Monday, July 18, 2022

Heat Wave

From the New York Times:

In much of the United States, it’s hot out there. Still.

Many parts of the Central Plains and Texas are under heat advisories and warnings this weekend and will be well into the week in what is already a historically — and relentless — hot summer, forecasters with the National Weather Service said.

It might not be as hot as it was in recent weeks, but heat advisories will be in effect for much of the Central and Southern Plains, including the Oklahoma Panhandle, east toward most of Oklahoma and Arkansas, southwestern Missouri and southeastern Kansas, said Bob Oravec, a lead forecaster with the Weather Service. The extensive heat is contributing to droughts in a lot of those areas as well.

Heat warnings are also in effect for Southern California and parts of the Southwest, including Arizona and New Mexico.

Next week, parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas could see their highest summer temperatures to date, with predicted highs reaching 102 to 110 degrees, and the potential for heat indexes to be higher.

On Monday, portions of eastern Colorado, western Kansas and areas all the way up into North Dakota could see temperatures between 100 and 110 degrees, said Stephanie Sipprell, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in the Central Plains.

Although it is normal for temperature highs in the region to reach the 100s in July and August, some cities have either already experienced more 100-degree days than average or are reaching their averages early in the season.

Tulsa, Okla., which has found itself at the center of multiple heat waves, usually endures 10 days of 100-degree highs in the summer. On Friday, the city experienced its 11th 100-degree day of the season, said Pete Snyder, a forecaster for the Weather Service in Oklahoma. Tulsa is predicted to face a few more next week, some reaching 108 degrees.

Little Rock, Ark., has gone through seven days of highs reaching 100 degrees and is bracing for the possibility of six more in the next week. The average number of triple-digit days for the city in the summer is eight, according to Justin Condry, a forecaster for the Weather Service in Arkansas. The state is also enduring a drought, which adds to fire risks and could affect farming.

Farmers specifically feel the impacts of the heat and the drought, which could eventually trickle in to grocery stores,” Mr. Condry said.

The sustained and unrelenting heat also becomes a major issue for urban areas that cannot easily cool down, Mr. Oravec said. “It is harder to cool off at night because the buildings are still radiating heat well after the sun,” he added.

Rest assured that Fox News will find a way to blame this on Joe Biden.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday Reading

When Is A Child Not A Child? — Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post.

When is a child not a child?

A child is not a child when believing in her existence would force you to notice your own cruelty. When the story of a 10-year-old who had to cross state lines to end a pregnancy that was the product of rape, because the post-Roe laws in the state of Ohio are cruel enough to force birth on a child in her circumstances, is sufficiently monstrous that you want it to be unimaginable.

A child is not a child. She is a “hoax,” surely (Fox’s Jesse Watters). A “fanciful tale” in the words of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, “a story too good to confirm.” A story that “looks like a lie” (New York Post). An exaggerated concoction by pro-abortion forces designed to make you feel that your laws are inhuman, that they are vicious, that they are written by people to whom these things could never possibly happen, and therefore they are clumsy and careless in the most bruising possible way. She cannot be a child. Children are what your laws protect.

But then she is real after all. She is not a hoax. The story is true.

Then, a child is not a child simply because you are refusing to see her. Because you are trying to believe that what you were asking of her was not monstrous. In the words of the counsel for the National Right to Life, Jim Bopp, the man who should have thought about the people his words would affect as he wrote model laws for state legislatures looking to restrict abortion after Roe v. Wade, “She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.”

Already, the child in this story is someone else! The 10-year-old child is not a child; she is a woman, one of “many women.” It is the fetus that is the child, now, the “baby.” The “benefit”! How convenient! How neat! How easily these words take a situation that is gruelingly, guttingly real and reduce it to a sanitary realm where there is not a victimized child anywhere to be seen. Just women (many women!) and babies and benefit.

A child is not a child when you are forcing her to give birth. She is a woman, suddenly, and the fetus is a baby. Presto, change-o! That’s not justice, it’s sleight of hand.

A child is not a child when she does exist but you cannot admit, now, that what you are forcing her to do is more than dangerous for someone in a body so young — it is monstrous. You scramble to make it sound as though a law that forces a 10-year-old assault victim to give birth is a good law, with benefits. Or that the law does not do what it says.

These are men who don’t know a child from a woman, a person from a womb on two legs, because they simply do not want to know.

This is the way they write these laws. Around actual people, and actual medicine, without a thought to the bloody and painful consequences. An ectopic pregnancy can be whisked elsewhere, in defiance of all medical science. If it’s a legitimate rape, the body has ways of shutting that whole thing down. Do not allow life, with all its tendency toward detail, to get in the way. Protect the children, at all costs. That 10-year-old is not a child, of course. She is a woman. The law is not for her. There are babies to consider! There are children to protect!

When is a child not a child? When you are choosing not to protect her.

But she is a child all the same.

The Department of Justice Must Prosecute Trump — Donald Ayer, Stuart M. Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut make the case in The Atlantic.

About the authors: Donald Ayer served as United States attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and as deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush. Stuart M. Gerson served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice from 1989 to 1993 and as acting attorney General in 1993. He is a member of the firm at Epstein Becker Green. Dennis Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor and former Chief Assistant City Attorney in San Francisco, currently Of Counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen.

As former prosecutors, we recognize the legitimacy of concerns that electoral winners prosecuting their defeated opponents may look like something out of a banana republic rather than the United States of America; that doing so might be viewed as opening the door to prosecutorial retaliation by future presidential winners; and that, in the case of this former president, it might lead to civil unrest.

But given the record now before us, all of these considerations must give way to the urgency of achieving a public reckoning for Donald Trump. The damage to America’s future that would be inflicted by giving him a pass far outweighs the risks of prosecuting him.

The committee’s evidence to date establishes multiple significant points for prosecutors. (A comprehensive summary of the evidence—offense by offense—is available at Just Security’s “Criminal Evidence Tracker.”)

First, contrary to speculation that Trump may have genuinely believed he won the election, and thus in his own mind was seeking rough justice in trying to change the outcome, the committee has demonstrated repeatedly that he knew beyond all doubt that he had lost fair and square. Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr told the president that claims of widespread voter fraud were “bullshit.” Numerous reinforcements of that message were delivered by many others, including Barr’s successor, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen; former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue; and multiple Trump-campaign officials.

Second, Trump’s involvement in carrying out the scheme was systematic, expansive, and extraordinarily personal. As if to illustrate how personal his intervention was (and is), Republican Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair and the representative from Wyoming, dropped a bombshell at the end of Tuesday’s hearing: Sometime since the previous hearing on June 28, Trump himself had contacted a witness, something that his lawyers certainly could have told him could easily lead to charges of witness tampering. Cheney announced that the committee has notified the Justice Department of Trump’s latest misconduct.

The committee’s previous hearings showed that in the months after the 2020 election, Trump himself—not some aide or lawyer or other ally—tried to interfere with the state vote-counting processes. Among the most memorable incidents was his 67-minute January 2 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger asking him to “find” 11,780 nonexistent votes, creating a Trump win. Trump himself also called to try to influence the state’s chief elections investigator, Frances Watson, and spoke with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to urge him to call a special legislative session to appoint alternative electors.

There is also evidence that Trump spoke with Republican Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler after he had declined repeated calls from Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, two Trump-campaign attorneys, to bring the legislature into session to decertify the state’s election results. And Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, also a Republican, both testified that Trump phoned them in December to ask for their help in implementing the infamous bogus-elector scheme. (John Eastman, another Trump lawyer, and Giuliani were also involved with those calls.)

Trump tried persistently to obtain the help of the Department of Justice in creating a false public impression that the election had been fraudulent. After he failed in mid-December to persuade Bill Barr to assert election fraud, Trump called Rosen, Barr’s successor, nearly every day in the same pursuit. And when this effort too failed, at a White House meeting on January 3, he undertook to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a second-tier DOJ official whom Trump had spoken with personally and found more compliant. This effort failed only when Donoghue and Rosen told Trump that the entire department’s leadership would resign if Clark were installed.

Crucial to the whole plot, of course, was the unlawful scheme to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into rejecting or delaying the electoral count. Multiple witnesses testified about being present to hear Trump’s “heated” call with Pence on the morning of January 6. One witness said that Trump called Pence a “wimp.” Ivanka Trump testified that she had never previously heard her father treat Pence that way, and she told another witness that Trump had used the “P-word” to denigrate the vice president’s manhood.

Ample evidence has also shown Trump well knew that Pence could not properly do as Trump urged. Mike Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob, testified that Trump was present at a January 4 White House meeting where John Eastman admitted the unlawfulness of his and Trump’s plan to have the vice president not certify the electoral count two days later.

A third significant point for prosecutors is that the hearings have put into sharp focus Trump’s personal involvement and advance knowledge of the dangerous circumstances surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the principal aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified that she overheard Trump complain just before his January 6 speech on the Ellipse that supporters were not being allowed into the security area for his speech while armed, and thus were staying outside. She recalled Trump asking to have the magnetometers removed, saying that he did not care if attendees were armed, because “they’re not here to hurt me.”

Hutchinson also testified that Trump expected to go to the Capitol after his speech and was angry when the Secret Service denied his request to do so, testimony that others have corroborated. He wanted to be part of and lead an armed mob aimed, at minimum, at intimidating Congress and Mike Pence. That is significant evidence demonstrating criminal intent in connection with the crime of inciting an insurrection. Told that the mob had threatened to hang the vice president, Trump apparently responded that he “deserves” it.

Finally, the committee has persuasively established that Trump continued to facilitate the insurrection, even after he returned to the White House once the Secret Service refused to take him to Capitol Hill. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley testified that during the violence, Pence called him to request the National Guard to restore order; Trump made no such call. In fact, Trump did nothing for more than three hours to quell the insurrectionists.

To the contrary, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews testified that by tweeting that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done” to overturn the election, Trump was “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

All of that was enough to show Trump’s personal leadership of the Big Lie effort and his complicity in the violence of January 6. But in addition, at Tuesday’s hearing, the committee focused attention on Trump’s December 19 tweet inviting his supporters to a “big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” He added, “Be there, will be wild!” The committee showed evidence of communications among the militant Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Three Percenters hours after the tweet demonstrating that it was the signal that prompted previously unaligned groups to cooperate in developing military-style operational tactics for the violent Capitol invasion.

In assessing the importance and priority to be given to a DOJ decision to prosecute, the Justice Department Manual lists three factors with special relevance here: “the nature and seriousness of the offense,” “the deterrent effect of the prosecution,” and “the person’s culpability in connection with the offense.”

On the first point, it is hard to imagine an offense that would more urgently call for criminal accountability by federal prosecution than a concerted and nearly successful effort to overthrow the result of a presidential election. It is an offense against the entire nation, by which Trump sought to reverse a 235-year-old constitutional tradition of presidential power transferring lawfully and peacefully.

The fact that a related state grand-jury investigation is proceeding in Fulton County, Georgia, relating to the part of the plot aimed at the Georgia vote count and certification process does not alter or lessen the urgency of this federal interest. Separate state and federal prosecutions can and should proceed when federal interests are as strong or stronger than the local interest.

Nor can there be any doubt about the crucial need to deter future attempts to overthrow the government. For the past 18 months, and presently, Trump himself and his supporters have been engaged in concerted efforts across the country to prepare for a similar, but better-planned, effort to overcome the minority status of Trump’s support and put him back in the White House. Moreover, if the efforts of the former president and his supporters garner a pass from the federal authorities, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence, Trump will not be the only one ready to play this game for another round.

As many have pointed out, deterrence requires that the quest for accountability succeed in achieving a conviction before a jury—here most likely made up of citizens of the District of Columbia. And the Department’s regulations make the odds of the prosecution’s success an important consideration in determining whether to go forward. In the case of a person who has made a career out of escaping the consequences of his misconduct, this is no small issue for the attorney general to take into account.

But as former prosecutors, we have faith that the evidence of personal culpability is so overwhelming that the case can be made to the satisfaction of such a jury. One of us—Gerson—has tried many difficult cases before D.C. juries with success. As a defendant, Donald Trump would open the door to all sorts of things that wouldn’t come into a normal trial, and the prosecutor could have a field day in argument about how this would-be tyrant tried to overthrow the government that has kept our nation free for two and a quarter centuries. Bottom line: Given what is at stake, even with the risk of a hung jury—leaving room for a second trial—there is no realistic alternative but to go forward.

Any argument that Donald Trump lacked provable criminal intent is contradicted by the facts elicited by the January 6 committee. And the tradition of not prosecuting a former president must yield to the manifest need to protect our constitutional form of government and to ensure that the violent effort to overthrow it is never repeated.

Doonesbury — Bird hunting.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Friday, July 15, 2022

Getting Worse

Via TPM:

This is getting worse and worse. My colleagues and I noted yesterday that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita had threatened the doctor who treated the 10 year old rape victim from Ohio with investigation, loss of licensure and even imprisonment. This was another effort to shift the story after Republicans at first tried to claim the girl didn’t exist. Rokita suggested that the doctor, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, had failed to file mandated reports with the state about the abuse and the abortion. At least, Rokita claimed, he could find no evidence for any reports. Bernard is an “abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report,” Rokita told Fox News on Wednesday. “We’re gathering the information, we’re gathering the evidence as we speak and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at [Bernard’s] licensure, if she failed to report. In Indiana it’s a crime for … to intentionally not report.”

Now we learn that a local Fox affiliate in Indiana was able to find out through a simple public records request that Bernard not only filed the report on the termination of the pregnancy but also reported that the patient was a victim of abuse — even though the abuse occurred not in Indiana but the neighboring state of Ohio, where it was also reported to authorities by the girl’s physician.

In other words Rokita went forward with a series of defamatory claims and accusations against Bernard and called down a nationwide campaign of harassment and vilification against her apparently without even the most cursory of records checks that were not only available to him as attorney general but members of the public in roughly 24 hours.

[…]

We’ve now gone through two rapid-fire deception cycles in which first Ohio and then Indiana Republicans reacted to this story with mixes of denial and deceptions only to have their stories collapse in no more than 36 hours. In the escalating backlash against the Dobbs decision, which is flowing into the midterm election campaign, Republicans simply aren’t prepared to grapple with the growing number of horror stories triggered by the draconian laws they themselves both demanded and are busy forcing into law.

The fact that they got the story wrong and then willfully did nothing to correct the record is standard procedure now.  All that matters was the original explosion of indulgent rage and screaming pundits.  No apologies; just another attempt at redirection because that’s how they roll.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Shooting Him In The Face

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is not letting up.

If there’s one member of the Jan. 6 committee most focused on guiding the Justice Department to charge former president Donald Trump, it’s Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Cheney was the first, back in December, to preview the crime that the committee would ultimately focus on: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. Cheney later objected when Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said the committee wouldn’t be making a criminal referral to the Justice Department. Cheney said last week that, in fact, multiple criminal referrals could be on the way.

Cheney has now made another statement on this front, continuing to try to point the Justice Department in a specific direction.

At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, Cheney roundly and somewhat preemptively dismissed the idea that Trump was merely being guided in his actions by those around them.

“Now, the argument seems to be that President Trump was manipulated by others outside the administration, that he was persuaded to ignore his closest advisers and that he was incapable of telling right from wrong,” Cheney said.

She added: “The strategy is to blame people his advisers called, quote, ‘the crazies’ for what Donald Trump did. This, of course, is nonsense. President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child.”

She said the record, in fact, showed quite the opposite — that he was told over and over again that he had in fact lost his reelection. The committee has shared lots of evidence that he had been told this, and it would play new evidence to that effect Tuesday.

Then came the key line from Cheney: “No rational or sane man in his position could disregard that information and reach the opposite conclusion. And Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.”

Cheney’s choice of words is important. In sum, Cheney dismissed the idea floated by some legal experts that perhaps Trump could be guilty by virtue of his “willful blindness” to the fact that he had lost. Courts including the Supreme Court have established that when it comes to crimes like the one the Jan. 6 committee is focused on — obstruction of an official proceeding — proving that someone chose to remain “willfully blind” to the facts can be used to prove culpability.

Don’t think for a moment that Ms. Cheney has suddenly come over to the Democrats and will soon be sharing jello shots with Nancy Pelosi and AOC.  She is still the hard-core conservative she’s always been, and she takes after her father by not pulling punches and making no apologies for it.  Remember, he was the guy who shot a hunting companion in the face with bird-shot and it was the victim who apologized.

I also don’t think that Ms. Cheney is standing up to Trump just to shine the light of liberty and justice for all.  Yes, she is doing the right thing, but she’s also doing it to ensure that the Republican Party, or what’s left of it, remains intact and out of the hands of the crazies.

In one way, she is following in the footsteps of another Republican who did not have a problem with metaphorically shooting someone in the face: Barry Goldwater, the late senator from Arizona.  He was a hard-core conservative, unbending in his beliefs, and he was one of the Republicans who came to the White House in August 1974 to tell Richard Nixon that the jig was up: he had to resign.  Ostensibly it was for the good of the country, but he also knew that if Congress impeached and convicted the president, the GOP would be in the wilderness for several election cycles.  He was right.  The Republicans got hammered in the 1974 mid-terms and Gerald Ford lost in 1976 to Jimmy Carter.  But they came roaring back in 1980 and brought along with them the Moral Majority and the first of the crazies, Newt Gingrich.  It probably wasn’t what Sen. Goldwater had in mind, but at least they were still in the game.

Dick Cheney and his family are old-school political operatives, always playing the long game.  If Liz Cheney loses her bid for re-election, it will not be the end of her career, not by a long shot (pun intended).  And while I may disagree with her on just about every policy issue and I wouldn’t vote for her, at least we know that she is willing to stand up for her principles — and her legacy — and shoot back.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

It’s A Plot

Humor from The New Yorker:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a blistering takedown of the President, Tucker Carlson accused Joe Biden of cynically leveraging the power of his office to lower gasoline prices.

“For weeks, Biden has been saying that he’d do something about the price of gasoline,” the Fox News host said. “Now, lo and behold, gas prices are lower. Joe Biden has been acting in plain sight.”

“The American people aren’t dumb,” Carlson continued. “When they fill up their tanks, they notice that it costs less. They can tell that something’s going on, and they’re not going to put up with it.”

After gas prices showed their biggest one-day drop in almost fifteen years, Carlson said, “It’s time to call out the man behind this conspiracy: Joe Biden.”

Carlson demanded that Congress “stop investigating January 6th and focus its attention on a real scandal: Joe Biden’s corrupt plot to lower gas prices.”

“This is worse than anything Hunter has done,” Carlson charged.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Perspective

I know we tend to spend a lot of time worrying about a lot of things that seem to be important.  To us, they are: income, health, quality of life for ourselves and those we care about make up how we spend most of our time here on this planet.  But then you step back and take a look at the larger picture.

I mean that literally.  This is a photo from the new James Webb Space Telescope.

It’s human nature to think of ourselves as the most important person, or our country as the greatest in the world, or whatever.  But if this picture doesn’t give you a new perspective on exactly where we fit in the universe, then keep looking at that picture.  Then do what you have to to make this little corner of space a little better.  Everybody else here — and out there — will appreciate it.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Sunday Reading

Don’t Pray For Me — Anne Lamott in The New York Times.

It offends me to see sanctimonious public prayer in any circumstance — but a coach holding his players hostage while an audience watches his piety makes my skin crawl.

We are fighting furiously for women’s rights and the planet, and we mean business. We believers march, rally and agitate, putting feet to our prayers. And in our private lives, we pray.

Isn’t praying a bit Teletubbies as we face off with the urgent darkness?

Nah.

Prayer means talking to God, or to the great universal spirit, a.k.a. Gus, or to Not Me. Prayer connects us umbilically to a spirit both outside and within us, who hears and answers. Is it like the comedian Flip Wilson saying, “I’m gonna pray now; anyone want anything?”

I do not understand much about string theory, but I do know we are vibrations, all the time. Between the tiny strings is space in which change can happen. The strings are infinitesimal; the space between nearly limitless. Prayer says to that space, I am tiny, helpless, needy, worried, but there’s nothing I can do except send my love into that which is so much bigger than me.

How do people like me who believe entirely in science and reason also believe that prayer can heal and restore? Well, I’ve seen it happen a thousand times in my own inconsequential life. God seems like a total showoff to me, if perhaps unnecessarily cryptic.

When I pray for all the places where we see Christ crucified — Ukraine, India, the refugee camps — I see in my heart and in the newspaper that goodness draws near, through UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, volunteers, through motley old us.

I wake up praying. I say a prayer some sober people told me to pray 36 years ago, because when all else fails, follow instructions. It helps me to not fixate on who I am, but on whose. I am God’s adorable, aging, self-centered, spaced-out beloved. One man in early sobriety told me that he had come into recovery as a hotshot but that other sober men helped him work his way up to servant. I pray to be a good servant because I’ve learned that this is the path of happiness. I pray for my family and all my sick friends that they have days of grace and healing, and I end my prayers, “Make me ever mindful of the needs of the poor.”

Then I put on my glasses, let the dog out to pee and start my day. I will have horrible thoughts about others, typically the Christian right or the Supreme Court, or someone who has seriously crossed me, whose hair I pray falls out or whose book fails. I say to God, as I do every Sunday in confession: “Look — I think we can both see what we have on our hands here. Help me not be such a pill.”

It is miserable to be a hater. I pray to be more like Jesus with his crazy compassion and reckless love. Some days go better than others. I pray to remember that God loves Marjorie Taylor Greene exactly the same as God loves my grandson, because God loves, period. God does not have an app for Not Love. God sees beyond each person’s awfulness to each person’s needs. God loves them, as is. God is better at this than I am.

I lift up one of my grown Sunday school kids who is in the I.C.U. with anorexia. I beseech God to intervene, and she does, through finding my girl a great nurse later that day. (Nurses are God’s answer 35 percent of the time.) My prayer says to whoever might be listening, “I care about her and have no idea what to do, but to hold her in my heart and turn her over to something that might do better than me.” And I hear what to do next — make her one of my world-famous care packages — overpriced socks, a journal, and needless to say, communion elements tailored to her: almonds and sugar-free gum. It’s love inside wrapping paper.

Especially when I travel, I talk to so many people who are absolutely undone by all the miseries of the world, and I can’t do anything for them but listen, commiserate and offer to pray. I can’t turn politics around, or war, or the climate, but in listening, by opening my heart to someone in trouble, I create with them more love, less of a grippy clench in our little corner of the universe.

When I get onstage for a talk or an interview, I pray to say words that will help the people in the audience who feel most defeated. When I got to interview Hillary Clinton in Seattle a few years ago, we prayed this prayer huddled in a corner backstage — to bring hope to the hopeless.

Do I honestly think these kinds of prayers were heard, and helpful?

Definitely.

On good days, I feel (slightly) more neutral toward Ginni Thomas and the high school coach praying after games. I pray the great prayer of “Thanks” all day, for my glorious messy family, husband and life; for my faith, my sobriety; for nature; for all that is still here and still works after so much has been taken from us.

When I am at my most rattled or in victimized self-righteousness, I go for walks, another way to put my feet to prayer. I pray for help, and in some dimension outside of my mind or language, I relax. I can breathe again. I say, “Thank you.” I say, “Thank you for the same flowers and trees and ferns and cactuses I pass every day.” I say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

A walk is a great prayer. To make eye contact and smile is a kind of prayer, and it changes you. Fields and woods are the kingdom. You don’t say, “Oh, there’s a dark-eyed junco flitting around that same old pine tree; whatever,” or: “Look at those purple wildflowers. I’ve seen those a dozen times.” You are silent. There may be no one around you and the forest will speak to you in the way it will speak to an animal. And that changes you.

At bedtime I pray again for my sick friends, and the refugees. I beg for sleep. I give thanks for the blessings of the day. I rest into the vision of the pearly moon outside my window that looks like a porthole to a bigger reality, sigh and close my tired eyes.

I have the theological understanding of a bright 8-year-old, but Jesus says we need to approach life like children, not like cranky know-it-alls, crazily busy, clutching our to-do lists. One of my daily prayers is, “Slow me down, Girlfriend.” The prayer changes me. It breaks the toxic trance. God says to Moses the first time they meet, “Take off your shoes.” Be on the earth. Breathe with me a moment.

Doonesbury — Carded.

Saturday, July 9, 2022