Living Scared In A Pandemic

In only a few days, the number of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic will reach 400,000. More people have already died as a result of coronavirus than in any other pandemic in The United States, with the only exception being the ghastly 1918 influenza pandemic.

As I mark the grin milestones, I often hear “Yeah but, “Where are the flu numbers?” It’s been widely reported that because of masking, hand washing, and social distancing, the flu numbers are down significantly this year.

I’m waiting for my place in line, waiting on some semblance of protection from disease for the second time in my life. When I was a little boy, there was a girl who lived a couple of blocks away from my home on Ashland Avenue in Burlington. She could only walk with large leg braces and those crutches that had handles and metal bands for her arms. She was a survivor of polio. Other children who were ravaged by the disease could only survive in what was called an “iron lung”… only their neck and head sticking out of a machine that allowed them to live. Others died. Even though parents spoke about polio in hushed voices, we knew the score. Nobody knew of a way to prevent polio.

Then, the vaccines came. There were injections, and doses placed on sugar cubes. They were called the Salk, and the Sabin vaccines. And my parents made certain I was vaccinated pronto. The PTA organized vaccination clinics for the entire community at public schools. Doctors offices also had the vaccine.

There were lines, but not the thousand-car queues we are now experiencing. Announcement of available vaccine results in the website registration to open and close inside a half-hour. Recently, Knox County Health Department had to turn many people away from a vaccination site. They ran out of vaccine.

Rewind a few weeks, and note that the Administration’s goal was 21 million vaccinations by 2021. It was called Operation Warp Speed. That name will likely be derided in history as a cruel joke. HHS Secretary Azar told a reporter today the reason the number of vaccinations fell abysmally short of the goal, was the late delivery of the vaccine. That might be part of it, but I believe the largest part of the problem is the hodgepodge fruit salad of state policies on who is vaccinated when, and how.

We can only hope for a course correction when the Biden Administration takes over the fight against covid-19. But I don’t hold a lot of hope for a major improvement anytime soon. That’s because we learned this weekend that the government is out of vaccine. There are no reserve doses. It’s like needing an overcoat right now, only to find the wool used to make the coat is on back order.

Operation Warp Speed developed a covid vaccine in an unheard of short amount of time. I believe bureaucratic blundering and disorganization in the distribution chain led to expectations that could never be met. I don’t believe many of us ever thought we would reach a time where family members would drop off loved ones at the emergency room door, and have to leave them…alone…and sometimes to die.

So now, we wait on our turn. And me mourn those who could not survive the virus and its myriad complications. This time, it’s not the schoolgirl down the street, it’s the 65 plus neighbor who might be fighting for her life, on a ventilator, and away from any family contact.

You might have heard my story before, that I spent five days on a ventilator, suffering from acute respiratory failure following surgery, and as a result… had several years dealing with the way it left my lungs…and my mind.

There’s no doubt that the virus has its origins in China. How it got to The United States is a question for another day. Right now, I should be sufficient to worry about how governors, mayors, and health administrators deal with vaccinations in an orderly manner. Hospitals are doing what they can. Meanwhile, please wear a mask, (I often wear two masks, a cloth mask over my trusty N-95, keep your hands washed, and limit where you go.

My wife and I are relatively hermits. I pray to be spared from covid, and ask God to protect me and my family, and to heal others. I believe God can heal in an instant, and He also gave me the reasoning power to protect myself as much as I can.

The heartbreaking stories seem never-ending. I hope you’re working hard to keep from adding to the manuscript of this pandemic.

Handicapping The Possibility Of A Second Civil War

I was clicking around the Internet this afternoon, and came upon a post written by Damon Linker for “The Week”. Linker says he has been very reluctant in the past to comment about the possibility of a Second American Civil War, but the insurrection at The Capitol prompted him to outline the possibilities.

“How great is the risk of America going completely off the rails in the short-to-medium term? I wouldn’t want to bet big money on it. But the odds are improving all the time.”

-Damon Linker- “The Week”

I think, no matter your political persuasion, you should be worried. In his article, Linker outlines the types of civil wars, from the one we had in The United States, and many other conflicts. But he leaves out what I believe could be the fuse meant to ignite America into open civil strife- anarchists. They come in many flavors. Some want to hasten the breakdown of civil society so as to start a race war. There are others who just want to tear apart society in general.

You can see some of them in the videos of the insurrection at The Capitol. They are the ones who come ready for battle, willing to kill or be killed. I have no doubt in my own mind that some of the “anti” groups we have seen fomenting violence in other cities were represented in the mob that stormed into The Capitol. It was a grand adventure for them to insert themselves into the riot, and urge others on. I believe, as arrests mount, we will have proof of that opinion.

Does it not seem strange to you that we are even talking about a possible civil war, or open violence? It does to me. In my life, I have witnessed the assassination of one President, at least three attempts on other Presidents, and the resignation of another. There was a collective feeling of dread with each of those events.

In the previous century, anarchists carried out a successful attack on Wall Street, by detonating a buckboard loaded with dynamite on Wall Street. Two men were executed in connection with it, while others maintained their innocence. I’ll not argue the case here, but leave you with evidence that there have been people hell bent on destroying our democratic republic for a long time.

Our nation’s seat of government is about to be flooded with four times the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Large fences have been erected, even barbed wire place in some areas. We are fortifying our Capitol much like some two-bit, unstable government might have to do when power changes. And I have no doubt those images will be heavily used by our foreign enemies, exploited in propaganda, from videos to posters. Remember- they still chant “Death to America.” in some places.

I hope we can keep from sliding into cults of violence on both sides. The precious principles of civil order are at stake. And that order defines how we enjoy all of our additional, wonderful, freedoms.

WE ARE AT A CROSSROAD

The eyes have it.
The eyes of the people who stormed The Capitol in a full-on riot were wide and frenzied. They were going after anything and everything in the building. Lawmakers were rightfully scared for their life. Rightfully so.

From my experience as a reporter, and based on what I saw… the insurrectionists were separated into a couple of groups. First, there were folks who were whipped into riotous behavior. They came to march, holler, and demand a different outcome to our Presidential election. They were the ones with wide, searching, random eyes. Their actions were no less criminal than what the other eyes belied.

The other eyes were windows into the planning, tactics, and communications surrounding the riot. They were the organizers, an amalgam of white supremacists, conspiracy believers, those who are trying to hasten a second civil war, and anarchists. Police say they used sophisticated communication systems- something we have seen in other riots. They helped the leaders of the insurrection shape the spear that pierced the Capitol.

One rioter is seen trying to climb through the window into one of the legislative chambers. She falls backwards, mortally wounded by a law officer. Two Capitol Police officers were hurt. Two more people died of medical emergencies. And no telling how many others had serious injury.

There appeared to be thousands at the Capitol, but we need to remember that a vast number of people who showed up at the rally, left in peace. They hollered, clapped, and shouted – but kept what they did within the scope of the law. It was their right … from the First Amendment.

Now, there are more troops in Washington than there are in Afghanistan and Iraq. Read that sentence again. It’s scary. For the first time since The Civil War, National Guard members are inside The Capitol, guarding its safety, and the safety of people who work inside. These folks are your neighbor, your grocer, small business owner, teacher, and first responder.

All that in mind, and I ask you this-
Who will you sit with in church this weekend?
Not everybody goes to church, of course. But for those who do, how do we decide who sits where. Are pews roped off with signs that say “Trump Supporters Only”, or ” Voted for Biden? Sit in this row.”
Moreover, does Almighty God care? As a Christian, I worship a Savior who is named “The Prince Of Peace”, among other things. The empty Cross is all I need to find my way through this world, and although I don’t deserve it, Salvation is mine (and can be yours, too) no matter how I vote.

I can’t see how actions inside The Capitol could do anything but disappoint The Almighty. Of course, there was that time when Christ showed a coin with Ceasar’s image on it. He said there was government, and it should have its due… but showed witnesses there was a better way.

And this weekend, thousands upon thousands will gather. And, as we sit with social distancing and recite our Canons and prayers, we will sit together. Because that’s the way we are taught that its intended to be.

Peace. Sometimes very elusive, but still a noble goal

YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN WITH COVID FACTS…

I’m over being criticized for posting factual information on coronavirus. I’ve really tried to make sure each story in which I provide a link is accurate. School, meeting, public event closures and changes are met with complaints that they are not necessary. Anecdotal evidence of covid cases or the impact of them are often criticized as disinformation from a liberal-leaning media. Most disturbing is the basic lack of respect indicated by people who steadfastly refuse to wear a mask…such a simple, cheap, and effective way to keep fine molecules from you…getting to the next person.Some brief explanations are in order:This is not a media cabal to help take over the nation. Covid is about to take over, and the health professionals we have hired to protect us, are doing their best. There might be blunders, and indications we hired the wrong people, but they are trying. Unfortunately, in this battle there are no participation rules. On the media- I am afraid most networks have liberal leaning management, producers, and editors. Some more than others. I believe the truth is somewhere between what the -commentators- on CNN say, and the -commenators- on Fox News have to say. Please notice I said commentators…show hosts who have an agenda and set out to prove it. We must look at those programs for what they are. So far as hard news is concerned, you have to learn the objective portions of a correspondent’s report. Take care to note facts, times, dates, and the comments of those interviewed. Too often, reporters will pick someone to interview …and raise the verity of their comments to the level of some expert on the topic being reported on. Yes, this takes work, but soon anyone can develop a sense of credibility when persons of standing in their field are interviewed, facts are correctly presented, and … a sense of when a news story just doesn’t ‘smell right’.I’ve tried to report on the covid virus without somehow twisting it into a political, anti Trump screed each time. And, according to some of you, I missed the mark. So, because I am very tired of having my objectivity called into question over basic facts on covid, and because some readers believe I am part of a weird cabal promoting something-or-other that has to do with a world-wide conspiracy, and because folks bull headedly insist I’m printing disinformation….You’re on your own. Do your own research. And I will give in. Since even the number of the sick can be disputed…I’ll only report the dead. I still think somebody needs to speak for them.

It’s Probably Worse Than We Think

Several years ago, I had the privilege of attending the FBI Citizens Academy. The classes expanded my knowledge of the agency, and some of the challenges our government faces in the effort to keep our secrets.. secret.
One class met at the Oak Ridge National Labs, in the building that houses one of the fastest computers in the world. Security was very tight. We were not permitted to drive onto the property- agents took us in shuttle vehicles. We were on a list of approved visitors, and had to show credentials to be able to enter the site. Obviously, no cameras or recorders, no usb sticks.. no nothing.
The computer was amazing. We met in a room with a screen the size of the side of my house… and it had striking detail. On the screen was an aerial photo of The Presidential Innaguration. And on that huge screen, you could easily see individual people…in a photo that ran the length of the Mall.
Later, there were speakers who briefed us on the scope of the FBI mission at Oak RIdge. The number of agents is classified. Many of the assignments are secret. But, in the light of the alleged Russian hacking of several American computer networks, I figured I would try to give you some idea of the extent our enemies work to compromise our military and industrial secrets. I’m going to be as general as I can, to protect anything that remains confidential in the ruse.
FIrst, China has long employed a factory like building in which scores of computer experts work night and day to exploit American soft spots in cyber security. But sometimes, it only takes human frailty to get inside.
We were shown transcripts of an email conversation between an operative in China ( or an effort by several assigned to the same case).
The target was a scientist in Oak Ridge, who worked on nuclear research and development.
The attacker was a “female”.
One day, the Oak Ridge expert received an e-mail… asking if it was the e-mail of the professor who published a paper titled ” [name not released]”. “Why yes’, came the answer … and the game was on.
Over a long period of time, the espionage continued, with messages of flattery and ingratiating statements. And conversation between the two apparently grew somewhat intimate.
Investigators believe the professor might have actually been talking to several people on the other end of the e-mail line. Possibly a supervisor or maybe a psychological operations officer advising them on how to lure their quarry.
Eventually, the nuclear professor’s sense of secrecy and mission completely collapsed, and he agreed to take a trip to China to meet his new soulmate.
That is when the FBI decided to intervene. Nobody could say what might have happened to the nuclear expert had he made the trip to China.
But his life collapsed in a shambles. He had a family here. ANd he lost his credentials and clearance to work at any national security job.
It was easy, and played on the most common currency in the world… the ego.
That’s a real story. I saw the transcript.
For a while, I worked as a subcontractor at Lockheed Corporation at Y-12. We were warned about using the computer, that there were tracking programs operating in real time, and investigators would often check the individual computers on a random basis, overnight. We were not told how the FBI was made wise to the effort to lure the expert to China.
That was several years ago. Technology changes every week, so I would imagine there are more sophisticated attacks mounted every day, plus the age-old Mata Hari lure.
My story is an account of what happened above ground. I would imagine the cyber attacks on the Internet and other avenues are legion. And if our government is telling us that it’s bad… it is probably worse.
As if 2020 didn’t have enough to worry us into the New Year.

A matter of courtesy and caution..

Please put me…on the bottom of your prayer list.
I have managed to dodge several doctor appointments by scheduling tele-visits, and organizing blood draws into one location.
But I can’t dodge Thursday morning’s appointment with the orthopedic surgeon.
I collapsed September 20th, and managed to cause a compound fracture of both lower left leg bones. I see the surgeon who screwed a rod to my knee and ankle. (I think this is my scheduled oil change and alignment appointment.)
The first month was easy- the rehab facility had me under quarantine, and I never left the room.
After that, it was home, and staying there. My three kids are extremely protectful. Kroger and Food City curbside has kept The Missus at a distance from crowds.
Before I fell, from March to
September 20th, I was careful. Now, with Tennessee ranking in the top three Covid numbers, I’m even more concerned and careful.
If you scroll through the Facebook
Pages, it won’t take long to find someone asking for prayer for a
loved one who is either fighting, or sadly succumbed to Covid. I’m
doing what I can to try and keep out of those two categories.
Here are some recommendations-
Be respectful of others. Wearing a mask has become a common courtesy to others.
Manage your exposure, mitigate your risks.
Wash your hands.
And, I know it’s the party season, but consider other ways to celebrate.
Sadly, the same goes for religious gatherings.
To some, those precautions might sound unreasonable, or even some kind of violation of civil rights. It’s really a matter of civil responsibility. It is not a political
act. This stuff doesn’t care who you are
I’m in a protected species. Older. Diabetic. Cancer survivor. Recent serious illness or injury.
I’m lucky to have family members who are healthy and helpful.
And I’m cautious….careful… and asking for your prayers, and your help.

a worrisome time

The other day, I posted on my Facebook page, an idea that it might be good if all of us set aside politics for five minutes, and prayed for our nation. It didn’t take long. The third comment down turned to politics, and the race was on. God was ushered to the back of the church, while a slew of comments argued Trump versus Biden. That worries me.

I remember some events in our history that unified our nation … for a minute or two. The most recent was the attacks on The Word Trade Center, and The Pentagon, and the crash of an airliner in Pennsylvania when hostages fought back.

The Kennedy Assassination was a time when the whole country stopped, watched, and mourned the death of our President. You get that? I said –our president. I have received many comments that indicate Joe Biden is not your president. After a slew of failed lawsuits, and certification of the vote by The Electoral College, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Joe Biden -is- your President-elect.

One person on my FB page posted a logo that proclaimed “Impeach Joe Biden”. He’s not even in office yet!

I’m afraid that our nation, our democratic republic is about to be strained beyond recovery. I have watched our nation as political upheaval has waxed and waned. We need times when the rhetoric calms, the fingers that have been pointed join the rest of that hand in work to make our nation strong, a handshake or two across the aisle to advance our nation, and a finger on the clasped or open hands of prayer.

It is indeed a worrisome time.

Over, and over, I see desperate requests for thoughts and prayers for loved ones who are very sick, possibly dying of COVID-19 Virus, yet I also see posts denying the seriousness of the pandemic. People defy recommendations to wear a mask… a simple act that prevents your germs from flying across the air to another person’s face. If nothing else…even if you don’t believe a mask helps, why is it such an imposition on your Constitutional rights to wear one as courtesy to the rest of the people around you? I simply do not understand the denial of the seriousness of the pandemic, when as many people are dying in one day, that died in the attack on The World Trade Center and Pentagon.

I have described my experience … five days on a ventilator, following surgery and acute respiratory failure. It was horrifying. I have dealt with PTSD around hospitals and clinics since that surgery in 2008. I’ve had a lot of life experience in scary things, but being on a ventilator is far ahead as the number one experience. Over the past twelve years, the trouble has diminished, but there are times when that experience floods back into my mind. It’s not something you want for yourself, or for anybody you care about. I wear a mask for me and for you. And, with the exception of a few trips to the store, and thirty-one days in a rehab center dealing with a broken leg, I have stayed inside this house. I like to go places, I like to drive my car, but I also like to live. As my dad once said “I’m not afraid to die, but if they’re making up a load today, I would just as soon not go.”

The famous founder of a huge restaurant chain once said the most important hamburger you buy, is the next one. You might transfer that thought to the most important crisis we face, is the next challenge to our democracy. Our enemies, and we do have enemies, are watching and taking note of how we deal with crisis. They .. not might… but will exploit any weak spots they can find in our physical structure, or the structure of our emotions of fear, distrust, treachery, and disruptions. And, as Americans, we are able to talk about our thoughts in an open forum, so be sure China and Russia have hidden armies studying what we say about ourselves.

I worry about the state of our news media. CNN and Fox seem to both have lost their way from the concept of fair coverage. I watch both, and I note headlines and so-called news shows that state false information or twisted stories to fit a particular narrative. Some so-called newscasters are unfair in their coverage, and in their “one-on-one” comments with the show hosts. We often look at entertainers for our daily news.

Corporate America has abandoned one of the most effective platforms for news- radio news. I’ll address this in another post… but for now, I’ll only write this short obituary for local radio news. Newspaper and television news departments have been gutted, as the business models push for more… for less. Some of the ideas for cutting costs would be laughable in another world. But in ours, it’s dangerous.

It might be a good time to turn our political activism to local politics. These elected people control the pavement on your streets, how money is spent for schools, how our community is policed, and how we present this place we love in the best light. Local politics have more day-to-day influence on us. And, in my view, those positions need more attention by our voters.

I believe in many respects, we are as divided as we were in the 1860’s… just over different issues. This summer and fall, we watched cities where neighborhoods were gripped with rioting led, in many instances, by anarchists. Would that we be as organized as some of these groups of street thugs.

If this post has seemed you to be more negative than I usually am, you read it right. This is a worrisome time in the history of The United States Of America. We are sick…physically and emotionally. We need to heal. And it starts with me… and you

Well, here goes.

I have finally decided to get back into the blogging world. Now that I am off the air, I have a little more time to hang around on the Internet.
And, there is another reason for opening up this opportunity to share my opinions. I see more and more reports of Facebook members being placed in “time out”. I had enough of that at Fair Garden Elementary to do me a lifetime. And, as in elementary school, I would never set out to get myself in time out..sometimes it just happened.