Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thank Goodness

Thank goodness the third presidential debate is over.

Thank goodness there are only 19 days left before election day.

Thank goodness Hillary Rodham Clinton has a strong lead in the polls.

Goodness is an issue in this campaign.

dt talked about "her very sleazy campaign."  Excuse me?  He brought unprecedented sleaze into it.

Hillary stood there in white, answering a question, as dt muttered "such a nasty woman."

"The operative word there is woman," Lawrence O'Donnell noted during post-debate commentary.

Gender is an issue in this campaign, one dt uses constantly.

The whole thing is unbearable, except that it's a thriller.

"It's like a train wreck--you can't not watch it," said Bob Goldman in my writing class on Wednesday afternoon.

dt claimed "She shouldn't be allowed to run."

To everyone but him, this was a reminder that 100 years ago she wouldn't have been allowed to run.  Women weren't even allowed to vote--but now a woman is ahead of him in the race for the presidency.

She's running and he's falling behind, so he wishes she were not "allowed" to run.  Put her in jail, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, but get her out of this marathon to become president of the US.

Speaking to Chris Wallace, the polite and courageous moderator of the debate, dt said, "The media is so dishonest and so corrupt...."  He didn't add "except you" or anything--he just blasted the poison in the moderator's face.

Hillary defended women's rights, gay rights, Roe v. Wade, immigration reform, background checks on people buying guns.  He criticized her "30 years" of being a politician.

"I'm happy to compare my 30 years of experience with his," she answered, cataloging her achievements and the trifling activities he was involved in simultaneously at each point: discriminating in real estate, borrowing $14 million from his dad, starring in a tv show.

Question 5 from Chris Wallace was about the nine women who have confirmed the groping and assault dt boasted of.

"I didn't know any of these women," the candidate claimed, yet he made business contracts with Jill Harth and her husband.  Natasha Stoynoff interviewed him for People magazine.

He claimed that HRC's campaign "got them to step forward" or that they did it for fame--unaware that women have been trying to avoid this kind of infamy for centuries.  

The audience at the University of Nevada laughed when he once again claimed, "No one respects women more than I do."

Thank goodness--thank God--the national ordeal is almost over.

I'm not one who believes God governs the outcome of elections, but I do believe with James Russell Lowell that God stands "behind the dim unknown":

"within the shadow, keeping watch over H[er] own."

May She protect Hillary Rodham Clinton and not allow her to be shot by some maniac.

May election day proceed without violence.

May we get through the next four years without violence and without the sleaze and gender bashing of this election.

Patriotism vs. US Bashing

Even though my Halloween decorations are up, I want to hang out my flag.

I feel so bad for my country after listening to dt's slurs against the United States of America and our electoral process in the debate last night.

I don't usually wave the flag and feel patriotic, but I must stand up for what's right with the US.

True, we've made many mistakes over the past 240 years, but we've done some things well.

We've had a peaceful transition of power after each election, for example.

Now dt threatens that outcome after the upcoming vote.  He refused to answer yes to Chris Wallace's question, "Will you absolutely accept the result of this election?"

His words empower the crazies to harass the new president and perhaps even use violence.

No nation lasts forever, but I'm sad to see the USA face opposition from within--in fact from the Republican nominee for president.

Do the patriotic thing and vote.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Once to Every Woman and Nation...

Once to every woman and nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever,
’Twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave one chooses
While the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above Her own.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Remember the little people"

Sunset in Bakersfield CA

Of course the 50-year reunion of East High's Class of '66 had to come in the last few weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

What a challenge: to gather from all parts of California and the nation but not talk about politics, a week after the Republican Party had spun into disarray over the Access Hollywood video and audio tape.

Someone had posted as a goal on Facebook, "Remembering not to say everything that pops into my head," and I clicked like on the next suggestion about avoiding politics this weekend.

We did a good job, but in the last five minutes of three days one of us felt compelled to speak.

"Remember the little people," one of my closest friends from my high school years said to me privately.

"Okay, I will," I said, puzzled.  Medically challenged really short people?  Pets?  We hadn't been in touch for maybe twenty years.

"Tell your husband too because the media are ignoring us," she continued.

"Who are the little people?" I asked then.  

"The people who support Trump.  They call us names but we're serious,  The media spreads lies about him and us, but we're still going to vote for him.  I don't care about what happened eleven years ago."

"Yes," I said, switching into careful listening-not-speaking mode. "You care about the future of the country."

She continued, explaining that government regulations and paperwork are hard on small business owners like her and her husband, and Hillary would raise taxes on them. 

"Yes, my brother had his own business, and he was angry about the hoops he had to jump through," I said.  "He's going to write in someone from South Carolina."

She continued: immigration, Benghazi, Hillary's close ties to Wall Street....  My friend will be working in Arizona to get out the vote for Trump.

Suddenly we were called to pose in a photo, and the conversation ended.

What a hard time for the nation: when friends, family members, church members disagree on a viciously contested presidential race.

I respect my friend and her husband, their hard work in the business they've built up, and their political choices.

May this time of contention pass quickly... may the democratic process win.

After all, our nation was founded as both a republic and a democracy.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Power vs. The Press

Power of the press vs. billionaire power: Donald Trump

When dt's lawyer threatened to sue the New York Times for libel because of today's article "Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately," the Times sent him this response:

letter david

Six Women: He Assaulted Me

NY Times today with story of Jill Harth and her photo

To his credit, dt knew the right answer when Anderson Cooper asked him, "Have you ever done those things?"

"No, I have not," was the only proper answer a candidate for the presidency could give.

He gave that answer, wishing it were true, but it was not.

Women had been coming forward with evidence of his sexual assaults before he even spoke those words, and they continue today.

Jill Harth -- Her story was featured in Nicholas Kristoff's column "Donald Trump, Groper in Chief" on Sunday morning before the second debate.

Jessica Leeds -- She was a stranger traveling on a plane over 30 years ago when he "grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt."

Rachel Crooks -- She was in an elevator introducing herself to him in 2005 when he began kissing her, just as he described in the Access Hollywood tape.  "I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that," she said.  

Both Rachel Crooks and Jessica Leeds tell their stories in the same article in today's New York Times.

Temple Taggart -- She was accosted with unwanted kissing as a young beauty pageant contestant in 1997.

Natasha Stoynoff -- She was reporting for People Magazine when he began "pushing his tongue down her throat."

Mindy McGillivray --  She was assisting with a photo shoot when he grabbed her by the ass in 2003.

More women are coming forward, but the pattern is undeniable, especially when coupled with his own admission on the Access Hollywood tape.

NBC news this morning mentioned the repudiation of dt by Andy Crouch, editor of Christianity Today, on Monday.  

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, continues to stand by dt and allowed him to speak at a student convocation this week, but a student group has now come out against dt and Ben Howe of the blog RedState put up a post entitled, "Jerry Falwell Jr. Is a Disgrace to Liberty University and Should Resign."

It's sad that all other news has been eclipsed by these continuing sexual revelations, but at least some men around the world are getting the message: it's not okay.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Continuing Scars of Torture

Thank you to Matt Apuzzo, Sheri Fink, and James Risen of the New York Times for traveling around the world to interview former CIA prisoners at secret locations and prisoners of the US base in Guantanamo Bay, many of them now released without charges after years of torture.

Their series of articles, titled Lasting Scars, examines the American legacy of brutal interrogations in secret CIA prisons and at Guantanamo.

Today's article reveals the continuing impact on an innocent bystander, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, of imprisonment and torture by the US.  It's heart-breaking.

Part 1 came out Sunday, titled "U.S. Torture Leaves a Legacy of Detainees with Damaged Minds."

The Senate Torture Report approved in 2012 was the starting point for much of the research and interviewing by these reporters.

"The 6,000-page report details actions by CIA officials and findings of the study of the Detention and Interrogation Program. On December 9, 2014—eight months after voting to release parts of the report—the SSCI released a 525-page portion that consisted of key findings and an executive summary of the full report. It took five years and $40 million to compile the report.[4] The rest of it remains classified.[5][6][7]"  -- from the Wikipedia summary

You and I aren't likely ever to read this report, but we at least we need to know what it covers:
"the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s Detention and Interrogation Program and its use of various forms of torture ("enhanced interrogation techniques") in U.S. government communiqu├ęs) on detainees between 2001 and 2006 during the 'War on Terror.'" 

I read and think, "Why wasn't I out there demonstrating in front of the White House against the use of torture?"

If we do not speak out, we share in the blame for our government's actions, as Gloria Killian explained to me ten years ago.  

She had been falsely imprisoned for a murder she knew nothing about; she only knew one of the defendants, who found a way to avoid imprisonment by getting a plea bargain for falsely accusing Gloria.  She was sentenced to 32 years.  

When I heard Gloria's story after her release, I murmured something supportive to her, but she would have none of it.  "My case was Gloria Killian vs. the People of California, and you are one of those people.  You are responsible for what your government does."

Listen to Sheri Fink's interview with Khkaled al-Sharif, former prisoner:

Asking for Forgiveness


In 2015 Donald Trump said he "had never asked God for forgiveness."

In January 2016 when Christian columnist Cal Thomas pointed out that repentance for one's sins is basic to becoming a Christian, dt said he hoped he would not "have to be asking for much forgiveness."

Today, on Yom Kippur, day of atonement in the Jewish year, repenting is what we all need to do, nationally and individually.

  • We have an exploding sex scandal in the last weeks of the presidential campaign.
  • We see the continued bombing of innocent civilians in Aleppo, Syria.
  • We fear terrorist attacks and the rise of ISIS, the group birthed primarily by US bombing of Iraq.
  • We read about the lasting scars of US torture in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this week's NYT coverage.
  • We continue to see black Americans killed by police in interactions that did not have to end in death.

All of us need to look at our part in our nation's sins as well as looking at our individual greed, lust, lying, pride, anger, violence, racism and sexism.

We have not loved our Creator enough and we have acted in self-interest against our neighbors.  
To confess one's own sin is the first step in becoming a follower of Jesus--that is, the first step after recognizing that there is a Higher Power of some kind who is beyond us in intelligence and in caring about justice on earth.

The next step is to acknowledge Jesus as God's unique representative on earth, sinless but executed by political powers, and able to forgive our sins through his own duel with death and evil.  

The final step is to claim that forgiveness and begin a daily conversation with the God who deeply loves us and forgives us when we turn our faces toward our Maker.

I still like these "Four Spiritual Laws" as written by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1952.  I learned about them when I was a high school student in Bakersfield, California, in the mid 1960s.

Perhaps no one ever introduced dt to these basic components of Christian belief.  He seems to share the popular view of a Christian as a good person who goes to church, not a sinner who is redeemed by a savior who died on the cross and returned to life.

I'm going to start praying for Donald Trump, not against him.  

He's a 70-year-old man who will meet his Maker soon enough,  He shows signs of dementia: lack of impulse control, forgetfulness of what he has said and done, grandiosity and delusions.  

It's not my place to forgive dt, but to those who are urging forgiveness for him, I say: Fine. Forgive him.  

But forgiveness does not mean endorsing someone for the presidency of the USA.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Thank you to the Republican presidential nominee for bringing casual sexual abuse to the forefront of American conversation.

Brilliantly, Kelly Oxford used Twitter to call millions of women to reveal the impact of behavior he described in the 2005 audio and videotape recorded by Access Hollywood.

"Women: tweet me your first assaults," she tweeted on Friday evening three hours after the tape was first aired.

"And by Monday afternoon, nearly 27 million people had responded or visited Ms. Oxford's Twitter page," reports Jonathan Mahler in the New York Times today.

Like Kelly Oxford, thousands of women reported being grabbed in the crotch on buses, in stores, and on streets even when they were only 12 or 13 years old.

MSNBC reported on a woman from Afghanistan (Pakistan?) who tweeted that she had to think about which of many sexual assaults to use in answer to the Twitter challenge.

Thank you, Kelly, for starting this campaign to publicize the effects on women of being grabbed and groped.

You can tweet her: @kellyoxford

See also the website Our Stories Untold, which hosts stories of abuse survivors, especially survivors in Mennonite churches and other Protestant churches.

One of its founders is my friend Barbra Graber.

Syria: what to do?

Does the US have a moral duty to intervene in Syria?

Thank you to Max Fisher and Amanda Taub for analyzing this question in Sunday's New York Times.

On the yes side: We are special.  We have a responsibility to champion democracy throughout the world.  Bashar al-Assad is killing thousands of his own people, Holocaust-style, to put down the attempt to overthrow his brutal government.  The UN and other nations are not doing enough.  We need to stop Russia's bombing of Aleppo and other cities.

On the no side:  We made terrible mistakes when we intervened in Vietnam and Iraq.  We don't have the ability to make positive change in Syria through military intervention.  We might only make things worse in the Middle East.  It's "a complex, multisided war," not a simple case of good guys and bad guys.

The two authors interview Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University, Joseph S. Nye Jr. of Harvard University, and Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

There's no easy answer, but the reasons for why it's so difficult are worth reading.

I am grateful that President Obama chose not to intervene--though the slaughter by Russian and Syrian bombing is a horror to watch.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Evangelicals against the GOP nominee

Thank you to Andy Crouch, editor of Christianity Today magazine, for speaking out strongly against dt today in his Where We Stand article, "Speak Truth to Trump."

His words make me proud to say I once worked for CT as a summer intern in 1970 and 1971, continuing as a stringer for several years thereafter.

"In these closing weeks before the election, all American Christians should repent, fast, and pray—no matter how we vote," he writes--an excellent idea.

We have made many mistakes as a nation and as individuals.  Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of repentance and reflection for the coming year.  I will join in repenting this October rather than relishing the collapse of dt's campaign.

Of course, he includes a paragraph of critique against Hillary Rodham Clinton in order to balance his statement.

I don't agree that "several of the Democratic candidate’s policy positions are so manifestly incompatible with Christian reverence for the lives of the most vulnerable."  He's referring to her pro-choice position, which actually shows a lot of reverence for the lives of women who find themselves pregnant and unable to welcome a child--often another child.  

Surely these women are among "the most vulnerable."

I guess he's not classing immigrants, refugees, African-Americans and other minorities as among "the most vulnerable."  Hillary Rodham Clinton's policies show a lot of reverence for these people.

He couldn't be referring to her support of affordable health care, which shows lots of reverence for the health and well-being of "the most vulnerable."

What does Crouch mean when he says "her party is so demonstrably hostile to expressions of traditional Christian faith"?  

Her vice presidential running mate is a devout Catholic.  She has been a strong Methodist all her life. Many Democrats, like me, are evangelicals and Christians of other types.  

He must mean something by "traditional Christian faith" that I can't understand.  People against gay marriage?  That's not in the Nicene creed or the Apostles' Creed.  The Trinity, Jesus as redeeming us from our sin--that's traditional Christianity.

In his analysis of dt, however, Crouch is sharply accurate.

"He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool," Crouch says, citing ways in which dt is an idolator: "He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable."

Most importantly, Crouch calls out dt on his "defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed"--a central theme of both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospels.

Immigrants, people of color trying to rent apartments, women trying to retain dignity in the face of sexual assault--these are the vulnerable whom dt has humiliated and demeaned.

Many people were tweeting and retweeting Crouch's stinging condemnation today.  After three months of wondering why evangelicals like Mike Pence are supporting this nominee, my faith in born-again Christians has been renewed.

It's also good to see Karen Swallow Prior's article on the CT website against the notion that "locker room talk" is an acceptable excuse for any and all misogyny.

Christianity today faces many challenges; it's good to see this magazine come out swinging against the Republican nominee.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dead-panning in the debate

NY Times photo by Doug Mills

"He was dead before the debate; he's dead now," said Mike Murphy, identified as "Republican strategist," during MSNBC's post-debate commentary tonight.

Yet many were praising dt for doing a decent job in the town-hall style debate tonight in St. Louis.

When asked, he addressed some issues: energy policy, Syria, affordable health care, income taxes (though not his own).  He lacked knowledge and details on many subjects, such as what to do about the civilians being killed in Aleppo, Syria, quickly changing the subject to Mosul in Iraq.

The praise revealed how low we have set the bar for his public statements: dt sounded neither lewd nor crazy (though his roaming around the stage during Hillary Clinton's speaking time was bizarre).

"It is not a wonder that the dog dances well--the wonder is that it dances at all," as Rt. Honorable Augustine Birrell said in the House of  Commons in 1906, loosely quoting Samuel Johnson.

It was a wonder that he stood on the stage at all--and held his head high--after the 2005 audio and videotape was played and after a number of Republican leaders have called on him to resign from the presidential race.

Among the marvels of the evening:
  • He said to Hillary "You ought to be ashamed of yourself" three times, yet he showed no shame or remorse for his audio statements about grabbing women by the crotch, about trying to seduce a married woman he names--Nancy O'Dell--and then about insulting her body.
  • He failed to apologize to her or to the American women.  He claimed not to have grabbed women in that way--just boasted about it.  
  • He used the word "disaster" so many times I lost count.  Seriously limited vocabulary.
  • When he claimed "I'm a gentleman," the audience roared with laughter.
  • He said, "She has tremendous hate in her heart"--yet he was the angry one with bitter expressions during his non-speaking time.
  • He named his goals for a Supreme Court nominee as someone who "respects the Constitution" and supports the 2nd Amendment (right of the people to bear arms in relation to "a well-regulated militia").  Hillary Clinton ticked off five goals: to reverse the Citizens United decision, to improve voting rights, to defend Roe v. Wade, to defend marriage equality, and to stop the defense of corporate interests.
Most revealing was what he did not say: he did not voice any serious remorse or apology for the words on the damning audiotape recorded by Access Hollywood.   He again excused it as "locker room talk."  

The first question of the night was, "Do you feel you are modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today's youth?'

dt did not answer the question; instead he talked about the trade deficit and police officers who had been killed.  When Anderson Cooper tried to call him back to the question, he talked about ISIS.

Again called back to the question by Cooper, dt claimed, "I have great respect for women.  Nobody has more respect for women than I do."

Excuse me.  Just about anyone has more respect for women than you do.  What shameless hyperbole.

To gain votes and hang onto the support of leaders in the Republican party, there was only one thing he needed to do tonight: apologize in a convincing way.  He was speaking to his supporters, however, not to other voters or to panicked Republicans.

He didn't even try to strengthen the weak-kneed apology released Friday night.

Thank you, dt, for handing the presidency to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Text of the debate:

Text of Trump boasting to Billy Bush:

Nine best memes of the evening:

Saturday, October 8, 2016


I guess an 8th grader wrote the editorial appearing in Saturday's New York Times: "The Sleaziness of Donald Trump."

The writer starts a sentence with "Yet,".

I've spent an entire career trying to convince students not to start sentences with "But," "And," "So," --and so on.

These are coordinating conjunctions.  They join sentences.  They get a comma before them, not after.  

The writer of this editorial likes to start sentences with these little words--for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so--the fanboys.  I long ago gave up trying to corral students into using these words where they belong, between two independent clauses.

I draw the line, however, at using them with a comma after them.  That's illiteracy--complete ignorance of how sentences work and how punctuation can be used to communicate clearly.

I object to using commas like tinsel on a Christmas tree--just shake some on to decorate your writing.  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm grateful for the New York Times exposure in recent weeks of Donald Trump's racism in renting apartments and his nonpayment of income taxes, as well as its endorsement of Hillary Rodham Clinton for president and its decision to comment on Trump's boasted sexual assaults.  

It's just that I expect good writing in the New York Times, and there's nothing that reeks of poor writing like Yet comma.

Donald plays the woman card

This election didn't have to be 100% about gender, but dt is pushing
It in that direction.

In Britain Theresa May gained the prime minister post smoothly and quietly while dithering here over the US presidency has grown increasingly bizarre and ridiculous.

With a Republican nominee like Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz, the presidential campaign could have been about the issues facing this nation and the world.

Instead dt keeps pulling away from real debate and brings in gender. 

His history emerges:
* judging women by their looks and weight
* calling them pigs and worse
* boasting of conquest and sexual assault.

His current behavior reinforces his past:
* claiming Hillary doesn't have "the look"
* mocking her collapse into a car while she had pneumonia
* blaming her for using "the woman card"
* issuing a half-hearted apology focused on blaming others.

He is handing the election to Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

I'm grateful to see a woman moving toward the Oval Office at last, but the intensely gendered war against her and all women is sad.

Like racism, sexism remains alive and well.



Friday, October 7, 2016

Is it over?

At midnight on the West coast, the 2016 election tension appears to be easing.

dt appears to be self-destructing, melting like the wicked witch of the west.

Thank you, David Farenthold, for finding and releasing this short videotape from 2005 of the Republican candidate boasting of his ability to grab women by the groin and abuse them without being stopped.

We have only 32 days to go until the voting is over and we have a new president.

I don't understand how a majority of Americans could still vote for him after this.

His 90-second so-called apology videotape was called a "hostage statement" by MSNBC commentators tonight; his team forced him to do this video.

"248 words, but only 6 words of apology" said Lawrence O'Donnell.

He claimed that the words recorded in 2005 "don't reflect who I am."  He forgot to add the word "today."  No convincing then-and-now contrast.

He called the release of this video "nothing more than a distraction."

"You, sir, are the distraction," said Senator Mike Lee of Utah, calling on him to resign from the race.

But dt had said, "Let's be honest; we're living in the real world" before claiming the video is an unimportant distraction.

What does that mean?  Viciousness like this by men toward women is part of the real world? Women should just accept this "real world"?

After not convincing us about what kind of person he really is, he began to attack "Hillary and her kind."

Do we know what kind of person she is?  Yes, we have a pretty good idea.   Hillary is clearly way ahead of him ethically.  Most anybody is.

Then after not apologizing to the American women for his illegal words and actions, he began to attack Hillary claiming that she had "bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated" women with whom Bill Clinton had affairs.

That makes dt look okay? Does he really think he can make her look worse than he is in his treatment of women?

I am dumbfounded by his continuing blaming of everyone except himself.

The good news is that he is imploding.  

All HTC has to do in the town hall debate on Sunday is answer genuine policy questions from the public and let dt hang himself.

The gender politics here are just beyond belief.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

It's Over in 36 Days

Thank God we're into October.
It's over in 36 days.
Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the elected president to be installed in January. dt will be a footnote in history.
We can all exhale and continue with our lives. No more racist, misogynist blather taken seriously by newscasters.
All we have to do is hold our breath for 36 days while doing what we can to elect Hillary.