Bits ‘n’ Pieces: May 20, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Starting in 2022 all agricultural workers in Washington state will be eligible for overtime pay, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic. The article noted that ag workers put in long hours at great personal risk during the pandemic, and will now be paid for all the work they do.

A year of tuition 40 years ago was around $2,400, in 2019 dollars. Today, according to The New Republic, it is four times that and one in six adults owe “outstanding student loan debts.”

COVID-19 variant cases rose dramatically in Florida after spring break, causing 67 deaths and more than 240 hospitalizations, ABC News reported. More than 10,000 cases were reported by the state’s department of health. 

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 12 to 15. Trials of 2,260 vaccine recipients and a placebo group showed 18 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 infection in the placebo group and no cases in the vaccinated group. Side effects were comparable to those seen in ages 16 and older, although fevers were “slightly more common.”

With a decline in COVID-19 cases attributed to vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that face mask guidelines have been eased: The fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks in most places, with the exception of crowded locations. Nonetheless, not all areas have the same rates of vaccination, so state and local governments will make final decisions. The unvaccinated are still advised to wear a mask to avoid endangering people who are at risk but cannot get vaccinated. National Nurses United spoke against the CDC guidance, saying it has caused confusion and is endangering health care workers. They added that hundreds of people are still dying daily from COVID-19, and COVID-19 variants are on the rise.

The largest jump in consumer prices in nine years came in March, reported, noting that “almost half” the overall rise was due to a 9% jump in the price of gasoline.

Gaslighting: After a voice vote (no one had to go on record for their vote) U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was removed from her position as conference chair last week for her refusal to back away from saying President Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, as well as that former-President Donald Trump influenced the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., switched gears, saying no one questions the legitimacy of the election, despite having himself challenged the election as “fraudulent” the previous week. 

Further gaslighting: Senate Minority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., commented that, “I don’t think anyone on our [Republican] side has been arguing that [voter fraud] has been pervasive all over the country,” despite such claims since the election and a flood of Republican-led state-level proposals to deter voting. 

And even more gaslighting: Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde said the Jan. 6 footage of the insurrection — which caused five deaths and two suicides, resulted in more than $30 million in damages and more than 400 criminal charges — was indicative of a “normal tourist visit” and calling it an insurrection was a “bald-faced lie.”

Will backing off from Trump help the Republican Party? An Axios focus group found nine out of 14 would be willing to vote for a Republican next year, but of those, eight would not back a Republican who supported the lie that Trump had won the 2020 election.

A Call for American Renewal, signed by more than 100 prominent Republicans announced plans to explore creating a third party free of Trump’s influence. Liz Cheney, on NBC’s Today show, stated that Republicans cannot persuade voters to trust them “if we are building our party on a foundation of lies.” The coalition behind the letter says it “cannot stay quiet in the face of rising political extremism.”

Blast from the past: Historian Heather Cox Richardson says the contemporary — mostly conservative — interpretation of socialism bears little resemblance to the system in practice. Socialism as many in the nation regard it today, had its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War, when Southerners claimed elected Blacks would waste white people’s money by encouraging government funding of hospitals, roads and schools. Elected Blacks, they suggested, would implement socialism and destroy America. It wasn’t until the Great Depression that the negative perception of socialism shifted, as government regulation of business, erecting social safety nets and promoting infrastructure gained appeal. There’d been no relief from the moneyed interests that contributed to the Depression, and voters were willing to try President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Ever since, certain moneyed interests have struggled to undo the New Deal.

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