COVID Aid Used For School Sports Programs, Whitewater Academics Second Place To Turf Fields

While a strong advocate of government funding and the muscle that comes with programming meant to make a difference in the nation, I am also lamenting once again the lack of needed requirements on spending such money.

The lead paragraph in the Associated Press story woke me up Wednesday morning almost as fast as a cup of French Roast.

One Wisconsin school district built a new football field. In Iowa, a high school weight room is getting a renovation. Another in Kentucky is replacing two outdoor tracks — all of this funded by the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief Congress sent to schools this year.

No one needs to be reminded of the concern felt around the country when schools needed to close to stem the spread of COVID-19. Scores of national stories were reported about the shortcomings of virtual learning, the slower pace of learning, and the loss for some students of basically a year in their education.

When the federal government stepped in with a large package of funds to address the pandemic and specifically schools which were severely impacted most people were pleased with the efforts.

When school officials in Whitewater, Wisconsin, learned they would be getting $2 million in pandemic relief this year, they decided to use most of it to cover their current budget, freeing up $1.6 million in local funding to build new synthetic turf fields for football, baseball and softball.

Athletics officials in the district of 1,800 students said the project was sorely needed to replace fields prone to heavy flooding. They touted the federal money as a chance to solve the problem without asking local taxpayers for funding.

“If we don’t do it now with this money, I’m not sure when we would ever do something like this,” athletic director Justin Crandall told the school board in May. “I don’t see us being a district that would go to a referendum for turf fields.”

Two school board members objected, with one raising concerns that just $400,000 was being used to address student learning loss — the minimum to meet a requirement that at least 20% goes toward that purpose.

The board approved the plan over those objections, and the new football field had its grand opening in September. District Superintendent Caroline Pate-Hefty declined to answer questions about the project.

Call me old-fashioned but athletic programs in schools should come in far behind the core reason we build classrooms and hire teachers. The academic mission should be front and center. Following what took place in schools nationwide in 2020 there should not be any district that fails to understand the first order of business is to get every child to the level they need to be at so as to advance further with learning.

Regardless of the state or school district, we should not need to read that coaches or athletic directors are number-crunching to see how federal funds in a pandemic can be used. Prioritizing sports programs over the academic needs of the students is a larger problem than just turfs over textbooks.

This is an example as to why there are always problems with large government programs, and it should bother all of us. As a liberal, I fully appreciate the power of government to act for the needs of the moment. Such robust legislative actions, as the COVID funding bills, do have a real meaningful impact. Many people needed and received a variety of assistance.

But it is also clear that large funded programs often are marred by problems due to too few restrictions, and when that happens it makes for a lack of confidence among the populace for future moments when needs arise. That is why it is essential for those of us who align with an active and robust central government to then demand the implementation of programs be as reflective of the original goal as can be attained.

In Congress, lawmakers from both parties say it’s wrong to use the money on sports. Democrats say it’s not what it was meant for, while Republicans say it’s a sign it wasn’t needed.

And so it goes.

Anti-Vaxxer Vexations

I am truly tired of hearing the ‘woes’ and “hardships’ of those in the nation who complain about being subjected to vaccine and mask mandates. I have had my fill of hearing the ‘put upon’ who disdain science throwing public fits at restaurants and school board meetings.

While I much enjoy making election prognostications as balloting nears, I could never have predicted the complete breakdown in common-sense and reasoning as we have witnessed this year regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

I am not alone in being frustrated by the anti-vaxxers who have cheated the nation out of truly enjoying this summer, undermining the economy, and continuing the stress and fatigue of emergency room doctors and nurses.

This morning WGN radio news reported how deeply held the angst is over those who simply deny facts, and work to further the pandemic.

A new survey, commissioned by CoinStar, finds one in eight Americans plan on skipping holiday shopping for family and friends who do not share the same COVID-19 opinions as them.

These types of polls are not new.

A survey of 1,000 Americans – conducted by OnePoll on Sept. 2 – examined why people have ended friendships in the last year and a half. Results show 16 percent of respondents have axed three pals from their lives since the pandemic began in March 2020.

It does not take this blogger to state the obvious. There is just no reasoning with those blinded to the wisdom of the vaccine. There is no convincing anyone who has made their decision based on partisanship–and I have no way to wrap my mind around making a medical decision based on party politics. There is no way to move one towards reasoning when they are wedded to an odd and outlandish set of conspiracy theories.

Many of us over the past months of sunshine and warm breezes have expanded our activities from what took place in 2020. We visited others who were vaccinated, had cookouts, and relished seeing loved ones and friends not seen in person for over a year.

But in the same breath for many of us, this home included, we did not sit in a restaurant, attend movies, or congregate in anything that remotely resembled a crowd. For all those who follow medical professionals we have not spent much money in the local economy. That too, is something business owners can thank the anti-vaxxers for continuing.

Every reader to this little place on the internet highway fully knows the simple truth. The chaos, sickness, death, and economic cramping could have been avoided if all Americans eligible for the vaccine had simply acted with regard for their families and communities. Rather than allowing for logic and professionals to guide their actions the anti-vaxxers decided despicable politicians and angry talk show hosts on FAUX News should steer them.

Why follow scientists when there are so many lies and conspiracies to swallow?

I line up with all those others in the nation who are angry with the irresponsible ones who reject the fact that no one can dispute.

The vaccines are the best tool to fight the virus.

And so it goes.

Waushara County Meeting Epitomizes COVID Problem In Nation

We read daily news reports, hear radio broadcasts, and watch television anchors all alerting us as to how COVID spreads. But we also are asked continually to play a constructive role in stemming the progress of the virus so that it can not further mutate. The fear being, of course, a mutation that could not be held in check by the current vaccines. One would think such sound medical advice would register and people would act accordingly.

Right?

This week above the fold in the weekly Waushara Argus there was a most unfortunate photo of just how far removed many in this state are from accepting both science and personal responsibility.

As the news photo caption reads “Dozens of Waushara County residents” “pack county board room“. This is unsettling due to the fact the conservative and Republican-voting county has only 38.4% of its population fully vaccinated.

In the 2020 presidential election, Waushara County voted 66% for Donald Trump. True to form for many such counties all over the nation there is also a staggering disregard for not only the vaccines which are proven to be effective, but also a lack of trying to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus with changes to behavior.

I am not sure how to explain the actions of people in my home county where I grew up. I was most disheartened to see the front page of this week’s Argus with a packed meeting. Only one person in the far back is wearing a mask.

What in the heck is wrong with people? Where does any religious aspect come into play where we need to be our brother’s keeper? What message does this send to children about taking safety measures when adults act so outside the box of personal responsibility?

When I see such optics it alerts me to other larger facets to be considered in relation to the county. There are more than medical concerns when pondering this matter. 

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?

I fully know my home county is not alone in this regard. Chuckleheads make up too large a portion of the nation. But one wishes to see more intelligence and common sense from the place one comes from.

This was truly a sad spectacle for Waushara County.

And so it goes.

How COVID Is Viewed In Editorial Cartoons

If one from another galaxy were to land in the United States and wanted to get a quick and well-rounded understanding of the pressing issues of the day there would be one fast way to get the task completed. Thumb through the nation’s newspapers and look at the editorial cartoons. With pithy drawings and pointed words there is no way to miss the tone and flavor of what our nation (sadly) is dealing with. Such cartoons often provide a better frank assessment of an issue than a long well-written column.

The case can be made with the current batch of editorial cartoons regarding the COVID pandemic.

Another View Of Pandemic: Did It Open New Doors Of Discovery?

Today I had a most interesting conversation with a young man who jogs by our home most afternoons. He often stops to chat after his 4-mile run, and since in the late afternoon I often find time to read a chapter of two he asks about the topic of the day. We have had some great chats.

This afternoon he recommend “The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America”.

But what really struck me today was his views about how many perceive the pandemic to have made our lives seem smaller and more contained, when in reality they might have actually become broader. Since people had more time to be at home and find alternate ways to spend leisure hours they might have started mastering a new language, expanded cooking skills, or even started a wood-working project.

He mentioned that some data shows people believe, in light of their new-found interests and skills, the pandemic has made them a better person.

I mentioned that over the past year some college courses were available for online learning, and museums had put guided tours online for virtual tours. I had read that with computer card games one might play and meet a friend on the other side of the world.

Tonight his conversation has me thinking about what I had done to mitigate the impact of having life up-ended from the virus. I sought out new authors…..ones I had not read before though they may have published their work, as in some cases, decades ago. I did not venture for new skills or ways to make the ultimate stir-fry. But I did find ways to spend a lot of time.

Though I had heard of the following authors over the years, I had never stopped to pick up one of their works. All of them fit into my interests and comfort zone and now are counted on my shelves as strong recommendations for others seeking something new. I have deeply waded into the authors below who have created a series of books.

I am most pleased to have opened each treasure.

Bill Kristol Interesting Man, But Needs Order On Bookshelves

Over the past 18 months of this pandemic, we all have watched many media personalities conduct interviews from their homes. As such, we have been able to glimpse a part of the inside world of these men and women.

I have much enjoyed seeing what books are on the shelves of news reporters, politicos, and talking heads. I find that PBS’ Judy Woodruff has many of the same books to be found on my shelves. In fact, no one else over the past months comes closer to that count than does the NewsHour anchor.

While I truly like to learn the reading habits of others I would be less than honest to say I also note the way in which people display their books, and bring order to their shelves. I have seen some ‘fronting’ their books, others with books and pictures and the like interspersed on the shelves. Some have the books pushed all the way to the back of the shelves. Some align the bindings to the edge of the shelf, in other words, giving the books the full OCD treatment.

This brings me to the one person, who throughout the pandemic, has never once considered how his shelves appear to the public watching him speak.

I enjoy hearing from Bill Kristol. He is smart and well-rounded as a person. While not always agreeing with him I find myself usually learning something from him. I am sure, however, I could listen more intently to his views if not for the chaos that lines the shelves behind him.

Twenty minutes in his home, along with a dust rag and order would be established on the shelves. Instead, it appears he just plunks items on the shelves, shoving them in, lodging them here and there.

I am not without awareness that some of the greatest minds are best served by clutter. Without a doubt, my favorite conservative thinker, writer, and speaker is Bill Buckley, Jr. His office was always intensely messy, nothing ever piled with four neat corners showing.

I know of very few people on television that could ever match his intellectual power.  While his political point of view was often in sharp contrast to mine I was never able to stop listening to the way he spoke.  Even years later, in the occasional interview on television, I would be drawn to his slightly elitist charm and world-class intelligence.

I was in awe that someone could have such a rich and diverse vocabulary.  And use all the words in such a way that the ordinary sentence was almost poetry.  While listening to his program, Firing Line, I would learn new words for my own usage.  When was the last time anyone said that about a television program? 

But really, would it not be better if all those books were properly placed?

And so it goes.

Leaders Lead: Biden Makes That Point While GOP Throws Virus Grenades

Many of us have family or friends who lived during years when some of the diseases and maladies that have been largely removed from our lives, had resulted in deaths and disabilities for them. Polio and tetanus shots are but two miracles of the medical world that make the case for trusting science. They also underscore why it is imperative to have the leadership to move a nation towards what is best for all.

There is a line in a 2010 documentary about polio that showcases the emotional reaction to the news when a working vaccine was announced so to combat that disease’s misery.

“The presentation was numbing, but the results were clear: the vaccine worked. Inside the auditorium, Americans tearfully and joyfully embraced the results. By the time Thomas Francis stepped down from the podium, church bells were ringing across the country, factories were observing moments of silence, synagogues and churches were holding prayer meetings, and parents and teachers were weeping. One shopkeeper painted a sign on his window: Thank you, Dr. Salk. ‘It was as if a war had ended’, one observer recalled.”

I start the post out this way due to what we now witness from too many in the land over the proven effective vaccines to fight COVID. And the ones who, for purely partisan reasons, are working to undermine increased vaccination rates.

We all know someone who refuses to take this vaccine. We have known these types of people all our lives, be it the flu shots or some other vaccine that has proved to be most effective in making for better health. For whatever cockomanny reason we have heard their lingo over the years.

But what we are witnessing now in the land is something much more sinister. Whole blocks of the Republican Party are now taking a most dangerous political stance as they rant against mask mandates and vaccine requirements, trying to equate sound health policy for some big government plan to undo democracy.

If it were not so damaging to the lives of our fellow citizens we could just label it as more of the same from the crowd that brought us Donald Trump. But the exploiting of talking points from the most fringe and bizarre of the conservative base is something that now impacts all our lives. As well as the life of our national economy.

If you listen to the rants from the GOP one might assume that there are no longstanding policy and legal precedents dealing with a list of other such vaccination requirements. But admitting such past policy does exist, and examples that schoolchildren and members of the military abide by, would not aid in their only use of COVID as an issue in this manner. That being, to try to undermine President Biden.

I was most proud of the actions Biden took last week to force the issue of increasing the vaccination rates. I had wished to see boldness in this fashion many weeks ago.

At the same time, we need to face the fact that too many Republican politicians are playing a deadly game. That game is directed to the base of the party that is simply put, pathetically stupid. Note that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or The National Federation of Independent Businesses are not taking to the streets in a lather over Biden’s plans.

The reason is clear.

These are the folks who want to see the economy percolate and gain steam. They know that will not happen if workers are sick, or as the case with millions like James and myself, customers who refuse to go out and spend money until there is a sense of the pandemic having been contained.

Biden has taken the reins and yanked against the recalcitrant Americans who think the tail wags the dog in this nation. It does not. The unvaccinated can whine and bitch about their Free-Dumb, and needlessly take beds from others in ER facilities. They can find their voices amplified on FOX News and AM talk radio.

But the majority of the nation will take our positions behind a mask and our barrier called commonsense. Like the President, we know it is our duty to be vaccinated and care for the greater good.

When leaders lead, as Biden has now done, we all benefit. Even conservative business people as the cash registers again start to clank away with sales from a growing economy filled with more vaccinated customers.

And so it goes.

Biden Faces Backlash Over COVID Policy, Removing Masks

(This post written prior to President Biden addressing nation Thursday afternoon.)

Many people around the nation, including this home, have never stopped wearing masks when in stores or at places where large numbers of people gathered. Such as watching fireworks on July 4th.

I viewed the May announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear face coverings indoors to not be in line with common sense. The virus was still spreading, and masks have been proven to be most effective at stemming that spread. There was already evidence of breakthrough cases. We know that the collecting of data about breakthrough case has been poorly done.

It was noted at the time of the CDC announcement about masks that public health experts were somewhat aghast at the move, and for obvious reasons.

Taking issue with the CDC decision was easy. Unvaccinated people, who could have Covid-19 and not know it, would choose not to wear masks or face coverings when out in public. We just know that many of our fellow citizens abused the guidelines. It seems a terrible thing to say but we simply cannot blindly trust many of those we meet when out and about.

The data from states around the nation clearly demonstrate how not taking sane preventive measures, from receiving vaccines to wearing masks has a terrible price. When mandates are removed, and lax standards are accepted during a pandemic the outcome our health care system is stressed to the maximum.

Today Public Health Madison & Dane County announced the indoor mask mandate will continue through October 8th. Some are already kvetching about the move locally, but at the national level–as on National Public Radio this morning– it was noted with concern how the too-soon announcement that made it seem the pandemic was over was a seriously flawed one from the Biden White House.

I have held close to the views of epidemiologists since early in 2020. I noted at the time of the May mask relaxation announcement there was a stark contrast with a large majority of epidemiologists who were asked for their views.

In the informal survey at that time, 80 percent said they thought Americans would need to wear masks in public indoor places for at least another year. Just 5 percent said people would be able to stop wearing masks indoors by this summer.

In large crowds outdoors, like at a concert or protest, 88 percent of the epidemiologists said it was necessary even for fully vaccinated people to wear masks.

“Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80 or 90 percent over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings,” said Vivian Towe, a program officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Based on such learned views from professionals James and I have followed the advice which many have ignored. Has it been fun?

No. But it is merely wearing a mask.

Does it make sound sense and align with the data to wear a mask?

Yes. The latest huge study from Stamford and Yale this month make the case, yet again, that mask wearing is a proven way to limit the spread of the virus.

I am most pleased that President Biden sits in the Oval Office. But I would not be candid with my readers if not taking issue with lapses in policy construction and logical steps to further safeguard the nation’s health during the pandemic.

Make no mistake, the bulk of the problem in the nation is with those who are unvaccinated and abused our trust and faith in them as they prance about, drink it up, fill stadiums as they shout spew. And fail to wear a mask. They are the weak links in our society.

But Biden and his team need to provide tougher leadership so to put forth consistent messaging and a better defined path forward as we battle this fourth wave of the pandemic.

And so it goes.