Category Archives: Corona Virus/Pandemic

Quotes to Start the Week, On Election Integrity & Consequences

In Otero County, New Mexico, there was a local primary election on June 7. Republicans were elected to every office on the ballot but two.

One exception was a Democrat for one of the three County Commissioner seats. For a second commissioner seat, a near tie of 801 votes to 790, may go to a recount — but both those candidates are Republicans too.

New Mexico. Otero county is in purple in the bottom tier.

Not much excitement, or news here, initially. But then the incumbent commissioners made headlines last week, by refusing to certify the results.

There were no charges of any irregularities, but the county had used Dominion voting machines, which MAGA Republicans falsely assert are actively wired for fraud, and that was enough: the Commission voted unanimously not to certify.

Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin

New Mexico’s Secretary of State went to the state supreme court, which ordered the Otero commissioners, lacking any evidence of fraud, to certify the vote by week’s end. On Friday, two of the members met. But the third, Couy Griffin, was absent. Continue reading Quotes to Start the Week, On Election Integrity & Consequences

White House Protected Big Profits for Big Pork & Big Poultry While Big Waves of Pandemic took down thousands of Unprotected plant Workers

NOTE: Much of the public, after two-plus grueling years of Covid, seems determined to forget all that as rapidly as possible. My hat is off to ProPublica for staying on one of the big buried scandals of this period: how Trump officials colluded with corporate lobbyists from Big Meat to minimize worker protection while maximizing their bottom line.

ProPublica: The Plot to Keep Meatpacking Plants Open During COVID-19

Michael Grabell — May 14, 2022

As hundreds of meatpacking workers fell sick from the coronavirus that was spreading through their plants and into their communities in April 2020, the CEO of Tyson Foods reached out to the head of another major meatpacker, Smithfield Foods, with a proposal.

Smithfield’s pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had been hit particularly hard, and state and local officials were pressuring the company to shut it down.

“Anything we can do to help?” Tyson CEO Noel White asked in an email.

Smithfield’s CEO Ken Sullivan replied that he wished there was.

But White had an idea. Would Sullivan like to discuss the possibility of getting President Donald Trump to sign an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open?

So began a high-pressure lobbying campaign by the meat industry, according to a report released Thursday by congressional investigators, leading to one of the most consequential moments in the nation’s COVID-19 response: a presidential order that effectively thwarted efforts by local health officials to shut plants down and slow the spread of COVID-19. Continue reading White House Protected Big Profits for Big Pork & Big Poultry While Big Waves of Pandemic took down thousands of Unprotected plant Workers

Covid at 1 Million U.S. Deaths: A Special Scourge in the South

 

Reported Covid Deaths by U. S. Region:

Northeast  – 211,923 deaths
Midwest  – 211,648 deaths
West – 189,805 deaths
South – 378,472 deaths

RANDOLPH SEALS, 39, WAS elected the coroner for Bolivar County, in rural western Mississippi, in 2015. But the relentlessness of the deaths linked to Covid, and his personal ties to so many who were dying, brought him to the brink of quitting in the fall of 2020.

By early 2021, when the South’s death rate spiked again, he wished he had. Then came the Delta variant, and the Omicron wave, and it just got worse.

“It was a disaster that was coming back and back and back,” Mr. Seals said.

As hospitals overflowed, many residents died in their homes. The ripple effect of the pandemic was evident, too, as Mr. Seals began recording the deaths of people with heart or kidney disease for whom there were no hospital beds. Now, he said, he is handling the deaths of people who had Covid and never quite recovered. Continue reading Covid at 1 Million U.S. Deaths: A Special Scourge in the South

A Special Scourge of the South: Covid at 1 Million Deaths

Reported Covid Deaths by U. S. Region:

Northeast  – 211,923 deaths
Midwest  – 211,648 deaths
West – 189,805 deaths
South – 378,472 deaths

RANDOLPH SEALS, 39, WAS elected the coroner for Bolivar County, in rural western Mississippi, in 2015. But the relentlessness of the deaths linked to Covid, and his personal ties to so many who were dying, brought him to the brink of quitting in the fall of 2020.

By early 2021, when the South’s death rate spiked again, he wished he had. Then came the Delta variant, and the Omicron wave, and it just got worse.

“It was a disaster that was coming back and back and back,” Mr. Seals said.

As hospitals overflowed, many residents died in their homes. The ripple effect of the pandemic was evident, too, as Mr. Seals began recording the deaths of people with heart or kidney disease for whom there were no hospital beds. Now, he said, he is handling the deaths of people who had Covid and never quite recovered. Continue reading A Special Scourge of the South: Covid at 1 Million Deaths

Trump’s Superspreader Packing Plants

[NOTE: Since I live in North Carolina, the #2 biggest meat packing state, issues of disease, pollution & regulation of these industries were familiar, well before COVID.

But the pandemic highlighted some key problems: while Governor Roy Cooper and the state health secretary Mandy Cohen delivered daily “don’t panic” briefings,  outbreaks in areas with large meatpacking operations were frequent, but too often wrapped in a fog of doublespeak or silence. Cohen revealed why in a little-noticed interview: in 2010, when Republicans won a big majority in the state legislature, one of their early achievements was to strip state agencies of almost all meaningful inspection and regulatory powers. These were “replaced” with voluntary reports, “self-regulation,” and slick PR; aka “thoughts & prayers.”

When COVID arrived in 2020, incomplete local data pointed to repeated major outbreaks in areas with packing plants; but state responses were mostly about statewide stats, masking, and later vaccines. The big packers basically got a pass. The GOP is still in charge at the statehouse, and is ready to fight any COVID resurgence by outlawing critical race theory & closing down women’s health clinics. Continue reading Trump’s Superspreader Packing Plants

Scooping the Times, With Grim Satisfaction

For a reporter, even a retired one, there’s a charge of adrenaline in a scoop — getting a story before other journalists.

And if the scooped rival is the Big Kahuna, aka the New York Times, there’s an extra kick to it.

So I’m preening this morning, after noticing that the august Times, fresh off stuffing another Pulitzer Prize into its warehouse full of such trinkets, catching up with reporting that appeared here more than five years ago.

This despite the fact that the story involved mostly delivered grim news.

Seeing the Times headline, “As a ‘Seismic Shift’ Fractures Evangelicals, an Arkansas Pastor Leaves Home,” my immediate reaction was — I admit it — “Well now, it’s about dam time.”

The point of the story was very familiar: Continue reading Scooping the Times, With Grim Satisfaction

Two Weekend Bulletins: Cases and ‘Canes?

Okay, enough with all the bad news about the leaky Supreme Court, ThrillBilly elegies in Ohio, World War 2.5 in Europe, and a stock market sinking like a Russian flagship. Time for some upbeat happy news!

Um, sorry, I don’t have any.

But will you settle for some different stuff to worry about?

Like that pesky pandemic, and maybe — a possible “subtropical event”?

Well, I’ll mention them anyway.

Can we remember those giddy Good Old Days when the daily total of new Covid cases got as low as 27000? (It had been at 500,000 daily at Christmastim

Me neither, but it did, and here’s a hint: it wasn’t even six weeks ago. Yep, March 30. Take a look: Continue reading Two Weekend Bulletins: Cases and ‘Canes?

AFSC Restructure Update: Staff Uprising? What Happened?

If I was a “consultant” and needed work, I’d get in line at AFSC. By my count, the group is hosting its third round of outside consultants, laboring earnestly (and raking in the billable hours) trying to help it square the circles of what is called at 1501 Cherry Street, Philly “Restructuring.”

The Restructuring plan — and the drive for an internal coup to smash it — were reported here in early January, and this initial post has links to the main documents, and a detailed sketch of the struggle against it. At that point, the Restructuring plan was set to be acted on at a Board meeting earlier this month.

The January coup was spearheaded by Lucy Duncan, who was at the time assigned as AFSC’s liaison with Quakers. She was candid about the goals for her insurgency:

We call on other Quakers to call for a cessation of the planned restructure, an external evaluation of the Senior Leadership Team and a searching, well facilitated internal conversation about how this process proceeded so far despite widespread opposition and how the organization can heal and move forward collectively, honoring all voices especially those most impacted by the issues upon which AFSC focuses.

If the plan wasn’t dumped, she warned, AFSC would be faced with numerous departures:

 Several staff have left or are on the verge of leaving the organization–some of whom have been with AFSC for decades–due to the difficult experience of these processes and their concern about the new direction AFSC seems poised to take.

Well, there was one signal departure in the wake of this manifesto: Duncan, who was suspended and then fired within a week.

Her dismissal stirred up a brief flurry of well-attended Zoom calls, some wringing of hands, and various social media posts.

But within a few weeks, the smoke cleared, and most Quakers  turned back to their already long list of serious concerns, such as the impending destruction of democracy here, the invasion and ongoing destruction of Ukraine there, and the destruction of the entire planet overall, to name a few.

This plethora of distraction indicated that there would likely be no mass movement of Friends marching to rescue Duncan and a once-Quaker-but-now 99+% secular NGO from the fiendish clutches of — the people who were hired to run it, especially by stopping another reorganization in a long string of such over the decades.

For the record, the Restructuring grew out of a strategic plan adopted by AFSC in October 2020 (and online here).

But opposition to it surfaced early, and  despite the often overheated rhetoric, took in practice the more typically Quaker form of a campaign to stall and talk it to death.

This is where the parade of consultants  got into  the  act, being well-compensated to somehow make a series of real differences vanish in a cloud of lavender-scented conflict resolution blather or drown in vats of herbal tea.

The consultants haven’t yet succeeded, except at their bottom lines. The key sticking points were summarized in the early post thus:

After wading through many documents, and cutting through a fog of verbiage and buzzwords, in my view the issues boil down to three:

  1. Power: Who will run AFSC?
  2. Jobs: Will “restructure” mean staff and program cuts? And, not least,
  3. Money: who will control its distribution?

The two sets of answers, in brief, appear to be:

From the “Leadership Team” (aka LT):

  1. Power? To the LT.
  2. Jobs/program cuts? Likely; maybe lots.
  3. Money control? The LT.

From the dissidents:

  1. Power? To the staff (or rather, the staff favored by the dissidents). Out Now! with the LT & its plan.

  2. Job/program cuts? Not just no, but Heck No. Instead, more hires and projects at the “bottom,” in field and project offices.

  3. Money control? Staff (again, the “right” ones).

With l’affaire Duncan now past, it seems clear that the struggle has returned to the question of who will out-stall, out-talk, and out-consult whom. AFSC Deputy General Secretary Hector Cortez told me this week there has not been any staff exodus following Duncan out the door.

But he also acknowledged that the April Board meeting, held in conjunction with AFSC’s annual Corporation session, had come and gone without taking up the Restructuring plan. Which, in light of what I was told in January, suggests the LT didn’t think the Board was ready to say yes.

The next Board meeting will be June 10-12. And from documents shared with the Corporation, it seems AFSC will be in full frenzy marathon meeting mode til then. Here’s the schedule (which, as the small print admits, will probably get even more crowded toward the end of May.):

This whirl will likely focus on much the same conflicts as were identified above. Here’s the summary shared with the Corporation (By the way, the BWGPDM stands for the Board Working Group on Governance and Decision Making):

And that’s not all. The remnants of the Duncan putsch echo here:

So, what will happen in June? Here’s the Leadership Team’s vision:

The blue chart above tracks a process which it says started (at top left) in June 2020, and looks to complete in June 2022 (at bottom right).

Seems to me it leaves out some items, so I’ve prepared a revised, shortened version here. One possibility is not on it: I predict that when June arrives, the Restructuring opponents will insist, “We need more time!” (And consultants.)Then . . .

The big Maybe: There are no public polls of the 20-plus member AFSC Board. Maybe they’re as ready as Cortez to be done with all this. Yet after fifty-five years of Quaker business and committee meetings, it is very easy for me to imagine a half dozen members not being ready to act in June, which would be enough to thwart the LT’s yearning for a conclusion, and keep the hopes of the resisters alive.

After all, just a couple weeks ago there was a letter from Friends General Conference about how their planning committee was tied up in knots and essentially fractured over — wait for it — mask rules for a Quaker gathering.

After two years of AFSC’s impasse, Cortez sounded to me like he (and the LT perhaps) was within sight of being fed up: “We are under the assumption and the very very clear expectation a proposal will go to the board in June,” he said, “and we will request a decision.”

If they don’t get one?

Well, there are always more consultants to consult.

Other related posts:

“Hello, AFSC? There’s a Crisis on the Line—And It’s for You.” Posted January 3, 2022
https://wp.me/p5FGIu-5qk

AFSC Restructuring Plan (Draft of April 16, 2021) — posted: January 3, 2022
https://wp.me/p5FGIu-5q5

AFSC & The Hammer: Duncan Fired — posted:
January 5, 2022
https://wp.me/p5FGIu-5qN

AFSC After “The Day The Movement Died” — posted:
January 13, 2022
https://wp.me/p5FGIu-5rp

Quickie Covid Update: Bad News, Good News, Bad News (Again; Sorry)

I’m not much of a data wonk, but I can read charts that go up and down. And handily, the Washington Post & New York Times put out such charts for COVID every day.

So here is our recent history with the pandemic compressed into four simple charts.

1. Summer 2021 started well, but turned bad. By the brink of autumn, it was awful: On September 13, there were almost 176000 new cases, on that one day.

2. But then the charts took a turn for the better. That steep upward slanted line turned, and new case numbers dropped.

They kept declining for about six weeks. On November 4 the daily new cases number was down to 71300 or so. That was less than half of the September number. I couldn’t help it: my hopes got higher. Maybe we were seeing the, um, light at the end of this long gloomy tunnel?

Or did I jinx it by even thinking that??

3. Because then, the numbers started increasing again. And this morning, September 18, 2021, the daily new case number is back up to 89000+. And winter isn’t even here yet.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got the two vaxx shots, plus a booster, AND a flu shot, the supposedly extra potent one for geezers. I also wear a mask when out grocery shopping (my main entertainment), or stopping by the favorite diner (my ultra-favorite treat).

But dammit, if those numbers keep rising (again), the diner may have to slide back down on the list.  I’ll hate that. And what about school for my grandson and granddaughter & pre-K for the great granddaughters? And there’s one more:

4. Beg pardon for referring to our awful political mess, but ponder this last NY Times chart:

As for me, I’m gonna shut up before my big mug of schadenfreude overflows again.

But there it is. The Big awful Truth that the even Bigger LIE is covering up.

Coping with General PTSD

Just about every day, Facebook pops up on my personal page a post & photo from this date some year in the past, as a memory.

What happens in Vegas–piling on a napping Grandpa February 2020. Happy anniversary?

The other day, a photo came up on FB of me,  taking nap recliner, while mischievous granddaughter, seven, piling stuffed animals and stuff on my torso to see how much she could  stack up on me before the weight woke me up.

This happened one year ago during a family reunion over an extended weekend in Las Vegas, where my daughter works as a nurse. It was silly scene, but showed we were having a fine time, so it was worth a passing remembrance.

Then I realized something else about it. That trip and gathering marked the end of the world.

Well, not the end of THE world, but surely the end of A world: the pre-pandemic world, the demise of what can be called the Good Old Days. And so that silly photo of me asleep with odds and ends piled on my belly in late February 2020, also marked the anniversary – better say the first anniversary — of the era of Covid.

After that family weekend, within just a few weeks, schools were closed, unemployment swept through us like a tornado, markets crashed, toilet paper disappeared and lockdowns were coming, and the last time I was able to worship in person at our meetinghouse until – when?

And on this unwelcome anniversary, I realized a couple other things: one is that it’s not over; far from it. The other is a strong suspicion, that even when it’s declared to be over, it may be impossible to go “back to normal.”  At least not entirely.

Surely there’s no going back for the 484,000 Americans dead from it as of the third weekend in February, 2021; or for many of their families. Continue reading Coping with General PTSD