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Videotapes?

As pundits are aTwitter over Mr T’s comments in Helsinki – and don’t get me wrong, they were outrageous, even traitorous – on Monday a 29 year old Russian spy named Maria Butina was arrested, or should I say indicted and taken into custody by a federal grand jury. She’s a pretty young thing, with as luck would have it, red hair. And one of the things mentioned in the slew of papers is that she attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast. TWICE.

The National Prayer Breakfast was initiated in 1953 by a Methodist minister, Abraham Vereide, who had been leading Congressional prayer groups for a decade. The annual breakfast now attracts close to 4,000 participants and is hosted by members of Congress. But the real force behind the event remains Mr. Vereide’s Fellowship Foundation, also known as “The Family,” whose fundamental mission is to create a ruling consortium of Christ-centered political and community leaders. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/opinion/maria-butina-putin-infiltration.html

Interesting right? To read about the far-reaching effects of this secretive, leave no notes behind “Family,” I give you this: “The Secret Political Reach of the Family” https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120746516

It’s enough to make a conspiracy theorist out of me! Remember that men-only/drum/circle/weekend/campout President Underwood attended in House of Cards on Netflix? That series was getting stale mostly because our reality star president was thought to be more entertaining. When he threw a soccer ball via Vlad like a hot potato to Melania on Monday, I was wondering if the secret service had pre-approved the move. And if Baron would actually ever hold that ball.

But why ask Vlad if he would deport those 12 Russian agents to America, when he already offered to send over his special cyber-security team to help us out. I hope the State Department confiscated Butina’s passport.

The intersection of a world-wide anti-LGBTQ agenda (fueled by nationalist extreme Christian right politicians) with lobbying efforts of the NRA has resulted in the spectacle we saw in Helsinki. Mr T is in Russia’s pocket, and it’s lined with sable, or maybe chinchilla? And if he’d like the American people to believe he “misspoke” about believing Putin had nothing to do with the hacking of over 500,000 votes… I am reminded of the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Only in this case, I’m hoping there’s an independent voter who can spot a sociopathic liar in Finland.

Meanwhile, back in the Music City, I’ll be going to the museum today with the Bride, the Bug, Great Grandma Ada and our newly-found friend Kathy – the redhead will be in pre-school!

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We all know someone who is an expert at “Denial” – that psychological coping strategy that allows you to keep moving, to soldier-on despite obstacles both real or imaginary. That person who nevercatches a cold. Or maybe the one who insists on going river-rafting right after a death in the family. Jewish people know that would never do, you must sit around someone’s home for a week and sing the praises of the dearly departed; it’s called sitting shiva.

Well Great Grandma Ada just sat shiva for herself before moving to Nashville. She left rehab with a walker and a host of friends and family that wanted to send her off with a party every day. It was exhausting I’m sure, but everyone brought cake and goodies and regaled her with their fondest memories. She told me she got to go to her very own shiva and she’s right. Sitting atop a hill scattered with boulders, Ada accepted the accolades with aplomb. Like a Queen.

We are happy she’s here with us, her Southern family, and I really think she loves her new digs even though we are still in the midst of building some new Amazon-delivered furniture. A gorgeous daybed for her art studio/second bedroom, an entertainment unit for the living room. If you recall, she once told me to “Dress for dinner” in Yiddish, which means pick yourself up and hold your head high no matter what is happening.

Which is kind of like denial…

But I’d never heard of a “non-denial denial” until I read this article about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has perfected the art of dodging and weaving around the White House Press Corps. She’s been asked if it was true that she was leaving her job as Press Secretary? This is what she told the Twitter bird:

Does @CBSNewsknow something I don’t about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter’s year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my “plans to leave the WH” without even talking to me. I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS

Now the Bride happens to have a Kindergarten graduate at home this summer, and when she’s working her extended family take over some school activities. In fact, the Groom is now attending a special Father’s Day event at the Pumpkin’s pre-school! So excuse me for wondering about a Kindergarten graduation, especially when Sanders doesn’t actuallydenyshe’s quitting…

Yet she does not say that the report is inaccurate. She just says she did not talk to the reporter before the piece was published.

As David Cay Johnston, author of The Making of Donald Trump, says, she is using a communications strategy that her boss, the president, often relies on.

“Her denial is: ‘I don’t know anything about this.’ She doesn’t say: ‘I’m not leaving’,” Johnston explains. “It’s what we call a non-denial denial.“”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44479635

This administration is very tricky, those are Trumpian tactics. Say something outrageous and deny you said it, and refer it to somebody else, and hope reporters forget about it with all the rest of the garbage your minions are spreading.

Meanwhile, back at the Grands new apartment, we have many more boxes to go through, because 50 years in one house creates many tchotchkes (aka trinkets, knickknacks, vintage items).  And even though Bob is at the opposite side of the tchotchke spectrum, I cannot deny their appeal. In fact, the more pillows, the merrier! The needlepoint elephant my sister Kay made, and the parrot is from the South of France.

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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#OPRAH2020

I grew up on Phil Donohue, watching my foster mom, Nell, hang on every word that came out of his mouth. She was a first generation American, who never learned how to drive and didn’t work outside the home because her husband asked her not to, politely. I would come home from school, tear off my Catholic school uniform and put on “play clothes” to join her on the couch, before tearing off into the neighborhood on my bike.

Yes, I was a tomboy, and proud of it!

We had a linoleum kitchen floor in our four room (not bedroom mind you), four room house in Victory Gardens. There’s a black and white picture of toddler me in a droopy diaper hiding in a space between the stove and the refrigerator, presumably during hide ‘n seek. We came from humble roots, coal mining families on Daddy Jim’s side and Slovakian dissidents from Nell’s; I knew they passed money to the mailman to fund the IRA.

My kids grew up on Oprah! So when I listened to her speech at the Golden Globes the other night, I knew something was afoot. She started off with a memory – sitting on her linoleum floor… “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.”

This is known as the Hook, the catch phrase memory of “humble roots” for every stump speech of every candidate running for any political office in our great land. See, I’m just like you, even though they’ve amassed tons of wealth, they started out with nothing, less than nothing…

I was recently talking with my sister Kay and our brother Dr Jim on a conference call, and listened as Jim recounted how he would go out with our late brother Mike on Christmas Eve to pick the prettiest Christmas tree. Because they were almost giving them away for a nickle. Because the Flapper was so poor.

“Did you also have to dumpster dive for food?” I asked him.

They laughed and said no, we hadn’t been that poor. The Flapper made it through the Great Depression and taught us never to leave a light on in a room. And after four years in the darkness (if he lasts that long), with this semi-literate, entitled, bone-headed purported billionaire in the People’s House, I’m willing to bet the pendulum just might swing back – way back toward the sunshine. With enough luck and organizing, we “might could” nominate a black woman, one who shines from within, for the White House! Yes Oprah, preach Oprah PREACH!!

And in the midst of a sea of black designer gowns that nobody wanted to talk about, she said this:

“Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

Oprah brought this sad, compelling story about a gang rape of an innocent black woman in the Jim Crow South of 1944 to light. I felt my eyes filling with tears even as I registered that this sounds like a woman ready to run for office. She brought us the personal story, the anecdote about injustice, that made me remember why I was a Democrat in the first place. All the while we know that Oprah had been raped as a child, we know her story, and we know all those #MeToo stories that have been circulating about the abuse of power by powerful men.

And all I can think is that their Time is UP! They are fired! We have our very own reality TV star in the wings and she is fired up and ready to go. It’s as if a storm has swept through our country and we can now smell the beginning of new air. It’s the sun after a hurricane. We must fight against voter suppression, we must fight for basic human rights and one-payer healthcare. This is the time to take our country back! Please Oprah, I hope you will run. There’s “A new day on the horizon.”

Here is Bob with Berdelle, our 91 year old neighbor, at the TN State House today because you’re never too old to be a revolutionary!

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Yesterday, I was listening to an NPR On Point interview with Ann Patchett about her essay in the NYT – she had decided to spend 2017 as her year of “No Shopping.” Her friend, Elissa Kim, inspired her to give up shopping for frivolous things. Kim had returned to the US after a trip to India and felt, “…obscenely rich.” She was shocked by our sheer abundance compared to the street people she met on her journey; so, Kim gave up shopping for a year. https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510053/on-point-with-tom-ashbrook

The rules were simple: No clothes; No shoes: No bags; No jewelry

WHAT?! What if your winter clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry were all in a Pod stacked somewhere in a warehouse? What if you had to buy holiday presents? Patchett said this didn’t apply to food, which is good since I’d seen her a few times at Whole Foods, and even though we’d met at her store, Parnassus, and I’d sat in front of her at the Love Bug’s Grandparent Turkey Day, I never imposed myself on her celebrity.

Living in Rumson taught me one thing, you may get introduced to the Boss at the gym, but you never fawn over him.

Still, after reading ALL of Patchett’s books, and knowing her husband is also a doctor, I felt a certain connection and found myself stuck to my Sonos on the Nashville NPR station. This year of living without shopping came about seamlessly. She said it had something to do with, “…the state of the country.” Oh I hear you girl. Also realizing that, “I had enough!” To which I would add, I am enough. And finally, she thought she’d been spending a little too much time, “…chilling out by browsing online.”       http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/01/02/author-ann-patchetts-year-of-no-shopping

There were so many questions I had after listening to this interview. How do I chill out?Why do we shop? As I’m typing, an email shoots into the right corner of my screen from Eileen Fisher, telling me about their new blue… Oh dear God. I ignore it. Then the doorbell rings, it’s an Amazon package…

But mostly, I am left wondering why people are so darn mean on social media?

I made the mistake of checking On Point’s Twitter feed to add my opinion to the mix, and there were all these nasty comments along the line of, “…it’s called poverty/what a bunch of pretentious, entitled/this is the worst etc.” A TED talk featuring a woman who saved $37,000 one year by not shopping seemed to really set the mob mentality over the edge.

Still, I listened to the subtext. What would happen to our economy if everyone just stopped shopping? And I heard the anger, the anguish of a certain part of society, the part that likes to pit US against THEM. They don’t just cling to their guns and their religion, they like to shop! They not only rejected the idea of doing without, they disparaged the “liberal elite” for trying to do so.

It left me wondering when Republicans became the party for the working class; of course I know it started with LBJ and the South, with that drum roll of racism that still underscores our gerrymandering. My Daddy Jim never finished grade school, worked his whole life and taught me to always root for the “little guy.” The Flapper always said, “Charity begins at home” because we were so poor. She idolized FDR! We came from the coal mining hills of Pennsylvania and always thought the GOP was out of touch, was the party of (and for) the rich. This latest tax scheme should enlighten us all.

Because a certain British rag couldn’t reach Patchett for a comment, they headlined their article about her abundance of lip balm, because at one point she thought she might have to buy some but found more in her coat pockets. My comment was about how Millennials are more interested in the Fashion Chain, ethically sourced materials, and so they love to shop vintage. I was actually trying to listen to the interview, not judge the panel.

I must admit I’m starting to like web browsing ever since we bought our mattresses online, and mea culpa, I’m guilty of standing in a Target aisle wondering how the heck I got there and what I wanted. And then there’s the problem with shoes…

Still who wouldn’t want to find more time and money by not craving that one (insert consumer product here) that will change your life forever? Maybe this will redeem me? Here is a picture of our adorable Cali cousins, little Frankie is in a red beret wearing a lilac bunny sweater that the Flapper knit for the Bride thirty some years ago. I’d call that “Sustainable Knitwear!”

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A psychologist friend once told me that 80% of our lives are filled with duties, things we feel obliged to do, like cleaning the kitchen let’s say. Or visiting a sick friend with a pot of soup. This same doctor told me it’s alright to lower that ratio, to do more of what we really really want to do, and less of all that obligatory stuff. Now that’s a hard pill to swallow for a recovering Catholic school girl, but since our move I figured I’d give it a try.

It’s an age old philosophical question, that may inform some of our political divisiveness today. For instance, Kant wrote about ethical dilemmas that were universally accepted. Is it ever OK to lie? Or, by allowing a society to think that lying (alternative truths) is acceptable, don’t we call everything anyone ever says into question?

It’s the credibility factor, this feeling we Americans have of watching our government implode like an episode of Big Brother or Celebrity Apprentice. For Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a metaphysical philosopher, morality consists of differing layers of duty:

“…a duty is something that we are obligated to by the Categorical Imperative. In other words, it is something that that we can see as a universal rule for all of humanity necessary for a morally just society.” 

…a perfect duty is one which one must always do and an imperfect duty is a duty which one must not ignore but admits of multiple means of fulfillment. Kant specifies two imperfect duties: the duty of self-improvement and the duty to aid others.

So maybe we could try to get our imperfect duties down to 50% self and 50% others?

For Great Grandma Ada, painting is her time for self-improvement and learning, mixed with friends and fun. For me, the practice of writing weekly, attending workshops and authors’ readings are my ways of self-indulgence. For the Bride, keeping up with her continuing ed credits and practicing yoga to prevent burnout help to improve her life. And for the Love Bug? Well just about everything is about learning these days, but she already told me she loves music class!!

Now when it comes to our “duty” to aid others, this is the divide I’ve noticed in our political life. Since the extreme right Tea Party takeover in the late 90s, there’s been less cooperation in government and more castigation. The whole #MAGA movement held a kernel of truth in its inception. Gone are the days when we were the world leader in democracy. Only Mr T hasn’t really been making us great again, he’s been digging our collective grave.

Few countries look anymore to Trump’s America as a global exemplar, the “city upon a hill” Reagan spoke of in his farewell address to the nation. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is routinely described as the leader of the free world, the moniker bestowed on the US president since the days of FDR.
The Economist, which trolls Trump almost weekly, has described Chinese President Xi Jinping as the most powerful man in the world. American exceptionalism is now commonly viewed as a negative construct. “Only in America” is a term of derision. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41826022

And partially this fall from grace is due to a new GOP philosophy of individualism – that Ayn Rand sector of old white men. Ronald Reagan wouldn’t recognize it. It’s “all for one” and no one for all. Of course they want to abolish taxes for their richest 1% of donors, and they don’t care about millions losing their health insurance. They’ve become callous pioneers of a myth they’ve sold middle America.

Lately I’ve heard that many of my VA friends, who are self-employed, are losing their Anthem coverage. These people are certainly not impoverished, but they may be if they have to quadruple their health insurance payments. Now they didn’t vote for Mr T, but I wonder what his followers are thinking. It’s funny how the word “entitlement” only applies to others, to “socialists,” until they reach age 65, or have their insurance companies pull the rug out from under them.

If the White House has truly become an “Adult Day Care Center,” we can only hope that Mueller finishes his investigation soon, and that Republicans with a conscience stop quitting politics altogether and step up to the madness before it becomes an existential crisis. I’d like my 5 year old grand daughter to have more days filled with music, and less active shooter drills.

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You’ve all seen them while running through an airport. The giant ads – no, not the picture of the Parlor Mob at JFK – pictures of doctors in white coats, smiling in front of computers. Why wait for hours at your local Emergency Department? Can’t get an appointment with your actual doctor for months? Maybe you’re too sick to drive, and just too busy to take an Uber to an Urgent Care?

Well, the Virtual Doctor is in!

The first time I saw my very own Dr McDreamy at UVA I was slightly disappointed. Like many women, I had never had a primary internal medicine doctor before…ObGyns sure, and specialists to repair meniscus tears etc. Whenever something was seriously wrong, I always had Bob to remind me this was just a virus and it would get better with time. But a real doctor, this was something new to me.

Let’s go over the best parts first: the waiting room was almost empty; he was on time; his nurse was efficient, I was blessed with some very good genes so my medication list is mostly vitamins; his resident asked all the right questions; and finally, when I saw the doctor, he sat and talked with me for a very long time. I was in love!

And now for the not so good parts: I had to drive 40 minutes to park in a gigantic cement parking garage I would later get lost in; the walk to his office was well over a mile; and the worst part of all, he never actually touched me. I never got undressed and jumped onto an exam table clinging to a paper robe. No physical exam…I left his office with appointments for tests like blood work and a mammogram.

Let’s skip ahead to that week between my fall off the steps in Nashville, and our trip to the South of France. I called my Primary Care doctor and he was away and they couldn’t fit me in. I called my Orthopedist and his office said since I didn’t break any bones, he doesn’t do muscles! I didn’t bother trying to see my Dermatologist. I wondered aloud, is this what it’s like for everybody? When you finally really really need to see a doctor, like you can barely walk and you’re about to get on a plane, they are nowhere to be found?

Well folks, I think Bob may have found his retirement second act. Emergency docs have to know a little bit about every disease and a whole lot about the ones that will kill you. And isn’t that what we all want to hear? You don’t have a terminal illness. It’s just a cold, get over it! Well, maybe they will say it with a bit more finesse, into their monitor.

Dr Ali Parsa, founder and chief executive of digital healthcare app Babylon, sees the (remote physical and mental) health trend as an undoubted force for good.
“It’s time to do with healthcare what Google did with information – using the power of technology to democratise access for all, and put a personal (digital) doctor in everyone’s pocket regardless of geography or income,” he says. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40629742

Bob’s been doing this for years already with our relatives and friends. People send him pictures of rashes, x-rays of broken bones, brain CAT scans. He’s functioned as our collective consultant at seders and dinner parties. “My foot’s just not getting better.” Or, “Will you just take a look at all the drugs I’m taking?”

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want an App or a Bot to speak to about my medical condition, but having a real, live physician on FaceTime or Skype? Sure! And the doctor or the patient could be in Katmandu, so long as the WiFi is working – this takes boutique medicine to the next level.

Lots of hospitals do this already. Did you know in most rural parts of the country, smaller community hospitals have critical care ICU docs checking in via monitors from their big city university hospital? At night, radiologists in other countries read X-Rays that are sent  digitally from the US. This has been going on for years.

I’m feeling hopeful today after the Senate saw fit to drop their misguided bill to “fix” the ACA and throw millions off Medicaid. The sheer irony of Sen McCain delaying the vote because he was busy having a surgical procedure his insurance covers illustrated their sinister deliberations. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/18/politics/how-the-republican-health-care-bill-fell-apart/index.html

I hate that we politicize health care in this country. Until we see fit to have Medicare for all, maybe technology will help restore access and autonomy to the doctor/patient relationship. And at the very least, we would know if we need to go sit in an ER because our neck is tender and we must rule out meningitis. The doctor is on deck!IMG_0846

 

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