Photo of the Week

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Okinawa, Japan.

As I was leaving base this week, I came across the above scene.  One man, holding a sign across from a base gate, spreading goodwill towards Americans.  The recent spate of criminal activity on Okinawa, allegedly by Americans, has intensified the already unique relationship between the people of Japan and Americans.  Indeed, what once was a relationship of aggressor and defender, became one of occupied and occupier, and now is akin to one of host and guest.

I watched as he spoke in Japanese to the cars passing by.  And then I watched as he repeatedly bowed in gratitude towards the SOFA-status vehicles waiting to leave base.  Certainly, some Japanese citizens welcome our presence, whether for the yen spent at restaurants and bars or for the sense of protection afforded to the largely pacifist country.  But this man’s decision to stand alone and let his voice be heard left me wanting to know more.  What made him stand in the sweltering heat to thank U.S. servicemembers?  What did his family think of his actions?  His friends?  The local media?  Local politicians?

I suppose the answers to those questions don’t truly matter.  It’s never easy to stand alone, especially when one’s position is unpopular.  That’s why I’m thankful we don’t have to.

Too Much Time? Apparently So.

The average American watches an astonishing 4.3 hours of TV a day, according to a new report from Nielsen. Add in DVR time, and that number gets up to 5 hours a day.

—  You are still watching a staggering amount of TV every day, Recode (June 27, 2106).

If you haven’t heard, television–or, more precisely, the absence of television–has become a status symbol of some middle class families.  As a parent to a two-year old, I understand the desire to ignore the large-screen elephant in the room.  Study after study finds that watching television is a detriment to little minds.  The act of watching a screen, be it television or tablet, provides instant gratification to young children, who, in turn, become addicted to screen time.  Of course, other issues flow from too much television time:  sedentary lifestyle, lack of fresh air and vitamin D, obesity, etc.

On occasion, [S] watches a brief portion of the morning news and/or major sporting events.  But, by far, she is a television-free kid.  Some days, I want to sit her down in front of the boob tube and have the ever-elusive “me” time.  But that would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.  Indeed, [S] is an easy kid, ready to leave the house at a moment’s notice, be it to go to the bank or find a new playground.  But the recent Nielsen study has less to do with our daughter than us.

Russell and I watch a maximum of an hour of television a day.  Days go by with us never turning on the television.  Why?  Because there is nothing worth watching.  Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  But not much.  Yes, PBS NewsHour is worthy of my time.  And so was The Good Wife.  But four or five hours of television a day?  I’d prefer to spend my free time exploring or, even, reading, writing and working out.

Regardless of what programs are being watched, I am now better able to understand the genesis of both the obesity epidemic and the dumbing down of Americans

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: A Win for Women

Abortion rights supporters and opponents wait for rulings in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in Washington, D.C.

The Supreme Court has overturned a Texas law requiring clinics that provide abortions to have surgical facilities and doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law was predicted to close many clinics and further reduce availability of abortion in Texas; the court has ruled the law violated the Constitution.

With a 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the court reversed a decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had upheld the law. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, while Anthony Kennedy joined the liberal justices in the majority.

Lionel Messi’s Ego

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi waits for trophy presentations after the Copa America Centenario championship soccer match, Sunday, June 26, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks to win the championship. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, so the saying goes.  Football superstar Lionel Messi suggested he will quit the Argentine National Team as a result of the loss suffered in today’s Copa final.

“The national team is over for me,” Messi told the Argentine network TyC Sports. “It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”

I understand he has the weight of a nation on his shoulders.  And such expectations are not unreasonable considering his statistics.  It appears clear that his comments were driven by an injured ego, rather than rational thought, in the aftermath of yet another emotional loss.  Personally, I would have preferred if he hadn’t added to the drama of the match.

#SourGrapes

Brexit: A Massive Knock-On Effect

I continue to contemplate the consequences of Great Britain’s vote to exit the European Union.  Tensions run higher now than they did during the Brexit campaign.  To say I am incapable of understanding fully the knock-on effects of matters flowing from last week’s vote would be a significant understatement.  Indeed, while I love Europe, I’m not European.  And while I’ve enjoyed several trips to Britain, I’m not British.  Rather, I am American.  And my analysis of the vote is decidedly American.

When I heard about the Brexit vote, I quickly wondered how such an unexpected result would affect the U.S. presidential election in November.  For those unable to connect the dots leading from one side of the pond to the other, Mr. Trump eagerly did so.  The upshot?  He was right.  President Obama was wrong.  Hillary Clinton always is wrong.  This, despite his initial analysis of the situation, made via Twitter, which got the facts wrong.

The Art of Giving

FullSizeRender(244)[S] has embraced hugging recently.  She hugs me.  She hugs her Father.  She hugs her stuffed animals.  She hugs her baby doll.  All to be expected.  But she also hugs her books.  And her chairs.  And her toy cash register.  Clearly, she understands that hugging means you care about that person–or item, as the case may be.  Indeed, the past two weeks have been filled with commands of,  “Hugggg, hugggg, Mommy.”

She also likes give me things.  She’ll find a strand of my hair and say, “Here you go, Mommy,” as she hands it to me.  She does the same with tissues (used or clean), torn paper, and magazines.  Unfortunately, she also does it with things she finds on our floors.  The other day while I was Skyping with a dear friend, [S] placed something next to the computer, saying, “Here you go, Momma.”  I took a quick look and screamed loudly, jumping up from my seat.  It was a dead spider.  Sigh.  Needless to say, I’m mopping our floors more often.

This week, I realized how [S] has perfected the art of giving.  Monday, I lay shivering on the couch, covered by a cashmere blanket.  “Momma, hug, Momma,” [S] kept saying.  Thinking it was another round of the flu, I wanted her to stay far away from me.  But after another 24-hours of fever, aches and pains, I started to feel small blisters forming on my fingers and feet.  Today, those blisters have turned into tell-tale red circles.  When I rang the doctor yesterday, I was advised that adults rarely show symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease, “But if you do have it, there’s nothing we can do for you.”

I’m on day five of my self-imposed quarantine.  It’s not a pretty virus.  To the contrary, it’s like having the chicken pox on your hands and feet.  Really.  For the past several days, I keep thinking that there has to be a way to keep [S] from trying to kiss me constantly.  That thought is repeatedly met with the same response, “Why would I want to do that?”  After all, she’ll stop on her own accord soon enough.

BREXIT: A Reality, No Longer a Movement

Prime Minister David Cameron outside 10 Downing Street a day after Britain voted to break out of the European Union. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

It’s a whole new world.  If you don’t believe me, just ask the world markets.  Or ask Europeans.  With Britain’s vote to exit the European Union comes significant economic and security concerns for European nations and leadership and agenda issues for Great Britain.

To say I’m surprised at the outcome is an understatement.  A grand one.  I am shocked.  But perhaps I shouldn’t be.  Independence of thought and action has been a strength of the people of Britain.  No doubt, those qualities will have to be leveraged to drive the U.K. forward, especially given the deep divide amongst its citizens.

As for the European Union?  No one can predict its future.  But a union is only as strong as its weakest member.

Failure to Act, Once Again.

If our elected representatives can’t agree on reasonable gun control measures, it is time they are replaced with men and women who can.  This isn’t a complex issue.  To the contrary, it’s a simple one.  The Second Amendment does not provide an unfettered right to guns.  Full stop.  Reasonable restrictions on who may purchase firearms makes sense.  No, such measures may not stop another mass shooting, but they may make it more difficult to obtain the needed firearm to carry out such a deadly act.  To be clear, no one–and I mean no one–is suggesting that restrictions on purchasing firearms will eliminate gun-related deaths or injuries.  And no one is talking about taking away the guns that people already have.  But common sense regulations?  That is something everyone should be able to get on board with regardless of party-affiliation.

Vote accordingly.

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday failed to advance four separate measures aimed at curbing gun sales, the latest display of congressional inaction after a mass shooting.

Eight days after a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub, the Senate deadlocked, largely along party lines, on amendments to block people on the federal terrorism watch list from buying guns and to close loopholes in background check laws. Families of gun violence victims looked on from the Senate chamber as the votes were held.

Further action on gun safety measures or mental health provisions seemed unlikely before the fall election, given the rush to finish a series of spending bills and the relatively limited time that Congress will be in session before November.

In addition, the four gun measures were attached to legislation that contains several other thorny issues, such as the question of whether to take passports away from terrorism suspects, which suggests there will be little chance for further debate.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has been working on a compromise, disliked by both party leaders, that would bar the sale of guns to terrorism suspects who appear on either the government’s no-fly list or the so-called selectee list of people who receive additional scrutiny at airports. That bill, which is not as broad as the Democratic watch-list measure that failed on Monday, could surface later in the week.

Partisanship and the power of the gun lobby played a large role in the amendments’ failure. Democrats structured their bills in a way that was almost certain to repel Republicans, while Republicans responded with bills equally distasteful to Democrats.

—  Senate Rejects 4 Measures to Control Gun Sales, The New York Times, June 20, 2016.