The UNITED States Of America. Really?

We’ve all had it pounded in our heads virtually from birth that we live in a united country of 50 different states.

Truth is, few things could be farther from the truth.  If it were, we would all be pulling in the same direction at the same time, striving for common goals.  This has seldom been the case.  Even the original 13 colonies had great differences and some were much more interested in pulling away from England than others.

The reason for much of this is pointed out to us in American Nations by Colin Woodard as he paints graphic pictures of the 11 nations that actually comprise the U.S .and how they were settled at different times by different people from different backgrounds.

Certainly there is no greater indicator of our lack of unity than the current highly fractured and divided response to Covid-19.  Unfortunately there is no coordinated, unified national 50 state effort to get this pandemic under control.  Instead our national leaders have sent one mixed message after another and left states to individually flop and flounder

The result?

ONE THOUSAND deaths a day across this land.

Imagine we were presently losing 1,000 people a day in some foreign war.  That each day we were shipping 1,000 caskets back to this country from some distant land.

Would we be as tolerant of ineptitude in such a crisis as we are right now?

Vanity Fair has just reported on how the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, inserted himself into the war against Covid-19.  It is not a pretty picture.  Nor a useful one.

Back in March Kushner set out to solve the on-going disaster of lack of diagnostic-testing.  So he brought together a group of largely bankers and billionaires–not public health experts.  In spite of their lack of knowledge and willingness to work with others, the group developed a fairly comprehensive plan, that got good reviews from health professionals who saw it.  But then the plan, according to someone involved with it, “just went poof into thin air.”

What happened?  Politics.

According to Vanity Fair, “Most troubling ….was a sentiment ….a member  of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national  plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically.  The political folks believed that because it (the virus) was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.”

UNITED states of America?  Don’t kid yourself.

Tonya Chestnut Wins Runoff For State School Board

Longtime educator Tonya Chestnut of Selma defeated Fred Bell of Montgomery in the July 14 Democrat runoff for the District 5 state school board seat.  This is the position held for 18 years by the late Ella Bell, who passed away last fall.

Governor Ivy appointed Tommie Stewart to fill the remainder of Bell’s term.  She did not seek election for a four-year term

The primary in this race was held last March 2, however, because of Covid-19, the runoff was pushed back to July 14..  Eight candidates ran in the primary.  Fred Bell got 30 percent (24,589) of the vote, while Chestnut got 20 percent (16,044).  There were a total of 81,033 votes cast.  But because of a lack of contested races in the Democratic runoff, only 34,602 people voted on July 14.

This decline was especially notable in Montgomery County.  Whereas Bell received 11,816 votes in Montgomery in the primary, he only got 2,912 in the runoff.  And while Bell got a total of 24,589 votes to lead the primary, he only got 13,372 in the runoff.  Chestnut did a much better job of holding on to her votes.  She got 16,044 in the primary and increased this to 21,230 in the runoff.  The most striking example of this was in her home of Dallas County were she got 5,531 votes on March 2 and 4,937 on July 14.

By comparison, Bell got 11,818 in Montgomery in the primary, but only 2,912 in the runoff.

Geographically, this is the largest state board seat, including all or portions of 16 counties and running from Macon County to the Mississippi line and to downtown Mobile.  Historically, it has been a minority-held seat.

Montgomery County school board member and Republican Lesa Keith is running against Chestnut in the Nov. 3 general election.  However, she will be a definite underdog.

How Can You Be This Dumb?

With fallen Civil Rights icon John Lewis coming back to Alabama for the final time this past weekend, for a few hours the world was focused on Selma and Montgomery.

Turns out that Saturday freshman Republican house member Will Dismukes was also in Selma.  However, he was there to join others in a celebration for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who happens to be given credit for starting the Ku Klux Klan.  The irony of these two events occurring the same day in Selma is inescapable.  Unless you are Will Dismukes, who went on Facebook and told the world where he was and what he was doing.

Reaction was swift and predictable.  Democratic state party chair Chris England, who serves with Dismukes in the house, was concerned that he put his core values on public display.  On the other side of the aisle, Republican house member  Danny Garrett said, “I cannot fathom why anyone in 2020 celebrates the birthday of the first KKK Grand Wizard, especially while the body of John Lewis is lying in state.”

And then Dismukes told WSFA TV in Montgomery that he was surprised by the criticism he received.

Dismukes said, We live in a time where we literally are going through “cancel culture” from all different areas and  people are even more sensitive on different issues and different subjects.  This was just one of those times it didn’t quite go the way I expected.”

And we are left to wonder just what the heck was he expecting?


Will Alabama Shoot Itself In The Foot?

With the Nov. 3 election now just over three months away (thankfully). the most watched statewide race will be the contest for U.S. Senate between incumbent Democrat Doug Jones and Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville.

Jones won this seat in a special election in 2017 by defeating Judge Roy Moore.  Tuberville beat former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions in a July runoff.  Polling at this point gives Tuberville anywhere from a five to a ten point lead.

The very respected Cook Political Report rates this race as “leaning Republican.”

As all of us Auburn fans know, Tuberville was head football coach at Auburn for ten years.  No doubt his most notable achievement was beating Alabama seven out of ten times.  He is personable and can “work a room” with the best.  However, the  only real message of his campaign is his undying loyalty to President Trump.

Other than that, I’ve not heard how he feels about most things political.  And I’m unaware of what in his background qualifies him to go to Washington.  There is a big difference in deciding to go for an on-side kick and going to war.

(Tuberville was head coach at Ole Miss in 1998 and when rumors made their rounds that he was going to leave he said. “The only way I leave will be in a pine box.”  He headed to Auburn two days later.  So  perhaps he is more qualified for Washington than I first thought.)

But here is where it gets tricky.  What if Tuberville is elected–but Trump isn’t?.  Where does this leave Alabama?  Add to this the real possibility that the Democrats may regain control of the U.S. Senate.  So instead of having an incumbent in Jones who is a member of the ruling party, we have a freshman in the minority party.  In a body that is based so much on seniority, that means Tuberville would have to furnish his own toilet paper.

Washington insiders are saying it is about 50-50 that Democrats take control.  This is based on the fact that the GOP must defend 23 incumbent seats, as compared to only 12 for the Democrats.  Seats in Colorado, Maine, Arizona, North Carolina and Montana are considered very vulnerable to Democrat challenges.  Even South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is facing a serious challenge from Jaime Harrison, who has raised more than $21 million this year.

Trump’s re-election effort is in serious trouble.  Poll after poll is showing him losing to Joe Biden by decisive margins.  And though Trump decries these polls as “fake” don’t think for a moment they are.  I have worked with many pollsters over the years.  The last thing they want to do is hide the truth.  The most striking thing about the presidential polling right now is that the trend is all in the same direction.  In Biden’s favor.

No doubt Trump will win Alabama.  But the road to the White House does not run through Alabama.

As for Tuberville, I would put my money on him right now.  But as things are now shaping up, when he gets to Washington he will look back to when he was on Auburn’s sideline and his opinion really counted.

Italy Did It Right

When Covid-19 first began to attract attention earlier this year, Italy was reeling.  As infection there spread rapidly and deaths soared, the U.S. paid scant attention and largely went into denial. (Which some in this country are still in.)

Now the virus is raging in this country, while it is largely under control in Italy

Here is an interesting article from The Daily Beast that details the steps Italy took to get things under control.

“ROME—The white square tent in the parking lot of an IKEA on the outskirts of this city looks like it could be a store display for the latest flat-pack garden gazebo. But behind the flap, health officials in hazmat are carrying out random screenings for COVID-19, a potentially life-saving measure and one of the most proactive ways Italians have found to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, at least for now.

Just a few months ago, Italy was in a very bad place, with contagion rates and deaths breaking daily records, just as we see happening in many American states now. Everyone from Vice President Mike Pence to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned back then that unless measures to mitigate the spread were put in place, they will “end up like Italy.” But in much of the United States those measures were taken too late with too little coordination and lifted too early. 

Every single day, Italian health authorities are finding thousands of asymptomatic COVID cases through random tests like the ones conducted in the IKEA parking lot. Since the screening started less than a month ago, nearly 21,700 asymptomatic cases have been found, isolated, and the spread contained.

Italians are conducting tests at shopping malls, summer camps, and at the beach. They can be randomly screened for COVID when they go for an X-ray or even at some dental practices. The screening is voluntary, but the health ministry says there is no problem with people refusing to comply. In most cases, people want to know if they have it.

The screening is often done in conjunction with serological antibody testing being conducted across the nation to determine how much of the population has been exposed to the infection. The nationwide antibody testing is being carried out by 700 Red Cross volunteers working to test a sample of the population from six different age groups categorized by gender, employment type, and where they live.

The highest number of serological tests are being carried out in Lombardy and the Veneto regions, which were the hardest hit. Lighter testing is being conducted in the south, where the pandemic was far milder but where random screening is taking place to make sure cases aren’t being imported now that borders are open. 

If people are found to have antibodies, they and their close contacts are then swabbed to determine if they have shed the virus or if someone in the immediate household is still infected. Those tested have to quarantine until their swab results come back, which is on average no more than 24 hours in metropolitan areas and slightly longer in smaller villages. 

People who have symptoms are also tested easily by calling the state health COVID-19 hotline, from which they are directed to the nearest drive-by testing facility. In the event they cannot drive themselves, health officials will make a house call.

Once asymptomatic cases are confirmed, the Italian health authorities engage in vigorous contact tracing made much easier by mandates requiring patrons of restaurants and other places where COVID can easily jump from person to person to leave phone numbers or emails. 

It is common to have to sign in on a tablet or notebook when you arrive at a restaurant if you didn’t make a reservation. (If you made one, they already have your phone number and name.) The alternative to these contact-tracing measures, for the restaurant or other establishment, is to risk being shut down if a case is traced back to them.

There are exceptions, of course, including bars and pubs that are largely closed for indoor service but allow takeout, meaning patrons spill out into the piazzas. To curb the potential contagion that a party atmosphere invites, authorities have closed down several popular squares where people were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, including the ultra-popular Piazza Trilussa in the Trastevere district of the capital. Similar mini-lockdowns have been carried out in Florence and Milan to try to stave off a second wave. In some cities, they have also forced pubs to close early on weekends to avoid inviting crowds.

The number of new cases found for each region is published every single day, and includes hospitalizations, the number of people in intensive care units, and deaths. The new cases are further broken down to indicate those from random screenings and those with symptoms seeking tests.

A civil protection spokesperson said the transparency allows citizens to gauge whether they should travel to an area where there is a new outbreak or even pay closer attention to their own behaviors when they are out of their homes. “Information leads to good decision-making,” the spokesperson said. “Ultimately it is up to the individual, but at least they are armed with the latest information.”

Because everyone worked together even when they didn’t want to (face it, no one really wants to wear a mask, especially in the summer), Italians are pretty much back to pre-pandemic life. Schools will open in September with staggered start times and open-air classrooms when possible, with regular screening for teachers. Nightclubs and discotheques likely will remain closed for the foreseeable future, but beaches, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters are open for business, which has made this Italian summer seem pretty normal—and, after all the sacrifices, downright enjoyable.”

When Did We Lose Our Soul?

We have all been told from birth that we are blessed to live in the greatest country any collection of humans has ever devised.  That whatever it is, we are the best, the most generous, the most caring, the most unified.  That there is no challenge we can not overcome.

Sadly to say, after watching what has unfolded in the U.S. in the last six months, my conviction that this is actually true is being greatly tested.

We have all had a front row seat to the pandemic that is ravaging this country.

Initially we were told that we would emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.  But will we really?

At the beginning we marveled as concerned citizens did remarkable things to help one another.  As heathy heath care workers from across the land risked their lives to help beleaguered and overwhelmed colleagues in New York City fight the pandemic.  We heard story after story of neighbors helping neighbors, of sewing clubs making face masks, of engineering students cobbling together ventilators, etc.

After all, this is the country that totally united after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  Men went to war and women went to work building planes and ships.  We rationed gas, planted victory gardens and salvaged metal.  We were all for one and one for all.  We followed President Franklin Roosevelt who had proven his leadership capacity by tackling the Great Depression when he became president in 1933.  We had faith in him.

This is nowhere close to where we are today.  After the initial surge of coming together, we have steadily fractured and allowed ourselves to be divided by “leaders” whose entire universe centers around themselves  We’ve injected politics into the most mundane of affairs.  We’ve derided citizens because of how they vote, instead of giving them equal due because they salute the same flag.

We’ve ignored health experts and tried to undermine world renowned scientists hoping to making poll numbers better.

We sent soldiers off to Viet Nam from 1957 to 1975.  By the end, 58,220 never came home.  The bloodiest year was 1968.  We lost 16,899 that year.  By comparison, we’ve lost 140,000 to Covid-19 since the first of the year.  Yet we have no national coordinated plan to deal with this pandemic.

It is a sad, sad spectacle to watch unfold.  To watch “leaders” who believe more in dividing and conquering than in healing.

We have all been taught that we are better than this.  Our parents and grandparents showed us the path.

And now, watching us lose our soul is hard to grasp.