In Advance of the Republican Debate…

The Republicans have another debate tomorrow night. Accordingly, (especially now that Rand is gone) I expect much talk of carpet bombing ISIS, and putting American combat troops on the ground here, there, and everywhere, and, generally speaking, each candidate making a spectacle of himself trying to be the toughest bully in the playground. Given that hawkish mindset, it’s surprising to me that none of the Republicans serving for President have served in the military.

I don’t think serving in the military should be a prerequisite for serving as President. But I do think that if you’re going to call yourself a hawk, and argue for intervention and American troops fighting all over the world at the slightest provocation, then you should serve or have served in the military. If you talk the talk, you walk the walk. It’s not complicated.

America’s been at war for the past 15 years. But because our army is an all-volunteer army, and is made up almost entirely of poor people, the majority of Americans are completely unaffected by these wars. Only .4% of the American population is active-duty military, even though we’re fighting (as of September 2015) in 135 countries. That is a travesty.

And it’s an even bigger travesty to see a debate stage full of men trying to out-boast each other, ruffling their macho-man feathers when it’s almost certain (granted, I’m speculating here) that because of their wealth and educational background they gave little thought–and probably would have been horrified at the suggestion–that they join the military. I don’t know many graduates of Princeton and Harvard Law serving in the military who also attended Princeton and Harvard Law.

People like the nominees, and people like me, and probably most of our blog readers, aren’t planning to join the military anytime soon. That’s totally fine, of course, as long as you come out against American intervention–and vote for similarly-minded candidates. But it’s wrong to simultaneously shelter yourself from the military and argue in favor of excessive American troop involvement overseas–or, at the very least, refuse to acknowledge that constant intervention and war inevitably leads to tragic consequences for our troops (and not to mention for citizens of the countries we operate in who suffer the brunt of the carnage of war). It’s not OK if you want to send somebody else’s daughter and somebody else’s sister overseas to get killed.

Back in December, Harvard released a confounding study which concluded that 60% of American millennials support combat troops on the ground to defeat ISIS. At the same time, 62% of those exact same millennials concluded that they would definitely never join the military, and 23% said they would probably not join. Does that make sense to you? Most of these millennials are happy to declare that we should fight ISIS to the bitter end…as long as someone else bears the burden. That is simply wrong. But it is not, sadly, out of touch with the Republican nominees.

Here’s any idea for the moderators of tomorrow’s debate: Any time a candidate expresses a desire to  involve American troops in any type of conflict, force that candidate to give the names of the family members he would pick to go serve in support of the war he just advocated for. It’s only fair.

(This isn’t just for Republicans. The Democrats should have to do that, too–I’m looking at you, Hillary.)

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Why this Millennial Female Doesn’t Support Hillary: Part One

Every Friday, Diane Rehm hosts her weekly domestic politics hour on NPR. This past Friday, the question of the hour was why millennial women weren’t supporting Hillary. Despite the fact that the roundtable participants explained in detail why their millennial daughters were supporting Bernie, and despite the numerous millennial women who called in to explain their views, the roundtable participants seemed legitimately puzzled: Hillary’s a woman who could make history becoming the first woman president; half of millennials are women. Why aren’t millennial women flocking in droves to vote for Hillary as she embarks on her history-making presidential run?

As I fall into this demographic category that they find so puzzling, I thought I’d explain why I don’t support Hillary.

Let me start by saying–and I apologize for the weasel lawyer thing I’m about to say–that I reject the premise of the roundtable’s question. It’s offensive. I have NO IDEA why millennial women aren’t supporting Hillary. Perhaps it’s because we’re a completely diverse group, separated by race, age (millennials can be as young as 18 and as old as 33), socioeconomic status, marital status, sexual orientation, educational level, religious affiliation, place of residence, and so on and so forth. The fact that the media (a very common example of a sentence in a news article: “It is somewhat remarkable that Sanders was able to win among any female subgroup given Clinton’s historic potential to be the first female presidential nominee for a major party.”) and Hillary’s campaign managers seem to think that millennial women should support Hillary “en masse” regardless of who we are as individuals, and what political issues we find most important is patently absurd. Unbelievably, offensively so.

So this blog post is about why I don’t support Hillary. My reasons for this are unique from my 18-year old sister’s reasons for supporting Bernie, and my 26-year old sister’s reasons for supporting Bernie.

To begin to actually answer the substantive question–why not Hillary?–I guess we should start with gender, as that’s why everybody assumes I, as a fellow woman, should support Hillary.

First, from what I can understand from the media, it seems that feminists in the style of Gloria Steinmen and Madeline Albright seem to see their gender as the most important thing about them. They think that, as a woman, I have to support Hillary because women should support other women. For them, it’s pretty clear: gender trumps whatever real differences women may have with other women, and the most important thing for women is the symbolic image of a woman as President.

I, on the other hand, am not solely defined by my gender–or rather, I am, but only in part. In equal other parts I’m a person, a US citizen, a progressive, a sister, a daughter, and a spouse, all in addition to me being a woman. My gender is not the most interesting or important thing about me. I would never support somebody solely based on some immutable, biological trait. I would not vote for someone because they are a woman any more than I would do so solely because they were white, gay, or six foot five.

Perhaps this is surprising to Madeline Albright, but I, as a reasonably intelligent voter and citizen, support candidates and people because of substantive issues. The political issues I care most passionately about–the environment, corruption on Wall Street, the excessive political power and influence given to lobbyists and the rich, and the broken criminal justice system–have nothing to do with my gender. And despite what Hillary likes to say about those issues now, her actual record on those issues, especially when you compare her to Bernie, is spectacularly unimpressive and somewhat in line with moderate Republicans (more on the actual issues in a later post).

Of course none of this means that I don’t want to see women succeed in public life. I, too, would like to see a woman (and a Jewish-American, and a Muslim, and a Latino, etc.) as President one day, and find it tiring how much boring old white men dominate politics, there are simply too many pressing, concrete issues to deliberately choose to vote for a woman, when, in my opinion, that woman is a distinctly inferior candidate to her boring old white Jewish man rival, and whose policies will not do as much good for my fellow citizens (men and women). The day will come soon when a candidate whom I absolutely love and agree with on most of the issues just happens to be a woman (Elizabeth Warren, perhaps?). And then I will happily and excitedly vote for her (much in the same way I voted for Obama. I loved almost everything about him…the fact that he happened to also be the first black President was just the cherry on top).

[As an aside: isn’t this outcome what the earlier feminists, like Steinem, fought for? For men and women to be, act, and be viewed as equal and as distinct individuals? I don’t need to see a woman as President to finally think that my worth, as a woman, is validated. Nor do I need to see a woman as President to think society has finally validated the worth of women, as a whole.]

Second, I’ve heard several people (President Obama the most recent) say that Hillary needs to break that “final glass ceiling” so that little girls can dream of being the president someday. That’s absurd! Are little girls so lacking in imagination and creativity that they think they can only fulfill traditional female jobs when they grow up? Does President Obama think that little girls right now only dream of nursing and teaching elementary school? Come on! It’s 2016!!

Apparently this is surprising to others in the media, but my parents brought me up to believe that if I worked hard enough, I could do whatever I wanted to do with my life. Whenever I announced a new dream occupation (President of the US, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, etc.), my parents stressed the importance of working hard and getting a great education. They never told me I couldn’t do something because it wasn’t a job for women. And I didn’t need to see women fulfilling those jobs to believe in myself and my abilities. It’s sad that so many people think women are unable to dream big and to dream of breaking gender barriers on their own. I grew up doing everything the boys did, and, I like to think, I did it better.

(It’s also worth pointing out that Madeline Albright’s comment kind of sums up why I hate the all-women-for-Hillary attitude. If Madeline Albright believes all women have to support all other women, where was she when Sarah Palin ran for vice-president? Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see her giving any speeches for Carly Fiorina. Did you?)

We’ll get a female President before too long. And if I vote for her, it will be because she impresses me as a politician and a person of integrity and good political sense who cares about my issues. It will certainly not be because she’s a woman–although that will be a wonderful secondary effect. Unfortunately for Hillary, her record and stances on the issues I care most about are deeply unsatisfying to me, and, according to the exit polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, most of my fellow millennials agree.

 

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Snowzilla 2016 Musings: Is Michael Pollan’s Advice That Useful?

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The view of our street after the storm ended.

A few weeks ago, the Obama administration released its updated dietary guidelines. The guidelines directed Americans to consume more fiber and vegetables and reduce added sugar. I read many articles on the guidelines, and most of the articles concluded that the guidelines were somewhat vague and abstract, and therefore unhelpful and confusing. As usual, it seems most Americans would be better off if they followed Michael Pollan’s dietary maxim: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Food, as Mr. Pollan defines it, is the fresh food you find in the perimeter of the grocery store–vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits, fish–the kind of food that eventually rots. Generally speaking, it’s not the food you find in boxes and bags. Eating “mostly plants” means that the majority of your daily food consumption comes from vegetables, pulses, fruits, and whole grains. His advice is more nuanced than that, but the media boils it down to that simple maxim, and its more general, much less useful, counterpart: “avoid processed foods”.

In theory, eating “real” food sounds so …. millennial, chic, healthy, yuppie, organic, upper class. And, in practice, it pretty much is. Look around the internet and you’ll see countless movie stars and world-class athletes espousing fresh, “real” food diets and decrying processed food. Did you see the article on Tom Brady and Giselle? Continue reading

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Year of the Pulse

2016. In Chinese circles, it’s known as the Year of the Monkey. In astrology circles, it’s known as the Year of Fire and Passion. In United Nations circles, it’s known as the Year of the Pulse. For those of you who may be as unfamiliar as I was with the term, a pulse is an edible seed that grows in a pod (think beans, legumes, lentils).

Lentils: It's What's For Dinner

Lentils: It’s What’s For Dinner

While we’re still quite a ways from 2016, it’s never too early to get started on a good thing (especially since pulses grow spectacularly in summer gardens). After all, the Year of the Pulses can’t come quickly enough—pulses are the new wonder food. As the UN states, “pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer.”

Nutritionally, these mighty pulses are overflowing with nutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and healthy phytochemicals. A half-cup serving of lentils has more antioxidants than a serving of blueberries; lentils have more nutrients than beef, providing far more vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, and far less fat and fewer calories than beef. That’s hard to fathom. According to the CDC, high pulse consumption is linked to decreases in obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and anemia. A study of 10,000 US adults showed that those adults who ate pulses four or more times a week had a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate pulses less than once a week. As I said, pulses are the new wonder food. Continue reading

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The Explainer: New York City’s Man and Woman of the Year

Blood cancer, unquestionably, is not the most cheerful of topics. Yet statistics such as these—an individual in the US is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes; more than 176,000 new blood cancer cases will be diagnosed in the US this year—make it hard to ignore. For your general knowledge, blood cancers generally start in the blood marrow and disrupt normal blood cell development with the growth of a cancerous blood cell. The cancerous blood cells, in turn, prevent the body from fighting off infections or preventing bleeding.

You’ve probably heard of the three main types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. More children and adults under 20 die from leukemia than any other cancer. In the US, an estimated 88,490 people live with myeloma, and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the 6th most common cancer in the US.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is “the largest voluntary cancer research agency specifically focused on finding cures and better treatments for blood cancer patients.” LLS is phenomenal in that it focuses its research on finding cures for blood cancers without regard to commercial return. LLS funds hundreds of “promising researchers at leading cancer centers and universities worldwide” and strives toward a world without blood cancer.

Every year, LLS sponsors a 10-week campaign to elect New York City’s Man and Woman of the Year by picking 15 “community and business leaders who are philanthropic, ambitious, socially active, resourceful, goal oriented, and passionate about making a difference in the lives of people suffering from blood cancers.” Receiving the honor of inclusion as a candidate is incredibly impressive and no small feat–whatever may be said about New York City, it has more than its share of exceptional citizens. The candidates compete amongst themselves to see who can raise the most money to support blood cancer research ($1 equals one vote), and the winner is elected NYC’s Man or Woman of the Year. To date, these campaigns have raised more than $1 billion, which went straight to blood cancer research.

This year, LLS honored our friend, Allie Schnall, by choosing her to be one of NYC’s candidates for Man or Woman of the Year. Allie’s campaign, Allie’s Allies for a Cure, set the ambitious goal of raising $100,000 throughout the 10-week campaign, monies which will go directly to blood cancer research. Her campaign ends Thursday, June 4th. It’s likely that somebody in your life has been or knows someone affected by blood cancer. Why not do something good today by making a donation in that person’s honor to this worthy cause?

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Splurges Worthy of the .1%

Several months ago, Tanner’s parents asked me to identify the splurges I would make if I were Oprah Winfrey-style rich. It was an interesting question at the time, and I’ve pondered it off and on since then. What would I do with unlimited wealth? How would I use my new-found wealth to say adieu to the most tedious and annoying things in my life? What would you, dear reader, do with your (perhaps ill-begotten) gains?

Before beginning, I’d like to lay out some ground rules:

  1. Your splurges cannot be the types of things that most upper-class Americans can afford.* Things such as a nice big house, traveling the world in style, many new books, dining at fine restaurants, cable, a fancy new pool and gym membership, trainer, etc., are not the splurges I have in mind. We’re talking ridiculous splurges—the types of splurges that only the top 0.1%** can afford.
  2. Your splurges cannot be altruistic in nature. I know that most of the readers of this blog would go out and save the environment, cure cancer, and fight economic inequality if given large sums of cash. Quite frankly, that’s just not that interesting. Your splurges must be only for your benefit.

Thus, without further ado, I present my selfish, outrageous splurges:

  • At every second in time, I would have every fresh fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, fish, wild grain, and cheese known to human-kind stocked in our kitchen and available to us. Freshly picked delicious heirloom New Jersey tomatoes in the middle of February? Yes. Craving something juicy, sweet, and delicious late, late at night in the middle of November? Freshly cut watermelon is in the fridge. Kumquats, kiwis, pumpkin seeds, rutabagas, pistachios, Wild-Alaskan salmon, curly kale, grapes, blueberries, farro, cauliflower, avocadoes, olives, asparagus, cherries, Brussel sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, cilantro, Parmesan. All of it. All the time. All of the highest quality. Organic, delicious, never too ripe, never past its prime, and always available, just like magic. In our kitchen.

veggies

  • A personal shopper and dresser. Yes, that’s right. I would hire a woman (or man, I suppose) of great taste and class to buy all my clothes and orthotically-correct yet still stylish footwear, place my clothes for the following day on the floor for me each night, and fold my clothes and put them away when I’m done. On the rarest of rare occasions when I decided I actually wanted to go clothes shopping, she (he) would give me a list of all the different stores and my proper sizes in all their ridiculous, inconsistent, styles: a 4 in Anthropologie’s high-waisted skinny jeans; a petite 00 in Loft’s Classic-style, Julie-fit dress pants, but a 6 in Loft’s City-style, Marissa-fit jeans; a large in Nordstrom’s sweaters; a 0 in J-Crew sweaters, etc.,…you get the picture.
  • Our own personal internet server (not to be confused with our own email server). I hate Comcast with a passion. I want Google to come build me an internet server that is faster than the speed of light, never crashes, never slows down, and has no association with Comcast.
    comcast-sucks
  • The ability to pay every single medical bill in cold, hard, cash. Maybe even ones. The months of January, February, and March have been the first months in which we’ve truly had to deal with health insurance companies. It’s hard to describe how bad it’s been, or how many work days lost in all-day arguments with these companies. No more. I’ve had it. My last splurge will be to pay every single medical bill in cash so that I can go see whichever doctor I’d like, whenever I’d like, and never communicate with a health insurance company again.

What would you choose?

*The middle class in America (defined as those Americans with incomes in the 25 to 75 percent range) makes between $34,000 to $107,000. It’s time for many upper-class Americans to acknowledge that fact and stop hiding behind the ambiguous “upper-middle-class” title.

**The top 1% American households (as of 2011) hold only $2.38 million in net wealth. The top 0.1% of American households, on the other hand, hold assets exceeding $20 million.

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What We’re Cooking: White Whole Wheat Flour

Our version of eating healthily is all about finding vegetable-loaded healthy recipes that we like just as much as their non-healthy counter-parts (creative, I know).* Basil pesto loaded down with a pound of parmesan cheese is phenomenal. But so is this kale-walnut pesto with flax-seed oil and no parmesan (really, trust me). Regular pancakes are tasty, but these pancakes made out of oatmeal flour and bananas are even better. Buttered pasta is generally hard to beat, but whole-wheat pasta with roasted broccoli, onions, and sundried tomatoes tends to do the trick.** Peanut-butter and homemade honey-blueberry jam oatmeal is better than cereal any day of the week. You get the drift.

Roasted cauliflower with farro, avocado, and kale. We made this Saturday night, and it was phenomenal. Recipe taken from the always delicious Cookie and Kate.

Roasted cauliflower with farro, avocado, and kale. We made this Saturday night, and it was excellent. Recipe taken from the always delicious Cookie and Kate.

Unfortunately, with whole-wheat bread, I’ve encountered some obstacles. Sure, whole wheat bread is fine. But it’s just never as good as that soft, fluffy, stick-to-the-roof of your mouth, classic loaf of white Italian bread found at the store. And there’s the rub. Every time I ate our whole-wheat dinner bread or sandwich bread, I wished I was eating white Italian bread. Until last week, that is, when I made the most amazing discovery: white whole wheat flour!!

Unlike many things in the world of healthful eating, white whole wheat flour really is as good and incredible as it sounds. Nutritionally, white whole wheat flour is identical to whole wheat flour; just as in whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour is made from the whole grain, bran, germ, and endosperm. The only difference is that white whole wheat is made from white wheat and traditional whole wheat is made from red wheat. So, again, nutritionally, there’s no difference. But in taste, it’s worlds apart: it’s softer, milder, almost sweeter. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a fantastic replacement for regular white sandwich bread, tortillas, and Italian bread (I’m sure it’s good for a lot more, too, but we haven’t made anything else, yet).

A lifelong committing to eating healthily on a consistent basis is extremely, extremely hard; there’s no getting around it. That commitment requires untold amounts of vegetable chopping, always having pounds of vegetables and fruits in your refrigerator and freezer, and a lot (really, a lot) of time, effort, and planning. On a nightly basis. And that’s just the physical aspect of it. Mentally, it’s even harder to convince yourself after a long day that you’d rather spend 20 minutes chopping pounds of broccoli, onions, kale, sundried tomatoes and so on and so forth—and then cleaning the plethora of oily dishes—instead of one minute drizzling olive oil and parmesan cheese over comforting, familiar, white pasta noodles.

So while we’re committed in spirit, we’re not always quite as committed in action, especially after a bad day, or even just a Monday. But crafting healthy meals that are even more delicious than their alternatives allows us to most successfully quash our temptations and stand by our commitment. Thanks to white whole wheat flour, the battle presented by white breads (and the white pasta that inevitably has to accompany the bread) just got a lot easier to resist.

*In moderation, of course. Ice cream truly has no acceptable replacement.

**After whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta is the hardest cross to bear. That cross became a little lighter with our recent revelation that whole wheat pasta cannot be substituted willy-nilly for white pasta: you have to treat it differently. Whole wheat pasta with plain butter or a plain tomato sauce doesn’t work. Whole wheat pasta dishes with lots of vegetables and beans and olive-oil, or walnut-kale pestos, or pureed butternut squashes, though, are quite excellent.

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Year of the Goat

Thursday is my favorite day of the week. Friday contains just the faintest hint of a depressing aura because subconsciously I know it’s seven whole days before the next Friday; Saturday causes the depressing aura to blossom, what with Monday so close at hand. Sunday, of course, is the worst. But on Thursday, I’m excited that it’s almost the weekend. I stay up late because I can sleep in on Saturday. You can’t beat Thursdays.

botanics one

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Yes, Russell Wilson, Blame God for Those Interceptions

It’s Super Bowl time, and almost lost amidst the delightful tomfoolery of Deflate-gate, were comments made by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson after his team’s—in football terms, anyway—miraculous comeback win over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the NFC Championship game. Wilson, who with five minutes left in the contest had played atrociously, with four interceptions and not a single score (the lone Seattle touchdown to that point had been scored by the kicker on a genius fake-field goal in the third quarter), somehow led his team to three touchdowns in 8 minutes, stunning the Packers and their Wisconsin faithful. Afterward, Wilson—who is widely seen as one of the dullest interviews in sports—could be observed sobbing as he hugged his teammates, overcome with what had just happened. Continue reading

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What We’re Cooking: Spicy Sweet Potato and Green Rice Burrito Salad Bowls

(From Cookie + kate)

(From Cookie + kate)

When it comes to eating, it’s hard to hit the fine line between being “stuffed” and “satisfied.” More often than not, my eating habits lean toward the former, as I tend to gorge upon a tasty meal as long as there’s more of it available, regardless of whether or not my stomach is actually full. (The problem, of course, is the disconnect between our stomachs and our brains: if we’re eating fast enough, we’ll still feel hungry at the end of a meal, even if we’re technically stuffed.)

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