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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

I’ve been thinking a lot about Facebook.

I had just posted my last essay “That’s HOT” when it went down this week. Only one “like” and no comments? I kept trying to refresh, and wondered for a second, “Could I have said something that violated their rules and regs?” What rules and regulations? So I posted a plea on Twitter – “Was Facebook HACKED?”

A woman I wasn’t following answered with some information about a guy who could help me get back into Facebook. I didn’t go there, because I don’t click on stuff like that from someone I don’t know; luckily, because Twitter took her Tweet down later.

Now I started to wonder if it really was all about ME?! We humans are so self-centered. I had to reread my post. Then phew, it wasn’t just me because Lo and Behold this popped up on Twitter:

“Not only #Facebook ‘s 3 Social Media platforms are down.. Even #Facebook Inc ‘s internal company servers are down.”

I have to confess I didn’t miss Facebook. Not one iota. So I asked myself why do I even check in and start scrolling down its pages?

  • To see and respond to comments on this WordPress blog
  • To read a lovely plethora of best birthday wishes
  • To like pictures of friends’ and relatives’ children
  • To love pictures of friends’ and relatives’ animals
  • To occasionally watch a cute Corgi video
  • To post increasingly sad and sardonic political news

I remember the Rocker telling me almost 15 years ago that Facebook was so over; he immediately captured my image in a straw hat and signed me up for Instagram. But over the past few years I’ve grown tired of shouting into my own echo chamber. I’ve unfriended bullying right wing people. I never click on a Facebook ad, although I’ve been known to regularly do this on Instagram… a platform now owned by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook.

And I’ve been listening to smart people talk about algorithms. How each thumbs up “Like” we click on helps Facebook computers funnel more of the same content into our news feed, amplifying our own thoughts and desires. I began to understand how misinformation breeds and grows into division.

I always thought the Facebook platform was a solipsistic waste of time, but now I’ve come to believe it is much worse. And the phrase that knocked me over the edge, that stayed lodged in my brain like an ear worm was that these algorithms are, “commodifying our attention.” In other words, Marky Mark Z is selling our information and our time to the highest bidder.

And let’s face it, we Boomers don’t have a helluva a lotta time left! Yes, Facebook helped connect the Arab Spring but it also helped connect the Proud Boys. It helps you plan a high school reunion, but it also reminds you of recent memories when we weren’t all wearing masks. It hits the highs and lows of this human experience on its screen, but I’ve decided I want more highs and lows “In Real Life.”

I don’t need any extra aggravation, thank you very much. A temporary fix for your Facebook news feed can be found here:

“Facebook is now making these “Favorites” and “Recent” filters much more prominent, putting them right at the top of the News Feed as separate tabs that users can switch between.” 

https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/31/22359782/facebook-news-feed-turn-off-algorithmic-ranking-favorites-most-recent-filter-bar

Finally, I’m about to break up with Facebook. I’ve grown tired of looking at myself in its mirror. Please don’t hate me.

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When is too much of a good thing bad for you? How does passion turn into obsession?

It turns out the Pumpkin is a pretty natural soccer player. I drove him to his soccer game over the weekend and listened to everyone calling his name. He was laser focused on the ball, charging the opposite team without fear. When he scored a goal my heart leapt for joy.

I told him that I used to coach his Uncle’s soccer team when the Rocker was his age. He looked up at me incredulously… Nana coached soccer? And I remembered those bright, crisp mornings filled with orange wedges and Gatorade.

We graduated to ice hockey and the Rocker finally found a sport he loved. All I had to do was get up before dawn and drive and sit in the stands and shiver. We traveled to ice rinks all over the state of NJ lugging his equipment in a huge duffel, just about the same size as his pre-adolescent body.

But one morning he didn’t suit up for the rink. I had to wake him with the news that his Uncle Dicky had died. Bob brought the Bride into his bedroom and we explained to them both that Daddy’s brother had been sick for a long time; he had a drug addiction.

Dicky had been a sweet uncle with an infectious smile. Sometimes he would disappear for months. The hardest part was telling Ada. It was a watershed moment for us, I believe that this was our family’s cautionary tale; this was the moment our children grew up.

I’ve been thinking about Dicky since I read that drug overdoses have increased exponentially since the start of the pandemic. And not just needle-in-the-arm street heroin – plain old pain pills. Synthetic oxycodone that strangely enough, one can buy online. I read that 4 out of 10 pills can be laced with fentanyl.

“The new CDC data show that deaths at least partially attributable to synthetic opioids likely increased by around 20,000 (54%) in 2020, while deaths involving cocaine (21%) and other psychostimulants like methamphetamine (46%) also rose dramatically. In 2015, synthetic opioids were involved in only 18 percent of all overdose deaths; in 2020, it appears to be more than 60 percent.”

https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2021/drug-overdose-toll-2020-and-near-term-actions-addressing-it

A record high of 93,331 synthetic and prescription drug overdose deaths competed with 345,323 Covid 19 deaths in 2020. So naturally the media follows the pandemic, and after all the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma are old news. Today it’s all about ridiculous school board mask-mandate meetings, and poor Mark Milley…

It’s misleading to cite drug overdose deaths as the ninth leading cause of death in the US. And for some odd reason, ODs are not even listed in the CDC data. So I had Bob do some digging – it turns out the number ONE cause of death for young adults 25 – 44 is overdose. More than motor vehicle accidents and homicides (of which almost 90% involve guns). I’m sure you heard that murder rates were up last year by almost 30%! https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2778234

In short, we need to change our public policy around drugs, and yes guns too. Sure a pandemic is a public health emergency, but at some point it will end, right? At some point in the future we will have ‘the talk’ about addiction with the Grands and the ties that bind our family in sorrow, love and pain. But not now. Now is the time for apple cider, shin guards and soccer balls.

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I was going to write about refrigerators… and washing machines.

About how my Nana didn’t want to give up her ice box, but she finally relented. When I was young, she would send me to the store to buy Dolly Madison ice cream for her new Frigidaire, the kind with a big compressor on top.

On laundry day, I remember my foster mother Nell would pull the hand-crank-wringer washing machine over to the kitchen sink. She’d hook up the hose to the faucet, push clothes through the wringer while telling me to stay away because ‘God forbid you don’t want to crush your hand.’ Then she would hang the clothes up to dry outside in the sunshine. I still wish I had a clothesline.

But then I made the mistake of checking Twitter.

Oh Texas, you and your lone star. The state where you don’t need a permit to carry a gun, but just try and get an abortion after 6 weeks and anybody can put a bounty on your head. I wonder if SCOTUS actually thought this through? By letting their “heartbeat bill” stand, the court has set a precedent – something most Republicans never want to do.

Because if TX legislators can make a legal and constitutional activity impossible in practical terms, there are no limits!

Do you think you are guaranteed free speech? What if some red states made it functionally illegal for any reporter to say anything bad about Republicans? They’ve already created their own version of events around the last election. Don’t forget “alternative facts.” Maybe they’ll decide to just outlaw elections! The GOP knows best after all.

They’ve opened their state to vigilante justice for everyone! Now YOU can be a bounty hunter, and YOU can be a bounty hunter!! Look out Dawg.

Since our Volunteer State has already passed a no-permit-open-carry law, I have a feeling TN will follow suit, along with all the other red southern states. Get ready to have neighbors telling on neighbors to make a quick 10 grand.

I was going to write about refrigerators.

I wanted to tell you that Bob and I decided our new home gift to the Rocker and Aunt Kiki would be a kitchen appliance. I was thinking of a dishwasher since they’ve never had one, when The Rocker said, “How about a refrigerator?!”

And right before we left for LA, we noticed during our harried house search, that some refrigerators were hard to find! One modern loft-type condo in Nashville had refrigerated drawers…you heard that right, drawers! You can even find a dishwasher disguised as a drawer.

Many things that are immediately identifiable as things in the majority of American kitchens — appliances recognizable from their size, shape and the general appearance they have had since roughly the 1940s — are, in the homes of the wealthy, increasingly being transmogrified into cabinets.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/31/style/hidden-fridges-status-kitchens.html

Transmogrify?! Meaning to change in appearance or form, in a mystical or strange way. Kind of like a frog turning into a prince. Still, I remember back in the 80’s my brother and his wife had a wooden paneled refrigerator in their Holly Springs kitchen. It was pretty hard to open it in fact. And that gorgeous house in Hawaii – it had a separate drawer for ice.

Hawaii currently has too much Covid, kind of like us in Tennessee. In California, you can walk into a weed shop and buy as much marijuana as you want. In Texas, poor young women will be forced to carry a pregnancy to its end. Yes, only the poor will suffer, because the wealthy will always find a way around. Roe is being eroded by extremists who deny elections and refuse to wear masks, by selfish-so-called God fearing Christians.

My country is transmogrifying into something I don’t recognize.

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I’ve been thinking about New Zealand lately. Bob mentioned something in passing that is now stuck in my brain like a never ending podcast; do you know how many COVID deaths, how many TOTAL people have died from this virus on Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s watch? 26

TWENTY SIX

“Going hard and early has worked for us before,” Arden said as she announced another lockdown because ONE citizen in Auckland has tested positive and she is assuming it’s the new Delta variant.

We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58241619

New Zealand is an island of nearly 5 Million people and their public health response to Covid-19 was not only rapid, it was comprehensive including contact tracing and enforced quarantine. Now schools, offices and businesses will close for one week in any region the infected patient happened to visit.

There was no denial, no delusional thinking. There was no TRY for New Zealand, there is only DO. In a country with a mere 20% of its population vaccinated, it had been COVID free for nearly six months!

That’s one third of this pandemic time capsule, they actually had been going out, eating in and basically partying like it’s 1999, or at least 2019. It’s as if the rest of the world got sucked into a wormhole, and New Zealanders did the right and proper things to survive.

Are Kiwis just more altruistic than us? Do they not follow algorithms down meerkat holes of conspiracy nonsense? My theory is not that they are so much smarter, it s all about leadership. Particularly the orange clown show early on, the guy who wanted to end our never ending wars. Remember him? The media can focus on Biden’s handling of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, but I’m trying to muster up the courage to ‘change the things I can.’

Being married to an ER doc has its disadvantages. Bob likes to remind me that we’re all on a slow steady stream to the grave. I’m in a perpetual state of decline, my vision is getting worse and my hearing will most likely be next, either before or after some joint replacement. I have a wonderful physical therapist on speed dial, or should I say my list of favorites?

But for all his candid talk of death and dying, these COVID numbers are staggering. The USA has lost more than 622,000 souls to this disease. The US population is a little over 330 Million. We’ve lost 2 out of every thousand people.

New Zealand has lost 26 souls to this disease. The New Zealand population is about five million people. They’ve lost 5 out of every MILLION people. Relative to that island nation’s population, we have lost 400 times as many people!

So let’s not compare Afghanistan deaths to Vietnam deaths or Civil War deaths or any other totally useless wars because this COVID death count is going up again. And we squandered our chance to stop it. We were slow and stupid at first, and now we’re just, ummm, misinformed?

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Ever want to just get away from it all? Our friends Yoko and Rick – who happen to be retired public health officials- picked us up last weekend for a little trip back to nature. Only this campsite was somewhere between a cabin in the woods and a fancy shipping container

Getaway is a great business model. Some enterprising folks bought land outside of major cities all over the US, and put up tiny boxes for city folk to rent. They provide everything you might need – a bed with a forest view, air conditioning, a range, a shower and throne room.

They even leave you wood by the combo grill/campfire! Oh and there’s no WiFi so you’re really off the grid.

https://getaway.house/

Every time I leave home, for any reason, my anxiety level shoots up. Adding a pandemic transition to the mix only makes it worse. It was just about a two hour drive to our #getaway but we traveled together and Rick was our fearless driver.

We stopped for lunch overlooking a lake in Kentucky. We stopped at a fish hatchery where trout are raised to stock Tennessee rivers. We enjoyed each other’s company and our combined grilling skills, plus I tasted Japanese milk bread for the first time.

The off and on rain didn’t matter, I whipped up a ratatouille with Farmer Bob’s bounty! And then on the way home we met a woman hiking a waterfall trail who was collecting Turkey Tail Mushrooms! She complained about people calling her long-haired, young son “they.”

So we had a brilliant discussion in the car about pronouns. Did you know the Japanese language doesn’t use pronouns?

The good news is my anxiety eased and my hip survived all the glamping activities so my PT must be working! If only we didn’t live in a state that would fire a health official, a pediatrician, for telling health care providers that TN law allows children 15 years and older to be vaccinated without parental permission.

When our doctors are censored and fired for telling the truth, what’s next TN?

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As we were driving home from Florida yesterday, we heard on the news that bars would no longer be serving alcoholic drinks. One night we had pulled our golf cart up to an outside bar on Santa Rosa Beach; there was only one other person placing a To-Go order. She didn’t have a mask on, so our brave Bride kept her distance, and managed to walk away with margaritas for the house – some with and some without alcohol.

I wonder what Florida bars will be serving up now, or will they switch to BYO? Will people still crowd into dark, beer-reeking bars – will they flirt and laugh and cough on one another?

The funny thing is, maybe one in ten people were wearing masks in the Panhandle. In fact, during one golf cart trip I was sitting in the back facing traffic and forgot I had my hand-made, purple batik mask on. Cars, our house, the early morning beach and golf carts were considered mask-free-zones for our little quaranteam… anyplace else, like ordering ice cream or drinks outside on patios the mask came on! We didn’t go to restaurants.

But sitting there, in the back of our little cart, masked with the L’il Pumpkin, who also had his fun Star Wars mask on, I was aware of people staring at us.  And it wasn’t a smiley stare, like “Aw, look at that Nana and her cute redheaded grandson!” Nope, it was more like, “What are you people doing here?” Someone actually hollered something hostile to us. I guess they didn’t think we could exercise our constitutional right to stay alive?

Congratulations Florida. Today you set a record for one day of additional Covid infections – 9,585 cases.

In the very middle of our drive, in Alabama, Bob and I happened to listen to this administration’s long overdue propaganda report on radio CNN. No wait, it was called a presser of the White House Coronavirus Task Force brought to us by the Department of Health and Human Services. I happened to be driving during a white-out downpour, but I’m pretty sure I NEVER heard Pence (or anyone else) mention the word “mask.” The word Pollyanna jumped to mind.

“But it was also clear that Pence remains locked in a mindset that downplays all bad news about the pandemic. When confronted with the growing death count, he likes to point out the daily total of dead Americans is lower than it was once. When discussing the rise in cases, he said, “Roughly half of the new cases are Americans under the age of 35, which is at a certain level very encouraging news,” because the disease is less deadly for younger people. He avoids the idea that states are experiencing spikes and prefers to discuss localized “outbreaks.” https://www.politico.com/newsletters/politico-nightly-coronavirus-special-edition/2020/06/26/pence-and-the-power-of-positive-thinking-489656

Like the Flapper, Pence must be a big believer in positive thinking. His advice was to pray more, which was laughable except for the fact that he means it. In response to a reporter’s questions about masks, he talked about our constitutional freedom to assemble with or without a “face covering.”  Even the word “mask” is verboten.

Well our Mayor Cooper has taken over the reins in Nashville. Last night, Metro Nashville was debating whether to mandate masks! And lo and behold, masks WON! By tomorrow at 5pm, our personal responsibility for the health and lives of our neighbors will trump (HA) our individual liberty to have your face unmasked. For a Republican state, TN has grown in my affection. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2020/06/26/nashville-require-face-masks-public-coroanvirus-spreads/3266522001/

Here is an old picture of the Bride at Berkshire Medical Center’s ER; she looks to be about the same age as the L’il Pumpkin. Bob was the director of this teaching hospital. On Monday, the Bride will return to her work wearing an N95 mask, treating everybody and anybody who enters her ER. It seems like it was yesterday that she posed for this health  magazine shoot.

If you can’t wear a mask to protect your own loved ones, wear one for mine please.IMG_4843

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Calls for racial justice and defunding of the police are a constant across our country. Old, arthritic knees of legislators knelt on marble floors in our Capitol for nearly nine minutes yesterday. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the exact amount of time Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd. If only restructuring and dismantling militarized police departments could fix hundreds of years of racism – in real estate, in schools, in medicine, in the very fabric of our existence.

No, it can’t, But it’s a start, and we’ve got to start somewhere. Read “Just Mercy; a Story of Justice and Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson.  https://justmercy.eji.org/  And maybe watch the film, with Jamie Fox. It’s streaming free this month https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/stream-just-mercy-free-june-180975044/

I first met Stevenson back in Charlottesville, VA in 2016. His lecture introduced the idea of taking down a Robert E Lee statue near the courthouse – the same supposed reason a bunch of neo-Nazi, “Unite the Right” zealots decided to march on Cville the following year.  A mostly White audience wasn’t buying it; in fact, that statue is still standing. He warned us, “We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”  https://mountainmornings.net/2016/03/20/being-brave/

This is what Stevenson had to say in a recent interview about police brutality:

“Now, the police are an extension of our larger society, and, when we try to disconnect them from the justice system and the lawmakers and the policymakers, we don’t accurately get at it. The history of this country, when it comes to racial justice and social justice, unlike what we do in other areas, is, like, O.K., it’s 1865, we won’t enslave you and traffic you anymore, and they were forced to make that agreement. And then, after a half century of mob lynching, it’s, like, O.K., we won’t allow the mobs to pull you out of the jail and lynch you anymore. And that came after pressure. And then it was, O.K., we won’t legally block you from voting, and legally prevent you from going into restaurants and public accommodations.

But at no point was there an acknowledgement that we were wrong and we are sorry. It was always compelled, by the Union Army, by international pressure, by the federal courts, and that dynamic has meant that there is no more remorse or regret or consciousness of wrongdoing. The police don’t think they did anything wrong over the past fifty or sixty years. And so, in that respect, we have created a culture that allows our police departments to see themselves as agents of control, and that culture has to shift. And this goes beyond the dynamics of race. We have created a culture where police officers think of themselves as warriors, not guardians.”    https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/bryan-stevenson-on-the-frustration-behind-the-george-floyd-protests

IF we can transform a police culture from warrior mode into guardian mode, what else could we do? Can we spend the same amount of money on a student’s education, no matter where they live? Some towns see nearly half their budgets go toward policing, and they argue over school budgets. This is truly a function of what we value as a society. Do we want every child in America to reach their full potential, or only the rich and well connected? Should every town have a tank and a SWAT team?

I feel like we are in the midst of a great constellation of events. 2020 went like:

  • I wanted to work to elect gun sense politicians, and evict Mr T from the White House. But we got slammed by a tornado, our neighborhood was torn apart.
  • Then we came under the spell of a deadly virus, a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen. We became hermits. Bob started baking bread, we both started making masks.
  • And now George Floyd and his killer cop have changed the narrative, having an almost nine minute video of a murder in broad daylight brought racial injustice home. People of all shades of color did not, could not turn away.

Yes our gun culture intersects with racism. Both are real public health emergencies, capable of killing so many Americans, just like a virus. A virus, as it turns out, will seize the opportunity to infect more poor people. More African Americans, more Latinos. People without the means to stay isolated, people who must work delivering box upon box to the rich people.

A virus likes nothing better than a population that can forget, people with short-term memory loss. It can easily spread its tentacles, just like gun violence, killing without remorse. Imagine voting down a gun sense bill, an assault weapon ban, after 20 children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook.

We cannot defeat a virus or change our gun culture without addressing racism. And our racist president would like us to think it’s all about “law and order.” But it’s about our history. Our tortured history of Jim Crow and Reconstruction, it’s about red-lining voting districts and voter suppression laws, and so much more.

Racism would like us to forget our history, but in fact, we must confront it.

This is our chance, this intersection of public health emergencies, to create a more just and peaceful society. What will you do, which side of history will you be on? Don’t turn away.

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Last evening in America’s Capitol, peaceful protesters were tear gassed so that our toddler-in-chief could take a photo-op in front of a church, holding a Bible. Was Mr T concerned about police brutality, the seeds of systemic racism or the death of George Floyd? No, he is obsessed with his numbers, specifically his Evangelical numbers. Just like MAGA loves “the Blacks,” Mr T loves his Christians.

This morning, as I scrolled through page after page of Instagram black screens for #BlackoutTuesday, I came across a quote by Elie Wiesel: “When human lives are endangered, When human dignity is in jeopardy, Wherever men or woman are persecuted, Because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become

The Center of the Universe.  

This morning I saw a picture of Hitler holding a book, surrounded by adoring crowds. It was probably his book, but still, it was juxtaposed next to Mr T’s bible/holding/church picture… standing all alone. Ts weekends of golf have been interrupted; he’s been scolding governors over the phone and threatening to release the Army to do his bidding. Like a coward, he hides in the White House bunker and turns out the White House lights.

This morning the sun is out and birds are still singing. Summer heat is about to descend on Nashville. My phone began buzzing, alerting me – tonight will be another 8pm curfew per Mayor Cooper. Nashville PD has arrested a suspected white supremacist, 25 year old Wesley Somers, for setting fires in our historic courthouse. I had heard that something was fishy about the rioting and looting, but I didn’t know what or who to believe. Our country has seen seven days of protests; this is the 12th week of quarantine for our family.

This morning, the Bride called on her way to the hospital. I had ordered her a long cowl that can be used to cover her hair under her PPE. She said it works great, it even keeps her N95 mask from slipping. The number of Covid deaths is going down in Nashville, but I still dream about too many people gathering together. I feel sick when I think about George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” Is that why Mr T and most of his followers refuse to wear masks, because they can’t breathe? Or is it that they care less about other people and more about their vanity?

This morning I found Somers’ sister’s Facebook page. She’s starting a GoFundMe account for her brother who, she says, used to be into hard drugs, but turned his life around. He just got in with the “wrong crowd.” Only 25 years old with multiple arrests, including one for domestic abuse. Our city has been ravaged by a tornado, a virus, and now this, peaceful protests turning violent.

This morning I’m wondering if our democracy will hold, I’m worrying about the center of the universe. I’m thinking about the sculpture garden documenting the history of racial terror lynchings in Montgomery, Alabama at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We were just there before the country closed down. Educate yourselves, and go there if you are White, to the Black experience. What if your son, or grandson was Black when the police stopped him for a broken tail pipe?  Read, listen and organize if you can – https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

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What makes a worker essential today? Certainly nurses, and Happy National Nurses Day, are critical to our healthcare system, and doctors and therapists and pharmacists. So are grocery store workers, the postal service and delivery people too. But why have pawn shops stayed open; and do we really need a gun store to remain open? In Georgia, you can now take your family bowling!

Just as some states are easing coronavirus stay-at-home orders, do you feel safe to re-enter society? Gov Lee may have let his order expire on May 1, but Nashville has its own health department and our mayor is extending our quarantine for another few weeks. We think…

In this piecemeal approach to public health, with a president who uses the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing plants open but not to manufacture PPE, I sometimes feel as if I’ve dropped down a rabbit hole. Initially, I refused to believe a global pandemic could become political fodder, but every day gets curiouser and curiouser.

When I used to drive around town, I’d flip the NJ state bird at the small group of mostly men who would stand outside our Planned Parenthood facility. They held big, grotesque signs and appeared to be “praying.” Now that the sunroof can be open, it would be quite gratifying to continue! But I was beyond belief to read that the GOP agenda had been toiling away under cover of this virus to ban abortions as “non-essential” medical services.

What if you’ve found yourself pregnant, maybe alone and out of a job, imagine having to drive 300 miles just to find a reproductive health provider deemed essential in a neighboring state. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52535940?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/world&link_location=live-reporting-story

The state of Texas usually performs about 50,000 abortions a year, that is until they were banned. The BBC story is about a married woman in Austin who was delighted to find out she was pregnant with twins. She’d been trying for a long time, but unfortunately she lives in a Republican state in the time of coronavirus.

When she was only fourteen weeks along, she was devastated to find out that one twin had died in utero. Then she and her husband received more bad news;  doctors had found “…lethal skeletal dysplasia for the remaining twin. We were told that condition was incompatible with life and that the baby would suffocate upon being born and never be able to draw their first breath.” 

I know what that feels like. One of my 3 miscarriages, in 1982, was a surgically induced abortion – the heart beat was gone and I had a choice. Wait out the pregnancy to deliver what, a dead conglomerate of cells? A blighted ovum? I chose surgery, and it wasn’t easy. In fact, I had some grave complications; but to wait, and have people ask me “How far along are you?” every day was unacceptable.

The woman from Texas, with twins, had to drive to New Mexico because her doctor could not perform the procedure. Even though she would never hold two living babies, her doctor said only if it was to save her life could he perform the procedure. Her emotional life was of no consequence. Because her legislators could play with a woman’s constitutional human rights.

While they deemed gun stores essential services in Texas!

We are at a crossroads. How much do we value a human life? I know we all want this quarantine to end, but what if you had a child who was taking immunosuppresive drugs? What if you have a grandmother with a heart condition, or a grandfather with diabetes? How about that aunt of yours who won’t stop smoking?

Is it more important to you to buy a cheeseburger, and not to look silly wearing a mask? B96985A6-CA43-4105-9B32-92AA5538D06B

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Like the phases of the moon, our country has slowly moved from embracing conservative, anti- (big)-government ideology toward a more socialist democracy, and back again. In the 18th Century, we threw off the mantle of a king, and instituted checks and balances with our elected leaders in Congress. It was working pretty well for awhile and our political ship was trending toward starboard.

Then in 1994, Newt Gingrich happened.

Wanting to bring back orphanages was actually not a part of Newt’s “Contract with America,” he was just “thinking aloud.” Wanting to build more prisons and give tax breaks to millionaires was! He started complaining about “big media,” and comparing Democrats to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sound familiar?

“The states’ main fear is that if the federal government could not legally run a deficit, it would simply pass on safety, environmental, health, and other obligations to the states, without giving them the money to pay for new programs. Congress’s habit of enacting “unfunded mandates” has been the major strain on state budgets in the last decade. A federal balanced-budget amendment would likely make it worse.”

His nightmare scenario has come true, Mr T passes on everything, including his responsibility, in this public health emergency to the states. When I watched Gov Andrew Cuomo in his  daily presser, complain about having to get in a bidding war with other states just to acquire life-saving PPE and ventilators, I thought we were deranged… and when he said FEMA would jump in and UP the price even more, I knew we were deranged and possibly doomed.

I remembered reporting on Rumson Borough Council meetings in the 90s, how this Republican group of mostly old, white men waxed on about unfunded federal mandates. They choked at the idea. And just the other day, Mitch McConnell (a modern day Newt) told states to declare bankruptcy??

This morning I found this article about a billionaire enlightening in a creepy way. How does American capitalism work, how should business work; for the greater good, or for their investors’ greater bank accounts?  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/business/coronavirus-marc-benioff-salesforce.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

In a nutshell, The Chancellor of the University of California San Francisco could see the writing on the wall in early March. Cases of Covid were starting to skyrocket and he knew his medical center’s supply of PPE was low. So he called his buddy, the billionaire and “hyper-connected” donor, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.

“…that phone call set off a frenzied effort by Mr. Benioff and his team that drew in major companies like FedEx, Walmart, Uber and Alibaba. In a matter of weeks, Mr. Benioff’s team spent more than $25 million to procure more than 50 million pieces of protective equipment. Fifteen million units have already been delivered to hospitals, medical facilities and states, and more are on the way.

The relative ease with which Salesforce acquired so much protective gear stands in sharp contrast to the often chaotic government efforts. While states have had to compete against each other for scarce supplies and the strategic national stockpile of protective gear is depleted, Mr. Benioff and his team simply called up their business partners in China and started writing checks.”

 

Some might call Mr Benioff a saint, but while I found his actions altruistic, I was concerned that our country had to depend on his beneficence. Do we live in a democracy with a small “d” or is this an oligarchy, or a kleptocracy?

I sent a box of Lysol wipes and Formula 409 out to the Rocker and Aunt Kiki in LA last week, and somebody stole most of the contents en route. We are making masks in our kitchen and we can’t find disinfectant wipes, but Benioff can find a warehouse full of N95 masks from China in LA? To make matters worse, Republicans are still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/03/republicans-could-kill-obamacare-in-the-middle-of-coronavirus-recovery

As our quarantine wanes piecemeal, state by state, we must remember this time in history when governors had to beg to save peoples’ lives.

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