Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Black Americans are afraid

“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher 1788 – 1860

CONGRATULATIONS, everyone who voted for Trump. You've helped set race relations back at least 75 years. 

It makes me heartsick to think that Americans who differ from me only in the amount pigment in their skin are now, in some parts of the country, reluctant to leave their homes unless they have to, are afraid to stop at a gas station. Way to go, Trump voters. You've help normalize racism.

According to the below NBC News article, more than 700 instances of open displays of hatred have already been reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center just since November 8, and LGBT hotlines are seeing an "all-time peak" in calls from people reporting harassment.

I've also included a video of a 1987 town hall interview that Oprah Winfrey conducted in a county in Georgia that hadn't had a black resident in 75 years. Yup, we're right back to being proud of hatred.

Trump's Victory Has Fearful Minorities Buying Up Guns

By Ben Popken

November 27, 2016

After Donald Trump's win, Yolanda Scott is upgrading the crowbar she keeps in her purse to a small-caliber pistol.

Scott, an African-American, is one of many minorities who have been flocking to gun stores to protect themselves, afraid Trump's victory will incite more hate crimes.

Minorities "feel that racists now feel like they can attack... just because the president is doing it," Earl Curtis, the African-American owner of Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, told NBC News.

Gun store owners told NBC News that since November 8 they're seeing up to four times as many black and minority customers — and black gun groups are reporting double the normal number of attendees at their meetings since the election.

While more gun owners are non-Hispanic whites than blacks, 41 percent versus 19 percent in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, blacks views on gun ownership have shifted in the past few years.

In 2014, 54 percent of blacks surveyed by Pew said gun ownership does more to protect people from crime than put people's safety at risk, versus 29 percent who said that in 2012, almost double. White attitudes also shifted more positively towards gun ownership during that time but not by as much, up 62 percent from 54 percent.

Racial tension was already at a high during the election, with a spate of videoed shootings and deaths of black men by police officers, followed by ardent protests and the fatal targeting of white police officers.

In one high-profile incident, the live-streamed aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile at a traffic stop at the hands of police in Minnesota sparked country-wide outrage and was ruled manslaughter. That and another death in Louisiana sparked a protest in Dallas, which a sniper took advantage of to kill five police officers.

From Ferguson to Chicago to Baltimore, African-Americans felt targeted and angry, sending marchers into the streets and communities on edge.

And Donald J. Trump's surprise victory in November has done nothing to abate the racial violence — it even seems to have encouraged more open displays of hatred. More than 700 instances have already been reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center just since November 8, and LGBT hotlines are seeing an "all-time peak" in calls from people reporting harassment.

Swastikas have been found spray-painted on churches, playgrounds, and college walls. White Texas high school students chanted "Build that wall" during a volleyball game with a predominantly Hispanic rival school.

The post-election gathering in Washington, D.C., of the National Policy Institute, an "alt-right" white supremacist organization ended darkly. Attendees gave the Nazi salute as the final speaker called out "Hail Trump!" and "Hail Victory!" It was an English translation of the Nazi "Sieg Heil!" cry.

"It's best that I be proactive," said Scott, a fiery 49-year-old financial analyst. "I know where I live."

She's from Alpharetta, Georgia, an affluent and diverse northern suburb of Atlanta. It borders Forsyth County, which in 1912 systematically drove out nearly all its black residents for the next quarter century. After two alleged attacks on white women, a black suspect was lynched and two more were hanged after a short trial. Armed bands of whites began terrorizing blacks, torching homes and churches in night raids, firing through the door, telling them it was time to "get" [out of America] and then seized their homes and land. As recently as 1987 the county saw the marching of 5,000 white supremacists.

Scott still sees racist bumper stickers and large Confederate flags flying from the backs of pickup trucks when she ventures across the county line there to go outlet mall shopping. And she pauses to wonder what motivates her white neighbor to tuck a handgun in his pants before driving to the grocery store.

Gun Run

October saw 2.3 million FBI background checks for gun sales, an all-time record; and the 18th month in a row to set a new high. November could be on pace to break that.

But while gun company stocks and firearm sales saw a run-up before the election — based on fears a Hillary Clinton victory would result in increased gun-control measures — shares in gun companies fell as much as 20 percent after Trump's win.

So, while store owners say that traffic is up overall, the new rush of minority customers arming themselves is something of an unexpected glimmer for the industry.

"They thought Trump won't win," said the 53-year-old Curtis, who has noticed an "uptick" in the number of black and minority customers.

Already fearful after the summer's social unrest and "race riots," some feel "shell-shocked" by the election result and anxious after the racist incidents that followed, said Curtis. The first-time shooters usually gravitate towards handguns for personal protection.

Trump already had a checkered past with the black community. Though he once donated office space to Jesse Jackson's civil rights group and hosted a NAACP party, he was also sued by the Justice Department in 1975 for refusing to rent to black people. Trump countersued for defamation, demanding $100 million, and the case was settled without admission of guilt.

In 1978, he was sued again by the Justice Department for denying rentals to black people and steering them into mixed race housing. The case was closed in 1982.

Seven years later, he took out full-page ads to suggest the death penalty for black suspects in a rape trial who years later were released after the introduction of new DNA evidence.

His position doesn't seem to have softened since then.

On the campaign trail this year, Trump hired Steve Bannon, the executive editor of Breitbart, an alt-right news website the Southern Poverty Law Center called a "white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill." Bannon has since been named chief strategist and Senior Counselor for the Trump administration.

In a February TV interview, Trump blamed his failure to condemn the Ku Klux Klan's support on a "bad earpiece."

After he suggested African-American protesters should be "roughed up," attacks on minority protesters at his rallies followed.

Even Trump's Twitter slam last weekend on the Broadway musical Hamilton is ringing alarm bells for minorities. After Vice-President-elect Mike Pence's attendance was met with boos and cheers in the audience, a cast member read a short speech to Pence at the curtain call. Trump blasted the show in several tweets and demanded an apology. Trump supporters lobbed their own negative tweets and sent two different "boycott Hamilton" hashtags trending.

For anxious minorities, it's yet another foreboding sign of how Trump can whip up his fans to magnify and echo messages of intolerance. And when they compare his full-throated denunciation of a piece of musical theater to his garbled, terse, and delayed disavowals of the support by white supremacists, they see a wink and a nod, and fear it's a nudge.

Newly Targeted

Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, told NBC News he had given up on advertising to African-Americans — but now he's seeing as many as 20 a month, and they're filling up his training classes; along with Muslim, Hispanic, and LGBT patrons with heightened worries about being targeted.

Black gun owner groups are seeing an uptick too, led by African-American women. They report receiving an increased number of emails from across the country from concerned minorities looking to learn more about gun safety, training, and firearm access.

Philip Smith, founder of the 14,000-member National African American Gun Association said his members are buying up every kind of gun, from Glock handguns to AR-15 rifles to AK-47 semi-automatic weapons — though most first-time buyers gravitate toward a nine-millimeter pistol or .38 revolver. He said that twice the usual attendees have RSVP'd for the next meeting of the Georgia chapter, which he heads.

"Most folks are pretty nervous about what kind of America we're going to see over the next 5-10 years," he said. That includes members apprehensive about protests against Trump becoming unruly, as well as an "apocalyptic end result where there's anarchy, jobs are gone, the economy is tipped in the wrong direction and everyone has to fend for themselves." They don't know who might be busting down their door at 2 a.m.

He hopes people are just overreacting.

Being Prepared

Since the election, Scott and her family and friends have tried not to venture outside except to go to work and come back home. When she had to get gas for her car, she made sure she stopped at a station where other people were around.

Scott fears a scenario where she's approached with a gun just because she's black. She hopes a "few choice words that I learned from my grandfather" would be enough to scare anyone off, but she's prepared if the situation escalates.

"I'm not the type of person who is afraid of my own shadow. I'm going to protect myself, whatever that means," Scott told NBC News by phone on her way to the police station to apply for a firearms license.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This happened

My grandmother’s fear saved the family. My grandfather’s sweet confidence and optimism would have killed them. — Hugo Schwyzer

I REGRET that I've lost track of which of my well-read, intelligent virtual-villagers shared the below opinion piece from The Times of Israel

An estimated 400,000 people were tattooed
with serial numbers at Auschwitz.

Alarmism saved my family from Hitler: Why I won’t tell anyone to calm down about Trump 

By Hugo Schwyzer
November 10, 2016

I look like my father’s father, Georg. I’ve been told that since I was a teen, and having studied the old black and white photographs, I can see it is so.

I am older now than he was when he died, so the resemblance has started to fade.

In 1938, when Hitler took over Austria, Georg was a successful Viennese family physician, a father of two, a devoted and mild-mannered husband to my gloriously temperamental grandmother, Elsa. Georg was Jewish. Elsa was half-Jewish. The family was not religious in the slightest; they were fully assimilated to the cultural life of the glittering Austrian capital.

When Hitler came in, my grandfather shook his head. “There have always been anti-Semites,” he said. “We’ll stay quiet, and things will get better.”

My grandfather was a master soother. Children came to his office terrified and would leave in giggles. The terminally ill found his voice and his touch to be immensely comforting. In private, my father told me, Georg was depressed and moody. In public, he was charming and kind.

Georg was an optimist. Hitler was just another colorful rabble-rousing politician. Things would settle down.

Elsa knew better. She knew what was coming, even if she couldn’t fully name it. Within a few weeks of Hitler’s takeover she was working to get the family out of the country. She tried contacts in the US, New Zealand, France, and even India. They all came to naught — until she learned of a special program in the UK that would allow Jewish doctors and engineers to emigrate with their families.

Georg didn’t want to go. Elsa told him she was taking my father (then 3) and my aunt (then 6) and going, and he could stay behind and look for another wife if he liked. My grandfather, protesting all the way that my grandmother was overreacting and having delusions, reluctantly sold his practice.

My family settled in England, first near Manchester and later in rural Oxfordshire. As you might guess, nearly all the rest of my father’s extended family perished in the Holocaust.

My grandmother’s fear saved the family. My grandfather’s sweet confidence and optimism would have killed them.

So when you tell me, a noted soother and calmer of others, that I should tell Muslims and women and people of color that they have nothing to fear from Trump, I think that perhaps you want me to be like my grandfather.

And I think that perhaps for once in my life, I am not going to counsel calm and preach perspective and rally the kids for sixteen comforting verses of Kumbaya.

People are scared. They have every right to be. Trump’s words speak of an intent to violate fundamental liberties; Trump’s words inveigle violence; Trump’s words abrogate a social contract that says that we should quietly respect election results.

Perhaps Trump will be a better leader than we thought. The burden is entirely on him to prove that his campaign was an act, and that he and his followers pose no threat to women and minorities. Until then, suspicion. Until then, fear. Until then, anger.

Until then, I’m thinking like Elsa, not Georg.

Monday, November 28, 2016


“To be a gourmet you must start early, as you must begin riding early to be a good horseman. You must live in France, your father must have been a gourmet. Nothing in life must interest you but your stomach.” — Ludwig Bemelmans, Austria-Hungary-born American writer and illustrator of children's books, best known for the Madeline books

PERHAPS it would be nice to talk about something that's not upsetting . . . something that doesn't make me feel like banging my head against the wall. 

So how's this: the best food within a 150-mile radius of Des Moines; I'd even go so far as to say within a 200-mile radius, which means it encompasses Kansas City. As much as we love Justus Drugstore in Smithville, MO . . . Dolce, located in northwest Omaha, is better IMHO.

Paul and I discovered it by accident a little over a year ago when we were in Omaha setting up an exhibit for MidAmerican Energy at Warren Buffett's big Berkshire Hathaway tradeshow. We were tired, especially Paul, and he was all for just heading directly home, but I figured as long as we were already there, we might as well have dinner in Omaha before we left.

I looked up vegetarian restaurants on my phone as we drove and came across Dolce. Turned out not to be a vegetarian restaurant — although you can certainly get a vegetarian meal if you wish — but it was the best food we'd had since we were fortunate enough to spend an evening at Charlie Trotter's restaurant in Chicago while he was still alive.

Trust me and just go there. We like it so much that recently we drove over there just to have dinner and turn around and come home. That's how good it is. 
The subtlety, artistry and layering of complex flavors elevates chef Anthony Keuper's work to well beyond exquisite.  

He made me laugh the first time we were there. I asked Anthony where he'd trained. He just looked at me, then after a pause, said, "Paris" in a kind of "well, duh" voice.

He's a genius. I convinced our Oregon friends, Judy and Steve Tidrick, to eat there after they visited us on their cross country trip home from the East Coast

Here's what Judy had to say, "The dinner at Dolce was fantastic! It ranks right up there with the best ever. We enjoyed it so much!"

It's worth it, I promise. 

PS: You can never go wrong with the scallops, but everything is so superb that it'll make your eyes roll back in your head. We like getting the four-course Date Night Special.  

The scallops!!

Chef Anthony and us on our first visit. We'd just finished setting up 
the MidAmerican Energy exhibit, so we weren't exactly 'dressed'.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I'm thankful for . . .

“Those who have prospered and profited from life's lottery have a moral obligation to share their good fortune.” — Dick Gephardt, United States Representative from Missouri from 1977 to 2005

NOT THE brightest Thanksgiving we've ever had, I must say, what with that giant pumpkin the Electoral College . . . although not the majority of voters . . . will elevate to, arguably, the most powerful position in the world. 

But still, I wish to recount the things I am grateful for.

• I'm thankful for Paul, every minute of every day of every year. Paul, always Paul.
• I'm thankful that Paul's parents, Phyllis and Keith, and Mama Logli, Papa Stein and Aunt Mary Louise and other very senior relatives are still with us.

 I'm thankful for our (yikes) FIVE furry children.

• I'm thankful we saved Shiva.
• I'm thankful for steadfast IRL friends.
• I'm thankful for the intelligent, big-hearted residents of my virtual village
• I'm thankful for the help Helen's Pajama Party has received from Paul, Kurt Konek, Ronn Newby, Tiffany Allison, various organizations, members of the community and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Without their generosity, Helen's wouldn't exit. 
• I'm thankful for never having to go hungry. 
• I'm thankful for a safe, warm, dry place to live.
• I'm thankful for having work to do.
• I'm thankful for our nice, new car. We were anxious about picking one out, and we chose a good one. 
• I'm thankful for the internet.
• I'm thankful for teachers and for the people who haul our trash away every week and for everyone who works taking care of the rest of us so that we can have the day off.
 I'm thankful for The New York Times even though I haven't been able to bring myself to read it since the election, and for the 41,000 new subscribers who have been added since the election. 
• And despite the current grim outlook, I'm thankful for being lucky enough to have been born in a country offering so much opportunity.

Thanksgiving day buffet. Front row left to right: Phyllis Bridson, Karl Schilling, Peg Schilling. Back row: Keith Bridson, me, Paul Schilling and Paul

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


 “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

SHINY has been taking a bit of a break, therefore the title of this post. There are other h-words I could have chosen. Heartbreak (what I'm suffering) headache (yeah, a national one) hairball (who the Electoral College elected) hatred (what he ran on) harrowing (definitely the path we're on) help (we're going to need a lot of it) hubris (that's obvious) hoodwinked (yes, 'we' have been).  'We' is in air quotes cuz' hey, I didn't vote for him . . . and as many of you have said, "He's not my president." 

So I've been taking a break. Paul and I are still on a news blackout. I kinda get the rough outlines of what's going on from my virtual village. 

But I'm rallying. Gretchen Lewis said immediately after the election, "Today I mourn. Tomorrow I plan." She and others I've mentioned in a previous post are leading by example. 

And I am coming back. I'm starting to get pissed off instead of just feeling bad, and I'm oh so much better at everything when I'm mad. It has a way of focusing the mind. And I'm a thinker, so I've been thinking a lot. 

Last night out of the blue Paul said, "Is it okay with you if we go to the Million Woman March in Washington DC in January?" I said, "Yes. Hell yes. And double hell yes." I'm so glad I'm married to the man I'm married to.

Paul and I had a two deaths just before the election and a sort of reexperiencing of a previous death, so we weren't exactly "altogether how," as Pooh once described it. We were already in a state of mourning. I mean to talk about all three losses, but not tonight.

In the meantime, here's a meme I recreated that was originally shared by Mary Martin Gillman and others. It's EXACTLY how I feel.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


"And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States

LIKE MANY of you, Paul and I have been in shock and grieving since the election — full-blown grief, the kind endured when a close family member dies.

We're not alone in this. Many of you have told us that you have been experiencing it in the same way . . . a sense of such loss and bereavement that it can only be expressed as that felt when there's been a death. 
I feel like I'm sleepwalking through a waking nightmare. 

At the moment, one of the ways we're minimally coping is by having initiated a complete media blackout.

I fear that those who have elected Donald Trump know not what they have wrought. With a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, there will be no checks and balances, a precarious condition in the best of times no matter which party it is, exponentially more so when someone as narcissistic and unprincipled . . . with no moral compass and nonexistent impulse control . . . has been given the keys to the kingdom.

I've heard from friends from other countries; they too are fearful. Apparently so are investors; the Dow dropped 700 points at the news of Trump's ascendancy.

As afraid for our future as I am, my primary emotion is sorrow. I am heartbroken that normally benevolent people, or so I thought them to be, could endorse, support and vote for someone who

– is being sued for raping a 13-year-old girl

– has described women in the most vile and demeaning ways and boasted about having groped and assaulted them

– has demonized Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans . . . and immigrants while having married two of them

– has paid no income taxes for 18 years

– touts his business acumen while having declared a $916 loss in one year

– has declared open warfare against the vital Fourth Estate

In particular, to those of you who are so proud, self-righteous and self-congratulatory about your Christianity — I ask you: How could you elect such a vulgar, amoral man?! How could you?!?! 

He has no more familiarity with what is 'Christlike' than Kim Jong-un; probably less. That so many could be so gullible as to fall for such an obvious huckster and charlatan grieves and astounds me.

And in response to those who say, "We'll be okay. Our country survived George W. Bush, we can survive this," I think, "Not necessarily." 

There are plenty of Americans who did not survive, the ones who came home in body bags, for instance, killed in unfounded wars, the ones who died because they didn't have access to health care and couldn't afford the medicine and procedures they needed, the ones who died as a result of an NRA-created gun nation. And the US economy certainly barely survived! Do you remember how tanked it was by the time George left office?

And BTW, did you not study history even a little bit? You've heard of the Roman Empire, right?

Bill Brauch, a person I look to for wisdom and good sense, said something I believe to be profound and insightful: By his reckoning, though little noticed at the time, our nation made a pivotal shift in course when Ronald Reagan took the patriotism that animated John Fitzgerald Kennedy's uplifting appeal, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” and turned it upside down into undisguised self-interest by basing his campaign on this self-seeking precept, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

It's natural to want to prosper, but that small vector change when extended over the intervening years has turned us into a nation of blamers and demanders whose motivating priority is avarice.

My first instinct was to shrink my universe way, way down — down to the two of us, our furry children, Mama LogliPaul's parents, Galen and Dee

Actually, that's not quite true. My first impulse was to move. To a blue state. A state capable of repeatedly electing a know-nothing blowhard like Steve King and two such past-their-sell-date, special interest tools as Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley, probably isn't a good fit for us.

I'm grateful to the residents of my virtual village, many of whom have been of great comfort to us, as have some IRL friends and surrogate family members. I admire the resilience, relentlessness and courage of Bill Arthur, a veteran of 40 years of environmental campaigns and battles, Kit Bonson, another activist veteran, Tiffany Allison, Gretchen Lewis and Don Myers. Karl Schilling, Galen Brooks, Deb ArthurDee Cogden, Paul's mom Phyllis, Lynn Hicks, Carol Rothman and Bill Brauch have been patient listeners and commiserators.

Thursday night Paul and I were still at work 
in our office on Grand Avenue at something past 5 PM when I heard shouting . . . the moving, organized noise of some kind of protest. I thought, "It's got to be a Trump protest march," and in two seconds, I had decamped from my desk, flown out of the door — no coat, no scarf, no phone — and I ran down the street to join. Paul said that he heard me go, got up to go after me, and in the time it took him to leave his desk, trot down the stairs and open the door, I had utterly disappeared from sight. 

I borrowed a young woman's phone and called to tell him where I'd gone, though he was already on his way with my things.

It was a group organized online by someone named Leah, and I was unquestionably the oldest person there. It was comprised of 99.9% 18-year-olds and 20-somethings, both men and women, but mostly women, all ethnicities and colors, although mostly white. Their presence and tenacity made me laugh and cry all at once. I went around hugging as many of them as I could, telling each one how grateful and proud of them I was. It was the first moment of hope Paul and I had had for two days.

In response to this march and other outpourings of indignation and alarm that have coalesced into marches and demonstrations, I've heard people say, "It's not going to do any good. It might feel good, but it's not going to help."

Paul and I disagree. The protest marches against the Vietnam war helped reshape public and political opinion about the war, and isn't letting others who share similar feelings of anxiety and sadness know that they're not alone of value? Isn't seeing and hearing young citizens find their voices and exercise their Constitutional rights as American as it gets?

A brief video Paul took of the march is below. But before I say goodnight, I want to remind you of just who those who voted for Donald Trump have elected. This is a vetted, verified quote of his from 1999. 

"As you know, there's been this amazing, amazing, amazing response to my candidacy. It's unbelievable how amazing it's been. Now, I know some of you guys choke on the fact that people love me – love me. Well, guess what? I could care less what you think. As long as I'm a candidate, you have to cover me, which is good for the Trump brand, which just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It's a win-win for me because no matter what I do, I get phenomenal, amazing, unbelievable publicity. You have to give it to me for free. You have no choice. You're sheep."

Yes Trump voters, you've just elected the crown prince of selfishness and greed. Congratulations.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Today we honor veterans

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States

AS YOU may suppose, I have opinions about the results of the November 10, 2016 election, and I intend to share them with you, but not today. 

I reserve today for veterans.

Of all the projects I've designed and have been a part of, I'm proudest of the work Brainstorm did for the Iowa National Guard and Army Reserve.

The concept and vision were all that of Colonel Scott Ayres. We were just lucky enough to be chosen to turn it into a reality for him and for the service personnel who use the Iowa National Guard Freedom Center as well as similar buildings in Muscatine and Iowa City.

The Colonel wanted to depict the history of and honor Iowa's history of service to our country through a series of large (20 feet by 8 feet) murals using authentic period uniforms. Some of the photos had already been taken at the federal level, some we styled and photographed. Josh Bunch, who was our graphic designer, took all the pieces and parts and did a simply beautiful job creating and compositing the final art.

For me the most gratifying part of the project, however, is the hall of medals. The Colonel had the idea of putting photographs of various service medals such as the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross on the long hallway leading to the assembly room, but I hoped for something grander. Instead of 11" X 14" plainly framed photos, I wanted the medals to be BIG and profile cut and floating in front of the wall and printed on a special metallic photo substrate so that altogether they were as impressive as the service it took to earn them.

And that's what we did.

The Colonel says that these projects are his legacy. 

What means the most to me is that service men and women are not infrequently seen pointing out to friends and family — and getting their picture taken while they stand next to — the medal they earned. I'm proud of that.

In honor of this day, I'm also resharing Flowers for Henry. (And this would be why Paul has always called me his Yankee Doodle Sweetheart.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election day: where we are and why

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” — Donald Trump

PAUL AND I are off to door-knock and drive people to the polls. We've (literally) not been able to sleep for worrying about this election, so it's best on this day to distract ourselves by doing things we hope will help.

A few days ago, after a great deal of soul-searching, I wrote a post on Facebook that said, "I've thought about this deeply over the course of this campaign: If you have voted for Trump or plan to, unfriend me now. I do not want to know you. It's not because you're usually, perhaps even always, a Republican. But not this time. This is different. There is no excuse."

I was startled to receive a reply from a woman I know, a woman I have heretofore always viewed as kind, gracious and intelligent, someone I like well enough to have her birthday noted on my calendar, letting me know that she would be following my instructions and 'unfriending' me.

I was honestly shocked . . . not that she was complying with my wishes, but that she fit the profile. It gave me pause, and inspired more soul-searching.

I've always wondered where the tipping point was for Nazi-era Germany as a country and for its individual citizens. How did seemingly moral, intelligent people allow a fascist psychopath to rise to power? When was there no going back?

It was multi-layered, but somewhere along the line each person and the combined populace failed to draw a line in the sand.  

Supporting and voting for Donald Trump, a man who is clearly fascistic by inclination and temperament, is my line in the sand. 

I don't think it's hyperbole to label him as such. 

– He wants to ban Muslims from entering the country, and inveighs against the ones who are 
already our fellow citizens. 

– He forcibly ejects people he doesn't like from his rallies. 

– He incites violence, suggesting that those who are second-amendment supporters could 'take care of' Hillary

– He does not disavow people who proudly advertise slogans on T-shirts and signs such as "Trump that bitch" and "Tree. Rope. Journalist." 

– He condemns Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as "rapists and murderers."

– He wants to clamp down on immigration, particularly illegal immigration, when he himself married not one, but two immigrants, the latest of whom it has now been proved worked in this country illegally before she was permitted to do so.

– He does not reject the blatant racism of his supporters like David Duke or his endorsement by the KKK.

– He has relentlessly and incorrectly called Barack Obama a Muslim and denied our duly elected president's legitimate, native-born citizenship.  

– He lies uncontrollably (statistically calculated by a well-regarded, non-partisan fact-checking organization as every 3.5 minutes when he speaks), even about that which is easily and factually disprovable. 

– He threatens to have his enemies jailed. 

– He has stated outright that he may not accept the results of the election if he doesn't win, thereby thwart the Constitution

– He's spoken openly about his willingness to resort to the nuclear option in war.

– He has spurious, misogynistic views of women.

– He has groped and sexually assailed at least a dozen women that we know of, and his denial has consisted of pointing out that they were hot enough for him to want to grope.

– He has low mental acuity; his own biographer (that he hired) estimates his working vocabulary at 200 words whereas as an average normal adult has a vocabulary of of 20,000 to 35,000 words, and an average eight-year-old child knows 10,000 words.

– He's stiffed contractors and workers for millions of dollars for work he hired them to do, yet talks about "creating jobs."

– He has such a lack of impulse control that his campaign managers had to take away his access to his twitter account.

– He has been deemed by numerous mental health professionals as pathologically narcissistic.

Yup, that's my line in the sand.

PS: If you haven't already read the essay by an Iraq war veteran that is contained in this link: An Iraq War Veteran Speaks to the Election — it's so worth your time.

PPS: Below is an excellent piece from the today's edition of NBC News.

The 2016 Election Has Been the Final Battle of the Obama War

By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

November 8, 2016

One way to view the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is it being the final battle of the eight-year-long Obama War. Think about it: you have one candidate (Clinton) who has embraced 98% of Obama's agenda, as the current president has spent much of the fall campaigning for her, including last night in Philadelphia. 

And you have the other candidate (Trump) who not only first entered the political fray of the Obama era by questioning the president's birthplace and legitimacy for office, but who is also Obama's polar opposite in so many ways. That's why the divides we see in this Clinton vs. Trump contest — on race, gender, age, and geography — were the same ones we spotted eight years ago. 

The Obama era has featured so many different political battles. 2008: Obamacare and the debt-ceiling standoff. 2012: the government shutdown and the 2014 midterms election.

And tonight is the final one. Which side will win? There are no certainties in politics, but the side who has a current president with a 53% approval rating in the last NBC/WSJ poll has the upper hand. 

And a Clinton win would be affirmation that Obama is the Democratic Party's Ronald Reagan. Indeed, remember the last time a party won a third-straight presidential election was in 1988, when George HW Bush succeeded a popular Reagan.

Eight years later, of course, "Hope and Change" has transformed into the ugliest and most disheartening political race we can EVER remember. "The nation's democracy has been battered by a Category political storm unlike anything seen in the modern era," one of us writes. "As election day dawns, there isn't a political figure or institution in the country that has avoided damage from the unrelenting battering the 2016 presidential campaign has unleashed." And it's everyone's responsibility to begin cleaning up the mess starting tomorrow. That includes:

– A Republican Party that has become too racially homogenous, that has all too often refused to govern when not holding the White House, and that hasn't listened to many of its voters.

– A Democratic Party that has lost touch with many of the white working-class voters who had been its base in Roosevelt era, and that is becoming less 'big tent-ish' than it was eight years ago.

– A media that despite producing some excellent journalism this cycle, first focused too much on Trump and not his supporters and then helped normalize so much of the ugliness we've seen over the past year.

– A Congress whose inability to do the bare minimum helped give rise to the anger that fueled Trump and (to a lesser extent) Bernie Sanders.

– And a President-Elect Clinton or President-Elect Trump who would start off with the highest negative poll numbers in the modern era.

All of the ways in which Trump smashed so many norms

To help make American politics great again, it's also important to list all the ways in which Donald Trump smashed so many norms that have damaged our political system. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein lists them:

– Trump became the first major party candidate in 40 years not to release his tax returns during an election

– He was openly hostile to the media

– He called for the jailing of his opponent

– He made it more acceptable to single out and target minority groups

– He admonished veterans and current military leaders

– He attacked the spouses of his rivals

– And he openly delegitimized the election process by repeatedly suggesting the results will be rigged

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why Nicholas, Paul and I are 'with her'

“She is extremely well respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way, and has a work ethic second to none.” — Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican US Senator, 2012.

I'M TERRIFIED. Really and truly frightened out of my wits . . . about the election. We have so much to lose and to fear if Don wins. 

You all know Hillary wasn't my favorite candidate, but for heaven's sake, we can't risk having the country run by a lunatic.

BTW: Yes, rabidly partisan Republican Lindsey Graham really did say that about Hillary Clinton. But of course that was before she was running for president, which means that now, presto-chango, she's evil incarnate.

Below, find Nicholas Kristof's column from The New York Times.

‘I’m With Her’: The Strengths of Hillary Clinton

By Nicholas Kristof 
November 5, 2016

ONE of the great misperceptions of this political year, among many Democrats and Republicans alike, is that Hillary Clinton is a third-rate candidate with no core or convictions — oops, wrong word, but you get the point.

So in this last column before the election I want to pitch you the reasons to vote for Clinton and not just against Donald Trump.

I’ve known Clinton a bit for many years, and I have to say: The public perception of her seems to me a gross and inaccurate caricature. I don’t understand the venom, the “lock her up” chants, the assumption that she is a Lady Macbeth; it’s an echo of the animus a lifetime ago some felt for Eleanor Roosevelt.

(When Roosevelt spoke up for Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, a letter in The Los Angeles Times thundered: “When she starts bemoaning the plight of the treacherous snakes we call Japanese (with apologies to all snakes), she has reached the point where she should be forced to retire from public life.” Strong women sometimes drive people nuts.)

In fact, what makes Hillary Clinton tick has always been a 1960s-style idealism about making the world a better place.

Clinton has made thousands of compromises and innumerable mistakes, her pursuit of wealth has been unseemly and politically foolish, and it’s fair to question her judgment on everything from emails to Iraq. But understand this, too: At the core she is not a calculating crook but a smart, hard-working woman who is profoundly concerned with getting things done for those left behind.

Aside from shattering the glass ceiling for women, Clinton would bring three particular strengths to the presidency:

First, she knows the world exceptionally well and is essentially a very bright, disciplined nerd who traveled to more countries as secretary of state than any of her predecessors.

Second, Clinton had a history of playing well with Republicans when she was in the Senate and secretary of state, so there’s some small hope that we could inch back to governing.

“She is extremely well respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way, and has a work ethic second to none,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said in 2012.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, described her in 2013 as “a very effective secretary of state.” Even Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said of her in 2014, “We’re good friends.”

Polls today may show a majority of Americans have negative feelings for her, but two-thirds of Americans approved of her when she was secretary of state.

Third, Clinton cares deeply about impoverished children and others who are voiceless. In Arkansas, she started an early childhood program. In Washington, she helped establish CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which supports more than eight million needy American kids.

One of America’s foremost needs is to address inequality and cycles of poverty. These are issues that Clinton has wrestled with for more than 40 years.

Some of you are thinking: But the emails! The foundation! Benghazi! So let’s look at the standard accusations.

Benghazi has been examined by at least eight panels, and not one uncovered major wrongdoing by Clinton. The Clinton Foundation created conflicts of interest — and saved countless lives from AIDS. Yes, Clinton appears to have set up her own email server to evade FOIA searches, which was sneaky and wrong, but State Department officials for many years routinely have conducted business on their own email accounts.

In short, the Clinton email “scandal” seems to me to be emblematic of so many Clinton “scandals”: There’s a kernel of impropriety there that in the public mind, thanks to her political enemies’ bombast, has ballooned into something unrecognizably malignant.

Of course, for many, the greater appeal of Clinton is that she’s not Trump. He simply falls outside the norms: A fraudster who seems a racist, who has cheated people not only at Trump University but regularly through his career, who boasts of sexual assaults and whom 17 women have publicly accused of improper behavior, who has flip-flopped 138 times by one count, who lies every five minutes by another, and who has less public service experience than any incoming president in history.

But my point is that this election is not just a weighing of two scoundrels; Clinton is better than that, and she is in politics because she cares about something larger than herself.

In 1993, The New York Times Magazine published a famous article about Clinton titled “Saint Hillary,” mocking her as a befuddled do-gooder trying to help the unfortunate. The article ridiculed her as na├»ve, sanctimonious and incoherent, but it also captured something real about her earnestness and motivations.

In contrast, today’s widely held caricature of an avaricious, selfish and manipulative crook is to me just plain wrong. Sure, she compromises, she sometimes dissembles and at times her judgment has been flawed. But fundamentally she is a morally serious person whose passion for four decades has been to use politics to create a more just society. That’s her real conviction.