We Need More People Like Ben Sasse In Politics

Ben Sasse was elected to his second term as a U.S. Senator from Nebraska in 2020.  He is a Republican, but has drawn the ire of his party in his home state because he voted to convict Donald Trump after his last impeachment.

In fact, the state’s GOP state central committee formally passed a resolution stating that Sasse “stands rebuked.”

Sasse’s response: “Most Nebraskans don’t think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude.”

Sasse is no dummy.  A Nebraska native, he was educated at Harvard and received a doctorate from Yale  He worked for several years in President George W. Bush’s administration before becoming president of Midland University in Fremont, NE.. He resigned that position to run for senate in 2014.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Sasse does not seek headlines  Instead, he believes he was elected to work on policy–not be a fixture on Fox News.  And he certainly has the courage of his convictions as evidenced by his vote to convict Trump.. If some senators want to be a robot in support of the former President and talk out of both sides of their mouth. then so be it.  Sasse will not be joining them.

As to being afraid of Trump’s threats to get even with those who did not support him in the last impeachment effort, Sasse seems to care less.  One reason is he has looked at a lot of numbers and simply does not see a good reason to be bullied by Trump.  Both times he has run for Senate, he greatly outperformed Trump in Nebraska..

Last November Sasse got 68 percent of the general election vote whereas Trump got 58 percent on the same ballot.  He sees that Trump has lost the popular votes in both his runs for president and has never cracked 50 percent.  The Republican defeat on Jan 5 in the two Georgia senate races was especially telling.  Trump got very involved in both.  And lost each

Even with his independent streak, Sasse is well-thought of by many of his Republican senate mates..

Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who is retiring in 2022, thinks Sasse would be a great candidate for President.

Sasse does not mince words about some of the work of the senate or some of those who serve in Washington.  He is very concerned about the Biden Covid relief bill, saying it is “disastrous” for education.  He says he would help Republicans take the Senate back but he is looking for “candidates that want to do something more than Marjorie Taylor Greene.

(Greene is the freshman congressman from north George who was stripped of her committee assignments for promoting conspiracy theories and false information.)

Matt Gatz is a Republican congressman from the Florida panhandle.  Sasse’s opinion of Gatz, “He is not an adult.‘”

(I could not agree more on this assessment.  He is as worthless as a wet newspaper.  And like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Jim Jordan, he seems fixated on sound bites for TV.)

I like Ben Sasse,  I respect him for his willingness to stand for his principles.   A trait that is far too uncommon these days.



More Covid Vaccination Info

For those who have been turning over lots of rocks in hopes of getting access to a Covid vaccine shot, here is some good news.  According to this article from AL.com,  CVS has announced that it will be giving shots in  Bayou La Batre, Camden, Evergreen, Greensboro, Jackson, Lanett,  Mouton, Tuskegee and Union Springs.

Click on the link to the article above and follow instructions to schedule an appointment.  I don’t know when shots are being given, however, my son Kevin has an appointment for this Saturday in Bayou La Batre.

CVS has been giving shots in 11 states, as well as administering tests for the virus.

This Is What Real Leadership Looks Like

Judge Merrick Garland has been nominated by President Biden to be U.S. Attorney General  Everything I’ve seen and heard about him indicates he is a class act.

And when I came across this article about him, it made quite an imprfession.

“He’s been nominated for Supreme Court justice and Attorney General, but Judge Merrick Garland’s favorite work may be at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Northeast D.C.

He has tutored children at the school for more than two decades.

Twins Aaron and Alyssa Tucker, 11, can scarcely believe their tutor is so famous.

“They see Judge Garland on TV, so they think he’s a rock star,” said their mother, Andrea Tucker. “So no telling what they want to in their lives. ‘If Judge Garland can do it, so can we!'” she said.

The twins are too young to remember when President Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016. But Garland kept tutoring other students at the school while Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate declined to even hold a hearing on his nomination.

On Monday, the Senate held its first hearing on Garland’s nomination for Attorney General by President Biden.

Nearly every Wednesday, Judge Garland has been working with the Tucker twins on reading, math, social studies and history.

“He’s really smart,” said Aaron.

For nearly 22 years, a teacher at JO Wilson Elementary has picked a second grader to work with the judge. “I think that’s the longest we’ve ever had anyone just stick to it,” said Charlene Wilburn, a second-grade teacher, in a video released by the White House, when President Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016.

Garland stays with the child at least until they go off to middle school. “This is an opportunity to affect a child’s life,” said Garland in the White House video. “This is an enormous opportunity to watch someone go from being a hesitant reader to a good reader.”

The judge has recruited dozens of other people at the courthouse to help tutor too. “I think he’s very committed to the students and making sure they know there are people in places of power that care about them,” said Carolyn Lerner, a mediator at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where Garland is chief judge.

Four years ago, when Garland started tutoring him, Aaron said he was struggling. Now he runs math contests with Garland’s wife. “Math got a little bit easier. It’s one of my favorite subjects now,” said Aaron.

“He’s doing amazing. Now they’re honor roll students. It just goes to show the impact you can have,” said his mom.

Decked out in Spellman and Morehouse College T-shirts, the Tucker twins feel like they could do anything. “I want to be a singer, or I really want to be a judge, like Judge Garland,” said Alyssa.

Lerner said she expects Garland will keep tutoring even after he becomes Attorney General if he’s confirmed.

“It just goes to show the character of the man…. his dedication and heart for children … I think more people need to be like Judge Garland and give back,” said Andrea Tucker.”

Months ago I wrote about Republican Senator John Kennedy serving as a substitute teacher two-three times a year.  He said it “keeps me grounded.”

I tip my hat to both Garland and Kennedy.  They both understand that real leadership is what you do when the cameras are not around–not what you do when they are.  (Are you listening Ted Cruz?)



COVID Would Kill Me. Too Bad I Live In A Vaccine Hellhole.

Editor’s note: I have told you about my son who lives in Mobile and his challenges trying to get a Covid vaccine shot.  After searching high and low, he finally had an appointment recently at a local Wal Mart.  But three days before he was to get the shot, he came down with vertigo, for the first time ever, and could not keep the appointment.

At wit’s end, he wrote the following article for the Daily Beast, a national on-line publication:.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is wracking me.

My ears ring from elevated blood pressure, and my breathing is hampered. But these aren’t side effects. We know the vaccines are safe and effective.

It’s frustration—and some vertigo.

I’m as high-risk as virtually anyone but not—at least so far as I can tell with any clarity—allowed a shot yet. Not in Alabama anyway, where about half a million people have had it before me.

It feels virtually guaranteed a case of COVID-19 would kill me. I’m middle aged—in my 50s—but was diagnosed with genetic emphysema in my late 30s. A missing chemical component called Alpha-1 antitrypsin allowed my immune system to gradually destroy my lungs’ elasticity. My breathing capacity is under a fifth of what it should be for someone my age.

I went from an active life—commuting by bicycle, hiking, and running with my dog—to struggling for breath in just a few years’ time. It’s why I quit working in the smoke and heat of restaurant kitchens and turned to writing for a living.

It’s also why I sleep and exercise with a stream of oxygen flowing into my nose—why even a head cold or hay fever causes bronchitis, then pneumonia. It’s led to more than half a dozen hospitalizations in the last 16 years.

My first hospital stay cost $8,000 for four days, all from missing a pharmaceutical dose. I’ve since qualified for disability and the attendant Medicare coverage; otherwise I wouldn’t have insurance at all, or access to the nearly $250,000 of medicines I need to stay alive each year.

When a “strange new pneumonia” emerged over a year ago, it obviously caught my attention. By March 2020, COVID-19 was oozing across the United States, and my doctors told me to quarantine at home and take all safety measures.

Vaccine breakthroughs have come amazingly quickly, and Alabama’s phased rollout started in December, going to frontline workers and group home residents first. Understandable and fair.

Last month, some facilities moved to phase 1b—those over 75 years old, first responders, essential workers dealing with the public. Interested parties were directed to websites or phone numbers for registration.

Around this time came a social-media parade as younger, healthier faces proclaimed their vaccinations. Every other day, my wife would seethe.

“How did they get this? Why can’t you get that?” she shouted.

We discovered some lawyers were eligible—or at least we heard they were getting shots. There are 18,000 members of the Alabama Bar Association, two-thirds male, about 90 percent white. Librarians, publicists, city hall employees, and others were vaccinated, too.

As for me, some websites had no specific listing of media personnel (my profession) or pre-existing conditions for eligibility. I registered anyway, but never heard back.

Rumors circulated of facilities intermittently opened to first-come, first-served and no restrictions. I never received notification.

Conditions tightened. One clinic’s website closed. Another announced critical shortages. A phone number for another only gave an “out of vaccine” message.

This shoddy scenario ruled the state. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, we were last in the nation in vaccinations, with only 10,013 per 100,000 residents. All while we had one of the highest rates for positive coronavirus tests at 29 percent in recent weeks, per Johns Hopkins University.

The causes are obvious: Alabama is largely poor, rural, and unhealthy. When the state rejected Medicaid expansion for Obamacare, it stressed an overburdened public health system that has seen rural healthcare access evaporate. In February 2020, one quarter of Alabama hospitals risked closure.

Latent paranoia engendered by historic racism and horrific experimentation on Black populations makes some here understandably—if unfortunately—leery of inoculations. Black folks comprise 27 percent of the Alabama population—the state’s most impoverished rural counties are majority-Black—but just 11 percent of the vaccinated are Black, by one recent estimate.

The broader politicization of COVID-19 and paranoid beliefs also play a role. It’s why just a quarter of Mobile, Alabama’s police force had been vaccinated as of earlier this month. Add to this the jumbled communications I encountered, and the results become inevitable.

Some of those police officers worked Mobile’s massive Mardi Gras street party last Tuesday, a potential superspreader event presided over by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson after the state legislature passed a bill protecting businesses and governments from COVID-19 lawsuits. Attendance expected to be in the thousands was dampened by cold temperatures and warnings from public health officials. It could prove a savior.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris admitted vaccine supplies are low and, when paired with the aforementioned factors, it’s a headache. He said the Biden administration has straightened snarls, but it’s not enough.

“We’re not a healthy state to begin with. We have a lot of diabetes and heart disease and other things that predispose people to bad health problems,” Harris recently told reporters. “Adding that chronic disease category might add two million people to the list. It’s not helpful to say every person’s eligible immediately when there’s no vaccine to give them.”

Despite Harris’ statement, mixed signals are still on the streets. A restaurant worker told me he arrived at Mobile’s largest clinic on Feb. 13 and—without being asked for ID “or anything”—got a shot. His diabetic wife got the needle, too, he said.

Walmart announced its vaccine distribution earlier this month. On its website, I called myself an essential worker—as media personnel—rather than a high-risk individual. Ironically, if I wear portable oxygen, then my wife can piggyback as “living with a high-risk individual,” though it appears the “high risk” patient would still be in a later vaccine group.

I don’t know the source of all these gaps in protocol, between official schedules and what is happening. We’re tired of worrying about it. We tried to play strictly by the rules, but we’re tired of playing with my life.

Three days before our scheduled vaccination appointments, I awoke with my first-ever bout of vertigo. The inner-ear disturbance had me reeling and retching enough to preclude my vaccination, since it would now be impossible to differentiate vertigo from possible inoculation side effects.

A visit with a medical specialist will take precedence over the vaccination—assuming I’d have been able to get it at all. The week until then will be fraught with questions about COVID-19’s local spread. Was Mardi Gras enough to fill the specialist’s office with the deadly virus? Will I roll into the waiting room seeking relief only to find my doom?

The only certainty is that if I find relief from the vertigo specialist that day, we’re going straight to Mobile’s largest vaccine clinic, where stories continue to emerge about ignored priorities, appointments, and protocols.

Our patience and choices are exhausted, and I need that shot.”

The Passing Of A Country Preacher

Some of you may have known Methodist minister Thomas Lane Butts Jr.  Others may have heard of him. For sure, those of us who crossed his path did not forget him.

Butts passed away a few days ago at age 90 at his home in Monroeville..  My friend Francis Coleman wrote a wonderful article about this native son of Conecuh County. You can read it here.

Butts grew up in the little community of Bermuda which basically straddles the Conecuh/Monroe County line about halfway between Burnt Corn and Repton.   He was a dandy, hardly a shrinking violet. And he did not shrink as the civil rights movement settled on the South.  A cross was once burned in his yard in Mobile.  Eventually his approach to the ministry and church politics began to bump heads.

He served churches in Alabama, Florida and Illinois.  He was pastor at Monroeville First United Methodist a number of years.  He was also district superintendent of the Dothan District for the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church..

It was probably 40 years ago that Butts said one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.  He said that his brother tasted a Coca Cola before he did and he asked him what it tasted like.

“It tasted like your foot going to sleep”  his brother replied.

I thought then, and still do, that it was one of the most magical uses of the English language I’ve ever heard

Fitting enough, he was buried in a little country cemetery in Bermuda..