A graduation gift of only words

My family has been blessed with graduations, and I look forward to them.

There’s anticipation of the big day and travel to a prestigious campus of higher education. A speech geek, like me, actually listens to the commencement address. There’s always something that can be learned, and learning is fun. Pomp and circumstance is everywhere. The whole event says that something special is happening.

But the best moment is when your child crosses the stage to receive that little piece of paper that means so much. Nothing compares to the fullness of heart—the swelling of pride—knowing that your child had the courage and determination to go after his or her dreams.

Which is really about having hope for the future. And when you have hope, you have everything.

Then the real celebration begins. My family, like many, has the tradition of enjoying food, drink and joyful conversation at a worthy dining establishment.

This year, though, COVID-19 made other plans and kept us apart. Our daughter wore her cap and gown in Cambridge, Massachusetts while we watched from a computer in Northeast Iowa.

But the day remains significant. Most receive just one graduate-level degree in their lifetime. Moments like these need exclamation points.

Even from afar.

I’m no poet, but tried an iambic pentameter English sonnet to commemorate the event.

It turns out that sonnet-writing isn’t that easy. Shakespeare really does deserve to be famous.

Still, our graduate deserves to be recognized. And so, Olivia, I know you would probably rather have that steak dinner with family, but you’ll have to settle for a long-distance sonnet this year.

Congratulations on your graduation.

And congratulations to all in the graduating class of 2021, no matter how you’re able to celebrate it.

A graduation gift of only words

A virus fear disturbed graduation,

And parents, bewildered, cannot attend.

A quick zoom peek of our red-headed one,

Is all we get; say congrats and hit “send.”

Most likely to become a CEO,

Said MIT peers, classmates giving cheer.

We’ve seen it too, that heart and soul, you know,

You’ll be who you’ll be, without any fear.

Ambition, and drive, and accomplishment,

You’ve got the whole world, open wide the gate.

For twenty-six years, loving where you went,

We want you to know you were always great.

Our pride will cross a thousand miles today.

Oh heaven and earth can’t keep it away.

Eliminate daily press briefings and make president more accessible

Kayleigh McEnany had a difficult job in the Trump administration. And now the same can be said for Jen Psaki in the Biden administration. It’s less about the person and more about the role.

White House press secretary briefings are unproductive time-wasters and should be eliminated.

The purpose of the daily briefing is to inform voters on important issues. The reality is that it gives reporters too much time to showboat, giving little consideration to what the American public desires to know. Reporters, friendly to the administration, lob cute, softball questions. Others, gunning for the president, ask gotcha questions. We all know that they’ve all taken sides. They’re either for the president or against him. The biased media is only there to prove what they think they already know, not to learn and uncover new information that will help our country.   

In the reporters’ defense, it’s tough to learn something new at the briefings. It’s not the Psaki administration, and she doesn’t have the freedom to go off script. She’d be fired if she did that. The press secretary serves at the pleasure of the president. He was elected. She was not. The press briefings will always be some type of regurgitation of a policy coming from President Joe Biden. There aren’t usually a lot of new insights.

Voters want to hear from the one they elected—Biden, not Psaki.  

The better way to provide the people with more useful information is to go straight to the president.

That, of course, requires access.

Former President Donald Trump had a tumultuous relationship with the press. The media hammered him, and he was perfectly capable of returning fire. But it never interfered with accessibility. Again and again, he showed up. Each day was a new day to ask questions and get answers. It seemed that every time Trump left the White House, he was engaging with reporters.

It’s a better model than press secretary briefings. So let’s do away with those and replace them with the expectation that every time the president leaves the White House, he must spend a minimum of 15 minutes answering reporters’ questions. 

Leaving for Camp David? Heading to Detroit to tour a Ford plant? Going golfing? Spending time with the Carters in Georgia? It’s all good. But not before you face a watchdog press that’s there to bring transparency to the American people about tax increases, the deficit, the illegal immigration crisis, rising crime rates, the increase in gas prices, foreign policy concerns, and more. That, Mr. President, is your job. Your answers or non-answers to questions you don’t know are coming, until they’re leveled at you, will tell us a lot.

And it shouldn’t be a difficult 15 minutes. It’s easy to tell the truth.

A bonus to this format is the scarcity of time provided. If the press knew they were getting limited time, maybe they’d ask more pertinent questions on issues vital to voters.

Of course, there is a flaw to a system like this. In order for it to work effectively, the president must actually leave the White House on a regular basis. Trump was always on the move, so it wasn’t a problem. Biden, on the other hand, proved during the campaign that he’s pretty good at holing up at home for long periods of time.

His home now is the White House, an even better place to hole up.

If you didn’t want to face the press. Or the American people.

Miracle at Chester, Iowa

The Holy Spirit nudged.

“You should call,” was its silent suggestion.

After a year of pandemic living, some of us were ready to go shopping in an actual mall instead of just contenting ourselves with online ordering. A trip was planned to Rochester, Minnesota—a solid 75-minute drive from our homes but also one of the larger retail centers nearest to us.

Everyone knows that the best part of a day like that is the windshield time. For some reason, being in a moving vehicle makes sharing our stories all the more fluid and effortless—like the landscape that breezes past us. Sometimes familiar, and sometimes we catch a glimmer of something new.

We were looking forward to that date circled on the calendar. And then we wanted more.

The shopping trip morphed into the idea of stopping at an establishment on the way back and meeting up with some favorite cousins from the area—cousins we hadn’t seen for a while. With more people involved, it was becoming a celebration. Other family members, not interested in shopping, were hungry for some social time and decided to meet us as well.    

It was all set. On a Monday. Late afternoon, early evening. At Laddy’s Bar and Grill in Chester, Iowa. The phone calls were made, and everyone was notified. All that was left was the waiting.

And that’s when the voice that abides within us and guides us toward goodness, the one I call the Spirit, stepped in.

“Several need this time of fellowship. What if Laddy’s isn’t open on a Monday?”

I didn’t listen, at first. I knew they were open on Mondays in the past.

Still.

“You should call.”

That was the first miracle. That the phone call was placed.

And found out that—no, they’re not open on Mondays anymore. Crushing news when there were only a few days left to make something else work.

Then the second miracle happened. The bartender asked, “Why? Do you have something special planned for the night? I could ask the owner if he’d open for you.”

Who does that?

If closed on Mondays, most businesses will simply say that they’re closed on Mondays. And goodbye.

She surprised me.

“Well,” I stammered, “not really. Not something special. Just about a dozen of us were thinking of meeting there for drinks and food.”

She took my phone number and said the owner would call me when the grill quieted down.

Not feeling too good about my chances with Laddy’s, I tried several area establishments. All closed on Mondays. And goodbye.

That’s when Laddy’s called, and the third miracle took place. “Sure, I can come in and open for you that night.”

Unbelievable.

It’s been a year of loss. The loss of life and livelihoods from a pandemic, the loss of freedoms because of isolation and restrictions, the loss of a sense of security due to spiking violence in our cities, and the loss of finding common ground with others because of deep political divides.

And then we experience a moment—even a little one—when our faith in humanity is restored.

It’s been a trying year for all of us, but we found goodness in Chester, Iowa that night. Never underestimate the healing power of simple, human connection.    

Laddy’s Bar and Grill is a bit too far away for me to become a regular. But it will be my new, favorite stop on the way home from Rochester.

No further nudging needed.

Five positive takeaways after a pandemic

Hello, March.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 intruded on every citizen’s life. Some lost their job, their business, their celebrations, or their personal connections with family and friends.

Some lost their life.

We’ll never be the same, but in some ways we can be better.

Searching for something positive to come out of this—anything positive, whether big or small—brought these top five:

#5 There’s better seating at restaurants. Remember pre-pandemic days when some restaurants would seat you right next to a cluster of other occupied tables, even though a good portion of the establishment was empty? It was more efficient for the wait staff but provided little quiet and privacy for the customer. After the initial lockdown, restaurants were prohibited from seating others too closely. It took a pandemic to give customers what they want. Restaurants, please remember this moment. Your patrons will.

#4 If you’re sick, stay home. Previously, our work ethic dictated that we continue to show up and get our jobs done, even if we weren’t feeling the best. Same for social commitments. We didn’t want to let friends and family down by missing an event. COVID-19 changed all that. And it’s for the better. The world will keep turning when we stay home and keep our germs to ourselves.

#3 Parents are in charge when it comes to educating their children. There are pros and cons to school choice issues, and they’ve been debated for decades. COVID-19 escalated the argument. Teachers, administrators, school boards and unions were, maybe, a little shocked that parents would fire school districts for not offering in-classroom instruction. Across the country, many private schools found a way to stay open. It became an attractive option for some working families—families that had never before considered a private school. The global pandemic did more to advance school choice issues than any other means.    

#2 We’re a stronger nation when we recognize that experts may not know everything. There were plenty of missteps throughout this pandemic. The issue of mask-wearing is one. Some of the things that experts advised were to not wear a mask because it wouldn’t help, to definitely wear a mask to protect yourself and others, to wear two or three masks because one mask isn’t enough, and to wear a mask under certain conditions, even if you’ve been vaccinated.

The worst part was being treated like children. Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that the general public was told that masks weren’t needed, when the pandemic first broke a year ago, in order to prevent a mask shortage for health care workers. At the time, our front-line workers did have the greatest need for masks. But the citizens of this country, at all times, deserve the truth.   

It’s astonishing to witness an entire country behave in a child-like way and obediently accept every change in masking and other pandemic mandates, without doing any critical thinking. Don’t ignore mandates, but do ask questions. And evaluate. It will be better for everyone—and better for our country—if we have good thinkers instead of great followers.                                                                                     

#1 Our “inner circle” has revealed itself as something to be deeply appreciated. It may be nice to have 500 friends on Facebook or 50 more personal relationships in our outer circle. But the ones who have sustained us during the pandemic are the 5 (ish) in our inner circle—people we see or talk to frequently and rely on to get us through daily life. We’re now more aware of who and what’s important in life.   

Nobody wanted the arrival of COVID-19. Nobody will want the next virus, either. But we learned a few things this past year.

And life will get better.

Reasonable term limits are needed

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The idea of term limits keeps bubbling up.

A recent proposal in the U.S. Senate seeks an amendment to the Constitution that would limit a representative to three terms (six years) and a senator to two terms (12 years.)

Not going to happen. It requires the support of too many in Congress who seem to prefer unlimited power. Not limits on power.

The problem is clear. The solution is fuzzy.

It’s not enough to say that we have term limits through voting. We have incumbency retention days. It’s the day that citizens vote for the name most recognized, thanks to media and money advantages that incumbents possess. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that during the 2016 election, about 87% of U.S. senators and 97% of U.S. representatives were re-elected.

And, yes, some decades-serving politicians have done a good job at representing their constituents. But they’re replaceable. Others are capable of leading. Washington should not be the permanent home for either the corrupt or the capable. Our founding fathers believed in self-government through citizen representatives, not career politicians.

We can’t count on incumbents of either political party to institute term limits. In Senate Report 104-158—a failed attempt to pass term limits about 25 years ago—it was shared that Rep. Thomas Tucker offered the very first term limit proposal in 1789. Also unsuccessful.

Sometimes, a good idea fails because it’s taken to the extreme. We go overboard.

This latest Senate proposal makes the same mistake that the 104th Congress made. Back then, its authors would have been happy with limiting representatives to six terms (12 years) and senators to two terms (12 years.) But when the current starting point is unlimited terms, negotiating it down to 6-12 years is a bit harsh.

Members of Congress who opposed these short term limits railed against them, in part, because of the time, money and energy it takes to run for public office and then govern. Many step away from successful careers or businesses when they travel to Washington.

A more reasonable approach could help. Even increasing limits to nine terms (18 years) for representatives and three terms (18 years) for senators could make the proposal more agreeable. If you begin your career in the House with a newborn and end it with a high school graduate, it would be hard to say that you just didn’t have enough time to serve.

And if you like it that much, challenge a Senate seat and stay in Washington for another 18 years if you can swing it.   

What’s important is the constant awareness of limited time to accomplish what’s important to your constituents, instead of unlimited time to pander to special interest groups.

Back in 1995, congressional proponents of term limits stated, “One reason the people seek term limits is they perceive a stunning lack of political courage in Washington. In their eyes, Congress cannot even vote to balance the government checkbook…To many Americans, the system is broken. The difficult vote to end wasteful programs is not cast because re-election depends on helping some special interest. Without term limits, there may never be the political courage to solve the nations’ most difficult problems.”

That’s as true today, as it was in 1995.

If we can’t get term limits through a constitutional amendment, perhaps we should just start a new political party where candidates agree to serve just 18 years in the House and/or 18 years in the Senate. We can call it the “Term Limiter” party. Voters who support term limits are likely people who want basic, common-sense governing in all areas. It’d be a great home for someone who doesn’t want to be a Socialist-leaning Democrat or a Libertarian-leaning Republican.

Be a “Limiter.”

Who’s with me?

Biden’s next executive order should address election integrity

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Unity was the theme of President Joe Biden’s inaugural speech. But unity, like respect and loyalty, cannot be achieved with demanding—or even pleading—words. It occurs after meaningful actions.

And nothing will bring unity faster than to solve problems important to most Americans.

Responses to a recent Gallup poll uncovered this list of top five problems to solve: coronavirus, the government and poor leadership, economic issues, racism, and election reform.

As the Unifier-in-Chief, Biden has issued plenty of executive orders to begin tackling problems.

Twelve have addressed the coronavirus. And because the economy was roaring before the virus arrived, it’s clear that any order dealing with COVID-19 will, at least indirectly, affect the economy.

One order focused on government and poor leadership. It’s the “Ethic Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel.” These individuals will be required to make an ethics pledge. Pledges are nice. It’s why children recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school, elected officials take an oath to defend the Constitution, and why we stand for the national anthem.

“Advancing Racial Equity and Support in Underserved Communities through the Federal Government,” will give increased support for racial issues. Rioting and protests broke out across the country for much of last year, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis. It’s just one order that wholly speaks to racism, but it’s a start. 

But of the top five problems that Americans have identified, Biden has given zero attention to election integrity. And, according to this poll, election reform scored as a higher concern than health care, immigration, the environment, education, crime, and several other categories.

State legislatures seem to concur. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports a flurry of activity since the election.

Alaska introduced a bill to require signature verification and establishes an election offense hotline. Arizona has pending legislation on creating a voting systems technology study committee, investigating voting irregularities, and using death records to help establish a more accurate voter database. Florida introduced a bill that prohibits use of voting systems and software that is made or designed in a foreign country. Indiana legislators correctly want voting systems that must store votes as whole numbers—one person, one vote—without the use of decimals or fractions. They are also working to establish a commission on election integrity. Kansas introduced a bill that prohibits backdating of postmarks on mail ballots. Kentucky has pending legislation requiring that no voting system be connected to the internet. New Jersey wants the Secretary of State to create a website for voters to report irregularities with mail ballots and establishes a commission to study voting by mail. They also introduced a bill requiring that half of any future, federal election funds go toward voting systems with paper records.

There are many more.

We’ve heard a lot from Biden about choosing hope over fear and facts over fiction.

The truth is that legislative activity at the state level and the Gallup poll show real concern that many have about election integrity. There’s also plenty of chatter in Congress about it.  

Mr. President, issue an executive order (or at least a memorandum) that allows for a bipartisan investigation into 2020 election procedures. Do not be fearful of what you will find. You’ve been installed as the 46th president of the United States. Nothing will change that. Instead, be hopeful that investigation results and facts will help to unify our country. Then you will have a better chance to “build back better.”  

A president, who truly wants to represent all the people, would address issues most important to the citizenry.       

And that’s a fact.

The art of metabolism

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Here we go again. A new year is right around the corner. For goal-setters it means, “A new year—and what are you going to do about it?”

For many, an annual resolution is made to lose weight or exercise more. But a heavy price is paid. It can require an enormous amount of effort with limited results, leading to low satisfaction and eventual surrender of the resolution.

This year, don’t tell yourself that you want to lose weight or exercise more. Instead, focus on increasing your metabolism and desiring to feel strong and healthy. The weight loss will come.

There are a few ways to go about increasing metabolism. Research about it, and choose one that works for you. Then tweak it, and tweak it some more until it fits your lifestyle.

In an effort to pique your interest, I’ll share my personal metabolism story. And before I go any further, this is where I tell you that I’m not a doctor, a nutritionist, a fitness instructor or any other kind of expert. Always seek approval from your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.   

Firing up your metabolism comes down to building more muscle, pushing yourself to do high-intensity workouts and changing up your diet.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

The beauty of increasing your metabolism, though, is that it doesn’t require a great deal of effort.  

Let’s start with the exercise component.

I’m 57 years old. There’s only so much high-intensity aerobics I can handle.

But what I can do is get on the treadmill every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for 30 minutes. I walk for a half mile, speed walk another half mile, and then push myself to run at a pace that’s difficult for me but one that I can endure for a half mile. That’s followed by a quarter mile slow down and cool down. Presto. On and off the treadmill in about 30 minutes.  

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I lift weights for my arms and upper body strength for about 10 minutes.

What all this means is that I’m only exercising for about two-and-a-half hours every week. That’s not much. Increasing your metabolism doesn’t mean you need to log a lot of miles or gym hours. Just schedule time to do short, high-intensity workouts coupled with some type of regular weight lifting.

Now, for the diet. According to WebMD, “Your body burns many more calories digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates.” It’s one of the reasons why low-carbohydrate diets have been popular.

There are problems with strictly low-carb diets, though.

For starters, it’s not a lot of fun. Many times, high-carb foods are the foods that comfort us. Potatoes, pastas and breads.  

Another issue is that low-carb diets can become unsustainable. When your body goes a long time without sufficient carbohydrates, it may actually think you’re trying to starve it. When that happens, your metabolism shuts down.

So, instead, I go low-carb on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I incorporate carbohydrates into my meals. The key, here, is don’t go overboard on free carb days. Have one bowl of cereal, granola bar, sandwich, fruit snack, or serving of lasagna—not two. Add a protein option, if still hungry at mealtimes.

One big advantage to this diet plan is not feeling deprived. Knowing that you’re only one or two days away from being able to enjoy deep-dish pizza or a loaded baked potato makes the low-carb days doable.

And that’s it.

By the very nature of this diet and exercise program—the on again, off again carbs and some muscle building—weight will fluctuate slightly. Stay with it. Make a few adjustments, if needed. It will eventually trend toward weight loss.

I lost 14 pounds in four months by focusing on my metabolism. It’s not a spectacular weight loss result, but I feel strong and healthy.  

And happy.

Because it’s not taking that much effort.

There are fitness junkies out there who thrive on long and tough workouts. It’s the best part of their day. There’s a word for these people—“young.”

More power to them. It’s great to be young.

But by increasing your metabolism, it’s not so bad being 57 either.  

Assess risk, while protecting your freedom, this Thanksgiving Day

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The Pilgrims landed in November of 1620. After a harsh winter and challenging growing season, they gave thanks a year later for their survival with a celebratory feast—the first Thanksgiving.

But it’s a bigger story than that.

During our 2020 global pandemic, it’s helpful to remember why they made a dangerous journey across an ocean to a new land.

The Pilgrims were fleeing government oppression.

King James enforced religious persecution in early 1600s England with fines and imprisonment. The Pilgrims fled, first to Holland, and then to this country.

Government officials are recommending that Thanksgiving dinners be limited to those who reside within your households. That could mean a one-person meal if you live alone or a five-person meal for a couple with children.

Considering that the COVID-19 virus is surging in Iowa, this may seem reasonable.

But the reasonable-sounding doesn’t always hold common sense.

Nobody understands the dangers of this virus better than health care professionals. It’s why doctors and nurses wear N95 masks and personal protective equipment while on the job.

Doctors and nurses work hard, but they don’t work 24/7. At some point the shift ends, and they go home. 

Then, they do their best to follow the same guidelines that the rest of us try to follow. Wear masks. Social distance. Wash hands.   

And yet, the Mayo Clinic Health System in the Midwest just reported that 905 staff members have contracted the virus within the last two weeks. A full 93% caught it while out in their community—not at work.

When health care professionals—who follow safety protocols—test positive from community spread, it doesn’t seem logical to believe that the rest of us have any substantial control over this virus.  

In the meantime, people must still put food on the table and a roof over their head. Many will go to work and interact with the public on Wednesday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 27, but are discouraged from being with their loved ones on Thursday, Nov. 26.  

Senseless.

The Pilgrims found the rulings of King James unacceptable. They didn’t want to give up their freedoms. A two-month journey across a vast ocean in a 100-foot boat to an unknown land was a risk they were willing to take.

If you’re elderly or have underlying health conditions, stay home and stay safe. If you personally feel that staying home is best for you and your family this Thanksgiving Day, follow your instincts and stay put.

But for many, a celebration to connect with family members is sorely needed after a long, hard year. Assess the risk.

A recent study from Indiana University, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at the COVID-19 fatality rate by focusing on community populations. The study did not include young children who, for the most part, are not at risk (under 12) or those who are institutionalized (nursing home populations.) It wanted to find out what the risk was for the average person living in a community. This study placed the overall COVID-19 fatality rate at well below one percent—just 0.26%.

That’s still too many. But it’s similar to the fatality rate of other illnesses, like cardiovascular disease.   

Will some people die from COVID-19 because they attended a Thanksgiving dinner? Yes.

And some will die from a massive heart attack while enjoying a second piece of pumpkin pie. 

But 330 million will live.

Measuring risk, while protecting our freedom, is something we must all calculate.   

Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. The Pilgrims understood that.   

Happy Thanksgiving.

Vote for Trump, despite race, gender and peer pressure

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There are Trump voters, Biden voters, and undecided voters.

There’s a fourth group of voters, though. They’re people who actually agree with the policies of President Donald Trump but are abandoning their vote for him.  

Race, gender and pressure from family and friends are probably the three biggest reasons why a vote doesn’t match a belief system.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of validated voters from the 2016 election. It reported that 91% of Blacks, who cast a vote, did so for Hillary Clinton. That election was not unusual. The Center found that in the last 40 years, Black voters have solidly supported Democratic contenders.

Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, may believe it’s “a given” that he’ll receive the Black vote. He stated, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t Black.”

Nothing could be more racist than to tell someone that it’s not necessary to do your own thinking.

Since 2016, Black unemployment fell and wages increased. Criminal justice reform became real with The First Step Act. And Opportunity Zones made entrepreneurship more possible for Black Americans. This all happened under the first three years of the Trump administration, before a global pandemic hit.

The Center also found in a recent poll that only 39% of women voters favor the president’s re-election.   

Some have called Trump a misogynist because of past words and actions.  

But there’s plenty of video of Biden and his many inappropriate actions with women. And then there’s the sexual assault allegation by a former aide.

Neither one is a saint.

But during the Trump presidency, female unemployment fell and wages increased. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the child care tax credit. And safety is on the ballot, this year. Trump has received many law enforcement endorsements. Biden never condemned the violence, burning and looting happening in predominately Democratic-run cities, during his own national convention.  

Besides race and gender, there’s the pressure factor from friends and family who value personality over policy.

Although this president has given us too many testy tweets and not enough lofty oratory, he did something more important.

He brought back our nation’s confidence.

We are an exceptional nation, and we don’t need to apologize for it.   

He fortified a military that was becoming vulnerable. Peace is only possible through strength.  

Trump went to work immediately on correcting huge trade deficits with China, Mexico, Canada, and others that hurt the American worker, while other corrupt players became filthy rich. The swamp hates Trump.   

United States taxpayers are no longer expected to foot every bill from every world organization, while other nations don’t do their fair share.

The small business optimism index reached record highs under the Trump administration, because of his regulation-slashing and tax-cutting measures. When small businesses are optimistic, they hire more, pay more, and invest more in their businesses.

And if 401k growth is your thing, consider that the stock market fell when Trump entered the hospital for COVID-19 and rose when he was released. The economy likes Trump.

In the book, “The Help,” 1960’s Black maid, Aibileen, talks with her friend, Minny, about the imaginary lines in our lives—whether it’s about racism or domestic abuse. “I used to believe in em. I don’t anymore. They in our heads…Lot a folks think if you talk back to you husband, you crossed the line. And that justifies punishment. You believe in that line?…Cause that line ain’t there. Except in Leroy’s head. Lines between black and white ain’t there neither. Some folks just made those up, long time ago…You don’t have to get hit by Leroy no more…You are free.”

Plenty of people lay down lines for voting, too.

Maybe nobody has reminded you of this in a long while, but you are free.

Free to vote according to your belief system.  

It’s not the race vote, the gender vote, the household vote, the friend circle vote, or family tree vote.

It’s one person—one vote. Yours.

Study each party’s platform. Make a choice. And don’t let any imaginary lines get in your way.  

More conversation needed on who’s not contracting COVID-19

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Raise your hand if you believe we are closer to reaching herd immunity to COVID-19 than what the experts are reporting.

Conventional wisdom is that a minimum two-thirds of the population must be immune to a virus, through either natural immunity or a vaccine, before there is herd immunity. It’s the point where the spread of the virus will greatly decline due to a smaller number of unprotected hosts to infect.

We don’t have a vaccine yet, but we do have some positivity numbers.

There are 328 million people in this country, according to the Census Bureau. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that seven million have tested positive for the virus. That’s about two percent.  

Those who have tested positive for the virus and those who had the virus are two different numbers, though. Some were asymptomatic, never tested, and never knew they had COVID-19.   

Stanford University researchers tried to get a handle on the “real” number of positives. A study in July and recently published in the medical journal, The Lancet, estimated that nationwide about 10% may have COVID-19 antibodies. Still a low number.   

Some areas of the country may have higher saturation levels, but even hard-hit New York City is estimated at just 22%. That number, too, is far away from the minimum two-thirds needed to reach herd immunity.

But these numbers may be misleadingly low.

Scientists, health care professionals, politicians, and the media have made it abundantly clear that COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus and a raging pandemic. But even though this monster has been with us for more than six months, the experts still place at least 80 – 90% of the population as uninfected.

Yes, we’re social distancing, wearing cotton masks, and washing our hands. It seems doubtful, though, that these simple measures are outsmarting something as viral as COVID-19.

Maybe the Stanford research is off and there are far more individuals that were asymptomatic, didn’t know it, and now have antibodies that are protecting them.

Or, there may be a possibility that some have a type of natural immunity against the virus.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, is part of a family of coronaviruses. Four are responsible for a type of common cold. Two are more dangerous. All six spark the production of antibodies and memory T cells. T cells help to kill infected cells and activate and recruit immune cells. They then retain some of these disease-fighting cells as memory cells. The next time they’re exposed to a similar pathogen, the memory cells quickly go into battle again.

The National Institutes of Health shared research from LaJolla Institute for Immunology. It found that of the SARS-CoV-2 and common cold coronavirus fragments that were most similar (at least 67% genetic similarity), 57% showed cross-reactivity by memory T cells. “We have now proven that, in some people, pre-existing T cell memory against common cold coronaviruses can cross-recognize SARS-CoV-2 down to the exact molecular structures.”

It would explain why some people, the same age and with the same health conditions, have very different responses to COVID-19. Some may have a degree of protection due to a past coronavirus infection and have very mild symptoms. Others, whose bodies are completely naïve to the virus and encountering it for the very first time, will struggle with it. For far too many—200,000—it’s been deadly.  

And all of this helps some answer the question, “How is it possible to be in a raging pandemic for six months, to live life, and not contract COVID-19?” Someone like the essential service provider who never isolated and went to work every day throughout this entire pandemic. Or the one who felt badly for restaurants that were forced to close for two or more months and supported their reopening by dining in their establishments. And people who rewarded the few county fairs and city festivals that never canceled their events, by attending their functions.

Of course, there is one last possibility. Perhaps 80 – 90% of the population has just been lucky.

But they deserve a more scientific explanation from the experts.