Category Archives: Women

Plus ça change . . .

Having barely finished writing a review of First: Sandra Day O’Connor An Intimate Portrait of the First Woman Supreme Court Justice by Evan Thomas, the advancement of women’s rights was on my mind.

O’Connor, raised on a remote cattle ranch in the Arizona desert, finished her undergraduate studies and earned her law degree at Stanford University in six years, graduated third in her class and was only 22 years old! A newly-minted lawyer with that record could expect to find a good job at a prestigious law firm, right? Wrong. It was 1952, and no established law firm would hire a woman lawyer.

Determined to work in the profession she had prepared for, O’Connor opened her own firm with another woman, setting up shop in a mall. Later, she found work in the government, and later still, using her shrewd political skills and aided by powerful contacts, she was appointed to fill a vacant seat in the state senate. Within three years, she became the first woman ever to be majority leader in a state senate. It didn’t take long before she ascended to the U.S. Supreme Court as the first woman justice.

At the Court, O’Connor voted mostly with the conservatives during her first decade, satisfied with incrementally advancing the cause of women. With the passage of time, however, she began tacking to the left. Though a conservative, she evolved to occupy the space between conservatives and liberals, becoming the swing vote that determined the outcome in 330 cases, often championing the rights of women, children, gays and minorities.

O’Connor’s frustration at still not being able to land the job she wanted as a lawyer even 12 years after her graduation in 1964 came to mind when I saw this tweet by @sarahoconnor, a reporter for the Financial Times:

In 2019. Still blind. Or worse.


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A Blue Wave after all

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The immediate aftermath of the midterm elections left me uneasy, unable to fully celebrate the Democratic control of the U.S. House, despite my conviction before the election that without a Democratic victory in the House, democracy in America would surely be doomed.

The superstars, Stacy Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Beto O’Rourke were counted out as most returns were tallied on Wednesday. But high hopes dashed on Wednesday were revived by the weekend.

Andrew Gillum gave his concession speech on Thursday when it seemed he would not be Florida’s governor. But on Saturday, he took it back. Gillum and Stacy Abrams in Georgia are striving mightily against Republican opposition to have all votes counted and recounted in their races for the governor’s mansion. Both are close enough to trigger recounts. The same holds for the senate race in Florida.

As the vote counting continued, a Blue Tide began to wash over Republican-held seats, growing in size and strength. The House majority kept growing, and close races drew even closer. Democrats needed 23 seats to gain a majority in the House. As late vote counts rolled in, they garnered 32 seats, with 10 still not called.

The Blue Wave asserted itself: Democrats won 367 congressional seats— more than the Tea Party had in 2010. They flipped seven governorships, including in solid red Kansas (where they also captured a House seat). And when Florida and Georgia are finally finished counting and recounting, Democrats may gain one or two more governors.

Democrats scored trifectas — winning both houses of the state legislature and the governor — in six states: Colorado, Maine, Illinois, New York, New Mexico and Nevada. They will have full control in 13 states; the Republicans in 21.

Victories in state elections are important. State governments strongly influence health care, taxes, immigration and climate change in their states. They control redistricting, which is pivotal today, because gerrymandering currently causes Democrats to lose elections and seats, despite winning the popular vote.

Republican Martha McSally at first appeared to have won Jeff Flake’s senate seat in Arizona, but when all votes were counted a week after Election Day, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema became the first woman Arizona would send to the Senate and the first Democratic senator elected by the state in three decades.

The country moved left. Even in races the Republicans won, Democrats gained ground. As in 2016, Democrats won the popular vote. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke roused enthusiasm and came close to winning with a tremendous number of Democratic votes in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat since Ann Richards became governor in 1991.

More reasons to celebrate the 2018 midterms:

  • Americans were more engaged than ever in the elections. They voted in record numbers, more than in any midterm since 1914.
  • They elected more than 100 women.
  • The new class of representatives is more diverse than any of its predecessors, including two Native American and two Muslim women.
  • They are young, and have lowered the average age of representatives by a decade.

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And now, Justice Kavanaugh

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Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) put the icing on the cake. The confirmation was baked in long ago: the path to a fifth conservative seat on the Supreme Court was in the works for at least 30 years. (Remember Karl Rove’s dream of a permanent Republican majority?)

Before Dr. Christine Basley Ford described the sexual assault she had suffered in high school at a specially convened hearing of the Senate Judicial Committee, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that the Senate would “plow” through to a certain confirmation. But when Ford described her ordeal, she moved and impressed not only the senators, but the president, with her authenticity. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation no longer looked like a sure thing.

Then Kavanaugh testified. Red-faced, he wept and he raged. Furious, he accused the Democrats of plotting a “calculated and orchestrated political hit,” fueled by “pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.” But “what goes around comes around,” he said, apparently foreseeing vengeful retribution against the Democrats.

Following the hearing, people were appalled at Kavanaugh’s injudicious lack of control, his partisanship, fury and unseemly demeanor. The American Bar Association and the Yale Law School withdrew their endorsements pending a further investigation by the FBI. Close to 1,000 professors of law wrote to the Senate that Kavanaugh lacks the judicial temperament required for a seat on the Supreme Court.

The Republicans, all men, identified with Kavanaugh. They said they believed Ford had been sexually assaulted, yet contrived a way to exonerate Kavanaugh and justify voting for him. They began to poke holes in Ford’s testimony, pointing to her inability to remember details such as the address of the house, who took her home and the like. The people Ford named as being at the party couldn’t recall the party, much less the attack. All the evidence the senators chose to examine was gleaned from the severely limited FBI investigation. It was not enough to identify Kavanaugh as Ford’s aggressor. There was only Ford’s word. It didn’t occur to the men that a woman who had been sexually assaulted would have a powerful and excruciatingly present memory of the event, if not the superfluous details, while others present would have no reason to remember what was for them one unremarkable party among many. Once again, the woman was silenced, her searing testimony almost beside the point.

Within days, the debate shifted. Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial temperament, his lying under oath and his fierce partisanship replaced the sexual assault as the principal reasons to deny him a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court.

In the end, however, Kavanaugh’s unsuitability was tamped down by the overwhelming desire to hold on to power. Republicans have an extremely thin majority in the Senate. In the event of a Democratic victory in the imminent midterm elections, they would lose not only one or both houses of Congress, but the ability to establish a conservative majority in the Court that could endure for decades to come.

So Ford exposed her private torment to the world, and for what? For nothing, as she herself had feared?

Well, no, not entirely. Women heard her and their own buried traumas rose to torment them. All across the country women clamored to bear witness. They marched and spoke and wrote and pounded on the doors of their representatives. 

Many men listened to them. Amazed by their number, they confessed they had no idea that sexual assault was such a widespread problem. The #metoo phenomenon, just a year old, came roaring back.

Now that women’s and Democrats’ efforts have failed to prevent the elevation to a lifetime appointment of a judge whose convictions threaten the progress already made, what comes next?

Keep striving. We have to believe that though we have undoubtedly suffered a setback, we have the strength to reclaim lost ground and continue to advance into a more equitable future for all Americans.

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What’s wrong with Kavanaugh?

KavanaughSneerLet me count the ways.

Mueller is closing in, so Trump elevated Brett Kavanaugh above the other candidates for the Supreme Court to protect himself. Kavanaugh believes there can be no limit set on executive power: the president may not be indicted nor his greed restrained. As Nixon said, “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.” Trump’s ambition and rapacity would be unfettered with no opposition from SCOTUS.

Almost 200 congressional Democrats filed a federal lawsuit last year charging that Trump was illegally profiteering from his businesses. That suit was just given a green light as was another, that Trump was violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, DC. Trump will soon need Kavanaugh to protect him from the sanctions of the co-equal branches of government.

Women, of course, stand to lose the most if Kavanaugh is confirmed. The judge is in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, greatly hobbling a woman’s ability to determine whether and when to have children and therefore be able to make a life for herself without depending on husband or father.

The differences in opinion between the far right that wants to put women back in the kitchen and progressives who believe that society suffers when half the population is not able to contribute its talents to the common good are philosophical and tightly held. The place of religion, the rights of non-white citizens, immigration, gay marriage, traditions that glorify the antebellum South, all contribute to a rancorous divisiveness that alienates the two Americas as never before since the Civil War.

But we knew all that before the profoundly moving confrontation between the presentations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Thursday’s Senate hearing solidified the positions of both sides, though Dr. Ford impressed even the president and his sycophants with her careful, sincere and clearly difficult testimony. At the very least, Republicans knew it was politically expedient not to further alienate women, to admire her courage and acknowledge the pain she confessed before the entire country.

Then it was Kavanaugh’s turn. I understand the disappointment, the anger, of scrabbling to the peak of judicial accomplishment only to slip as you’re cresting the summit and plummet into an irretrievable abyss. Republicans felt Kavanaugh was justified in venting his rage, especially since he and they felt cheated and out-maneuvered.

Still, I was appalled at Kavanaugh’s complete loss of control and composure. This man who aspires to the pinnacle of his profession lapsed into a tantrum, belligerently lashing out and crying in the manner of a spoiled child whose promised toy was snatched from his hands. For a man in his position with so much at stake, as a prospective justice, he should certainly have exerted self-control.

Not bothering to hide or disguise his contempt for Democrats, for the hearing or for the U.S. senators who asked him questions that he clearly thought were beneath him, he failed a test of coolness under fire. He was rude. He sneered and snarled at Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)— both women— and did not deign to answer their questions. He went so far as to throw their questions back at them, and when Feinstein pressed him, he broke his silence by saying he’d already answered the question and then again persisted in his non-answers.

He was about as partisan and petulant as a judge could be expected not to be:

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

To questions about his alleged behavior when drinking too much, Kavanaugh proudly threw out his academic achievements. He seems to think that his Ivy degrees will shield him from any accusations of impropriety. When Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked about a reference to drinking in his calendar, Kavanaugh deflected:

Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.

Complete non sequitur. ‘I got into Yale’ isn’t a moral defense. But Kavanaugh tried it again when Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) recalled that Kavanaugh’s roommate described him as “a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time.” Kavanaugh’s response:

Senator, you were asking about college. I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”

What we witnessed was a manchild who is sure that he is entitled to the ultimate prize for his hard work, that he deserves the prize because of the Yale degrees on his CV. He couldn’t control his rage because he is convinced of being cheated of that prize, falsely and spitefully accused of a sexual assault he insists he couldn’t possibly have committed then or ever.

Dr. Ford is “100 percent” certain he was her attacker and Kavanaugh is also 100 percent sure that he wasn’t. But the reason that this isn’t a simple “he said, she said” is that Ford suffered a traumatic event “forever seared” into her memory. For her, it was a singular, extraordinary experience. I do believe in due process, so I can’t say he is guilty, but I also believe that it is entirely possible for a man, especially under the influence of alcohol, not to remember something that for him was unremarkable, a possibly common occurrence.

Brett Kavanaugh’s refusal to answer questions at a hearing that he says he requested, his contemptuous, condescending interaction with U.S. senators, his demeaning treatment of women and his inappropriate, raging belligerence are reasons enough not to elevate him to the Supreme Court.

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One woman’s must-see video

MJ Hegar is a self-described ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding, Texas Democrat. She was a combat rescue pilot in Afghanistan until she was shot down and wounded on a mission. Several adventures later, Hegar is now trying to unseat the Texas Tea Party Congressman John Carter who refused to see her because she wasn’t one of his donors.

She calls her campaign video “Doors.” Doors she’s opened, shut, walked through, and doors slammed in her face. I’m posting her video, not to boost her candidacy, but because it’s impressively made about an even more impressive woman.

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The Notorious RBG

I had heard “RBG,” the movie that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was good. But I wasn’t prepared for how moving it would be for someone who lived through the times that RBG did so much to change.

If you remember when women’s minds were not valued and their voices barely heard, you’ll enjoy watching the amazing and Notorious “RBG.” If you’re too young to remember, then see it and learn. You’ll appreciate how different your life is from your mother’s (or grandmother’s) because of RBG’s legal triumphs.

“RBG” is a love story. The marriage of Ruth and Marty is lovingly told, as is her fierce belief in the Constitution and her crusade for equal rights.

The movie is fun to watch. The montage of old clips and photos interlaced with Ruth speaking her mind today is very well done. It’s also au courant— Ruth’s kids say she never watches TV, but we see her watching Kate McKinnon’s recent impersonation of her on SNL. She rocks with laughter, her usually sober demeanor dissolving.

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Women vault from the military to the ballot box

A SALUTE TO WOMEN VETERANS TRAILBLAZING A PATH FROM THE MILITARY TO PUBLIC OFFICE

By Diane Vacca

Reblogged from Women’s Voices for Change

Knowing she had to come down smoothly with a single engine and 149 people aboard, Captain Tammie Jo Shults deftly guided her crippled aircraft while reassuring her passengers that the plane was descending, not going down. She warned that they would come down hard, but instead, “she didn’t slam it down. She brought the bird down very carefully.” Passenger Alfred Tumlinson admired the pilot’s cool (“She has nerves of steel”) and the emergency landing that saved the lives of almost all aboard the Southwest Airlines plane whose engine exploded in April. The single fatality was the woman who had been blown halfway out a window broken by shrapnel from the explosion. Once safely on the ground, Shults modestly thanked the air traffic controllers for their help and walked through the plane, talking to each passenger and shaking every hand, according to Tumlinson.

Shults knew what she wanted at an early age. “Some people grow up around aviation. I grew up under it,” she said. Living near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, she was fascinated by the planes overhead and knew she “just had to fly.”

But it wasn’t easy.

Read More …

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Five Shorts long in imagination

Treated to a screening of five short films at the Tribeca Film Festival and knowing nothing in advance about any of them, I marveled yet again at human diversity and creativity.

The first film was “Earthrise,” by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee. The three astronauts of Apollo 8 tell the story of their otherworldly adventure from launch to splashdown. It was an experience that immeasurably enlarged and changed their perspectives. The first humans to orbit the moon, they were awestruck when they saw the Earth rising above the moon’s horizon. They recall the emotion they felt when they saw their distant home, a blue planet ascending in brilliant color from the moon’s unremitting gray into the blackness of space. Their mission was to photograph the moon’s surface, but the first pictures ever taken of the Earth from space eclipsed the novelty of the far side of the moon. Their iconic photo of earthrise is one of the most famous photos ever taken.

The Blue Line” examines what happens when someone paints a blue line down the main street of a small town in order to honor the police. The line exposes a previously well hidden division between conservative and liberal, white and black. Voices raised in anger on either side of the divide eventually come to a town meeting to hear each other out. When Samantha Knowles heard about the controversy from her dad, she immediately dropped everything and returned to her childhood home to document the affair. One of the tiny percentage of African-Americans in an overwhelmingly white community, she was amazed and gladdened by the willingness of all the townspeople to speak with her.

The third film, “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” is a son’s attempt to come to terms with destructive family relationships, and especially with his father. Charlie Tyrell pieces together an understanding of his distant, dead father with scraps of memorabilia. He draws on his own little bit of hard knowledge with very few existent photos, including the single one of him and his father together, the memories and impressions of his sister, random artifacts his father left behind and family stories he had heard to trace the origins of his father’s unwillingness to be known.

Sindha Agha tells her story of battling menstrual pain in “Birth Control Your Own Adventure.” She represents her period with raspberries floating in water, catsup among balloons and other unique metaphors. She made the film in two days to distract her when her pangs were particularly intense. Her experience, she discovered, is far from unique. Women called and wrote and shared their stories, stories that no men wanted to hear, stories that they kept undisclosed for most of their lives.


Lance Oppenheim is a junior at Harvard, fascinated by the man who calls himself “The Happiest Guy in the World.” He profiles Mario Salcedo, a man who boarded his first cruise 20 years ago and never returned. Mario lives his fantasy, shucking off the responsibilities of living on land. He doesn’t have to take out the garbage, for example. Someone else makes his bed and cooks and serves his food. Oppenheim gives Mario free rein  to explain why he is the happiest guy in the world, but he seems to be unaware of some glaring contradictions in his narrative. Strange.

All the filmmakers are under 40, three in their 20s and one not twenty yet, and all have made other films. I was struck by the originality of their work and the compelling stories they tell. Agha’s and Tyrell’s shorts are available in the New York Times Op-Docs section, and the others will soon be. Check them out. You won’t be sorry.

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Stormy Weather

We are living in amazing times. We are in the midst of a tempest that is battering the ship of state up to and perhaps beyond its limits. Scandals abound and our democratic institutions are teetering. The ship is foundering. Leaks and defections are rotting its timbers. Congress whimpers as we sink lower by the day.

 

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The times they are a-changin’

University and high school students march along Amsterdam Avenue at Lincoln Center.

Is Dylan right?

Has the NRA met its match?

Is a Democratic wave coming to wash a majority of gun-loving Republicans out of office?

The answer to these questions may be yes.

On March 14, 2018, two things happened to raise the spirits and the hopes of the majority of Americans. Republicans, who have refused to challenge the Trump administration’s corruption, dishonesty and xenophobia, are beginning to lose ground. They are losing to Democrats in special elections in deep red Trump country. The early morning hours saw a Democrat eking out a victory over his Republican opponent in rural Pennsylvania, in districts that Trump won by 20 points.

Police block traffic, allowing students to return to school

In another upset of the status quo, students across the country marked the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by walking out of their classrooms. Crying #Enough! and #NeverAgain! they are determined to hold politicians to account. The students are resolved to elect candidates who will enact sensible gun laws that will curb the massacre of innocents by wild men with assault rifles. They are committed to use their spending power to support businesses that have ended their financial relationships with the NRA and penalize the ones that haven’t.

Women, emboldened by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, are joining their peers in ripping off the gag that has silenced them throughout history. They are demanding a reckoning from the men who took advantage of their power to demand sexual favors with impunity. Institutions in every field are responding by exacting retribution for sexual abuse.

Suddenly, 2018 is shaping up to be as disruptive as 1968. The 21st century is waking from the torpor that allowed American democratic ideals to be perverted by autocrats who value lucre and disdain the needs of the vast majority of Americans.

The times, finally they are a-changing.

 

 

 

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Women’s March 2018!

Going to be a great day!3A6A1EDB-5BDC-49D2-B305-F2CC523CB637

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Nasty Women at the Met Museum

Wounded Amazon, 1st–2nd century A.D. Metropolitan Museum, NY

“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” That’s the pointed question that the feminist art collective Guerilla Girls printed on a poster in 1989 to expose the dearth of female artists—compared to the bounty of naked female subjects—on the walls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

Edith Minturn Stokes by John Singer Sargent
Metropolitan Museum, NY

“Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Section are women, but 85% of the nudes are female,” read the poster’s potent subhead.

So begins Alexxa Gotthardt’s review of the “Nasty Women” tour of the Met by Andrew Lear. To counter this unfortunate truth, Art historian Lear has a organized a tour of the museum that focuses on influential, if largely unknown, women.

“There are so many feisty, tough women artists and subjects at the Metropolitan,” says Lear as a group gathers around him. “So when a certain unappealing man used the phrase ‘nasty woman’ on television last fall, I thought ‘God damnit, I’m going to organize a tour showing that these women exist in art—and how powerful they were in life.”

“Nasty Women” is not Lear’s first thematic tour of the Met. “Gay Secrets of the Metropolitan” explored homosexuality in the Met’s collection. “Shady Ladies” was a romp past sculptures and paintings of courtesans and ladies of the night. “Nasty Women” has been sold out in advance since it opened in March. Read more about it here.

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Women on the march

International Women’s Day in New York City— beautiful, brisk, and perfect for marching, cheering, chatting, comiserating and consoling. Women of all ages and all colors were united in their will to resist the Trump agenda. If women were striking, I did not see them. But the women I did see were marching for their less fortunate sisters who did not have the luxury of taking time off from work. They demonstrated their solidarity with the many women in the US and around the world who work very hard for long hours and minimal pay. Some are not paid at all. They marched for equal pay, reproductive freedom and the health care they now have with the Affordable Care Act. They marched to restore clean air and clean water, and public education for their children.

Young

Eight-year old Ravan Peterson (below, left) was delighting everyone who heard her with her enthusiastic support of women everywhere. “Women are stronger than men.” She said she was “marching to support all women, but especially women who are suffering all over the world.”

Older

 

Black

 

White

The sign reads, “Tinkle, tinkle little czar. Putin put you where you are.” Golden showers fall on the umbrella.

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Stand up on International Women’s Day

Women’s rights are human rights. Wear red in solidarity with women across the US and in more than 30 countries. March 8 will be A Day Without a Woman, in which women who can will take the day off from paid and unpaid labor and avoid shopping.

Show up at town halls and petition your members of congress to repair Obamacare. Speak up for the gutted EPA, clean water and clean air. Insist on the importance of public education, of the arts and of a social safety net to provide the necessities, like nutritious food and health care to those who can’t provide for themselves. Defend regulations that were put in place to protect people from predatory lenders, to safeguard public health, to keep the stock market honest. The fabric of American democracy is being rent by a blitz of lethal blows. You know of others that also affect you personally. Stand up! Make yourself heard! There is power in numbers.

Read Emily Crockett’s “The ‘Day Without a Woman’ strike, explained.” She’s done a masterly job of examining the “gendered revolt” kicked off by the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Recognition of African-American Women in 1960s long overdue

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Now, as Black History Month begins, is an ideal time to celebrate the heroism of the largely unsung African-American women who put their lives on the line, fighting next to their men.

Few of the women activists in Martin Luther King’s day—women whose zeal and courage matched his—earned lasting fame. In the 1960s, women’s voices didn’t carry very far, despite the fact that their activism was critical to the movement. The resounding chorus of men, few of whom realized or acknowledged the intelligence and dedication of the black and white women who worked and protested alongside them, all but drowned them out. Of those women, only Daisy Bates, who spearheaded the desegregation of the Little Rock Schools, spoke at the rally that concluded the famous 1963 March on Washington.

A half-century later, black and white women organized massively: On January 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands of women marched not only in Washington, but in cities and towns across the U.S. Their voices reverberated throughout the world.

Here are some of the African-American women of the 60s whose stories must be told again: Continue reading

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Women united to fight for rights

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Streaming to march into Manhattan

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Forty-second St. and Park Ave.

The day after President Trump’s inauguration wasn’t an especially beautiful day in New York City, but it was perfect for marching: not too cold, not too hot, cloudy but not rainy.

And march New Yorkers did— hundreds of thousands of women and men and children filled the streets and sidewalks, marching from the United Nations by the East River to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. They marched in solidarity with their sisters in the original Women’s March on Washington. The New York demonstration was one of the Sister Marches throughout the country. In all, an estimated 3.3 million people took part. They gathered support from every continent as women all over the world marched with them.

In midtown Manhattan, streets were spilling over with people who could barely move. The subways were teeming with rivers of humanity. When they finally reached the street above, they found a wall of marchers. On 42nd Street, it took 10 minutes to wade through and cross to the other side, one hour to advance one block. But no one complained. Courtesy and friendliness prevailed. The sense of community pervaded the throng because all were committed to the same goal: to hold on to the hard-won gains made in the last six decades. They carried signs that championed civil rights, women’s rights, healthcare and reproductive rights. A concern about climate change was another common theme, and politics was everywhere. The new president is not popular and that was reflected in most of the signs.

I asked psychotherapist and artist Judy Warren why she was marching. “Because I have to,” she answered. “Everything in me makes me do this because I am so dismayed and disheartened at what has happened in this election and the kinds of things that Donald Trump stands for. They are so opposed to all my values— values of equality, freedom and caring that Obama represented.” Continue reading

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Meryl Streep’s righteous anger

merylstreepSunday night at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. The outspoken Streep, ever the political activist, stepped up to the bully pulpit she’d been given, and launched into an emotionally charged diatribe against the president-elect without ever calling him by name.

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence,” she said.

Streep named actors Viola Davis, African-American and daughter of a sharecropper and Dev Patel, born in Kenya and raised in London, and others who are “people from other places,” because “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners.” Trump would exclude them from a native-born, white society— and what a great loss that would be.

Monday morning at 6:30 Trump responded to Streep’s remarks as the jejune narcissist he repeatedly has shown himself to be: his only comeback when he feels slighted or criticized is to demean the person he feels has disrespected him. Resorting to Twitter, his favorite means of communication, he called Streep, the most celebrated of actors, “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.” (She is in fact the most nominated, 409 times, 19 for Oscars and 30 for Golden Globes; plus 157 awards.)

The most honored artist in Hollywood called on the press to hold Trump’s feet to the fire and entreated the public to join her “in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re going to need them going forward.”

Trump constantly reviles the press. The First Amendment is our bulwark against tyranny, and it is under siege. Meryl Streep’s outrage should be felt by every American.

 

Photo by Andreas Tai – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4944442

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Mulling it over two days later

In the immediate hours after the election, I was reeling and I wrote something I regret. I realize it’s not true:

It’s over now. It’s over for Hillary and for many of her contemporaries who fought so hard for civil and women’s rights and were finally closing in on the unattainable prize. That cohort may not live to see a woman in the White House.

It’s never over. Hillary won’t be president, but she’s not going to stay home and bake cookies. She never has. I am confident she will continue to serve.

As for her contemporaries, they’re not staying on the sidelines either. It’s time to plan for the next election. Elizabeth Warren, where are you?

As for the rest, be active and get involved! That’s how you make a difference.

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Irrepressible

nextwomanpres

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November 9, 2016 · 10:00 PM

The morning after

I didn’t realize how deeply I felt about a victory for Hillary till I found myself crying when I finally accepted that Hillary wasn’t going to make it. Like so many others, I was stunned. Literally dumbfounded. 

This is a huge amount to process. Every woman I meet is walking around dazed, zombie-like. It doesn’t sink in. It will take time to accept the unthinkable. We are truly in uncharted waters.

There is no question in my mind that if Hillary, with all she’s accomplished, were a man, she would easily have won. Women know this. Sexism was blatant when she competed with Obama eight years ago and now it’s back with a vengeance. The double standard applied in the 2016 presidential campaign boggles the mind. In what universe would a man with Hillary’s experience and accomplishments run neck and neck, let alone lose, to a challenger like Trump? Why was his record of fraud (Trump University), racial redlining in his housing projects, indiscriminate lies, sexual predation, etc. so easily swallowed while she was vilified for crimes she didn’t commit?

What will a Trump victory mean for women? For access to safe abortion when necessary? For indigent women’s access to contraception? What will it mean for the immigrants, especially Muslim and Latino?

It’s over now. It’s over for Hillary and for many of her contemporaries who fought so hard for civil and women’s rights and were finally closing in on the unattainable prize. That cohort may not live to see a woman in the White House.

We will have to move on. Rather than expend energy on speculation, it behooves us to continue to fight the good fight. Each of us has to find her own way to continue and contribute to the struggle.

A version of this is at Women’s Voices for Change:

Post-Election Opinion: ‘We Can’t Allow Ourselves to Be Daunted’

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Obamacare: Despite gaps, women are catching up

Obamacare Scores Big for Women but Stops Short of the Goal

mammogramBefore the ACA, also known as Obamacare, women were at a distinct disadvantage. Most health insurance plans required women to pay higher premiums than men did. In addition, people were not covered for pre-existing conditions that often made them ineligible for health insurance. For women these included pregnancy, a previous Caesarean section, and even conditions stemming from sexual assault. Many plans excluded maternity coverage. As a result, women paid approximately $1 billion more per year than men did for health care and some women could not afford any health insurance at all.

Obamacare changed all that. Women are now demonstrably better off.

Continue reading Obamacare Scores Big for Women but Stops Short of the Goal

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Republican hypocrisy

Donald_Trump_(2016)A live mic betrayed Donald Trump in an unguarded moment by recording his lewd remarks and confirming that he is a sexual predator. That mic, not unlike the “defective” mic he blamed for losing the first debate, confirmed the ample evidence we have of his unsavory character. Governors, senators, former cabinet members, congressmen and other prominent Republicans are running from Trump like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

Really? Really! Where were they when he mocked the disability of a New York Times reporter? Where were they when Trump impugned John McCain’s war record  war record because he was captured in Vietnam? Where were they when he insulted the parents of an American soldier who gave his life to protect his comrades, disparaging their Muslim religion (and retaliating for Mr. Khan’s scathing denunciation at the nationally televised Democratic convention)? Where were they when he called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals and worse? Where were they when he sent our allies reeling by saying he would not honor our 67-year commitment to NATO?

Now the Republicans attack their presidential nominee? He is sinking in the polls and they don’t want to go down with him. If Trump had been leading in the polls, we wouldn’t hear a peep from the Party.

What particularly galls me is the condemnation by Trump’s former boosters. What Trump said to Billy Bush is no worse than what many men say to each other about women. I’m not a gambler, but I would bet the farm that most of Trump’s critics have used the same language and that some of them are gropers too.

Why is that video the straw that broke the camels back? It is not unusual for men in power to sexually assault, verbally and physically, their female subordinates. (Remember Roger Ailes?) I have written about women who successfully sued their bosses for such conduct in a review of “Because of Sex” by Gillian Thomas. Trump’s lewd comments and sexual assaults are nothing new. He insulted, as he did all his rivals for the nomination, Carly Fiorina as a woman. He was just unlucky that the incident was recorded.

I am disgusted by the tape, but before it surfaced I was appalled by his racism, ignorance, corruption and boldfaced lies throughout the campaign. The millions who voted for him excuse and condone his lies and failings as a human being, let alone as a candidate for the presidency. How different are they from him?

All the Republicans who perpetuate an inferior status for women by infantilizing them and assuming the right to control their bodies are guilty of a kind of sexual assault. Is legalizing sexual assault with a mandatory vaginal probe less violent than “grab[bing] them by the pussy”?

Please! Donald Trump is who he is. Republicans chose him to occupy the Oval Office. Now they are stuck with him.

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PM Theresa May: Cool, tough and commanding in leopard-skin heels

Theresa_May_-_Home_Secretary_and_minister_for_women_and_equalityThe first female prime minister of Great Britain was called ”The Iron Lady.” What will we be calling Theresa May, who is following Margaret Thatcher as the second woman ever to be PM? May has been likened to Thatcher, but Germany’s Angela Merkel may be a more apt comparison. Both are strong women, competent, stubborn, no–nonsense heads of state.

Not surprisingly, men have called May “A bloody difficult woman” and “Ice Maiden” with “no small talk whatsoever—none.” Yet the former prime minister, David Cameron, grudgingly admitted, “She is instinctively secretive and very rigid, but you can be tough with her and she’ll go away and think it all through again.”

May was the only major candidate in the contest for Conservative leadership who did not support Brexit, the populist push for Britain to exit the European Union. But her advocacy for remaining in the EU was very low key. That was an astute political strategy on May’s part, because though it put her on the losing side when the Stay camp lost, she was able to quietly cross over to the winners. “Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it,” she famously said as the newly minted PM.

Read more . . . Portrait of Theresa May, Britain’s Second Female PM

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Dropped from Fox News, Roger Ailes makes news

ex-CEO Fox News Roger Ailes

ex-CEO Fox News
Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes plummeted from the heights of political and media power in only 15 days, brought down by a star he had created and tried to destroy. CEO of Fox News since its inception in 1996, Ailes built the news organization into a right-wing juggernaut whose influence and profitability is the envy of every other network. Ailes’s fall is mythical: he fell precipitously, brought down by one of the many women he allegedly exploited and intimidated during his entire tenure at Fox News.

Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson fit into Ailes’s—and consequently, Fox’s—desired mold: she is blonde and beautiful, a former Miss America. But she is no bimbo, despite her on-air persona. She is a classical violinist and an honors graduate of Stanford University who studied at Oxford University as well. Carlson showed her mettle when—tiring of what she alleges were Ailes’s continuing demands for sexual favors and his retaliation when she refused to accede—she worked with a lawyer to prepare a lawsuit against the Fox CEO, charging sexual harassment and retaliation. Ailes has denied the charges.

Read more …

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Notorious RBG speaks her mind

RBG

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court justices are human beings and as such they have biases. The difference between them and everybody else is that they don’t express their opinions publicly.

Except when they do.

Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” on national television in defiance of President Obama at the 2010 State of the Union. The President had just criticized the 10-day-old Citizens United decision. In the last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg denounced presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, calling him “a faker” who “really has an ego.”

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she said, articulating what many, including Republicans, believe. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

Expressing these sentiments publicly landed her in hot water. Trump called for her resignation and Republicans deplored her action. No surprise. But so did just about everyone else, including liberals and progressives. What was shocking was where she said it, not what she said. No one doubts that she is a liberal Democrat. No one could expect her to back Trump and his unconstitutional proposals that jeopardize the freedom of the press and the rights of free speech and religion, due process and equal protection.

Perhaps RBG believes the prospect of a Trump presidency is so dangerous that she was willing to scrap protocol and jeopardize her legacy to cry out from her bully pulpit.

To preserve the appearance of impartiality and foster faith in Supreme Court and its ruling, the justices don’t take sides in public. The fear now is that RBG might be forced to recuse herself in any case involving Donald Trump. But that is unlikely. In the history of SCOTUS no justice has been compelled to recuse him or herself.

No, Justice Ginsburg dreads Trump’s disregard for the law and willingness to trash the Constitution. I believe that she may well have gone out on a limb in a valiant, though reckless, effort to preserve American democracy.

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Because of Sex …

because of sex_MECH_01.inddFemale anchor fired, sues CEO for sexual harassment and retaliation

The item leapt off my newsfeed, grabbing my attention. Not merely because of the celebrity of former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson and the notoriety of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, but because sexual harassment in the workplace was on my radar.

I was reviewing Gillian Thomas’s book, Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at WorkThree of the ten cases involve some form of sexual harassment, and all of them are about discrimination against women.

Read more …

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White males only?

ChrisRockSunday night Oscars host Chris Rock brought Black History Month to a rousing close. He engaged us with humor that unmasked the ugly truth of a racism that still pervades a self-deluded and self-defined liberal society. Talented people of color can’t possibly win Hollywood’s highest honors if white people are given the major roles. And the same holds true for women of all hues. They rarely have the opportunity to demonstrate their talents when they are passed over by the white men who dominate all aspects of film-making, to mention only one of the many creative and other fields of human endeavor.

SistersInLawToday the focus shifts from color to gender, as Women’s History Month highlights the achievements of women all over the globe. In honor of the occasion, Women’s Voices For Change is publishing my review of Linda Hirshman’s “Sisters-in-Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.” The book’s title is clever, but somewhat misleading, though it does chronicle the vital legal arm of the women’s movement. Had Justices Ginsberg and O’Connor not been appointed to the Supreme Court, American women today would have a very different “herstory.”

How many women born 50 years ago or less understand how inequality made women’s lives and aspirations radically different from those of men? How many know that until the 1970s, when old laws were struck down and new laws began to change the culture, women were rarely if ever seen in corporate boardrooms, as members of houses of Congress and state legislatures, or as judges in the courts? Women were even prohibited from serving on juries (and so they never could be judged by juries of their peers), and often were not hired or promoted in order to protect jobs for men.

Continue reading …

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Bring in the clowns and be wary

I stand by my assessment of the second Republican debate as “fun,” though most people disagree. I had fun watching Trump’s antics, both his words and his body language; Christie’s sharp wit and Bush’s evasions. Perhaps I was able to enjoy the marathon debate because I can’t bring myself to take these people seriously, I can’t wrap my mind around the possibility that one of these clowns could potentially be President of United States. I still have faith in the electorate.

I admit that’s not fair to Fiorina, Paul or Kasich. They were the grownups in the room.

CarlyFiorinaIf only Carly hadn’t described the Planned Parenthood videos with such relish. Her intent to discredit an organization that provides health care — including, but by no means limited, to contraception and abortion — for women is shameful. The videos are indeed gruesome and shocking, but they were assembled and highly edited by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress. Until she began to talk about the videos, I was admiring her preparation and steely gumption in facing down Trump.

But she totally lost me when she lunged into her fear-mongering vilification of Planned Parenthood. I’m left with the two alternatives: Either she, a smart and well-read woman, knows the truth about PP but decided to cater to the far-right wing with deliberate lies; or she’s not so smart, not capable of critical thinking, not able to distinguish propaganda from truth and facts, which would have rendered the rest of her performance and previous accomplishments impossible. Either scenario disqualifies her as an aspirant to the highest executive position in the world. She has some nerve accusing Hillary Clinton of lying at every opportunity.

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GOP Debate: Fox News Shines

Fox News Panel, GOP Debate, August, 2015

Fox News Panel, from left: Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier. GOP Debate, August, 2015

The real winner last night at the GOP debate was the Fox News team of moderators. They grilled the candidates with questions that were well researched and carefully thought out. In addition to those barbed and provocative questions, their willingness to allow heated exchanges between the debaters produced great television.

They confronted the candidates with their flaws, flip-flops and failures, rather than pander to them with softballs as Fox usually does. We learned more about the debaters and their characters than we ever do from politicians’ usual canned recitals of their talking points.

By putting the candidates on the defensive, Fox informed the public about the candidates’ records and positions that many might not have known. The men revealed much more about themselves than a printed record could show.

ChristieVsPaul

NJ Gov Chris Christie and KY Sen Rand Paul go head to head

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was combative and quick on his feet, counter-attacking Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s ill-fated attempt to embarrass him. You gave Obama “a big hug,” said Paul, “give him a big hug again.”

Without losing a beat, Christie parried, “You know, Sen. Paul, the hugs that I remember are the ones I gave to the families who lost their people on Sept. 11.” Paul was no match for Christie. He was too polite or too timid to interrupt the onslaught. Rand Paul did not fare well.

Sometimes it was the candidate who bested the questioner. When Kelly asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich about his opposition to same-sex marriage, he said that despite his belief in traditional marriage, he accepts the Supreme Court’s ruling. You can love people without agreeing with them, he said. But if your child were gay … Kelly persisted.

OH Gov. John Kasich

OH Gov. John Kasich

Kasich stepped up to the plate, saying that he would love his daughters no matter what. “God gives me unconditional love,” he said, “and I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

Kasich was the moderate in the group. None of the other Republican governors on the stage with him accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He passionately defended his decision to treat the mentally ill, the drug-addicted and the working poor.

FL Sen. MarcoRubio

FL Sen. Marco Rubio

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio appeared to have helped himself. When confronted with his lack of executive experience, Rubio replied, “This election cannot be a résumé competition. It has to be about the future. It’s important to be qualified, but if this election is a résumé competition, then Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president….  This election better be about the future, not the past.”

JebBushGOPdebate

Fmr FL Gov Jeb Bush

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has forfeited his front-runner status in the polls to Donald Trump, touted his résumé and made little noise. He did not stand out and still had difficulty explaining his gaffe of earlier in the week to Kelly. She asked him why he had said that, knowing what we know now, his brother’s invasion of Iraq was “a mistake.” Bush tried to make up to veterans and their families for implying that those who died and sacrificed in Iraq did so in vain. You can’t please everybody, but Bush is trying.

Moderator Megyn Kelly

Moderator Megyn Kelly Fox News

Kelly targeted Donald Trump, battering him with sharp questions. She dared him to explain his obnoxious views and treatment of women. “You call women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” she accused him. At first Trump denied the charge (“It was all in fun”), then had to nod in agreement. Did he apologize? No way. He justified himself by saying he had no time for political correctness.

DonaldTrumpSour

Donald Trump

When Kelly asked him when he actually became a Republican, Trump squirmed. He had no answer. Charged with contributing to the political campaigns of Democrats, Trump rejoined, “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them and they are there for me.” Perhaps he realized that he was endorsing corruption. “And that’s a broken system,” he added.

ChrisWallace

Moderator Chris Wallace, Fox News

Chris Wallace challenged Trump to explain his companies’ bankruptcies. Trump responded by clarifying that the bankruptcies were corporate, not personal. He also implied that they were a smart business tactic.

The Donald resented Kelly’s biting thrusts. “The questions to me were not nice,” he pouted after the debate.

The extremists were nonplussed by her probes.

Fmr AK Gov Mike Huckabee

Fmr AK Gov Mike Huckabee

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas defended his position of not allowing openly trans people to serve in the military. “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. It’s not a social experiment,” he said.

Gov. Scott Walker had no qualms about his refusal to allow abortion under any circumstances when Kelly asked him, “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?”

WI Gov Scott Walker

WI Gov Scott Walker

Without answering directly, Walker asserted, “I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there. And I’ve said many times that that unborn child can be protected and there are many alternatives that would protect the life of the mother.” Walker did not say what those alternatives are.

And so it went. Memorable moments. Fun and a little scary.

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A day in the life …

whirringMachineThe day began at 6:30 when I woke up and mentally scanned my to-do list.

6:45 – Out of bed. Routine morning chores. Husband ready to go since yesterday, but visibly anxious as he always is before a trip “home” to Italy. After all these years, I still haven’t devised a foolproof way to calm him down. I was organizing, collecting and packing my things, personal and work-related. Not a fast or simple task for an obsessive, even for a short getaway.

9:30 – rushed out to an interview – only to find the subway delayed and even the bus pulling away as I was crossing the street. It had to be a taxi. I hadn’t found time to go to the bank, so there went my last $10. And the ride was not without frustration, as the driver had to navigate through traffic choked by double-parked trucks on both sides of the street.

11:00 – Back home 30 minutes before husband’s desired departure time. He tried not to fret while I collected the remaining odds and ends.

11:45 – The bags and the cats were ready to be loaded into the car, but a UPS van blocked the entrance, illegally parked cars lined the street and double-parked delivery trucks bottlenecked the traffic into one barely moving lane. The various bags and the cats had to skirt the moving cars as they were ferried across the street and into the car. Realizing that despite my precautions I had left something crucial behind, I had to go back upstairs. I returned to find my husband on the next street with an expression that did not bode well.  Not only had he forgotten to take his reading glasses, but an inpatient truck had slashed the car’s bumper.

The trip to the airport was blessedly uneventful. Husband arrived two hours before flight time, but inclement weather delayed the flight for almost 3 hours while he was sitting on the plane.  Why is it that a few drops of rain can snaggle a great city like New York?

1:30 – Back on the road. Obsessives wear suspenders, but they also wear a belt, just in case. I set up two GPS devices to guide me through the maze at JFK and onto an unfamiliar route.

3:00 – I found my serpentine way to a Costco on the other side of the highway.  I went mainly for peaches, as they were so good last week, but today I bought blueberries instead, because the peaches had no fragrance. After reaching for the cream, I turned around to find my shopping cart was gone. Back for more yogurt and more blueberries, but that was all I could carry. Finding the car in a huge and unfamiliar lot was a little tricky, because I had wandered in and out and up and down looking for a shady spot for the cats, and had only an approximate idea of where I’d left them. I was concerned not to leave them waiting for me too long in the oppressive heat.

4:00 – Home at last and thankfully, off the perpetually spinning machine. Everybody gratefully stretched their legs. A new set of chores and then finally, some downtime.

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