Archive for December, 2020

It’s been raining here in Nashville. Not a soft rain, but windy downpours that make dogs cower in doorways. Ms Bean never liked walking in the rain, and since she received a new LL Bean orthopedic dog bed for Hanukkah this year, she’d rather curl up into her burrito pose and snooze. That familiar pup snore immediately makes me want a nap, so things are getting off to a slow start here for 2021.

We lost our AT&T internet for three days after the Christmas Day bombing that wasn’t an act of terrorism. I’m still not so sure about that, but y’all know I love a good linguistic fight. If that man from Antioch had been a Muslim, it would have been labeled terrorism. If he had been Black? Well then BLM would have been assumed to be his ideology, and it would have been labeled terrorism. But he was a 62 year old White guy, a native Nasvillian, and believe me there are not many natives left who can afford to live here anymore.

The bomber seems to have been concocting this scheme for over a year. His girlfriend reported him to the police last August, but you know she was deemed suicidal, not credible, and he never opened his door to the police who tried to investigate. Dead end. Here’s a good question: where does our individual right to privacy intersect with the public’s right to safety? Again, IF he had been a person of color, and the police were told he was building bombs in his RV, would a judge have issued a search warrant last year? You betcha!

We stayed home on Christmas day because we had no idea if there was another bomber. We didn’t know it was a suicide. People called and texted, and luckily our cell service is Verizon, we weren’t entirely cut off from the world. Then, just as Bob and I were getting caught up on the news, when our TV started working and I could open my laptop and fire up the newspapers, I heard a CNN news commentator discussing the motivation of the bomber. It seems this guy believed in some “conspiracy theory.” With a perfectly straight face, the anchor said:

“He believed that politicians and Hollywood celebrities were reptilian aliens trying to take over the country!”

This was CNN, not FOX!

Well isn’t that a fitting end to the year we’d all like to forget? I threw up my hands in disbelief and started yelling at Bob, “He was crazy!” Honestly, poor Ms Bean came running in full protection mode. But I was beside myself. When a trusted news outlet like CNN airs a piece about a suicide bomber in Nashville believing in conspiracy theories (well maybe Marcia Blackburn is slightly lizard-like) with the same amount of interest and intensity as he may have said Mrs So and So won the pie contest at the county fair, our country is in trouble.

Because words DO matter. Conspiracy theories have been around since we first learned to write on stones. But now, with social media, they can spread exponentially. A guy can walk into a pizza parlor in DC with a gun. And Mr T can say that Q is concerned about pedophilia with a straight face. In fact, we’ve elected two Q-believing representatives.

“What started three years ago as a conspiracy theory born on the internet’s dark fringes has moved into the mainstream with candidates like Greene espousing and promoting QAnon theories and phrases as they seek political office on a major party ticket. QAnon’s main theories claim that dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a “deep state” effort to thwart President Donald Trump. Another QAnon theory is that Trump will arrest all his wrongdoers like Hillary Clinton and send them to Guantanamo Bay. There is no evidence for these claims.”


During this pandemic year, when we are all semi-isolated and stuck in our homes, conspiracy theories are ripe to infect vulnerable minds; ridiculous aka CRAZY notions are bound to take root. We’ve had four years of governing by presidential Tweet, and reTweeting of false narratives. Now, the coronavirus has a new, mutant highly contagious strain. President-Elect Biden has a hard road ahead of him. I’d like to suggest we start by calling out these conspiracy theories as lies and delusions.

I’d like to think this weather is like the wind before a storm of political credibility and sane public health policy. Happy New Year!

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When Bob and I were newly married, his mother Ada would invariably be the first to call me on Christmas morning. She knew her son would be working in the ER, like all other non-Christian emergency doctors, and that I would be left home alone. We lived in the Berkshire Mountains then, and she admitted she would worry about me.

If you knew Ada, you would know that she needed to worry about someone almost all the time. Worrying was her business, it was her calling card for a career in marriage and family counseling. I would tell her she didn’t have to worry about me, that I came from strong Irish stock, that I didn’t mind being alone on Christmas because I was raised an “only” child. She would listen, and worry anyway.

Memories are always elusive. I remember being dressed up pretty in plaid, with saddle shoes and bows. I don’t have a lot of Christmas morning pictures. In one, I’m wheeling around a kitchen on my first tricycle. In another, I’m looking bleary eyed in a new chenille robe. Look at me in front of the tree, holding up yet another half-slip from an elderly aunt in Washington!

I’m pretty sure my holidays were spent going back and forth across the Delaware Water Gap to visit my family of origin. I was lucky, I had two trees and two Christmases!  

By the time I married Bob, I was a lapsed Catholic. I wasn’t even recovering because I’d converted to Judaism. I wanted any future children to have a strong, faith-based education – none of this ‘pick what you want as an adult’ business. But during my year of three miscarriages in1983, I longed for the pomp and prayers of the Catholic faith. If I couldn’t count on my body anymore, where was my faith? Where was God when I needed her/him most?

Ada must have sensed my suffering. Everyone said I’d have another baby, don’t worry about it, try again. But I became fearful of driving and stayed home with the Love Bug. If I couldn’t trust my own body, why should I trust anyone else? Every Christmas morning all I could hear were guns in the woods – deer poachers.

Yesterday morning my sister Kay was the first to call bright and early She’d been drinking her coffee and listening to the radio and wanted to make sure we were OK -the Nashville explosion was all over the news. We didn’t know very much but it woke me up out of a dead sleep around 6:30 am. Our city farmhouse is just a mile north of downtown.

I’ve watched the smoke from the Twin Towers billow down the shipping lanes, now we could smell the fire from a bomb that was detonated in an RV outside of the AT&T building. It was “intentional”, Mayor Cooper said, when we could still watch the news, before we lost our (AT&T) internet. All connectivity is gone in our socially distanced and isolated world. It’s been eerily quiet, too quiet today.

Who would do something like this on the holiest day of the Christian calendar?

At least I wasn’t alone. Since Bob has retired I’m no longer flying solo on Christmas. And this year, Ada isn’t here to call me. She can’t worry about the terrorist bombing, or her granddaughter being exposed to Covid whenever she puts on her ER doctor’s coat. Losing Ada this year, of all years, was devastating. No funeral, only a graveside service with no more than 20. The grief just simmering beneath the surface, available to any moment.   

My Mother-in-Law Ada was my last mother. My Foster Mother, Nell died suddenly when I was pregnant with the Bride. The Flapper died when the Bride was in high school. Love and loss inextricably bound.

Sending virtual hugs to everyone who lost a loved one this year, and wishing all my friends, and family of readers a healthy and peaceful New Year. Hoping you know that we are never really alone.

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This is the dawning of the end of coronavirus! The Moderna vaccine has been approved and is being distributed, plus today the Groom will receive his Pfizer shot in the arm. Nobody deserves it more than our tireless healthcare workers; I’ve loved watching pictures pop up in my social media feed of all the Bride and Groom’s colleagues rolling up their sleeves. Just as the great state of Tennessee has lurched into first place in one “key pandemic metric:”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tennessee is first for average daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days… Tennessee sits at an average of 129.4. Oklahoma is ranked at a distant second with an average of 98. That national average is 64.8.”

Bob estimates that one out of every 30 people walking around TN is currently contagious with coronavirus! Yikes! After spending 40 weeks in virtual quarantine, we’d all like to get out and about right now, but we need to hold on for a bit longer. I, for one, do not want to be the last person to contract this disease right before it is eradicated.

So I am not heading out to the mall for any last minute shopping. We are not eating on heated and tented restaurant patios, because what’s the point of that? The flow of air would be the same as if we were inside a restaurant. I just may do curbside pick-up of Thai food for Christmas! Our family balletic tradition had to be altered slightly this year; the Nashville Ballet’s Nutcracker was almost as beautiful on TV this past weekend, as it was over the years at the TN Performing Arts Center. Although we couldn’t feel the snow.

But we all can safely witness a spectacular celestial event by just walking outside our doors tonight at sundown and gazing into the southwestern sky. Tonight is the Winter Solstice, marking the longest night of the year – or as I like to call it, the beginning of longer daylight hours! And if the clouds stay away, we should be able to see the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, coming so close to each other that they resemble one giant Christmas star.

“It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.”


While some people think this may have been what happened in Bethlehem, when wise men were led to a certain manger, this is not actually Matthew’s Star from that Gospel. Scholars can’t pinpoint the actual birth of Jesus Christ – our late December date may be off by six years! Also astronomical events can happen frequently, so who knows how the stars were aligned in the first century.

Still, tonight’s the night! Two planets will shine as one giant star, and we are turning a corner in this pandemic. We have just one month before a rational, sane man will assume the Office of the Presidency. Things are looking up!

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Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. and since the Grands are on the road for a well-needed weekend getaway, we’ll probably have a quiet evening with the Crown on Netflix. Later, I’ll light up all eight candles in our kitschy, electric Menorah, an artifact of the 70s. Steven Fine, an author and director of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, has a special interest in the symbolism of menorahs:

Becoming not only Judaism’s oldest symbol, but also the Western world’s oldest continuously used religious symbol, the menorah once stood in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. The seven-branched candelabrum (nine-branched for Hanukkah) has been a source of fascination and illumination for Jews, Samaritans, Christians and also Freemasons for three millennia.

I love menorahs and I love light and I love objects and I love text, and they all have to go together to get me really excited. And when they do, its really almost a moment of revelation.


I love my menorah too! Yes, there are nine branches and only eight nights, but that’s because one special, usually taller candle is used to light all the others – called the “shamash;” I remember because when pronounced a bit differently, it means James in Irish!

Our holiday cards are in the mail and we’re all masked up! In fact, the Groom is in his Covid ICU space suit. In a year of dramatic differences, I’ve noticed my friends are all doing the holiday season a little differently. Some have opted not to put up a Christmas tree at all, or they’ve replaced the big one for a smaller version. Others have gone all out with outside lights and blow-up snowmen. I used to find a small fir tree at Whole Foods for the Groom to put up, since my daughter always worked that day like her Dad, and I knew he’d need a little Christmas when the Grands were babies.

Last weekend, he and the Bug picked out a similar, smaller tree and decorated it with many of those original tiny, wooden, non-denominational ornaments, but she has put in her order for a bigger conifer next year! So, this is their last baby tree I guess.

It’s almost a “laissez faire” kind of holiday season. It’s as if we’ve all adopted a communal policy of non-interference in private conduct and individual freedom – and/or governmental affairs. It literally means to “allow to act,” or if laissez faire were a song, “Let It Be” would come to mind. Some people think the virus is a hoax so they refuse to wear masks, well I refuse to hold onto my anger anymore. If they want to go to Costco showing their face, great, I’ll get a Shipt order. Or, Mr T is still ranting and raving about a rigged election? That’s nice, it doesn’t bother me.

You’re not baking a bunch of cookies this year? That’s just fine, you do you! I made almost 50 mini-pumpkin muffins yesterday simply because the Love Bug gave me a bottle of pumpkin spice blend! Maybe I’m just tired of the political and personal chaos. I feel that whatever gets us through this year is good; I never actually Marie Kondoed my closets… even though every day I woke up thinking, “This will be the day!”

Today was the day I wanted to call Great Grandma Ada. The Bride got her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine this afternoon! She found out she received a placebo in the Moderna study. Yesterday her shift in the ER was filled with Covid patients. I wanted to cry, with happiness, with relief. I can see the light in the darkness, I can believe in miracles. The Groom will receive his vaccine at Vandy on Monday. Better it couldn’t be.

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We’re right in the middle of Hanukkah, and I’m feeling so hopeful.

An ER doctor in Rhode Island, a Critical Care nurse in New York – the Covid-19 vaccines are being delivered right into the arms that need them the most! It won’t be long now until the Bride finds out about her Moderna trial, and the Groom gets vaccinated. Bob and I will be third or fourth on the list I’m sure, old enough and too healthy, certainly non-essential. Until then, I’ll continue wearing my pink floral mask. and keeping my distance. Shivering as we light Hanukkah candles on the porch again tonight, but we’re still together.

Oh and let’s not forget the arcane Electoral College. Starting at noon today, just as I was eating a tuna melt, 538 members of the college started to cast their votes for the next president of these United States. Every state has certified their votes, but the mass media is covering these electors like they are rock stars. I guess with Mr T, this year IS different. In his alternate reality, his version of the Truman Show we’ve all had to endure, he could still win! Yes folks, and if he says it loud enough and often enough his loyal apostles will believe him. Spoiler alert, Biden wins! But if you’d like to follow along: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/14/us/elections/electoral-college-results.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage

Also in other news this week, our democracy was saved by SCOTUS after 106 House Representatives asked them to invalidate millions of ballots, despite no evidence of fraud in our electoral process – and they did the right thing! But think how close we came to a coup.

And let’s not forget about the backlash an opinion writer for the Wall Street Journal received after penning a misogynistic essay, “Is there a doctor in the White House? Not if you need an MD.” He wrote dismissively about Dr Jill Biden, saying that an EdD is not equivocal to an MD, that no one should be called a doctor unless they delivered a baby?! Well, guess what, Dr Jill did birth a baby. I mean, women everywhere told him what for. Dr Ada got her doctorate in psychology at the age of 65, and she relished using that Dr in front of her name.

This WSJ Opinion writer may have inadvertently converted millions of new feminists!

Maybe during a regular, Covid-free year, this season of non-stop joy fills you with angst. Maybe you too have lost a loved one. We’ve all had to adapt our holiday celebration plans to meet the surge of this virus, and that can be difficult and lonely at times. To combat the blues, here a few things our neighborhood did this week:

1) We arranged to have individually packaged lunches delivered to the Vanderbilt Covid ICU. We can’t thank our healthcare workers enough now, but this little gesture helps. 2) Our dear friend Berdelle gave out bundles of daffodils to plant now so that we can all enjoy the yellow explosion to come next year! 3) Bob and I got together with neighbors-in-masks to plant four memorial trees this past weekend in our local park; one for Ada, one for a friend’s father, another for a friend’s mother and one for a friend’s sister. All of the trees are Green Whisper Bald Cypress, and they grow well in our Nashville soil.

And what can be more hopeful than planting a tree?

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The 2020 holiday season is about to get weirder. For instance, last night was the first night of Hanukkah and I almost forgot about it! It felt like I was just recovering from Thanksgiving. The laundry was done along with the turkey and scrumptious leftover sides . The garden area returned to its normal seating arrangements, and Bob replaced the fire pit’s can of propane. And last Sunday, just before popping on a plane back to LA, Aunt Kiki performed a little wizardry on my holiday card! Shhh, it’s a secret.

Then just as the Groom begins his shift in the Covid ICU, and we are all going back to being a socially-distanced-outside pod, which is our “normal” for the year, and the kiddos are back in school, the Bride lets me know that Hanukkah is coming right up. I know Jewish festivals fall on a lunar calendar, but come on, just a few days after Thanksgiving weekend? In years past, I would take each Grandchild on a separate trip to Nordstrom; we’d listen to the live piano music, have lunch and pick out something special to wear. One year it was a pair of Ugg boots.

We would also all visit Phillips Toy Mart, a family owned specialty toy store in Nashville for over 70 years. We’d watch the model trains steaming around their quaint tiny villages, and pet whatever animals were visiting, and then they could each pick out one toy. Another day would find us at another local shop in our Hanukkah tradition – Parnassus Books. And I must admit, I’d buy them whatever books they wanted. Remember, we have EIGHT crazy nights of lights and gifts for children. My trips with the Love Bug and L’il Pumpkin only covered three nights, I had five (well 10 counting 2 Grands) gifts to find yet!

This year I quickly found some books online for curbside pick-up at https://www.parnassusbooks.net/ but I still miss meandering in our famous book shop. The Bug likes mystery now, and my little guy prefers ninjas. We’ve been avoiding the mall, so I had to pull up my account at the evil empire of Amazon. Only one gift has arrived so far, a game called “Invasion of the Cow Snatchers,” it’s a magnet maze logic puzzle and thank goodness it was next day delivery! Think magnets and hilarity – “You’re the pilot of a flying saucer, sent to Earth to capture cows for scientific study. You have to negotiate your way around and over numerous obstacles — a grain silo, barn walls, crops, fences, and hay bale — to get the bovines onboard.” 

I told the Grands it was a “family” present for the first night, and since I had a huge bag of M&Ms ready to play the dreidel game after latkes, they were happy as clams. I thought of Ada while frying latkes, she gave me the recipe, but I’d barely ever made them because she always did. Yesterday it was 70 degrees! The Bride brought the children over early, since the Groom sometimes doesn’t return home until after they are in bed. He’s been working 15-16 hour days, and taking phone calls all night, he forgets to eat. The Bride has been smart to take his ICU shifts off, she will return to the ER next week.

Last night we sat distanced outside to light the first candle. We won’t be baking holiday cookies together, or shopping. I guess I will just drop off gifts whenever they arrive because it’s getting colder this weekend. We already ordered Little Passports, https://www.littlepassports.com/ so that’s two nights done.

This was us at our Thanksgiving in the garden, and our menorah last night.

slide along from right to left!

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It’s well known that the Eagles wrote the song Hotel California as a metaphor for what was going wrong in Southern California at the time. It was the Record of the Year in 1978, and while some thought it was all about the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, “…the Eagles’ band members have revealed in multiple interviews that the true meaning behind “Hotel California” is a commentary on the hedonism and self-indulgence of America.” And while some things may change, we are still a country divided by those people we cannot convince to care about others.

Our Thanksgiving holiday/shiva is over. Yesterday, the Rocker and Aunt Kiki returned to California in their N95 masks only to face a Hanukkah/Christmas season lockdown. Nashville’s airport was bustling as I hugged and kissed them goodbye. Now they will do what they did in reverse, isolate for a week and then get Covid-19 tested. But I realize we are privileged, because they can afford to do this – they are both working from home, except when our designer Daughter-in-Love needs to show up on-site to help with an installation.

Most people can’t afford to isolate for a week or two, and then spend 3-8 days waiting for a test result. It’s getting colder here in the South, Covid fatigue has set in. But on the Left Coast, Kiki’s firm has been busier than ever, and Hollywood moguls are figuring out how to work with streaming services so that the film music industry will survive. New normals seem to be happening.

Yet with the coronavirus pandemic expediting the transition from legacy and linear entertainment to direct to consumer, it’s fair to wonder if the age of the frequent $1 billion blockbuster might be nearing its end. Universal Pictures signed historic window-shattering deals with major exhibitors to bring films to PVOD sooner than ever, Disney has sent blockbusters such as Mulan and Soul to Disney+ and is expected to reroute more film to their streaming services, and Warner Bros.’ made the unprecedented decision to open its entire 2021 theatrical slate day-and-date on HBO Max. While there’s no guarantee these shifts will extend beyond 2021, it’s mighty difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.

Today the Grands went back to school and the Bride and Groom are back at work. We will go back to visiting on their front porch or in our garden, shivering. This week may be record shattering in the Groom’s Covid MICU, but I am hopeful about the pace of vaccine production and distribution. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s because the UK is already there, and I figure we can’t be far behind. This morning someone posted a picture of Dolly Parton on the cover of Marie Claire magazine – she was dressed in a tight, cold shoulder red dress and titled “DOLLY! the Patron Saint of 2020.” Photo credit to Stacie Huckeba http://staciehuckeba.com/

After giving a book a month to every newborn baby in TN, and then a One Million dollar grant to Vandy for the Moderna vaccine trial, I’d say she deserves to be canonized!

We need songwriters, along with poets, now more than ever. But musicians are struggling to get by during the pandemic, they need an audience. Not everyone owns an amusement park and gets a network TV Christmas special. Our Nashville Symphony orchestra will not return to the Schermerhorn until July 2021. Artists must adjust to this new “normal,” and many are selling their rights just to survive. In fact, Bob Dylan just sold the rights to his entire back catalogue of songs to Universal Music Group (UMG) for hundreds of millions of dollars! That should make the golden years of his life a “shelter from the storm.”

The sale of song catalogues has become a booming business during the Covid-19 pandemic, with investors seeing music as a relatively stable asset in an otherwise turbulent market. The likes of Blondie, Barry Manilow and the estates of John Lennon and Kurt Cobain have all sold the rights to their music in recent years.


With nearly 200,000 new cases of Covid every single day, our country cannot begin to fix its economy without a coronavirus fix, they are inextricably bound together. Another $1,200 check will not help. With millions of Americans out of work and behind in rent, our president is packing his bags for a FL Christmas. The Republican party made a Faustian deal with Mr T, who is trying to create as much chaos as he can before he leaves office; maybe he’ll just stay there down there in his gilded palace until January 20th?

While we are all waiting with bated breath for the Christmas Day release of “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max, baking cookies and preparing for a Zoom latke dinner with relatives, 2021 is shaping up nicely. I know this pandemic is going to get worse in January, before it gets better, but it will get better. I see a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can check out of this nightmare anytime we like, so long as we keep wearing masks.

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We are a lucky generation. Just as Alzheimer’s was about to kick in, we could casually pick up our cell phones and retrieve a distant piece of the past in an instant. Who was that actress who played in that movie? Before you know it, we not only had her name, but the name of the whole cast and the movie! But we may not all be aware at how insidious big tech companies have become; you may want to queue up two Netflix documentaries about how our data is manipulated and our minds scrambled in the process.

“The Great Hack” https://www.netflix.com/title/80117542 is about the 2016 election and how Cambridge Analytica targeted and harvested our personal data, “…It uses the scandal as a framework to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that are undermining individual liberty and democratic society, one Facebook like and meme at a time.”

And then there’s “The Social Dilemma.https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224 just out this year. If you’d rather not learn how our brains are being rewired by advertisers who would like us to pay attention to their products, I’d understand. But we need to understand how social media sites like Facebook not only “…seduce us into spending time and sharing information so they can sell both” – they can also encourage extreme ideologies in the process.

This week I did a little experiment of my own on Facebook. I posed this question: FB friends, please type into Google – “The election is” And comment with your first pop-up response. For instance, mine was “not over”

Out of 31 responses, 17 people, counting my comment, got the same result! Nearly half of my admittedly ‘selection biased’ results were ambiguous – The election is NOT OVER! Really? I’m calling my group of FB friends biased because I’m pretty sure they are all Biden supporters. And to think, right about this time on December 12, 2000, the SCOTUS decided with Bush vs Gore to stop the counting of votes in Florida! What happened in Florida 20 years ago still matters. https://www.propublica.org/article/why-bush-v-gore-still-matters

This morning, a front page article in the Washington Post tells us: “Just 25 Congressional Republicans acknowledge Biden’s Win.” 25 out of 249 legislators!!!

Two Republicans consider Trump the winner despite all evidence showing otherwise. And another 222 GOP members of the House and Senate — nearly 90 percent of all Republicans serving in Congress — will simply not say who won the election.

Those are the findings of a Washington Post survey of all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate that began the morning after Trump posted a 46-minute video Wednesday evening in which he wrongly claimed he had defeated Biden and leveled wild and unsubstantiated allegations of “corrupt forces” who stole the outcome from the sitting president.


And yet, President-Elect Biden has said that many of his GOP colleagues have called to congratulate him on his win! What is going on here? Why would Google amplify this disinformation campaign designed to create chaos? According to the AP, “When the count is complete, Democrat Joe Biden will likely have racked up around 80 million votes – and won the White House by a greater margin than any president this century other than Barack Obama in 2008.”

If you’d like to get out of this funhouse feedback loop on your social matrix, you may want to disengage from Facebook, and use a different search engine. I’ve heard that duckduckgo isn’t too bad and doesn’t collect or sell your data, nor does it try to persuade! https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-vs-duckduckgo/301997/#close

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