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On Hobby Lobby

It’s hard for me to be decisive about religious freedoms, especially after the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby. The Court ruled that, as a closely held company, the corporation can exercise its religious beliefs with respect to its employees and their rights under the Affordable Care Act. Put simply, the family that owns Hobby Lobby disagrees with 4 types of contraception, for religious reasons; therefore they cannot legally be forced to pay for those contraceptives.


This does make sense, theoretically. In America we are free to believe in whatever we want, and no one, government or otherwise, can make us do something that violates the terms of our religious beliefs. 

For me, though, there is absolutely a distinction between this religious freedom among individuals and within corporations. I vehemently disagree that “corporations are people,” so the idea that they could act like an individual with all the rights that entails is baffling to me.

That aside, if I think about this decision as an opportunity to take a look at religious freedoms and to further protect them for all Americans (not just those that proscribe to the Hobby Lobby brand of belief), I still encounter a problem.

There are, very legitimately, Americans who ascribe to lesser known religions and who believe in things that lie outside the prevailing Judeo-Christian tradition. For example: Buddhists, by directive and by belief pacifist, should not in theory be forced by their government to be in any way involved in activities that cause death. This is why many Buddhists are vegetarians, and why there are Buddhist haikus admonishing us not to squash houseflies in the same way we wouldn’t slaughter a cow. 

The mandate to avoid killing is simple to avoid in some cases. If there were a draft in place, Buddhists could claim conscientious objection on religious grounds. Aside from the draft, though, there are a lot of resources that go into war. Namely, money. Taxes. Our paychecks. 

It stands to reason, then, that Buddhists should be able to claim a religious exemption from taxes which will eventually go towards funding war. (Of course this would require a more stringent system of tracking tax dollars and their uses, but that’s not pertinent here.) But, I am sure, a Buddhist who refused to pay taxes during a time when those funds were undoubtedly funding war (at least in part) would be fined, investigated, and maybe arrested after the IRS took notice. 

Wait, but isn’t that my religious right, if I’m a Buddhist?

No, it isn’t. It isn’t, because I choose to live in America. It isn’t because I partake, daily, in the fruits of the taxes collected from me by the government-such as public parks, paved roadways, and social security benefits. It isn’t, because our system of democracy relies upon not just religious freedom but also collective effort for the common good. Yes, that means sometimes sacrificing what you want the most for the good of the country and the society as a whole. (I may feel entitled to a public argument with someone who cuts me off in traffic, but hey-that’s going to slow everyone down, and cause a scene, and maybe get me arrested, involve the cops, and thus cost taxpayers money, so I won’t do it.)


There is simply no way to ensure the same level of pure religious freedom to every single person in this country. Absolutely not. There are people who believe blacks and whites should be separated at all times, according to their religions. But shopkeepers obviously cannot keep black people out of their stores, or vice versa. It’s illegal. It might be your religious belief, but it is antithetical to the moral values and democratic principles of this country as a whole. 

The fact is, religious freedoms have to be examined within the context of democracy-our democracy. Ultimately, your religious freedom cannot excuse you from racist, sexist, ageist, murderous, predatory, or otherwise behaviors. No one seems to disagree with that fact when it concerns race, but that’s because it’s been 50 years since we as a nation decided “separate but equal” wasn’t going to fly. And yet, it seems perfectly reasonable to deny women options relevant to THEIR bodies and THEIR lives because one’s own beliefs. (Oh, and especially when one happens to be a male with those beliefs.) 

There’s just something inconsistent here. I hope it doesn’t take 50 years for this country to give women the rights they deserve, and for people to stop presuming that their beliefs are so sacrosanct as to govern other people’s rights. 

I Buy Store-Brand Toilet Paper, but Never Ask Me to Skimp on My Skincare

I’m one of those people who will probably have trouble skin forever. Thankfully, a lot of trial and error has helped me figure out what my skin needs to behave. At this point, I can pretty reliably say when I expect to have a breakout (if, for example, I go too long without using some kind of chemical exfoliant), and can act to prevent that from occurring. Here are my tried and true favorites.image

La Roche Posay Effaclar Serum ^

Contains Lipohydroxy acid and AHA-Glycolic complex-both chemical exfoliants that smooth wrinkles and refine pores


La Roche Posay Effaclar K Renovating Anti-Relapse Acne Treatment ^

Contains Salicylic Acid (anti-acne champion) and micro-exfoliating LHA. Helps clear blackheads and prevent new acne from forming.


Philosophy When Hope Is Not Enough Facial Firming Serum ^

Glutathione is an antioxidant that boosts Vitamin C. Peptides, or amino-acids, support the skins structure. Vitamins C and E are classic antioxidants that can bolster sunscreen that is applied over them 


Clean and Clear Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer and Spot Treatment ^

Everyday oil-free moisturizer with 0.5% salicylic acid. For trouble spots, the treatment lets you hone in on acne with 2% salicylic acid


Clinique Exfoliating Scrub ^

Physical exfoliant meant for skin on the oilier side. Water based and oil free. There’s menthol in this, which can be irritating if your skin is sensitive. Use sparingly and stop using if you experience a reaction


Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Bar for Acne Prone Skin ^

No salicylic acid here. Contains glycerin, which removes oil but keeps skin from drying out.



Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha-Beta Peel (pads) and Alpha Beta Glow (pads) ^

Alpha Beta acids treat breakouts and diminish fine lines through chemical exfoliation. No itching, burning, redness.

Glow pads provide the same exfoliating benefits but with a bit of tan (develops in about 8 hours)


L’Oreal Ideal Moisture Even Skin Tone Normal Skin Day Lotion (SPF 25, UVA/UVB) ^

Has what acne-prone people need in a sunscreen: no oil, and UVA/UVB protection (SPF 25). Peach tint is flattering to most skin tones


Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream ^

Smooths fine lines and depuffs the eye area. 


Dr. Brandt Skincare pores No More Vacuum Cleaner

Helps diminish blackheads by loosening dirt and oil on skin’s surface. Contains Salicylic and Glycolic acids, as well as oil-absorbing silicone dioxide and pore-tightening eijitsu rose. 

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ^

Salicylic acid toner for all skin types. Helps fight acne and also works as an anti-ager due to its chemical exfoliation powers. Stimulates collagen production.

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel ^

Basic oil-free moisturizer that feels light and not greasy. Good for use when combined with stronger serums or creams. 

A note on usage: Obviously, these products should NOT be used all at once, every day. Use common sense when choosing which topicals to apply with a given cleanser and moisturizer. Pay attention to your skin. Some skin will react well to tough love (as does mine) and can withstand use of multiple acids in the same day. In general, use strong topicals such as the Alpha Beta Peel pads at night. Chemical exfoliants can cause increased sensitivity to the sun, so it’s best to avoid putting them on in the morning. As with any new product, test for sensitivity on a small patch of skin before using regularly, and stop use if irritation occurs. 

I have no affiliation with any of these skincare companies, nor was I paid monetarily or in kind for my mention of these products. I bought them myself, of my own volition. I cannot promise similar results for you-this review is simply a summary of my experience with the products. 



Paris Couture Picks for the Social Swan


Above, Armani Prive Haute Couture Fall 2014

Perfect for the opening of the Etro-sponsored Frida Kahlo exhibition at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale (through August 31)


Above, Zuhair Murad Haute Couture Fall 2014

Perfect for the Preservation Society of Newport’s Le Bal Francais Dinner Dance (August 9)


Above, Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall 2014

Perfect for the 10th annual Corinthian Regatta held in Marblehead, Massachusetts from August 8-10


Above, Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2014

Perfect for the 15th Annual Art for Life Gala hosted by the Simmons brothers’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation


Above, Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2014

Perfect for the American Theatre Wing’s 2014 Gala honoring Dame Angela Lansbury



Burberry Prorsum Resort 2015

Burberry Prorsum Resort 2015



Product Review: Living Proof Prime Style Extender Cream

Product: Living Proof Prime Style Extender Cream

Price: $20 for 5oz; $12 for 2oz

Available at: Sephora, Amazon, Living Proof Online

Smell/Texture:  All the Living Proof products have the same scent, best described as masculine and somewhat like cologne. Truthfully, it’s sometimes a bit much for my nose to handle. But then the desire for great hair wins out! The cream itself is almost opaque white, and has a certain sort of density when rubbed between the fingers. 

Usability: I often use this right out of the shower, while my hair is still wet. That’s because I’ve found that it helps prolong my blowouts (when I do them myself, and I usually do). I have fairly long hair, so I use about a half dollar sized blob and run it through my hair. (It’s entirely possible that someone reading this has never seen a half-dollar coin!) I make sure to get some on my roots—one of the things Prime does is help repel dirt and grease, and my hair can get somewhat greasy if I don’t shampoo it every day. Next I blow my hair straight or put in velcro rollers and then heat set for big waves.

I’ve also used Prime without blowing out my hair afterwards. When I do, I’ll just stop right before grabbing the blow dryer.

Finish/Endurance: Have I ever written down the exact number of extra hours I got out of my hair style as a result of using Prime? No. But I can say that I most certainly find myself thinking about my hair less when I use it. That is, it takes longer for me to look in the mirror and say “WOOF. Time for a shower. Quelle ragamuffin!” 

I’ve also noticed that I get a nice textural finish with this product. Generally, I don’t like texture products like Beach sprays (they dry out my already dry hair), but this isn’t like that. It’s more like a matte finish that’s very brushable.

Overall Rating: 4/5- Like I said, I don’t always love the (strong) scent. And, I’d like to see this product in drugstores for easier access. All told, it’s a great product. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Living Proof in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was impressed by their scientific approach to product development. I have no idea how any of the stuff works, but I know they thoroughly vet their products for efficacy-and it shows!

I have no affiliation with Living Proof, nor was I paid monetarily or in kind for my review of this product. I bought it myself, of my own volition. I cannot promise similar results for you-this review is simply a summary of my experience with the product. 



In “The Art Hitler Hated,” Michael Kimmelman explores the “menace” of modern art during Hitler’s reign—just as a secret cache of Nazi-seized works is rediscovered. 

Above, “Self Portrait, 1934/1937,” Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, c/o New York Review of Books

In “The Art Hitler Hated,” Michael Kimmelman explores the “menace” of modern art during Hitler’s reign—just as a secret cache of Nazi-seized works is rediscovered. 

Above, “Self Portrait, 1934/1937,” Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, c/o New York Review of Books







What’s Actually In My Bag Today-March 13

Inspired by this Buzzfeed post, I present: the stuff I’m actually carrying around today. (if you like something, I’m linking to sites where you can purchase some of this stuff)


Ill tackle this from a generally clockwise direction…beginning with the right.

Town and Country/Bazaar Magazine renewal notices \ Keys with lanyard and bike share key \ YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lip Stain and gloss in Peche Cerra Cola Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment Free admission ticket to club iPod mini and headphones in leather case three pens lollipop cranberry pills Boscia peppermint blotting linens Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral Powder with SPF Mac Select Cover Up red pouch \ Jaybird bluetooth headphones, in casewhatever you call those things that carry your daily meds  leather gloves and too-small hat leather wristlet containing card holder and receipt for CVS ExtraBucks Wallet (why do I need multiple card-carrying objects?) travel size hand lotion  SILLY PUTTY Minimergency Kit plastic container to be re-used for toting around trail mix


From the inside pocket of my bag, from bottom right…

Victoria’s Secret coupons and Saks Tom Ford rep’s card Starbucks Reserve coffee tag \ care instructions that came with the bag \ gum plastic baggy full of all my rewards/promotional customer cards nail file panty liner and scrap of paper Vitamin C packet


The bag in question….looking slumpy!



Most people are ok with eye-for-an-eye thinking when it comes to justice, because it’s a prevailing logic in Judeo-Christian Religions. But it isn’t in mine.

Most people are ok with eye-for-an-eye thinking when it comes to justice, because it’s a prevailing logic in Judeo-Christian Religions. But it isn’t in mine.



When Does Free Speech Become Illegal Speech?

Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

-1791 (emphasis added)

What it does not state is that, pursuant to Supreme Court decisions, the right to Free Speech is in fact a limited right, in that there are certain situations when the concern for safety and security overrule the freedom to speak freely. 

Notably, instances of incitement, false statements of fact,obscenity, child pornography, fighting words and offensive speech, threats, speech owned by others, and commercial speech are afforded limited free speech protections. (The Government exercises certain powers over other types of speech that it produces as our governing body, but those usually aren’t the types of examples people argue about among friends.)

This issue of limited free speech is a topical one. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will begin a review of laws that create “buffer zones” around clinics and medical facilities that provide abortions. (As an example, see Massachusetts’s institution of a 35-foot buffer zone around said facilities in the state. Image below of a particular buffer zone around a Planned Parenthood location.)


Before coming to an opinion myself, I consulted the Constitution (because who doesn’t have a few copies of that lying around?) and researched landmark Supreme Court decisions on free speech. 

Chaplinsky V. New Hampshire (1942): Chaplinsky said some pretty bad stuff to a police officer and was arrested. Naturally he exclaimed “My free speech though!” The Supreme Court was unsympathetic. Justice Frank Murphy opined:

There are certain…classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include…the insulting or “fighting” words those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. 

Vis-a-vis pro-lifers: Is what they are saying to clinic patients an example of “fighting words?” Do they incite a breach of the peace? Do they inflict injury? I wonder. I imagine the scene outside clinics, were the buffer zone deemed unconstitutional and thenceforth removed. Certainly there would be kind old women distributing pamphlets and cooing kind words at nervous women. But there would also (I’m almost certain) be angry protesters yelling aggressively at the “sinners” who were “damned to hell” if they went through with their abortions. Seems almost determined to incite people, that kind of talk. Is this legal?


What’s more, if a clinic patient becomes physically abusive in response to the perceived threat on behalf of the protesters, is that justifiable self-defense? Lest we forget, a pro-life proponent did once bust into a Planned Parenthood and shoot people (some fatally). So would a patient be within her right if she was physically combative when confronted by protesters?

Realistically, most clinic patients aren’t there for abortions. So what about those women going to Planned Parenthood for a mammogram or for birth control? (That is, to be clear, what the large majority of patients are doing-see the graphic below.) Do they have a right to defend themselves against inciting speech?


Ultimately the onus falls on the Supreme Court for this one. Unfortunately, the Constitution itself doesn’t provide any guidance on this—it says nothing beyond the fact that freedom of speech shall not be abridged. In that case, the Justices have to infer what the Founding Fathers would have felt about freedom of speech in this modern instance. It’s a job I don’t envy.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides will have implications for future free speech cases. If pro-life protesters are allowed back in the “buffer zone,” are pro-choice proponents also allowed in that zone? I would imagine there is also a private/public property dimension to consider. If a private company is legally allowed to use metal detectors at its entrance as a safety precaution (thus disallowing legal gun owners from carry their guns inside), can they also prohibit protest near their entrances for the same safety reasons? Is it the responsibility of a company to ensure the safety of its employees? Can an employee of Planned Parenthood sue the company for being made to work under duress? I don’t know the answers, but I think that all of these things are worth thinking about before making snap judgments about the buffer zone. Research carefully and advocate gently people!

Further Reading:

An interesting look at what abortion means for different women- New York, November of 2013.

Dissecting what the Bible says (and doesn’t) about when life begins- Huffington Post, September 2012

View and compare abortion rights and laws across the world- World’s Abortion Law, 2014