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The Flapper once told me that TV shows are written for the 12 year old brain. Watching TV, therefore, would warp my mind and keep my critical thinking skills at a minimum. Of course she couldn’t have factored in streaming sites, or HGTV for that matter, but still my Mother was one smart cookie. Like Lenin, she also told me that religion was for sheep, and did I want to lead the crowd or be led? What rebellious kid wants to go to church anyway, especially one who had just been kicked out of Camp St Joseph for Girls!

Lately, I feel like watching and listening and to some extent even reading the news out of Washington is like time traveling back to my pre-teenage years. Omarosa is roasting Mr T every day with a naughty bit of audio tape. The Queen of Soul dies and Mr T’s take is that she worked for him? And anyone who has anything to do with the Russia investigation better watch out, they might have their security clearance taken away – kinda like being unplugged!

Because we have a twelve year old payback president who calls the free press his enemy.

My 3 am TV channel was tuned to PBS last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by a documentary on what’s happening in Iran now. It followed a Western guy “Our Man in Tehran” who spoke perfect Persian and interviewed modern, middle-class Iranians, including a middle-aged Persian pop star in LA! It was so good and compelling I woke Bob to tell him that Persian sounds just like Hebrew!   https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/watch-how-the-internet-has-changed-iran-from-cappuccino-cafes-to-headscarf-protests/

Why, you might ask, was I awake at 3 am? Well, I found out I need to have a Mohs procedure done on my dominant hand thanks to sun damage. But in the middle of the night I thought about how alike we all are, how connected via the internet, even Iranians have Instagram. How it’s only the different myths we believe that separate us, as if any one country or culture owns God, even if she/he exists. It was almost a religious experience. And this morning, I give you the Dalai Lama on Twitter:

“I am one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. We each have a responsibility to think about humanity and the good of the world because it affects our own future. We weren’t born on this planet at this time to create problems but to bring about some benefit.” 

So are you a problem maker or a problem solver? Taking retribution against your “enemies” is pretty pathetic, so is tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and walking away from the rest of the whole damn world on climate change. Swinging tariffs around like a bully in the playground. It feels like we have a 12 year old steering the ship, this reality nightmare of a Congress that is 2018.

I was a senior in high school when Aretha sang “Respect.” She was a mighty warrior queen who gave my generation of women its anthem. I will pay it forward, not back, by redoubling my efforts to register young voters and support Planned Parenthood – the one and ONLY clinic left in TN to provide abortions. If we cannot control our own bodies, respect will become an empty noun.

ps, we voted early this month!

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You’d be hard pressed to find me talking tariffs, but here goes…

What I know about Economy 101 is simply the guns vs butter parable – a country who spends more on guns, spends less on feeding its people. I get that, the more we spend on prisons, the less we spend on schools. But today, tariffs are going to start again for Iran according to the Twitter fingers of Mr T, and maybe I should be worried but I’m kind of stuck on an overdrive of worry.

Why are those cave boys from Thailand becoming monks?

Why is Norway separating children from their parents?

What exactly won’t I be buying from Tehran?

And just when my feminist heart was melting because Saudi Arabia finally “allowed” its women to drive cars, I just read that Canada has decided to sanction Saudi Arabia on Human Rights violations.

Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.  https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/saudi-arabia

CANADA mind you! Not us, no we just love strong rulers.

Remember how much Ivanka and her dad fawned over that new young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The one who held up his relatives and 200 of the richest Saudis in an airport until they paid their taxes to the crown. Well, not to be outdone, the Prince has retaliated by: evicting the Canadian ambassador; stopped all commercial airline flights to Canada; ordered 16,000 Saudi students to come home; AND placed an immediate freeze on all investments and bilateral trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and Canada!

I guess Riyadh will have to buy maple syrup from Vermont?

This has me wondering if sanctions and tariffs actually work? Or are they just symbolic slaps on the wrist of an increasingly entitled corporate global structure that can shift easily between ruling oligarchs and demagogues, and princes. According to The Washington Post, some goods and services are better than others to sanction. Usually there’s a point at which the demand for something goes up, the price will come down, except for iPhones. But consider Veblen goods, they perform in a contradictory way like diamonds – the more demand we have the higher the price.

“Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/08/07/why-in-the-world-is-saudi-arabia-sanctioning-canada/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.26a5b146bfb2

Since most countries don’t have the resources to even impose sanctions on one another, the author posits that Prince bin Salman is showing the West his peacock plumage. He is arresting women activists while also letting them drive cars, so they know who is in charge. And he can throw out the Canadian Ambassador because he CAN, ratcheting up his prestige on the world stage…making tariffs and sanctions into a kind of Veblen good. Criticize Saudi Arabia at your peril!

Thorstein Veblen was an economist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” in 1899. I wonder if he ever thought a Narcissistic real estate con-man who lived in a gilded tower in Manhattan could ever become President of these United States.

Patriotism, Veblen once said, was the only obstacle to peace among nations. Let that sink in.

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All good (and lapsed) Catholics remember St Francis of Assisi, standing around with birds on his shoulders and animals curled around his stone feet. He was the one saint everybody loved because his tenet was, “All Creatures are One Family.” So it’s only right that the modern day Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church should be named Francis; he sleeps in the most spartan bedroom at the Vatican and rides around in a Ford. He washes the feet of the poor.

And now Pope Francis said that the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases. He called it an attack on human dignity and has actually changed the Catechism (that little book I started each and every day with at Sacred Heart School) to reflect the Church’s new directive.

Maybe it’s time I went back to church? Right before the papal news broke, I was telling the dermatologist, who was digging a crater of squamous cells out of the back of my hand, all about my escapades at Camp St Joseph. Sure enough, he knew if the girls were on one side of the lake, the boys were on the other!

I was 16 when I lost my faith, and almost 30 when I found Judaism. Granted I was marrying Bob, but my decision to convert was deeply rooted in my desire to raise a healthy, cohesive family. There would be none of that back and forth from one place of worship to another, and neither did I want my children growing up without ANY religious foundation. That just seemed wrong to me.

And early on in the process of learning about the Jewish people, I had a vivid dream that the Pope forgave me! Of course, that was the year of three Popes, so I’m not sure which one it was!

The year 1978 will long be remembered as the year of the three popes. The not unexpected death of Pope Paul VI on August 6th, 1978, was followed on August 26th by the election of the “Smiling Pope,” John Paul I. Reigning only 33 days, the length in years of Our Lord’s earthly life, he died in his sleep of a heart attack on September 28th. Only a few weeks later on October 16th, 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, as the first non-Italian Pope since Adrian VI (1522-1523). His pontificate has been one of the most remarkable in history.  https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/life/1978.htm

Even though that last one, the first non-Italian, Polish Pope, John Paul II, never officially apologized for the Vatican’s Holocaust-era activities, and he defended Pope Pius XII, who did very little to help the Jews and Christian priests during WWII, even advancing him toward sainthood.

I knew I liked Pope Francis when he was asked about homosexuality on a plane, he replied to the reporter, “Who am I to judge?” Well he IS the Pope. And just this morning I was reading about his visit with 500 schoolchildren. A little boy asked him how he felt when he heard that he had been elected Pope, and he told him he felt “PEACE.” And it made sense, because the current Pope has turned away from divisive social issues like abortion to minister to the poor. The Flapper always said you can get more bees with honey.

I thought perhaps Francis’ legacy would eventually allow women into the priesthood! Even thinking this in the past would have been a mortal sin! But he took the name of the saint to all creatures, and recruiting nuns in this day and age cannot be easy.

I wish Pope Francis would visit the Ayatollah, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei aka the current Supreme Leader of Iran. He seemed to be getting along with President Obama, and currently, I’m pretty sure he views Mr T as the rest of the world does, a wild card. We might actually rid the world of nuclear weapons if the Pope walked into a bar with the Ayatollah. #WorldPeaceSummit

And maybe this American Girl could grow up to be President one day!

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First of all, Happy Happy Birthday to my firstborn son. He is kind, talented and fearless. He’s been laser-focused on all-things-music since he was seven years old. Last year he married his first love, then won two Cleos, and then, this year, he started his own company! If we parents can’t brag about our own children, well who will? Sorry Sister Mary Claire, being humble had its place once upon a time.

IF I’d thought of it, I would have put up a “Happy Birthday” billboard in LA.

Because we Americans can say whatever the heck we please in public right? Well, not exactly – that First Amendment is tricky. It uses an archaic verb to say what the government can’t do to our freedom of speech; it cannot “abridge” speech…which doesn’t mean legislators can stop a person from speaking.

Abridge comes from the word abbreviate, so it refers to: shortening/omitting/diminishing/depriving.

In other words, let’s have a civil discourse and not interrupt each other with opinions that at times might fly far from facts, and incite violence. I’ll be watching closely the court case this week against Alex Jones, the Austin based mogul of Infowars media. He spread rumors that the Sandy Hook massacre of elementary school children and their teachers was a hoax, causing the parents of Noah Pozner to move SEVEN times because Jones also reported their new address to his conspiracy-obsessed-gun-toting followers.         https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/us/politics/alex-jones-defamation-suit-sandy-hook.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

And in Germany, the government has decided to send out Holocaust educators and bullying experts into its schools since it has seen a rise in Anti-Semitic, Holocaust denier rhetoric, something that country takes very, very seriously. In this case it seems that, unlike Mark Zuckerberg, hate speech will not be tolerated.

“…a brutalised climate now, in which more people feel emboldened to say anti-Semitic things on the internet and in the street”. “Previously that was unthinkable, but the threshold has dropped.”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44725066T

We walk a serpentine line today as the soap box in the town square has turned into the world wide web – every paranoid schizophrenic or malicious Neo-Nazi can broadcast their misleading, patently false, absurd speech to anyone with a phone. And today, we came very close to being able to 3-D print a gun anywhere at anytime without a background check.

Let’s raise the threshold this November. Look for the “Gun Sense” symbol of approval on a candidate’s resume. And don’t be fooled by the GOP’s “I’m not a politician” rhetoric, that just means they will do Mr T’s bidding. It’s like saying, hey he’s not a brain surgeon but I want him to operate on my brain anyway. I borrowed that from Bob, my first love!

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“What you’re seeing is not happening…”

Well, I thought to myself, now THAT’s rich! Mr T was speaking to a group of veterans, he actually told them not to believe anything they see or read! Coming from our Serial-Liar-in-Chief, I could only hope my suspension of disbelief will hold out, at least until November. Because, “Winter is Coming.”

And who knows, in this Hall of Mirrors Presidency, if Putin is coming here with his cyber-security force, or Mr T is going there. But it feels as if we are stuck in a midsummer nightmare with indictments raining down and audio tapes stuck on rewind. And worst of all, the possible nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, which would swing the pendulum to the right – I can only hope the federal appeals judge will face an extremely rough confirmation fight.

Because while Latin American countries and even Ireland have started to repeal their archaic laws banning abortion, the US has slowly and insidiously been restricting women’s rights for years. In the last decade 29 states have introduced laws restricting a woman’s access to an abortion, either by overt TRAP laws that make clinics close because they cannot comply with their regulations, or covert laws that make a woman view the untrasound and wait a certain number of days.

Read up on the anti-abortion zealot Judge Kavanaugh https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/brett-kavanaugh-roe-v-wade-697634/

I’m only in the middle of the first season of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it seems that dressing up as a mix of the nuns at Sacred Heart School and St Joseph Camp for Girls and Little Red Riding Hood has become a thing! And it’s not just in the good ole USA to protest abortion restrictions in Ohio, or a visit to Philly by Vice President Pence.

Red-coated women are popping up all over the world to fight for our human rights.

The Handmaids are marching in Croatia, Northern Ireland, and England. They stand in silence in Poland and Argentina. Their white-bonnet heads are bowed in Italy, where abortion is legal but70% of doctors refuse to perform the procedure due to their Catholic faith. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-44965210

I wish I didn’t believe this MAGA movement, this dystopian disruption of everything we progressives hold dear. But when the GOP tells you who are they are, believe them. And since a bunch of conservative Republicans could impeach a president for pulling down his pants in the Oval Office, and then lying about it, what are they waiting for now? Mr T is a serial liar, only it’s not about sex mind you, or maybe it iskinda – it’s not all about payoffs to porn stars and knowledge of Russian help in the election; it’s about collusion and obstruction of justice.

The same conservative Cville blogger who left court this week yelling anti-Semetic epithets at reporters on Town Square, has filed a petition to hold another “Unite the Right” march in DC next month on the anniversary of Heather Heyer’s murder. A young woman who wanted to spread compassion and peace. A modern day martyr.

Next month is the Rocker’s birthday, and then Bob’s and the Love Bug

Next month the Great Grands will go on a Cumberland River cruise

Next month I will have a patch of squamous cell carcinoma dug out of my hand

And next month, I’m hoping this midsummer nightmare will end.

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Hope y’all had a Happy Fourth! The Bride and Groom imported an 8′ bouncy water slide onto their lawn, so that even on a 96 degree day all the kids had outside fun! I whipped up a pesto pasta primavera and Great Grandma Ada helped bake some mini-white-chocolate-lemon cheesecakes adorned with strawberries, blueberries and bits of broken white choco-lusciousness. Sprinkled amidst the watermelon and hot dogs were voter registration forms, just in case!

Because as we were celebrating our first Fourth with all the Grands in Nashville, the Rocker and Aunt KiKi were visiting two museums in Amsterdam, and this was his takeaway: “incredibly powerful visit to the national holocaust museum and memorial and the dutch resistance museum today on our last day in amsterdam. some sobering reminders of the dangers of fascism and what human beings are capable of. the dutch resistance museum was particularly intriguing, as it continually asks you, what would you do in the face of a rising wave of fascism? adapt and ignore, collaborate, or actively resist?”  

Could this just be the last, gasping, dying breath of racism dressed up as white nationalism? Yesterday, James Fields Jr pled “Not Guilty” in a Charlottesville courtroom to multiple federal hate crime charges. He was the Ohio man who decided he would drive his car into a group of counter-protestors at the “Unite the Right” rally last August on the Historic Downtown Mall. The very weekend we were moving from the Blue Ridge, Fields injured many and killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old young woman who believed in love and not hate.

The judge asked him if he suffered from mental illness… is that because if you’re white and run into a group of people with your car you couldn’t possibly be a terrorist? Fields said he suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and ADHD…and I nearly choked on the bile of his audacity.

That, and the news about Justice Kennedy had us all wondering when this assault on democracy might end; if we are going to resist, NOW is the time. Block a vote on filling the Supreme Court vacancy – there should be NO vote until Mr T is no longer the subject of a federal investigation! Here is what Cory Booker had to say :

“If we’re not going to thoroughly discuss what it means to have a president with this ongoing investigation happening, who is now going to interview Supreme Court justices, and potentially continue with his tradition of doing litmus tests, loyalty tests, for that person, we could be participating in a process that could undermine that criminal investigation,” Booker said yesterday. “I do not believe [the Senate Judiciary Committee] should or can in good conscience consider a nominee put forward by this president until that investigation is concluded.”   http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/booker-no-supreme-court-vote-until-resolution-trump-investigation

But the best thing about this last week, to end on a high note, is that Bob and I bought a new car! As many of you know, I dread driving on the Fourth of July, because that was the holiday that found my family fractured by a drunk driver in 1949. We had just lost our father to brain cancer, and now our mother, the Flapper, and Nana were hospitalized leaving baby me in the care of their friends. I’m a nervous wreck generally in any car, but Bob’s old Acura had lived a good, long life. It was time, it was past time.

We now have so many driver-assist doo dads, I’m feeling almost comfortable driving again. So keep the faith, register young voters, and start calling your legislators again people! Get on the Booker train, it’s time to pick your torch – the one in our Lady’s hand on Liberty Island, or the Tikki torches that marched on Thomas Jefferson’s campus. Patriotism is an active noun.

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I promise I’ll get to Roseanne.

Lately, I’ve been telling myself we’re getting back to normal. Ms Bean is back to daylight savings time (our evening shift emergency vet tech pet sitter had her gleefully staying up all night). Now our senior dog is back to playing with her neighbor in the spotty sunshine, a delightful Lab-mix named Hodor, in the Quad.

Bob and I are heading back to the gym, reacquainting our muscles with some resistance and weights. Everyone in Nashville is complaining about Summer having appeared too soon – but we experienced two Springs, in TN and NJ, so we’re not feeling cheated. Oh, and my hubby has started flying a small plane again and picking up garbage.

You know about the once a year historic neighborhood Spring Cleanathon, but did you know that every month Bob joins a bunch of his fellow neat freaks with a bag and a grabber as they canvass our streets picking up trash? He’s made a few friends and they always end their excursion with free pizza at a local sports bar!

Did you know the author David Sedaris can spend up to eight hours a day picking up trash on the roads of his neighborhood in the English countryside? Last night I was left blissfully alone while Bob attended a monthly private pilot’s meeting, so I tried to multi-task – meaning I was reading a book AND listening to the radio/Sonos. Eventually, Terry Gross’ interview with Sedaris won out. The humorist talked about picking up garbage as an antidote to his OCD, and what he prefers to write about…

Instead, Sedaris prefers to write about “bad behavior” — both his own and others’. “Is it my fault that the good times turn to nothing while the bad burns forever bright?” he asks. http://wboi.org/post/forget-good-times-david-sedaris-far-more-interested-bad-behavior#stream/0

This morning, in my “damage report” over coffee, Bob told me we may have finally turned a corner as a country. He was referring to Roseanne’s Twitter feed and CBS’ swift response; she apologized for her “joke,” but like bad behavior this little mix of words may just follow her to her grave, and beyond.

It’s as if we’ve been adrift in a hurricane of political dirty tricks, with a president alone at the helm of his amoral leadership. He is a prevaricator, zigging and zagging around our allies and our enemies. Nikki Haley considers his unpredictable outbursts as leverage at the UN. But really, could Roseanne be the straw that saves our republic? Even Fox news is condemning her Twitter talk.

America just may have had enough of this new Mr T normal – this anti-intellectual, crude, narcissistic, bigoted free-for-all.  I couldn’t watch his speech last night in Nashville, we call BS. There is no place in our city for your childish outbursts.

But we did find a splash park for the Grands with ALL the Grands on hand. And that was nothing like normal, it was fabulous!

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