those points of comparisons have made me see more clearly than ever before how easy it can be for a country to submit to fascist rule. And "good people" are just as susceptible to the lure of fascism, to the promises of a belligerent authoritarian, as any. 

Donald Trump has not only tapped into a deep vein of racism and misogyny in this country, he has also tapped into a vein of anti-intellectualism. And not just anti-intellectualism but outright resentment of anything smacking of verifiable knowledge. I am so familiar with the culture in which anti-intellectualism breeds with religious dogma to create a toxic mix of resentment toward anyone who dares challenge the steaming result. I don't know how many times I've heard complaints about "college boys," the complainant creating a straw man out of all educated people. Deep within the culture in which I grew up is a resistance to education that exposes students to scientific proof for evolution and climate change and to the acceptance of diversity and gender equality. For years I parried some of the most outrageous claims (No, our relative is not mentally ill because she "dabbled" in witchcraft--if that's so, why does another male family member have a similar prognosis? No, our children's loving relationship with our gay friends does not endanger them.)--but often remained silent out of the desire not to cause a family ruckus.

It took some years for me to realize how personal those resentments could be.  At a family reunion, one relative said she couldn't understand my family letters because of the "big words" I used. A cousin standing next to her sneered, "Anita just thinks she's smarter than we are." I quit writing those letters years ago, really blaming myself for failing to understand my audience. But recently, in reacting to satire posted as real news on Facebook, I encountered a similar attitude in a high school acquaintance: "How can someone as super-intelligent as you support HER?" The sneer is still there. "I love the poorly educated," Donald Trump said in his Nevada caucus victory speech--and thus validates all those who have felt put down by the "elites," which, shockingly to me, seems to include me, a first-generation college graduate on one side of my family.

I see my childhood culture reflected in those Trump rallies. The guy shouting "Jew-S-A" in the video above is an extreme example, but once I spied the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on a bookshelf of someone I know. Did the person to whom it was given read it? I doubt it--and she would be appalled to learn of its anti-Semitism. But the book was passed on--as truth!--by someone highly respected in the culture in which I grew up. Amazingly, such people can hold a great deal of respect for the people of Jesus and for the dominance of Israel in the Middle East while at the same time believing all kinds of conspiratorial nonsense about Jews and Hollywood or Jews and the New World Order. This is the rich conspiratorial vein in which Donald Trump has tapped. And folks who have been on the fringes are now encouraged to go mainstream....on or maybe even on Trump TV if Trump loses the presidency and signs up with Steve Bannon to create a television network.

And racism.....When I was growing up, I challenged people when they said the word "ni--er." I thought it was an ugly word, not only in the way it sounded but in the way it targeted people. For me, if people didn't want to be called that word, that was reason enough not to do it. So I was kind of a prick about calling out people every time they used the word. Or at least that's how others saw it. They pushed back. One person even told me that she was going to say "ni--er, ni--er, ni--er," in front of my toddler son so that he would learn the word. I am saddened, but not surprised, to learn that that person is voting for Donald Trump. Rejecting derogatory racist terms somehow became associated with being "politically correct" rather than with being kind or civil or politically thoughtful. Trump's heated campaign rhetoric against political correctness has encouraged the re-mainstreaming of racial divisiveness.

The way in which many Christian evangelicals are down-playing Donald Trump's predatory behavior has also surprised me. Trump's bragging that he can grab "pussy" any time he wants is just an example of his acting "macho," according to televangelist Pat Robertson. But why am I surprised? In the culture in which I was reared, men's lapses in moral behavior are more easily forgiven than those of women. A great-great grandfather, widowed once, married twice, could father a child with his black servant (or slave, as I'm not sure of the dates of this event) and remain an admired patriarch of the family. Imagine the consequences if our great-great grandmother had been the parent of the mixed-race child born out of wedlock! Or what about the well-respected, financially well-off man in my childhood community who in the early part of the twentieth century had both a white and black family. To his credit, he took care of his black children--but imagine if the families had had a white matriarch instead of a white patriarch

While my paternal grandfather was stopped from groping his granddaughters, for years his predatory behavior went unremarked or unnoticed. He could put his hand up a woman's dress, push aside a covering from a daughter-in-law nursing her baby, and these women did not have the kind of support that would have encouraged them to report such invasions. The granddaughters were expected to maintain civil discourse with their grandfather, to observe his place of honor in the family and the community--and to keep their own shock and hurt secret. When a couple of us told another grandmother that we thought her preacher was creepy in how he greeted us, rubbing his hands up and down our arms, she laughed, surprised, because she had interpreted the man's actions as loving. Women were not really in control of their own bodies; women were to be submissive to men. That idea still pervades the culture.

And this is the crux of the problem with Hillary Clinton: she's a woman. From her very first forays into public life, she has been criticized for not conforming to feminine "norms." She tried to keep her maiden name but discovered that doing so caused problems for her husband's political aspirations in Arkansas in the late 1970s. (The Clintons married just three years before Tom and I. I, also, wanted to keep my maiden name, but Tom, still adhering to our culture's expectations, really wanted me to take his last name. A decade later, he no longer cared about those expectations, and so I hyphenated my name.) Over and over again, as she kept her career while Bill ran for governor of Arkansas and as she publicized her own political views as First Lady, Hillary Clinton was subjected to questions about her feminism. She was asked again and again over the years the same questions about her role as a woman, as this video so clearly demonstrations:

The public's lack of trust toward Hillary Clinton rises clearly out of her refusal to conform to society's expectations of women. She is too educated, too smart, too determined, too sure of her moral right to fight for issues she thinks are important. She has gotten the push-back I received on a much, much smaller scale: You think you're smarter than we are; you think you're better than we are; you think that women should be in control of their bodies and their lives. That the constant criticism has made her grow a thick skin (at least in public) and become sometimes secretive in her dealings with a hostile public has added to that mistrust.

I am firmly convinced, as are others much smarter than I, that Clinton's deciding to use a private e-mail server for her governmental and private correspondence arose out of this learned need to be in control. It wasn't treason; it wasn't some subversive desire to do damage to democracy. It was a reaction to a lifetime of public criticism. Every aspect of her life has been dug into--often most salaciously--every decision questioned, every action, however innocent, interpreted in the most negative ways. To respond with secretiveness is a failing, but an understandable failing--and far below the level of Donald Trump's failings. 

In his article, "Clinton's critics know she's guilty, they're just trying to decide what she's guilty of," Matt Yglesias describes this unrelenting investigation into Hillary Clinton as the Prime Directive of Clinton investigations: We know she MUST be guilty of SOMETHING, so we must keep digging and digging and digging.....scraping away at the scab of distrust:
So somehow an investigation that once upon a time was a terrorist attack on an American consulate becomes an inquiry into Freedom of Information Act compliance, which shifts into a question about handling of classified material. A probe of sexting by the husband of a woman who works for Clinton morphs into a quest for new emails, and if the emails turn out not to be new at all (which seems likely), it will morph into some new questions about Huma Abedin's choice of which computers to use to check her emails. 
Clinton has been very thoroughly investigated, and none of the earlier investigations came up with any crimes. So now the Prime Directive compels her adversaries to look under a new rock and likewise compels cable television and many major newspapers to treat the barest hint of the possibility of new evidence that might be damning as a major development....
The beginning of the story, however, was not emails but rather the deaths of four Americans at the US consulate in Benghazi. Republicans have launched more than half a dozen investigations into Benghazi, desperately trying (and failing) to uncover evidence of Benghazi-related wrongdoing on the part of Barack Obama, Susan Rice, or Hillary Clinton. In the course of investigating things, investigators seek records, including emails. And it was in the course of seeking emails that it was initially revealed that Clinton was conducting official business via her personal email address rather than a one. 
Because the Benghazi investigators assumed Clinton was guilty of something, they naturally assumed that the use of a private server was part of a conspiracy to cover up whatever that is. 
But this is a crucial point: There is no reason to agree with the Benghazi investigators' assumption that Clinton was guilty of something. 
People are, normally, presumed innocent. The Benghazi incident has, in particular, been investigated very thoroughly. There was no wrongdoing. There was no crime. Since there was no crime, there was also no cover-up. And since there was no cover-up, the private server was not part of a cover-up. And, indeed, when Benghazi investigators sought access to the emails on Clinton's server, they got them and found nothing to change the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing.  
In the normal world, when you are investigated and exonerated, the matter is dropped. But since we know the Clintons are guilty, if Hillary didn't do anything wrong at Benghazi and didn't withhold information from investigators, there must be some other problem.
Thus the origin of the classified information scandal in which we have learned that some email threads that Clinton participated in contained classified information or documents. 
 Something missing from 95 percent of Clinton emails coverage is the fact that the use of a private email server has literally no bearing on these allegations. You are not supposed to discuss classified information over email, point blank. You are not supposed to use a .gov account or a Gmail account or a private server or any other kind of email. The government has special secure channels that you are supposed to use for classified information. 
This is important because it leads to the conclusion that where the investigators left the matter--there was some classified information mixed in with Clinton's work emails but not in a criminally culpable way--is fairly banal.  
And note that by the time we reach this point, we are multiple degrees of separation from the original charge. There was no wrongdoing related to Benghazi. There was no cover-up. Then a separate inquiry into whether email was being knowingly misused for classified information concluded, again, that it wasn't.....
It's only when you step outside the circle of madness that you can see how ridiculous this is. If nobody had ever seen a Hillary Clinton email before, uncovering a trove of them on the laptop of the estranged husband of one of her key aides might be a big deal. But Hillary's email has already been exhaustively investigated from multiple different angles, and it shows no wrongdoing whatsoever. If you assume there is wrongdoing, then, yes, maybe all evidence of the wrongdoing was suppressed from what was turned over and Weiner's computer contains secret new damning emails. 
But what if all previous investigations have shown no wrongdoing because there was no wrongdoing? And what if the client-side copies of emails on Weiner's computer are just client-side copies of emails, just like the emails in the inbox of everyone else who downloads email to a computer? What if Benghazi was just a tragedy and an example of how bad things happen in war zones? What if Whitewater was just a land deal on which some people lost money because real estate speculation is risky? What if Clinton has been getting away with it for all these years because she hasn't done anything wrong? 
(Matt Yglesias, "Clinton's critics know she's guilty, they're just trying to decide what she's guilty of.")
Although Matt Yglesias knows the innocent answers to those questions, he also knows that opponents of Hillary Clinton will not accept those answers. They will keep digging and digging and digging...hoping to come up with something, anything, to prove their mad malicious vision of Crooked Hillary. And it's definitely no surprise to me that the men leading these witch hunts come out of strongly paternalistic cultures where women's roles still are circumscribed by so-called feminine "norms": the ever accusatory Jason Chaffetz, U. S. Republican Congressman from Utah, and Constitution-Defying-No-Hillary-Appointed-Supreme-Court-Judge Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator from my home state of Texas. 

And then there's Donald Trump, a totally self-centered man, who has never held public office or done much of anything that didn't benefit him. His campaign rhetoric reflects a man who will say anything, do anything, to win. He has been caught out again and again in outrageous lies: see herehere, here, here, here, here, and here. He has claimed to be charitable when he isn't. My favorite story of Donald Trump's taking credit for charity he didn't give is the lead in this investigative report in The Washington Post: "Trump boasts about his philanthropy. But his giving falls short of his words." The Washington Post has also compared the charitable donations of the Clintons and Donald Trump (who claims to be much, much richer than the Clintons). Draw your own conclusions: "What we know about the charitable giving by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump." 

What if it had been Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump who bragged of sexual predation? 

What if it had been Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump who praised Putin, bragged of knowing Putin, called Putin a great leader? What if there were hints, just the slightest of hints, that Hillary Clinton, instead of Donald Trump, had Russian ties? What if there were violence at Hillary Clinton's rallies? What if people at Hillary rallies were lewd and angry and shouted "Lock him Up" and wore t-shirts that showed Donald Trump grabbing someone's pussy?

Would Pat Robertson be so willing to "forgive" Hillary Clinton for sexual predatory behavior and language? Would James Dobson be so willing to overlook the lies, the predatory behavior, the inconsistency in (or lack of) political ideology if Donald Trump were a woman? Would Jerry Falwell, Jr.,  be supportive of a woman with Donald Trump's characteristics?

Nope. These men are part of the culture in which I grew up. I remember watching Jerry Falwell's dad preach on television. I remember reading James Dobson's columns. And I repudiate the culture that prefers a Donald Trump to a woman president--to Hillary Clinton, whose behavior in public life has been far superior in every way to that of Donald Trump.
Note: I should give a nod here to my friend David Crisp, whose "repudiation" column inspired the "repudiation" frame of my post, though I've been thinking of this for a long time. Check out David's column, "Pulling final lever on 2016 election," at Last Best News. And support independent news.