Good News About Covid

Editor’s note: Slowly but surely, the news about Covid-19 is getting better in the U.S.  And this is the face of the mindless babble from folks like Tucker Carlson of Fox News who is more interested in TV ratings than American lives being saved.  Below is an excellent roundup from The New York Times:

“In the United States, there is now an excellent chance that the (Covid) retreat is permanent. Victory over Covid has not yet arrived, but it is growing close. After almost a year and a half of sickness, death, grieving and isolation, the progress is cause for genuine joy.

More than 60 percent of American adults have received at least one vaccine shot, and the share is growing by about two percentage points per week. Among unvaccinated people, a substantial number have already had Covid and therefore have some natural immunity. “The virus is running out of places to be communicable,” Andy Slavitt, one of President Biden’s top Covid advisers, told me.

The share of Covid tests coming back positive has fallen below 3 percent for the first time since widespread testing began, and the number of hospitalized patients has fallen to the lowest point in 11 months, Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute noted. For the first time since March 5 of last year, San Francisco General Hospital yesterday had no Covid patients — “a truly momentous day,” Dr. Vivek Jain said.

There are still important caveats. Covid remains especially dangerous in communities with low vaccination rates, as Slavitt noted, including much of the Southeast; these communities may suffer through future outbreaks. And about 600 Americans continue to die from the disease every day.

But the sharp decline in cases over the past month virtually guarantees that deaths will fall over the next month. The pandemic appears to be in an exponential-decay phase. “Every case of Covid-19 that is prevented cuts off transmission chains, which prevents many more cases down the line.”

This isn’t merely a theoretical prediction. In Britain, one of the few countries to have given a shot to a greater share of the population than the U.S., deaths are down more than 99 percent from their peak.

Globally, the situation is not as encouraging, but it has improved. Confirmed new cases are down 23 percent from their peak in late April. In India, caseloads have been falling rapidly for almost two weeks.

What’s behind the improvement? Several factors.

New restrictions on behavior appear to have helped in India and some other countries. The rising number of vaccinations also helps; it has exceeded 1.5 billion, which means that more than 10 percent of the world’s population — and maybe closer to 15 percent — has received at least one shot. (A new outlier: Mongolia has secured enough shots to vaccinate all of its adults, thanks to deals with neighboring Russia and China.) Natural immunity, from past infections, may also be slowing the spread in many places, and the virus’s seasonal cycles may play a role, too.

Most countries remain more vulnerable than the U.S. because of their lower vaccination rates. In Africa, a tiny share of people have received a shot, and the numbers are only modestly higher in much of Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The vaccines are how this pandemic ends. That point is coming nearer in the United States and a few other affluent countries, but it remains distant in much of the world. Accelerating the global manufacturing and distribution of vaccines is the only sure way to avoid many more preventable deaths this year. 

“Unless vaccine supplies reach poorer countries, the tragic scenes now unfolding in India risk being repeated elsewhere,” The Economist’s editors wrote. “Millions more will die.”

Be Careful What You Wish For

As with all things in Washington, there is more there than meets the eye.

This is certainly true about all the commotion recently about forming a bipartisan commission to look deeply at the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  Initially Republican leadership insisted that any such commission be bipartisan so that the majority Democrats could not “stack the deck.”

However, this argument fell apart when Chairman Bennie Thompson, of the Homeland Security committee, agreed that Democrats would appoint five members to the commission and Republicans would also get five appointees.  At this point, GOP majority leader Kevin McCarthy, who opposes the commission, had to scramble to come up with other objections.

And given the lack of leadership and backbone that McCarthy often exhibits, he simply double-crossed one of his own members, John Katko of New York.  Katko is vice-chair of the Homeland Security Committee and McCarthy directed him to negotiate with Thompson.  But when Katko did what he was supposed to do and got the concessions from Thompson that McCarty wanted, it became obvious that McCarthy was not interested in negotiating in good faith and he left Katko high and dry.

The bill agreed upon by Thompson and Katko passed the House May 19 with 35 Republican members voting with the Democrats.  Katko was one of the 35.

However, the bill now goes to the Senate where it must get 60 votes.  Minority leader Mitch McConnell opposes the bill and it is unlikely at least 10 Republicans will vote with the Democrats.

But here is where things get interesting because the Democratic majority can take a page out of the GOP play book and House committees can open their own investigation (s).

This is the same tactic Republicans used a few years ago when they were in power and about to wet their pants to blame Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.;

The incident occurred in 2012.  In all there were 10 investigations conducted.  Six of them by Republican controlled House committees.  The GOP was looking for scandal, cover-up and lying.  In fact, McCarthy recently admitted to Fox News that the six GOP investigations were all about politics.  None of the 10 investigations supported the allegations.

And it is hardly a surprise that the last committee issued its final report and shut down in December 2016, one month after the 2016 presidential election where Donald Trump beat Clinton.

In 2014, the Republican House majority voted to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack — a terrorist assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Republicans treated this as a scandal akin to Iran-Contra or Watergate.

The committee was heavily stacked for the majority party: It had seven Republican members and only five Democrats. Republicans were able to do what they wanted — and they did. The Benghazi committee spent nearly three years and $8 million on its investigation — and still did not find any wrongdoing by Clinton.

The Republican refusal to agree to the bipartisan 1/6 Commission bill will free Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set up a January 6 Select committee in which Democrats will be more firmly in charge — as Republicans were on the Benghazi committee. The Benghazi investigation was a political stunt, but this investigation is deadly serious. We must get a full accounting of the events of Jan. 6 despite Republican attempts to bury the truth.  Republicans may come to regret their opposition to the bipartisan 1/6 Commission.

In south Alabama we say “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

But Kevin McCarty is not from south Alabama–he’s from Bakersfield, CA–and since he is blinded by his desire to become Speaker of the House one day and can not seem to see beyond the end of his nose, his miscalculation is no surprise.

Charlie Sykes Has His Say

Editor’s note:  It was 1994.  I lived in Dothan.  After re-districting, I discovered that I lived in a new state senate district that included parts of Houston and Dale counties and all of Coffee and Covington.  And when longtime incumbent senator Crum Foshee of Covington County announced he was stepping down, I decided to run.  There were three of us in the Democratic primary (yes, there was a time years ago when Democrats could be elected in the Wiregrass.)

I got the most votes in the primary only to lose the runoff by about 1,000.  It was a tough campaign, especially the runoff, and I was very disappointed I lost.  But the thought of running around the district claiming the vote was rigged never crossed my mind.  (Had the difference been 100 votes, no doubt both me and the other guy would’ve wanted a recount.)  But the people spoke and I listened to them.

After all, free, fair and honest elections are one of the bedrocks of our democracy  I believed in that and stood by the voter’s decision.

Of course, the world has changed a lot since 1994.  But the principles our country has stood on for centuries have not.  That is until Donald Trump came along.  Now all that matters is for Trump to have his way.  If that means continuing to spread the lie that he was cheated out of the Nov. 3, 2020 election–even though he can not produce evidence of this happening and even his own appointed Attorney General said Trump’s contention was false.

All of which has left the national Republican party in one hell of a mess.  On the one hand a legion of GOP office holders have sold their souls to Trump for fear he may try to defeat them in their next election.  On the other are people like Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming who put the country above Trump and refuses to perpetuate his lie.

One of those standing with Cheney is journalist and political commentator Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin.  Following is an op-ed Sykes just wrote detailing why he can not support Trump and how his actions are impacting the Republican party:.

“Even as the GOP moved to purge Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from the ranks of its leadership, a group of former officials is giving the party one last chance to clean up its act.

As one signer of the manifesto explained, the goal is either to “restore or replace the current Republican Party.”

The manifesto is a ringing endorsement of truth, democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.

The new coalition includes more than 100 Republicans, including former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Other signatories included Ambassador Jim Glassman, former Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, former Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and fellow MSNBC columnist Michael Steele. The list also includes former GOP congressmen, including Reid Ribble and Tom Petri of Wisconsin, Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma, Joe Walsh of Illinois, Bob Inglis of South Carolina, Barbara Comstock and Denver Riggleman of Virginia and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

The “Call for Renewal” is a pledge to “either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.” The manifesto is a ringing endorsement of truth, democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.

“We oppose the employment of fear-mongering, conspiracism, and falsehoods and instead support evidence-based policymaking and honest discourse,” it declares.

But, at least for the moment, many signatories are unwilling to cut loose. Some of the leaders argued last week in the Washington Post that “America cannot have just one party committed to preservation of its democratic institutions. There must be at least two, if not more.”

That’s true, and I’m with them. I signed the manifesto too. Millions of political orphans need a new home.

But let’s be honest: it’s not going to be in the Republican Party. To think otherwise is tilting at windmills.

It would be nice to think that a group of former Republican officeholders — folks who have won state and national elections — would be able to make one last stand to save the party from the extremists and the cranks.

Indeed, the Washington Post op-ed argued that: “With Cheney’s dismissal from House leadership, the battle for the soul of the Republican Party — and our country — is not over. It is just beginning.”

But that’s not true. The fight is over. The crackpots, conspiracists and bigots have won, and there is no point pretending that this is a party that can be salvaged anytime soon. As Jeff Greenfield notes in Politico, there is no civil war in the Republican Party — there is only a “purge.”

The group seemed to acknowledge that when they promised that “We will not wait forever for the GOP to clean up its act.”

But, what are they waiting for now?

How many signs do they need? How many canaries have to die? How many red lines have to be crossed?  This is a party that remains in total thrall not just to Donald Trump, but to his lies as well.  A recent poll found that fully 70 percent of Republican voters refuse to believe that Joe Biden won enough votes to be president. A Monmouth poll found 65 percent of GOP voters believe that Biden’s win was the result of voter fraud.

Over and over this party has told us what it has become. Let’s run the numbers:

126 GOP House members backed the Texas lawsuit to overturn the presidential election
138 GOP House members against certifying the electoral votes of Pennsylvania
199 GOP representatives voted to protect conspiracy theorist/bigot Marjorie Taylor Greene’s committee assignments
197 House Republicans voted against impeaching Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection
Overall (in the House and Senate) the pro-Trump impeachment vote was 240-17

And then this last week:

Liz Cheney was stripped of her leadership for refusing to whitewash the Capitol insurrection or embrace Donald Trump’s lies about the election. Almost no leading GOP elected official came to her defense.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik was elected GOP conference chair over a bona fide conservative rival, Chip Roy.  The key to Stefanik’s rise is her willingness to embrace Trump’s Big Lie as a slingshot for her ambitions. She has peddled discredited conspiracy theories about voting machines, and even made an appearance on Steve Bannon’s show where she embraced the bizarre audit of votes in Arizona that included a search for bamboo (because of rumors that ballots may have been flown in from China.)

Earlier, she had demonstrated her fealty to Trump by signing onto the friend-of-the-court brief supporting Texas’s Supreme Court bid to overturn the 2020 election results and — even after the Jan. 6 riot — voted against certifying the election results for President Joe Biden. When she has been caught in blatant lies about alleged voter fraud in Georgia, she doubled down.

Meanwhile, one GOP congressman after another is now casting doubt on the severity of the Capitol violence. Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, insisted during a congressional hearing that “There was no insurrection, and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie.”

“You know,” he said of the riot that cost multiple lives, “if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona declared that “Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters.”

None of them will face any sanctions or even rebukes from Republican leaders.

GOP lies about Jan. 6 are getting bolder — and more dangerous  In this party, men and women like Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, Gosar, Ron Johnson, and Clyde all members in good standing. But Liz Cheney, who insisted on telling the truth, is exiled.

What clearer signal could my fellow signatories be waiting for? The vote to oust Cheney was as clear as it gets: We are no longer welcome in the GOP.

Over the last five years, Republicans have shown willingness to accept — or least ignore — lies, racism, corruption, sexism and xenophobia.

It was Donald Trump’s party then — but now it is worse. Now it is a party increasingly willing to embrace sedition, conspiracies, anti-democratic authoritarianism and the Big Lie.

Letting go is hard, but it’s time say goodbye. Even if it means that some of us will find ourselves in the political wilderness.”


Dental Report

Since many readers have been kind enough to ask about my dental dilemma in the last few weeks, thought i would take a moment to update everyone.

It has now been four weeks since I spent more than fours in the dentist’s chair while my teeth met their Waterloo.  And right up front I will say that in a lifetime of making mistakes, this decision may be at the top of the list.  Time and patience may prove this to be a good decision, and i certainly hope they do, but right now I wish I had my teeth back, as bad as they supposedly were.  Yes, due to losing one of my front upper teeth I was not very “purty,” but I could eat something beside soup and mush, which is now the case.

Yogurt, fortified drinks, apple sauce, ice cream, fruit bars, endless soups and scrambled eggs pale in comparison to the preferred diet of a certified country boy who grew up on cornbread, turnip greens, fresh tomatoes and fried chicken.

Thankfully, the soreness is about gone from my gums, with the exceptions of some “hot spots.”  I am trying to get used to the temporary dentures.  I can handle the bottom ones for a couple hours, the tops are a different story.

One day I got the bright idea that I would just go get take out from my favorite meat and three restaurant here in Montgomery, bring it home and run it all through the blender.  Have you ever tried to blend turnips?  If you haven’t, don’t.

Last week my insurance company had 14 pureed meals me.  Things like meat loaf, vegetables, BBQ, turkey and dressings.  OMG.  For some reason, BBQ with the consistency of apple sauce leaves a lot to be desired.  Just the thought of them stacked up right now in my refrigerator sends a shiver down my spine.

And when I think about it, aren’t our teeth in essence our very own blender without the noise?  We chew up the chicken leg, then swallow it.   But for some reason, it ain’t the same.  Yesterday my doctor said that lots of these kind of meals are delivered to the local nursing home.

If that ever happens to me, you have my permission to shoot me while lying in my nursing home bed.

I know lots and lots of good, decent people have gotten used to false teeth.  (In fact, I have just learned that one of my favorite uncles had false teeth and I didn’t know it.)  But apparently these are the same kind of folks who had a baby and went back to picking cotton that afternoon.

That has never been me.

Again, thanks for asking.  And continue to say a small prayer that fried chicken is somewhere in my future.


In A Room Full Of Miracles

Each year the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) hosts a luncheon for what they call “Schools of Distinction” from throughout the state.  CLAS has been around for 30+ years serving as an umbrella for a number of groups such as elementary, middle school and high school principals and providing an array of professional development opportunities.  They have 4,000 members.

They divide the state according to the eight state school board districts and go through an extensive evaluation process to select usually four final schools per district.  These schools are then recognized at a luncheon.  They have been kind enough to invite me to attend these events.  (There was not one last year due to the pandemic.)

So May 3 I was right there amongst them–no teeth and all.  (I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible, which ain’t easy for me. Luckily the meal included mashed potatoes and a slice of pie that did not need chewing.)

Everyone at my table was from Tuscaloosa.  (I never once mentioned Auburn or War Eagle.)

Each of the 31 schools being recognized were given a few minutes to highlight why they were recognized.  For a lay person like me, it was a great reminder of the amazing work that goes on in our public schools.  Of the dedicated teachers and special education personnel and supportive principals who give so very much each day for the young folks in their classrooms.

These people are passionate about what they do.  And this passion carries over into their classrooms and schools.  Because of this, miracles happen.  A light goes on in the mind of a second grader and suddenly a math problem becomes much clearer or a phrase in a book takes on new meaning.

I am in awe of teachers.  Of their patience, devotion, dedication and love. There are easier ways to make a living.  But thank God, this is the career they have chosen.

Here are the schools recognized this year:

Chickasaw Elementary, Clark-Shaw Magnet Middle, E. R. Dickson Elementary, Nora Mae Hutchens Elementary, Jerry Lee Faine Elementary, Lakewood Elementary, Lakewood Primary, Webb Elementary, Berry Middle, Chelsea High, Millbrook Middle, Sycamore Elementary, Hillcrest High, Northridge Middle, Southview Elementary, University Place Elementary, Gilliard Elementary, Prattville Primary, R. B. Hudson STEAM Academy, Williamson High and Middle Grades Preparatory Academy, KDS DAR Elementary, Ohatchee High, Sparkman Elementary, Haleyville Center of Technology, Harland Elementary, Kilby Laboratory , Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools-Elementary, Collins Intermediate, James Clements High, Mae Jemison Hill and Mill Creek Elementary.

Congratulations to each of these and thank you for the miracles you create.

Another Gem From J. L. Strickland

Editor’s note:  From time to time I open my inbox and find some more of J. L. Strickland’s musings.  He is a retired textile mill worker from Alabama’s Valley region (Chambers County and surrounding areas) who certainly has a way with words.  Enjoy his most recent:

“I haven’t been doing much of anything since I got really sick off a new drug they started me on for the Parkinson’s.   The damn stuff almost killed me.  For two days I thought I would die, and by the third day I was hoping I would.

But my son’s wife is a nurse/practitioner.  She quickly realized what was happening to me and told me to stop taking the new drug at once.   I did and have gradually, gradually returned to nearly normal. Or what passes for normal these days.

(These days, my normal is barely being able to walk, but still possessing the ability to talk the horns off a billy goat.  If anyone has a billy goat that needs dehorning, send it my way.)

Related to the barely walking situation, a while back I came across some walking sticks online that were made in Ukraine.   I liked the way they looked and ordered two of them.   It took about a month for them to arrive from Russia, but they finally got to Huguley.   

(The Russian girl, Tatiana, who handles the Ukrainians’ American sales, and I corresponded several times.  In each of her emails, she quoted verses from “Sweet Home Alabama” in closing.   I’ve noticed that, while most furriners hate Americans, they sho’ ‘nuff do like our music and our money.)

Anyway, let me get to the point of this story:

When I went to the hospital for some tests yesterday,  I was hobbling about with one of my new Ukrainian walking sticks.   I couldn’t believe that three different women – two hospital employees and one stranger I met in the hall– complimented me on how nice my walking stick looked.  Two of them actually picked it up and examined it more closely.

After I got home, and thinking about the attention brought on by the walking stick,  it occurred to me that I had reached a milestone of sorts. A Plateau of Pitifulness and Inevitability.

You know a fella has passed the point of no return when the only attention and compliments he gets are for his handsome  walking stick.

Wouldn’t you agree?

The final words spoken by my late wife on her death bed came to mind.  After being comatose for two days, Yvonne suddenly opened her eyes and, to no one in particular, exclaimed, “Golden Years, my ass!”

And my darling brown-eyed girl went to her reward with those insightful words hanging in the air.

Can’t say I don’t agree with her assessment of the situation.  I have no doubt she had given it a lot of thought. Unlike me, she was never one to jump to a conclusion.”