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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

What’s happening in the world. As Tillerson jets to Russia with a “Make my Day” kind of deal, an Asian physician is dragged off a United plane while passengers documented every minute. This morning, the United CEO has done an about face, finally apologizing for the incident; and simultaneously lovely Melissa, oops, Sean Spicer got his apology right on the third try. Yes Sean, Hitler DID use chemical weapons on innocent people, they just happened to be Jews.

The Jewish people are used to this kind of thing. In fact, a dear friend just told me that one of her son’s friends/acquaintances is a Holocaust denier. And that they actually don’t say it didn’t happen anymore, just that it was more like what we did with the Japanese internment camps…. You know, like a “Holocaust Center?!”

Over the years, I’ve met relatives with numbers on their arms. My first supervisor at an outpatient mental health clinic was a child of Holocaust survivors. One of our Big Chill friends was conceived at a refugee camp in Italy after his parents were liberated from a concentration camp in Poland. I’ve been attending Seders now for almost 40 years, and yet this was the first time I actually ran the show. I knew something would go wrong. I forgot to give everyone some parsley, so I started a new tradition of a parsley posey.

This is the first time I’m actually afraid for the survival of the human race, not just one group of people. Seriously – will Russia decide to sacrifice another pawn. Or maybe North Korea will put us into checkmate?

What kind of plagues should God rain down upon us this time? At least I didn’t poison anyone at my Seder. I’m a compulsive germaphob in the kitchen. Ever since I nearly killed my first husband with a salmonella infested sandwich I picked up at a deli in Harvard Square. I made Great Grandma Ada wash her hands all the time, and we cooperated on the prep for the haroset. Maybe Mr T will get a bad case of boils? Or locusts could infest the Rose Garden?

Our trees are greening and birds are singing. Spring is a time for rebirth, not sarin gas and armageddon. In fact Sean, you were right in one detail, Hitler did NOT use sarin to exterminate 6 Million Jews, “innocent” people, even though it had been discovered by a German scientist. Some speculate it was because he was gassed in the First World War. But most scholars say it was because Churchill would have retaliated if he tried to use gas on the battlefield or in the camps.

“War is chess. Hitler would have sacrificed a lot of pieces that he couldn’t afford to lose.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/04/11/hitler-refused-to-use-sarin-gas-during-wwii-the-mystery-is-why/?utm_term=.9dc38985fc9d

The Nazis constantly searched for more efficient means of extermination. At the Auschwitz camp in Poland, they conducted experiments with Zyklon B (previously used for fumigation) by gassing some 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 ill prisoners in September 1941. Zyklon B pellets, converted to lethal gas when exposed to air. They proved the quickest gassing method and were chosen as the means of mass murder at Auschwitz.

At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005220

6 Thousand a day, 6 Million in WWII. Holocaust centers, killing camps. Sarin gas vs Zyklon B vs chemical weapons. A gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. And this whole Trump administration is one big gaffe.

Today we rode along Skyline Drive to get the long view, the balcony shot. I wish we humans could just decide not to play chess with our lives on this planet.  IMG_0305

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April showers are nourishing all the perennials we just planted, but if you are a migratory bird looking to nest in Florida, you’d be plain out of luck. Wading birds like egrets and herons depend on fresh, clean water from rivers meeting the sea in estuaries on our coasts for their food supply, and scientists have been putting on waders to count their nests this time of year. Considering Mr T’s deep cuts to the EPA, this Audubon report is troubling:

The latest South Florida Wading Bird Report, which was published last week, offers signs of trouble for the birds and the places they live. During this nesting season, which ran from December 2015 to July 2016, surveyors were disappointed to find 26,676 nests total. That’s just one-third the number of nests tallied during 2009, one of the best nesting years in decades, and the lowest nest census since the 2007-2008 season. Of the indicator species, only two (Great Egrets and White Ibises) met their nest recovery goals. The only bird to show an above-average nesting season last year was the Roseate Spoonbill. http://www.audubon.org/news/floridas-wading-birds-had-terrible-breeding-season-last-year

We had a Great Blue Heron swoop over our Rumson garage every morning to fish in the Shrewsbury River. When you live so close to the ocean, you begin to notice the rise and fall of tidewater by the line of black silt on your Corgis’ short legs, which would sometimes cover their bellies. “Swamp Dogs” was our affectionate term for Toots and Blaze. My sister Kay was kind enough to immortalize that mother/son duo in a 1993 watercolor.

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But it’s the long, stilt-like legs of Great Egrets that are helping them navigate the rising seawater levels due to Climate Change.

And now we have a circus/barker/climate/denier as the Leader of the Free World who would like to dismantle and disrupt the federal government, and return power to “the states.” I’ve always wondered why Republicans even pursue public service when they hate it so much! If any of you are still wondering about the loss of Arctic ice or if keeping that house your aunt left you on the Jersey Shore is a good idea, take a look at Leonardo diCaprio’s interactive global temperature map. It looks like there may be a quarter of Rumson left after the flood. Seriously.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming sets in motion sea level rise that will profoundly threaten coastal cities across the world,” explains Dr. Benjamin Strauss from Climate Central. “[Our map] shows the incredible stakes and urgency of our climate choices.”

https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/sea-level-rise/

Now that you’ve put in your city, and the visual has sunk in and maybe you’ve “woke up” think about these cuts to the federal budget. Keep calling your legislators people, dig out your Wellies (English for waders or rain boots), and start looking for higher ground while planning your retirement

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What is your carbon footprint? Do you know what (or who) is the biggest factor in greenhouse gas emissions? This is not a quiz, although this last question was on the GRE I took decades ago.   They are important questions if you are a believer in fact-based science; you understand that human development is responsible for climate change, and climate change is a factor in the migration and extinction of animals, while also contributing to the refugee crisis.

And since you are a believer and want to save the planet, if not for your grandkids then maybe for that condo you bought in Miami, may I suggest you light a candle today in the church of your choice.

Because today Mr T will be signing an Executive Order to dirty the waters around the Clean Power Plan and walk us away from the 2015 Paris Agreement – it’s like Kyoto all-over-again.

President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions.

The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as President Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-moves-decisively-to-wipe-out-obamas-climate-change-record/2017/03/27/411043d4-132c-11e7-9e4f-09aa75d3ec57_story.html?utm_term=.ec3f40a30921

In other words, IF we have any federal regulators left, they will not be asked to look ahead at the big picture when they bring coal back to coal country. This order will also allow drilling on federal land and accelerate fossil-fuel production by lifting President Obama’s cease and desist orders to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. Remember all those Native Americans protesting those pipelines, and the Marines who joined them? Well Mr T just showed us what he’s made of, that he values corporate interests over American lives.

When I was growing up in Victory Gardens, we had a coal bin right outside our kitchen. Daddy Jim would shovel the coal into our furnace and toss the ashes outside, somewhere. Whenever we all piled into his little Chevy Impala, I would scream bloody murder to open the windows because both Nell and Jim smoked cigarettes non-stop. Camels I think. That’s probably why I never started smoking, I had been semi-tortured as a child. It’s a wonder my lungs are still functioning at all! Maybe it’s all those rosary beads I kept in my pocket?

It may seem antithetical to think that Evangelicals are also, as a group, big believers in climate change, but they are. In fact, it’s worth mentioning the Canadian climate scientist I follow on Twitter who manages to see no distinction between her Christian beliefs and science – the smart and talented Katherine Hayhoe @KHayhoe

Still, it may come as no surprise that a belief in human assisted climate change has become a political touchstone for our time, with the GOP digging their heads further into the sand of climate denial. Hence, with a stroke of the pen Mr T will take us back in time to America’s glory days of unregulated, polluted power. If you feel that politicizing science is just so 19th Century, you may be shocked by this graph from the Pew Research Center illustrating just how divided we are:  PS_2016.10.04_Politics-of-Climate_1-14

So dear readers, what can we do? Take a good look at your portfolio if you’re lucky to have anything left after 2008. Think about divesting in fossil-fuel companies, and investing in wind or solar. Think about global companies that are fighting the good fight. Use your economic leverage…call your legislators NOW…using your voting leverage. Our town hall tactics have stalled the rush to kill Obamacare, let’s use the same strategy to save our planet from this magalomaniac. Not only is Mr T’s pen poison, his policies are lethal.

And if you pray, this is our Hail Mary pass, in the name of Mother Earth.

 

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Yesterday Anita and I made our way up the Historic Downtown Mall, sampling a new salad place and trying on a few things. A shoe store may have been involved. And we landed at the City Council Chamber behind three giant statues of Virginia Presidents to listen to two academics discuss their research and books on “Navigating International Conflicts: Who Helps the Refugees?”

Christine Mahoney spoke first. She told us that refugees live in a kind of limbo, “They are living on the edge of existence, failure is the norm.” She talked about the balance of help any International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) can offer at any one time; for instance, when Doctors Without Borders was fighting Ebola in Zaire, it was not able to provide its baseline essential healthcare to the rest of that country. Guns and butter, the one thing I remember from Econ 101. Maternal deaths went up, malnutrition skyrocketed. But there are natural disasters, like disease and earthquakes, and then there are those that are man-made.

Like corruption and war. Mahoney spoke of all the obstacles in her book, “Failure and Hope, Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced.” Advocacy for refugees is not prioritized in a country when their citizens as a whole are living below poverty levels. And only in Iraq have refugees been allowed to work; Kurds from Syria have been assimilated into the Kurdish communities of Northern Iraq. This is unusual since all other refugees are not allowed to work in their host countries.

She also pointed out that people who leave their country are the “lucky” ones, since they usually have the resources to cross borders. Those refugees who have the least – the sickest, the elderly, the poorest of the poor – are truly suffering in displacement camps amidst their own people. When an audience member asked what we can do, Mahoney pointed out the two best ways to advocate for the displaced are with votes and money. There are limitations to “Political Leverage” however, because most governments do not have the will to change a system and allow refugees to work or travel freely.

But we can use “Economic Leverage” to help level the playing field. We can bypass big banks with Bitcoin for instance. We can empower hopeless people through investment funds with micro-finance, using impact investors for profit. We can help a woman start a bakery, all that woman needs is a cell phone to get started. When life-saving food and medicine is the priority for humanitarian organizations, using open source financing to fund entrepreneurial projects is a ray of light for this marginalized population.

The success of small loans to the displaced has been evident in KIVA https://www.kiva.org Anita told me she has given to KIVA and plans to get her grandson involved this year. Then we talked about the Passover Seder, what should she bring?

It’s my turn, my first Seder in 38 years of marriage. The Jews were once slaves in Egypt and had to leave their home. My Irish ancestors left an island that could no longer sustain them. All Americans, except Native Americans, were refugees at one time or another. “In 2015 there were 60 Million people displaced by violent global conflict, the highest since WWII.”

And the leader of the free world is closing our borders, and blaming Democrats for not passing the GOP healthcare bill. At least Bob and I did our part to pester our Representative Tom Garrett, now we need to start thinking about the next step of Political Leverage in the spy mystery that has engulfed Washington, DC . And btw, did you know Hemingway was a Russian spy?!…Oh Donnie Boy, loyalty is a dish served warm, like Borscht.   IMG_0214

 

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There’s a big Georgian building in Ivy I’ve mentioned before, it’s an offshoot of UVA that offers free and open forums to citizens every month with leaders on the world stage. Its mission is to decode public policy for the rest of us, and its “American Forum” can be viewed on PBS – if there is still a PBS in the future:

“At the Miller Center, we strive to illuminate presidential and political history accurately and fairly. To shine a light on all the ways our democracy has worked—and all the times America has struggled. To inspire America’s leaders with unbiased insights, especially on the presidency, that advance democratic institutions and the public good.” https://millercenter.org

Because I felt like I needed some illuminating, I bid farewell to Bob, who was waiting at home for painters, and drove into town to hear Gerald F Seib (Wall Street Journal’s Executive Washington Editor and Chief Commentator) pontificate on presidential power at the Miller Center. As makeup artists powdered their faces, and the lights dimmed for filming, American Forum’s host, Douglas Blackmon, prepared to interview Seib about Donald Trump. The room was so packed I was squeezed onto a pew sitting sidesaddle. Seniors and students alike, we were all eager to understand Trumpland.

Seib told us that reaching out directly to US citizens is nothing new, that President Obama actually liked to cut out the main stream media and talk to real people. Utilizing Twitter however is a new phenomena.  Labeling media the “…enemy of the American people” is not just new, it’s dangerous. He called Trump a “Master at Communicating,” in that he creates bright shiny objects (Tweets) every day in order to control the media.

Seib also told us time and again that we must take everything a President says seriously; when his aides tell us not to take his statements – like the wiretapping charge against Obama – literally, we the public and the media must still consider his words seriously. The surveillance charge is a diversion, it puts the others (his media enemies) on the defensive.

And although I like to think the purpose of journalism is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted (Scotty Reston), Seib told us that reporters need to explain and put into context a leader’s words. His job is to analyze in depth, to find the meaning and illuminate facts. He emphasized the one thing journalists have is our credibility, ditto for presidents, then he asked us how will we know when to take Trump seriously – if everything he says isn’t?

I thought of Peter and the Wolf.

He did acknowledge that Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ years ago, but insisted that his editorial pages have been critical of Trump. And he told us about some memos that had been circulating; saying it’s fine to call certain statements “False” but not “Lies,” not until they are proven to have come from a person’s conscious intent…“and nobody has skirted around facts like Donald Trump.”

Seib warned reporters not to let their attitude substitute for the facts. In other words, don’t become the story you were covering. Harder and harder to do these days I imagine. With UVA Communications majors sitting in the orchestra seats, Blackmon asked what one piece of advice he would give to a young journalist today. “Be honest!”

Seib went on to say he would tell Mr T he must be careful not to devalue his currency (ie credibilty) and to understand and accept that a free press is good for democracy and he should not diminish it!

In short, the Bully Pulpit is still real, it exists and it’s easier than ever to get everybody’s attention. And today, similar to Nixon’s Watergate era, we reporters must be willing to, “…suspend disbelief”…one story at a time. In order to write about the news today we must  “temporarily accept as believable, events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/suspension-of-disbelief.html        Yes sir, that’s the best definition of Trumpland so far!

Let’s hope Mr T doesn’t lay his hands on Angela Merkel while he’s talking trade with Germany. No shoulder rubs for the President who grabs you know what. Seriously. And let’s also hope Tillerson does no harm in Asia. Although he refused to bring the press with him, so how will we know? Not to worry, Andrea Mitchell is on the job.  This is the season to lay mulch at the feet of Buddha, and have faith that North Korea doesn’t take Tillerson seriously.

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Now that Bob has retired, we’ve decided it’s time to finally find our dream beach house. Someplace for family reunions, holidays, and maybe even an investment opportunity on AirBnB or VRBO from time to time. The only problem is, what beach?

Of course the island we love is not affordable. So that leaves us with a few options: Outer Banks, too cold; Florida, too predictable (sorry Floridians); Texas Panhandle, nah. Working our way across country, we really loved California, so maybe? But then Hawaii comes to mind.

I was listening to an ER doc from Hawaii on NPR yesterday, he was talking about a new Bill he introduced on the floor of the senate; Josh Green, MD also happens to be a state legislator. After years of practicing Emergency Medicine he said he and his colleagues know by name the homeless people who frequent his ER, and he knows that they suffer from chronic medical conditions that would benefit from simply being off the street. So he proposed a Bill that would give docs the right to prescribe six months of housing, to be supervised by case workers. Treat homelessness as a medical condition. An unusual, intriguing and not a half-bad idea!

A small number of homeless people require a disproportionate amount of medical treatment. According to Green, a recent internal study by a major Hawaiian insurer found that over half of the state’s $2bn Medicaid allotment was consumed by a tiny fraction of users, many of whom are dealing with homelessness, mental illness and substance addiction.

Yet research suggests that healthcare spending for those who have been homeless for long periods and struggle with mental illness and addictions falls by 43% after they have been housed and provided with supportive services. Green said many of the individuals he hopes to house cost the healthcare system an average of $120,000 annually, yet the annual cost to house an individual is $18,000. He thinks that the total savings to the state could be hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/28/hawaii-homeless-housing-bill-healthcare-costs

Surprisingly, just a few days ago, I reconnected with an old friend, a woman who used to be an administrator in Bob’s first ER. After telling me that “Bob and retirement” are two words she never thought she’d hear in the same sentence, she also mentioned that retirement in Hawaii was something she and her husband were thinking about…and for my third coincidental island musing, Hawaii is the first state to file suit against’s Trump’s new “Travel Ban.” Aloha and Mahalo!

For these islanders, the memory of rounding up Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor is still very real! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39215990

Now I’ve never been to Hawaii, and I hear that each island is different. Maybe it’s time we scheduled a little trip to the Big Island, or one of the medium-sized ones? Of course, our retirement plans may fall apart depending on what the Republicans do to the ACC, and Mr T does to the global economy.

Meanwhile back at home, we’ve been planting some perennials, practicing Hygge, and dreaming of our Purim Princess Warrior!     IMG_0166

 

 

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“As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t
see than about what they can.” Julius Caesar

Of all the senses we humans rely on from day to day, our sense of sight is for me, paramount. I love looking out at the patchwork slate Blue Mountain range after the sun strikes them and clouds are rolling over them. I love opening the sleeping porch door on these warm Spring days and watching the sun stream through the screens; seeing the tall oaks sway while hearing the March wind whip around the house. Living in the country is like being in a kaleidoscope of color with contiguous shades of yellow buds and green moss fighting for attention.

This week I went to the eye doctor for one of my very long appointments. He likes to keep track of my blind spot, also tenderly known as my “blonde spot.” You know the one, that horrible Homonymous Hemianopsia (the Bride’s fav medical term) I experienced after my bout with West Nile. It’s pretty common for me to become startled by someone approaching from the right, because I don’t see them coming until they are right in front of me. http://www.hemianopsia.net

To test my visual field, I stick my head inside a globe and hold onto a buzzer. The trick is to only look at the central light and buzz when I see a flash of light in my periphery. Sometimes I go for long periods seeing nothing, desperately wanting to push the buzzer, and knowing the flashes of light must be over there, somewhere on my right. I want to cheat and glance to the right, I blink a few times, and suddenly I see the light again.

Lots of things go through my mind in the eye doctor’s office. “Why did I forget my glasses at the Rocker’s wedding?” “Will I be able to drive at night?” “What’s going on with that old lady who wants to talk about the art work on the walls?” “Will that be me in a few more years?” “Who buys their glasses online?”

The news was good. My blonde spot is actually getting a little smaller. The problem is the “Real News” is bad. Everybody saw, with their own eyes, Jeff Sessions tell Congress that he DID NOT have anything to do with any Russians in the lead-up to the election. Then he began to qualify that, pleading poor memory. But if he’s getting some dementia why can he remember that he didn’t talk about the election…and why hasn’t he resigned already?

Our Attorney General lied UNDER OATH!

After the Oscars, a friend of mine created a hashtag #moonlighting. It’s when you think you lost, but you didn’t. The envelope was wrong, poor Warren Beatty was left standing, humiliated by someone else’s mistake. Or maybe he forgot to read the “Best Actress” part before he started talking…or maybe he needs glasses too? Who knew. But I immediately thought:

#moonlighting is like the opposite of #gaslighting

Gaslighting is what Mr T and his cronies love to do with us, the American people. He will say one thing , and then KellyAnne will curl up on a couch and get us all talking about something else. We never know what to believe. His administration treats the truth like it’s surreal art, to be fractured and deconstructed until it resembles something entirely different. And even after he uses a Navy Seal’s wife as a political empath for bi-partisan patriotism, he turns around and signs legislation to allow the mentally ill to buy guns while calling the attacks on his Attorney General Sessions a “total witch hunt!”

Remember his followers chanting “Lock her up?”

Mr T is telling us not to believe what we saw on TV with our own eyes, the Sessions’ big lie about Russia. And for more Dr Strangelove news, Russian media is advising Mr T to stay the course with Sessions. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-39157854

Recusing himself from an investigation into Russian interference in our election is not enough, and I predict by Monday Jeff Sessions will be gone. This house of cards is just waiting for that March wind to come in and sweep up the liars and the lobbyists. Maybe we will all wake from this nightmare that Mr T won the election, by a “landslide.” Maybe the moonlight will cast its shadow on our democracy, and our would-be King, with his jester Bannon, will have to see the folly he has created.

Then we can all dance like nobody’s watching.

davecaitly-619

 

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