Lead Pipe Mediation In Reconciliation Bill Important, Arkansas And Wisconsin Children Prove Point

The reality of how numbers need to be squared and lowered so as to gain passage of a smaller reconciliation bill is prompting new scrutiny for policies that truly do require funding. One of the bottom lines in the congressional discussions must be lead pipe mediation.

Today I ran across a figure that underscores the contention among many that lead pipes must be remedied in this nation. Two-thirds of Arkansas children under age 6 had detectable lead levels in their blood. That was a finding in a new study from JAMA Pediatrics.

That is not acceptable. No way. No how.

While one can make a very strong argument showing that the Arkansas government has not acted with resolve to address this issue or tax their residents so as to have the funds to install new pipes it also goes without saying children should not be held hostage to conservative politicians.

The data shows that children from communities with pre-1950s housing or high poverty rates are most impacted. Science shows that a blood lead concentration as low as five micrograms per deciliter can affect the long-term cognitive development of children. That can then lead to lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Those then are costs that are often left to governments to address, and taxpayers to fund.

So once again, it is imperative to address the problems on the front side as the preventive route is always cheaper and more appropriate than picking up the pieces later.

It has been troubling to see some members of Congress pretend that federal resolve must not be used to address issues such as lead pipe mediation. Senator Joe Manchin should be front and center as his poor state has an estimated 20,000 citizens who have lead service lines throughout West Virginia.

The Senate has passed–and correctly so– a much-needed bipartisan infrastructure package that would allocate $1.5 billion to replace lead service lines. Democrats hope to pass a budget reconciliation bill with even more funds to meet the need.

The problem is, of course not just in states with lower economic stats, but also in places Wisconsin.

The City of Racine had just under 11,000 lead pipe service lines delivering water to its nearly 80,000 residents in July, when the city announced it had received a $1.6 million grant through the state’s Safe Drinking Water Loans program.

2015 report by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported statewide tests on children showed the percentage with elevated blood lead levels was 4.6%. That same report found the percentage in the jurisdiction of the City of Racine Public Health Department was 9% for 1-year-olds and 10.2% for 2-year-olds.

Many will argue we can not do everything now that needs to be accomplished. That is true. But we can do what must be done to protect children who rely on adults to make sound decisions.

And so it goes.

Tale Of Two Americas: Vaccinated Blue Counties, Unvaccinated Red Counties

There was no way this weekend to miss the most pressing story in the nation. Be it newspapers, radio news, or evening broadcasts on the major networks it was blatantly clear our nation is facing a test of reason and logic vs. conspiracy theories and selfishness. As COVID cases rise and a tenacious variant takes hold there is a severe contrast between that part of the nation understanding why it is vital to be vaccinated and the other part that remains adrift from reality.

While much of the nation tiptoes toward normalcy, the coronavirus is again swamping hospitals in places like Mountain Home, a city of fewer than 13,000 people not far from the Missouri border. A principal reason, health officials say, is the emergence of the new, far more contagious variant called Delta, which now accounts for more than half of new infections in the United States.

In Baxter County, where the hospital is, fewer than a third of residents are fully vaccinated — below both the state and the national averages. Even fewer people are protected in surrounding counties that the hospital serves.

“It’s absolutely flooded,” said Dr. Rebecca Martin, a pulmonologist, as she made the rounds of 2 West one morning last week.

In the first half of June, the hospital averaged only one or two Covid-19 patients a day. On Thursday, 22 of the unit’s 32 beds were filled with coronavirus patients. Five more were in intensive care. In a single week, the number of Covid patients had jumped by one-third.

How a vaccine can be viewed as political is hard to fathom. But there are ways to show that such links can be made between how a county voted in 2020 for president, and how the vaccination rates have developed this year.

In Tennessee, Donald Trump won 61% of the vote, and this weekend the state had only 43% of their residents with even the first vaccine dose.

Holmes County in Ohio is where Trump won 83% of the vote, This weekend only 15% of the people there had one dose of the vaccine.

Waushara County in Wisconsin has only a 35% vaccination rate. The county is so Republican and easily led astray from facts, that the county has become a source for news stories. In the 2020 presidential election, the County voted 66% for Donald Trump. Now by almost the same percentage, the county refuses to be vaccinated. He refused to recognize the severity of the virus and undermined efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus such as encouraging the use of masks.

One of the main factors driving differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates across the country is partisanship. Our surveys consistently find that Democrats are much more likely to report having been vaccinated than Republicans, and Republicans are much more likely to say that they definitely do not want to get vaccinated.  In May, just as vaccine supply was starting to outstrip demand, we examined average vaccination rates by county and found that rates were lower in counties that voted for Trump in the 2020 Presidential election compared to those that voted for Biden. Now, two months later, we find that not only does this remain the case, the gap has grown.

There are more than medical concerns when pondering these statistics. What new business would want to establish themselves in a county with a population that is not able to understand the necessity of being vaccinated against COVID or have any more regard for the larger community? What does it say about a region where facts and common-sense are not being used by people for their own well-being? Is that a place where any serious business operation would want to set up shop?

Personally, I find the people refusing the vaccine, and in so doing harming the larger community, both in terms of health and economics, to be selfish and truly stupid. To know they are acting in such a repulsive fashion due to their allegiance to the most moronic person to ever sit in the Oval Office underscores why the majority of the nation thinks of them as we do.

And so it goes.

Arkansas’ Richard Barnett Epitomizes Undereducated Trump Base

There are scores of photos from the attempted coup on Wednesday that underscore the appalling and utterly disgusting behavior of the men and women who stormed the Capitol. From windows being broken to gain entry to the building and files strewn around office floors, the rampage of angry people threatened elected officials who needed to flee for their safety, or hunkered down in preparation for possible gun violence. It was barbaric and pure insanity.

But there was one photo, more than all the others, that struck me with the most force and produced the highest amount of revulsion. A cretin who had broken the laws of this land to make an entrance to the building was casually sitting with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. It was not long before social media put a name to the image and not far behind were the authorities to make an arrest.

Richard Barnett, age 60, from Gravette, Arkansas was later seen on the day of the insurrection with his shirt ripped open and his chest bared. Let me assure my readers he is no Burt Reynolds. Button it up! Outside of the building he brazenly bragged of having broken into the speaker’s office.

Without any reverence for the building, the historical moments that still breathe there, the dignity the institutions contained within demand us to register Barnett uttered the following words.

“I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk” The note he wrote included a curse word. It has been noted on social media that he was able to spell it correctly.

He even flashed an envelope with the speaker’s letterhead that he had taken from Pelosi’s office. He insisted he had not stolen it, adding “I put a quarter on her desk.” Then he followed that sarcasm with more verbal insults.

So it is fitting to hear news reports that Barnett was taken into custody in his home state on charges of entering and remaining on restricted grounds, violent entry, and theft of public property. He is not the only terrorist from this week that will be brought to justice.

This blog has often posted about the angry white males who harbor their resentments, are woefully undereducated, and were easily led and swayed by the likes of Donald Trump. When I looked at the troubling image, again and again, of Barnett I recalled a conversation with a friend many years ago about how some white men felt that they were being marginalized and reduced in importance by society. 

The idea of angry white males casting their ballots with belligerence so in some way to make a broader statement about the pre-conceived condition of their lives has been an interest of mine over the years. My keen interest in politics, and understanding why certain demographics vote as they do, is a topic I try better to grasp. My friend and I agreed this voting group was not reasonable in their thinking since white men have the power and the means to attain an education and secure good jobs.  They do, in fact, sit at the head of the table in our society, and yet they moan about their lives.

Barnett clearly had no regard for the constitutional weight of the counting of the votes from the Electoral College, had no desire to find the place in the Capitol which is marked where congressman John Quincy Adams fell from a stroke, or stood with memories where leaders had lay in state. Instead of taking in the grandeur and historical weight of the building, he opted for stupidity.

So what gives with all the anger and nastiness that has permeated this election cycle?  There is no doubt that some of this demographic have not the ability for further education and better jobs. I get it that when economic times turn south all sorts of ugly fissures open in society and oozes stuff that in better times is kept in check. We saw that in truckloads this week with the terrorists! And yet the volume of their disgusting actions and words make that simple attempt at an answer inadequate to what we all have witnessed.

Beyond the basic economics is the fact that when white America sees diversity they see the future, and they revert to their core assumptions and base instincts. For some such cultural diversity is most unsettling.  At some point white men will just need to get a grip of reality. After all, a white majority population in America is not the future.  The world is brown, and the trend lines have this country moving in the same direction.  And quickly.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Embracing what makes us diverse has always been the way for our social progress, and it also allows for personal enrichment. 

At such times of social transition, it is necessary for leaders to create policy moves that can positively impact those who need help. That, however, is not the way Trump talked to these people in his base over the past years. One of the tools used by Trump was the undermining of facts. We have witnessed, time and again, how the continued use of lies was used as a partisan tool. When Trump was called out for his lies he worked to smear the Fourth Estate. The efforts were aimed so that some of the electorate–the ‘Barnett’s of the nation’– would be uncertain if what they read and heard from professional journalists were indeed facts.

Such attacks on the foundations of democracy, first with Trump abusing his office during the past four years, and then the attempted coup underscore that rhetoric is having a detrimental effect on our nation. We saw this week what happens when a sizable number of under-educated and highly unstable people are swayed by reckless language from the White House.

When it comes to what results from such rhetoric Richard Barnett is the epitome.

Looking For Justin Harris, Young Years In Ozone, Arkansas

After not being successful through other means of locating a person I met in 2001 I felt perhaps this blog might be the next best step. After all, Caffeinated Politics is the reason a relative of Bascom Clarke, who lives in Paris, France is a many-years friend of this home. (She has been to our home in Madison twice.) This little place on the internet highway has found connections with the family of country singer Porter Wagoner, and families of famed radio announcers Grant Turner and Earl Nightingale. So it is my hope to find Justin Harris.

In 2001 my mother’s family ventured back to Ozone, Arkansas for a family reunion. My grandparents had owned and worked a farm ‘on the mountain’ before moving to Wisconsin in the 1940s. It was a weekend of visits and memories (both ones recalled and new ones made). Simply put it a grand time….a once in a lifetime event.

As our group prepared for lunch at the Old School I noticed a young boy–age five–from across the road who ventured over and asked what was going on. He had the type of outgoing energy and laughter that makes a young person fun to have as company. When I told him we were going to have lunch I also detected this young kid was hungry. We had all brought grocery type items and so sandwiches, chips, and cookies were on the menu. Since James and I had more than enough I asked if his parents would care if he joined us.

Ozone is not a large place and the crowd of us at the school was certainly more excitement than he normally saw on any given day. So with his mom’s permission Justin sat with us and made an impression on me for an authentic smile and delight in the small things…such as the way my umbrella opened with a little button being pressed. Again and again.

With pictures and goodbyes we took him back across the rather busy road—I think it might have even been labeled a highway–and we were on our way to other stops during our weekend. James and I sent a present that year of the framed pictures and discovered his great delight in receiving them.

Over the past weeks I have tried to think of good times as an antidote to the chaos and meanness that seems too often to take center stage. So his memory came back and as he was such an engaging person I would welcome the chance to write a note to him online or perhaps on Facebook. This blog post will allow comments so if anyone reads this and has information I would be appreciative.

The picture below is one that shows him grinning with his parents, Alice and Roy Harris in 2001.

Advice With An Ozone, Arkansas Perspective


There is a small town in the northwestern portion of Arkansas called Ozone.  Most people have never heard of this place, but it is where my mom was born.  I’ve been thinking about that small town this week and recalling what mom would often comment about when recounting her youth.

I think it was in the 1990s when young people wished to purchase blue jeans that were weathered, stressed, and even ripped.  My mother could never quite understand what the attraction was to pay money for clothes she remembers many needing to wear during the hard years when growing up.  She knew how it felt to wear an article of clothing with a rip, and also how in later years it felt when the opportunity presented itself to have clothes that were fresh and new off of the store shelves.

I also recall a lesson she imparted to her children that today seems no longer to be in vogue.  Simply put, when one does not know what they are talking about they should just stay silent.  Listen to others when not aware of an issue and in so doing not alert others to your deficit of knowledge about the topic at hand.  A person can later learn about the matter and if the topic comes up again be ready to talk.

In today’s climate, we see ample evidence that people will just start to talk and babble about so much they have not a clue about.  Be it on talk radio or through comments on social media. There seems to be no chagrin about being woefully uninformed these days. Rather, among a certain demographic, there seems to be an emboldened sense of letting others know one has a mouth to use and a hand that can text but also making it abundantly clear there is nothing worthwhile to communicate.

As of late, I am most dismayed by the level of dialogue from some concerning wearing a mask so to fight the pandemic.  I have heard the most insane comments ranging from ‘masks cause sickness’ to conspiracy theories about why masks are being pressed into usage by the government.  Many are demanding “FREE-DUMB”.  Facts and medical knowledge can not dislodge their ignorance or temper their tongues.

I am confident that mom would advise those people it’s best just to stay quiet.  They are are just embarrassing themselves.

Today we are slipping down a most horrible hill of ignorance and willful nonsense as lies are spread against the need to wear masks so to stem the spread of COVID-19.  Mom grew up when many of the medical breakthroughs we now take for granted were not yet discovered.  She would add that too many people just have no idea what she experienced growing up in her day.  At the rate we are moving they just might.

Not a bad slice of advice to come from one who grew up in Ozone, a place most people have never heard of.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home: “Newspaper Clippings Are Gems” 7/22/19

Many people of a certain generation have a collection of newspaper clippings stored in some closet.  My mom had such clippings compiled from a Yuma, Arizona newspaper which she subscribed to for years, along with stories from one published in Clarksville, Arkansas, not far from where she was born and raised.   Added to the yellowing cut newspaper stories were accounts from her local county paper, Waushara Argus, along with a collection of other weeklies.   As one ventures into the clippings the years drift backwards.

Recently a box of such clippings my Aunt Evie had amassed came into my possession.  She died earlier this year.  Like others in the family she had made a collection of clippings which now amuses and intrigues me.  With summer sun, and more projects to do than time in a day, the journey backwards through the box is mostly awaiting rainy weather.  Mom would have said such tasks were made for days when being outdoors is impossible.

But still being like a kid before Christmas I have lifted a few of the top articles and read them.  Near to the top of the box was this find from 1964, pictured below.

The nice thing about this box is reading it can happen over the coming weeks and months, and there is no way to know with any certainty what will be the next gem.  From a winter’s blast that made headlines in the local paper, to national events, the clippings which piqued the curiosity of my aunt are layered one on another in a time capsule of sorts.

I have been blessed with several newspaper clipping folks in my life.

Years back, several times a month, an envelope from Maine would arrive in our mail box with newspaper clippings.  James’ Mom, Marion, would include a wide assortment of news that might deal with everything from strange sightings of moose, interesting columns regarding political events, along with funny cartoons from the paper.  She had been sending James newspaper clippings from the time he left home for Middlebury College, and then during his studies in Europe.  Her mailings were such a regular occurrence that we supplied the address labels to make it easier for her to send the clippings our way.

In almost every mailing there was a  notation on one or two clippings which said something akin to “Gregory needs to read this” or “blog about this”.  I will never forget when she sent me the 12,000 calorie a day menu that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps followed, and told me to mimic his diet so to put on  more weight!

With the reduction in newspaper readers, and even more so in the number who subscribe to a print edition, means there will be fewer and fewer of these memories to be passed along at the end of someone’s life.   With my nostalgic bearings, interest in history, and how people lived their lives the box is a step into yesteryear one yellowing clipping at a time.

People often comment about the ways our lives change due to technology.  As newspapers become less of a daily item in the lives of more and more people, the clipped article and the conversations it creates, will also diminish.  It just does not feel the same to have someone forward a link via an email.   How does that make one wish to pour a cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen table and talk for a while?

Let it rain soon as Evie’s clippings await!

Hoover Dies




Saturday Evening Post Features Covers With All The States

From the lighthouses of Maine to the majestic Cascades of Oregon, The Saturday Evening Post has represented every state on its cover.  Look at them here.  

Sometimes Nature rains on a picnic; sometimes she is just neutral; and sometimes, as in this mood caught by John Falter’s brush, she glories in the occasion herself, painting a magic sunset, smoothing the waterways into mirrors, tempering the temperature, even arranging for watermelons to be at their most luscious ripeness.

The lighthouse on the cover is the West Quoddy Light, Lubec, Maine, but the lighthouse keeper is pruning the grass at Sankaty Light, Nantucket, a neat trick that can happen only in the world of art. What happened was that artist Stevan Dohanos made his preliminary sketches of the West Quoddy Light the summer before. The next year, to freshen his memory on lighthouse detail, he journeyed up to the Sankaty Light. It turned out the Sankaty Light had “a very strong personality of its own,” and wasn’t much good as a source of information on the situation in West Quoddy. However, they were cutting the grass at Sankaty Light, and Dohanos liked that touch of domesticity, so he included it.

Arkansas Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional

This is another sign there is rational thought being given to how voter ID laws are harmful to the electorate.

Arkansas’ highest court on Wednesday struck down a state law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, ruling the requirement unconstitutional just days before early voting begins.

In a decision that could have major implications in the Nov. 4 election, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that determined the law unconstitutionally added a requirement for voting.

The high court noted the Arkansas Constitution lists specific requirements to vote: that a person be a citizen of both the U.S. and Arkansas, be at least 18 years old and be lawfully registered. Anything beyond that amounts to a new requirement and is therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled.

“These four qualifications set forth in our state’s constitution simply do not include any proof-of-identity requirement,” the ruling said.