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I was watering my herb pots yesterday when I heard a distinct whirring sound, even Ms Bean was looking up. I knew the sheep were still in Tuscany, and so is Bob! Because as I write now, he is cleaning a vintage pasta machine our neighbor gave us; did you know that you cannot allow water to get into the steel gears? Google told us!

“Now I’m gonna make some spaghetti,” Bob said.

It’s difficult to write in the middle of an open concept townhouse. But back to the strange sound in the sky, I looked up to see a drone whizzing by and even though I was dressed in yoga/gym appropriate clothes, I felt distinctly vulnerable. Taking cover under the porch’s roof, I watched as the drone hovered very close to my herb garden – the parsley, pineapple sage, rosemary and thyme seemed to cower in technological despair.

I know that some realtors use drones for their sales, and even Google Earth may deploy one, or Amazon might start delivering small packages. Drones can bring death in other countries, or a new iPhone to our doorstep. In my jet-lagged state, I felt invaded. Can privacy honestly be a relic of past generations? Will that smart phone we palm become an imbedded portal to our brain, teasing us with targeted advertising all the time?

On the nine hour flight home I watched two movies and finished one book on my iPad. Maybe I was feeling twitchy because the book was Dan Brown’s latest, “Origin.” The acclaimed author of “The DaVinci Code” brings back to life the Harvard symbologist, Tom Hanks, whoops, Robert Langdon. Set in Spain, of course there’s a beautiful woman engaged to a prince but the most unlikely new hero is an AI named “Winston.”

What I find interesting in today’s context was the Loyalty (with a capital L) Winston the AI displayed to the scientist who built him – I had to ask myself, can a machine demonstrate loyalty, or can people write a code for that? The book revolves around the age-old argument of science/evolution vs religion/creationism and taught me more about Gaudi and in particular, his unfinished cathedral The Sagrada Familia, than I ever needed to know.

“Where are we from and where are we going?” is the central theme of the book, and as I watch the debate over Kavanaugh and the idiotic tour of North Carolina by Mr T asking about Lake Norman because he has a golf course there, I’m wondering the same thing. This president considers loyalty to HIM as sacrosanct, he doesn’t give a fig about where our country is headed or how our allies are increasingly isolated. And his followers seem to be OK with his contradictions, calling themselves good Christians while $260M is moved away from cancer and HIV/AIDS research to pay for the care and custody of 13,000 immigrant children – with 1,500 children HHS could still not locate!   https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/20/politics/hhs-shifting-money-cancer-aids-immigrant-children/index.html

When I asked Italians what they thought of Mr T, they said they liked him UNTIL he started separating children from their families.

Hate and Fear are powerful motivators, but I have to believe that Love is the best by far. So my New Year’s resolution is to spread some love around, like a drone flying overhead, surreptitiously. I will turn the other cheek, so to speak. We will make ravioli, and work to register voters and pray for a miracle in November.

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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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The Prosecution of Paul Manafort rests, and I’ve heard that Judge Ellis III doesn’t just swing a gavel, he swings a battering ram with nails. Soon enough a jury of his “peers” will decide if this friend and former campaign manager of Mr T deserves a jail sentence for tax fraud. Oh how I wish I was at the beach last week with the Groom’s family since his father just retired from a government career holding such people accountable… Grandpa Mike might have been able to shed some light on the world of financial crime.

A world full of greed, lies and manipulation as another tax attorney described it. So, as an antidote to the escalating breaking news of the day, I offer you my two cents:

Instead of greed, altruism. I spent a good part of yesterday with The Love Bug, and on our morning Ms Bean walk she happened to find some pennies. In a few weeks she will turn 6, and so she is starting to learn about money. Later, in the car with her Mama, she asked me to look for homeless people so we could give them some money! That was the sweet news, but unfortunately in Nashville, we have our fair share of homeless.

Instead of lies, truth. Differentiating between lying and truth-telling begins at about this age, which is why the Catholic Church chose 7 as the age for Communion. But some people never quite get it, they conflate and exaggerate the truth, or ignore it altogether. Our L’il Pumpkin is almost 4 and loves super heroes, so whenever I play Wonder Woman to his Batman I throw my invisible lasso of truth around the bad guys (usually a big stuffed bear). I believe in brutal honesty, and so does that bear!

Instead of manipulation, role-modeling. If you want someone to change their behavior, particularly a child, bribery does help but modeling the behavior you desire works best. I would always bring soup to new moms when the Bride was little, and I was happy to see she has continued this tiny tradition with her friends. Whenever I watch the Love Bug pick tomatoes from their garden, I think back to the Berkshires and the short growing season our tomatoes endured – the love of garden “candy,” of eating healthy, real food is being passed down to the next generation.

I could care less what Omorosa has to say, but I DO care that Mr T called her a “dog” this morning in a Tweet. Do you remember when a radio personality lost his job for calling the hair of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “kinky?” Can the racist, misogynistic hate please stop! It seems like our level of discourse may never recover from this presidency.

But for a final bit of good news, did you know there’s a large group of “Grannies” who have made their way to the Texas/Mexico border to protest the separation of families? They boarded two big vans in NY and picked up almost 2,000 more seniors heading south!

Like most others on board, Ms Mellen’s motivation for joining – a belief in the “designed, intentional cruelty” of the administration’s immigration policies – was deepened by maternal experience.

“Being a mother and a grandmother I know the incredible connection I feel toward my children and my grandbabies, and you put their faces on these children,” Ms. Mellen said.

“I can’t imagine the pain.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45174891

No human is illegal, and every grandma is a gift.  IMG_3121

 

 

 

 

 

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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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“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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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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What a week. I’ve got two broken ribs, nearly fifty immigrants infants can’t find their parents, and Mr T meets with the Queen while his baby image in a diaper floats above London like it’s the Macy’s Parade!

But first, let’s discuss Kylie Jenner on the cover of Forbes magazine. She is sneaking up on becoming one of the youngest American Billionaires since Mark Zuckerberg. Everyone, including Dictionary.com, is taking issue with the magazine’s assertion that Kylie is a “self-made” entrepreneur. So I thought, let’s dig into this one!

Horatio Alger Jr is the fictional writer we often equate with the myth of a “self-made-man.” We can thank Harvard for this, because even though his lineage dates back to the Pilgrims, when Alger was studying at Harvard he was denied entrance into the Hasty Pudding Club due to his “…genteel poverty and less-than-aristocratic heritage.” So what did this son of a Unitarian minister do in the mid 1800s?

He wrote about young boys who pulled themselves up out of poverty through hard work and or some act of courage or honesty – thereby making the big leap, almost unheard of in Europe, of becoming solidly middle-class. Strangely enough, he was living in New York and always interested in the plight of “street boys,” immigrants fresh off the boat from Ireland or Italy and orphans who had been left roaming the Lower East Side after the Civil War. He even adopted three boys.

To be honest, we’ve all relied on the kindness of strangers or a loan from a great aunt at some point in our lives. It really does take a village to raise a child, and in the case of Kylie, it took a whole social media, world-wide circus! Still, I’d come to her defense because she didn’t just invent an App, or create an avatar of herself for some video game. She took a risk, and instead of bemoaning her accusers for using fillers on her lips, she turned that into her business model.

She made lemonade out of lemons.

Sure she came from an already famous and wealthy family, poor thing, but she figured out a way to actually create something – granted it’s not a cure for cancer but you too can have pouty rosebud lips!

I mean look at another child of privilege, Mr T. He was handed the keys to his kingdom by his father, and he turned NYC into his personal playground. Unfortunately today, he’s cozying up to dictators, and trampling on our allies while padding the SCOTUS with ultra-conservative white men; all the while concurrently dismantling our government and destroying our reputation throughout the world.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if such an entrepreneur should turn out to have squandered his family fortune and be in debt to Russia? Our serial-liar-in-chief is one smooth operator. Like Alger, who was fired from his first job as a minister for molesting young boys, I sense something dark and foreboding lurking in president-bone-spurs past.

I’d love to see Mr T baby balloons take-off over here, maybe a Halloween costume? By October those immigrant babies will have been deported back to their parents I hope…and it shouldn’t hurt when I laugh, or sneeze right? We all need a little push while growing up!

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