Report from Louisiana: Rescuing a Shrine

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – We are now in the Greek alphabet for naming hurricanes, with Beta headed toward the Louisiana/Texas Gulf coast this evening. This is only the second time we have gone to the Greek alphabet for this, the last time in 2005.

Beta will be primarily a rainmaker for us, which isn’t so bad, except the Lake Charles area really doesn’t need any more rain.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy worries that the nation has forgotten about Hurricane Laura and that relief efforts have stalled:

“The sentiment by many at home is that the nation has already forgotten about Hurricane Laura,” said Cassidy. “The fear is that the recovery efforts will be stall and we’ll be ignored while other news…takes over. I’m here to be the voice for the people of Louisiana and share our story with you so that you may know what we are facing.”

Many feel that if not for the Cajun Navy, progress in this area would be nowhere near where it is now. The Cajun Navy has been providing and organizing meals, relief drives, rescues, distributing water, among other things.

The Cajun Navy is not the only group providing relief and volunteering time, however.  In an uplifting story in The Advocate, we learn that a group of volunteers from Lafayette, primarily high school boys from St. Thomas More High School and their fathers, traveled to Cameron Parish “to work in eastern Cameron Parish, mostly at Catholic churches badly damaged by the Category 4 storm but also at private homes.”

While there, they rescued a treasured crucifix from Our Lady of the Star in Cameron, Louisiana. The crucifix reportedly weighs between 300 and 400 pounds and was made in Italy. The video of the rescue has gone viral around social media sites. They took the crucifix back to St. Thomas More for safekeeping.

The church also holds a seven-foot marble statue of Mary and child which was commissioned and made in Italy and dedicated in 1963.  Every year a mass is said at the shrine on June 1: The Mass to Avert Storms.

The boys from Lafayette were able to see this shrine which is still standing, when they rescued the cross.

It’s a nice reminder that as many feel forgotten in the wake of Hurricane Sally and now Beta, there are still people working to rebuild and restore the Cameron and Caldwell parish areas.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

I’m beginning so suspect that it is not possible for those on the opposite ends of the political spectrum to communicate with each other

I spend a lot of time on Facebook debating liberals.  I don’t intend to at all.  I just post the stuff I want to and my liberal friends declare all out war on just about everything I post.   I never return the favor..  I have a live and let live policy. I enjoy debate but I loathe all out war.

It is not an enjoyable experience.  Both sides often end up angry and it is tedious because we keep repeating the same points over and over again with neither adopting the other’s positions on any issue.  I’m absolutely fine if my liberal friends never adopt any of my positions or beliefs.  I firmly believe every individual is entitled to their own opinions, positions, and beliefs   It appears to me that those declaring war on me when I share my beliefs find it unacceptable that I hold and share beliefs that contradict the liberal orthodoxy.  I’ve been told on a few occasions that the reason for the all out war on my posts is because they do not accept by views and beliefs.  They are bullying me into abandoning my beliefs and taking on theirs. Forcing others to accept my beliefs and views has never entered my mind when I post on social media.  I post on social media to inform which cannot be construed as forcing my views on others.  I never badger those who post items contrary to my beliefs, or who post items I find offensive, or know to be inaccurate. I just scroll past.

Even though I am usually calm and laid back I’ve lost my temper far too many times during these debate sessions.  False accusations of bigotry and nonstop personal attacks will cause anyone to lose their temper.   They bother me immensely.  Did you know that right wing opposition to professional sports embracing Black Lives Matters is based on bigotry?  That is news to us right wingers who know that we are angry because Black Lives Matter is a Marxist organization who’s members have killed many police officers, rioted and burned buildings, and openly called for violence against police officers.  I am sick to death of being called a racist because I respect and honor the Constitution and also respect and honor the founding fathers and principles of this great nation.

It is not much fun when individuals demand I prove every statement I make regardless how innocent it is then constantly reject my proof because it is from right wing, accurate, hard journalism sources such as Breitbart, Townhall, American Thinker, The Federalist Papers, and Federalist.ORG.   I’ve tried educating my friends about the history and culture behind left wing fake news and how right wing sources are accurate journalism sites only colored by right wing window dressing.  There is only so many times you can experience the same conversation with out it becoming extremely tedious.

I’ve come to the conclusion through these debate sessions that real communication  between those on the political right and those on the political left is not possible because both sides view the universe at large so differently.  We no longer share the same reality.  Those on the political left too often live in a bubble dominated by liberal orthodoxy.  If it is not on MSNBC, CNN, or NPR it is not true to them.  Cultural Marxism has warped the reality of the political left too much. 

I’m a Libertarian who a few decades ago was a left wing socialist.  My journey from one political side to the other was brought about through an enormous amount of research, study, and soul searching .  I’ve lived in both political universes and I know the political left is the insulated side that exists almost devoid of reality. 

Leftism is one of those harmful cult like religions that demand unthinking obedience to a rigid dogma. Any posts and comments against one of the many sects of the leftist religion is viewed as the worst kind of heresy. I admit that Libertarianism, the original interpretation of the Constitution, and the founding principles of this country are a kind of religion to me. It is a religion I embrace through an overwhelming amount of study and research. I am perfectly fine with others not embracing or following my personal religion. Every individual is free to believe whatever they want to.

Report from Louisiana: Phase 3

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Governor John Bel Edwards moved Louisiana into Phase 3 last week, but not everyone is happy about that, and with good reason.

In some ways, Phase 3 is stricter than Phase 2. For example, in Phase 2, bars are closed to on-site consumption, unless they are also serving food.  Restaurants were able to open and serve alcohol at 50% capacity.

Under Phase 3, the capacity for restaurants moves up to 75%, however now all alcohol must be served only at tables; so, if you’re a restaurant with a bar area where people eat at the bar, nope. You have to sit at a table.

And under Phase 3, bars can now open to 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller, but no alcohol can be sold in either bars or restaurants after 10 p.m., and all establishments must be clear of patrons by 11 p.m.

Live music and dancing are forbidden.

Now, local mayors can go back to a previous phase if it is stricter than the one currently in place, so perhaps local mayors should consider going back to Phase 2 where bars and restaurants could serve alcohol after ten.

High Schools are going ahead with football games beginning in a couple of weeks with “social distancing encouraged” in the stands. In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell is keeping her city in Phase 2, and has disallowed all alcohol consumption in bars. There will also be no prep football in New Orleans in Phase 2.

New Orleans is keeping the status quo of Phase 2 which means “bars will continue to be shuttered throughout the city and that restaurants, stores, gyms and other businesses are limited to 50% of their pre-coronavirus capacity.”

The rules in NOLA have been tougher than the rest of the state because their numbers were so high compared to other places.

At any rate, here in Shreveport anyway, bar owners are frustrated by the continued restraints on their business, and now those seem even tougher.

In Bossier Parish, where I teach, we are going back to 100% face to face instruction next week. No more A/B hybrid days. This has me concerned because this means my small classroom will again be filled to capacity with students. There are pros and cons to this: from an educational standpoint, of course it’s better because face it, the virtual model is not working well for many kids. But from a health standpoint, I’m nervous again.

There will be literally nothing I can do in my classroom as far as social distancing goes. We won’t be able to spread even three feet apart.

I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think anyone does. It’s like at this point, with restrictions easing on one end and tightening up on another, we are nowhere close to being on the same page with this virus. All I can do will be the best I can, and try to protect myself.

Life has never felt more dystopian.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

I long so much for the time before Coronavirus dominated all aspects of our lives

This year will go down in history as the year that everything was either canceled or ruined.  Those that are uninformed, or have bought into the media coverage will blame the Coronavirus for the disruption of our lives and the US economy.  Those that really understand what is going on will rightly blame government overreaction to the Coronavirus as the true culprit causing so much misery.

This past weekend I would have attended the Woodstock Fair, however, like everything else fun, that was canceled.   The number of Coronavirus cases in the surrounding area is quite low along with hospitalizations and deaths.  The virus peaked way back in mid April.  The only reason virus cases show up at all is because so many asymptomatic individuals are being tested.

Life for school children has been turned completely upside down and it is all so unnecessary.  It has been reported so often that school aged children are barely affected by the virus.  Most schools will require students to wear masks full time.  Few ask whether this will be physically or mentally harmful to the children.  I fear it will be both.  Also schools will require that students maintain social distancing and not engage in any fun activities. 

Massachusetts still leads the nation in unemployment thanks to our governors disastrous business lockdown.  Restaurants can only operate at 25 percent capacity and all bars are still closed.  Wearing masks in restaurants when walking to tables and when servers are near is required.   Oh that is so much fun.

Concerts and other crowd intensive activities are still canceled in the State of Massachusetts.  Any type of gatherings in this state is limited to just 50 people,  The governor mandated that if you have ten or more in your own house or backyard everyone must wear masks.  I say bite me to that.

Even going to the library has been turned into a depressing experience.  Masks must be worn and social distancing is a must.  They take down your information for contact tracing reasons.

The only way life gets back to normal for all of us is if we stand up and say enough is enough in very loud clear voices.

Report from Louisiana: a Book Review

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — I’ve just finished reading a beautiful novel that I want to share with you. As like probably many of you, I’m an avid reader with a pretty diverse interest range. I read a lot of nonfiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction…pretty much anything. Not a big fan of romance, but I do like a good mystery.

The End of the Day by Bill Clegg is a stunning new novel coming out September 29 and is available for pre-order on Amazon. The story takes a while to unfold — don’t get impatient. It’s worth the journey. Told from the POV of various characters, we are slowly pulled in, woven in, to this complex plot line of intersecting lives. Just how they intersect is not immediately clear.

The main characters are Jackie, Dana, and Lupita. Three women of different social class: Dana is wealthy and privileged, Jackie is middle-class, and Lupita working class. Lupita’s family works for Dana’s family who is sponsoring them for a green card; Jackie and Dana are childhood friends. The story is set in the framework of a single day yet covers sixty years and Clegg weaves this intricate plot one thread at a time.

The prose is lyrical and more than once I found myself reaching for a notebook to write down a line simply because it was so evocative and beautiful. Symbolic elements abound without being overpowering. This is the kind of novel you read slowly in order to absorb every detail and I was sorry when it ended.

This is the first Bill Blegg novel for me but now I’m going to go back and read his other work, both fiction and nonfiction: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, and Did you Ever Have a Family, among others.

Add this book to your reading list; if you like solid, beautiful literary fiction, this is a good one.

Do these two developments prove the Coronavirus lockdowns were unnecessary?

Over the weekend two major Coronavirus related developments swept non mainstream media websites which cast doubts as to whether any of the economy crushing lockdowns were necessary.  Not only did these lockdowns crush state economies across the United States, a significant majority of the citizens of this nation had their most fundamental rights violated and stripped away.  This was all done because of a pandemic which is far less serious than the federal government, state governments, and the media made it out to be.

The first development, concerning the actual lethality of Coronavirus, is documented in this Townhall article.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website disclosed the shockingly small number of people who died from only the Wuhan coronavirus, with no other cause of death mentioned. Hold on to your hat because here it is: out of the 161,392 deaths in the CDC data, just six percent, about 9,700 deaths, were attributed to the coronavirus alone. According to the CDC, the other 94 percent had an average of 2.6 additional conditions or causes of deaths, such as heart disease, diabetes, and sepsis. 

Here is the actual text from the CDC’s Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics

Table 3 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups. For data on comorbidities, 

I have long believed that the Coronavirus pandemic has been blown completely out of proportion by the political left in an attempt to sway the upcoming presidential election.  The author of the Townhall article shares my belief.

Something is driving the liberal media’s morbid obsession with the U.S. death toll. The media is doing everything it can to blame the virus on President Trump, a virus that originated in China and is killing people all over the world. It’s been widely known for months that people with comorbidities and the elderly are at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, so why is the media clamoring for prolonged shutdowns and keeping schools closed? Is it because they see a connection between prolonged shutdowns, a weakened economy and the Democrats’ electoral chances in November?

The media snd certain governors have continuously hyped the number of Coronavirus infections as justification for the lockdowns and mask mandates. This Townhall article calls into question the sensitivity of the tests used and the necessity of the continued lockdowns.

According to The New York Times, potentially 90 percent of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 have such insignificant amounts of the virus present in their bodies that such individuals do not need to isolate nor are they candidates for contact tracing. Leading public health experts are now concerned that overtesting is responsible for misdiagnosing a huge number of people with harmless amounts of the virus in their systems.

“Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time,” warns The Times.

It is well past time that our elected officials lift all of the restrictions put in place in the name of the Coronavirus pandemic and restore the entire country back to the old normal.

Governor Baker has jumped the totalitarian shark

This past week Governor Charlie Baker, the esteemed Republican governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, ventured further along the road to totalitarianism than any other governor during the Coronavirus pandemic.  This article contains the gist of his latest and most outrageous proposal.

Gov. Charlie Baker says that the new flu vaccine requirement for Massachusetts students is aimed at trying to keep hospitalizations down this fall and winter as the coronavirus pandemic persists. The Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that all students in the state will be required to get the flu vaccine by Dec. 31.

The new mandate affects all children 6 months or older in Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities.

When Governor Baker made this proposal public I don’t believe he had any idea the outrage it would generate on social media.  The amount of outrage it did generate was spectacular, even among those who blindly accepted all of his other overbearing Coronavirus decrees.

With his flu vaccine mandate Governor Baker is intruding rather forcefully into two  sacred and intimate relationships.   Parents alone should determine if their children should be vaccinated.  Governor Baker is absolutely trampling on the parental rights of every single parent in the State of Massachusetts.  That fact is at the very heart of the outrage that swept across this state. 

Governor Baker is also sticking his nose into the sacred relationship between doctors and patients.   That has also led to a lot of outrage.  Government at no level has a right to intrude into that relationship just like it has no right to intrude into the child parent relationship.

With this one addition to his flu vaccine mandate Governor Baker did not descend into absolute totalitarianism:

Exemptions will be made for medical or religious reasons, the state said. Homeschooled students and college students who are completely off campus and only learning remotely are also exempted.

According to the article 81 percent of students got the flu vaccine last year.  With that high rate already why is the mandate even necessary?  I believe the mandate will actually lead to fewer students getting the flu shot.  Government forcing someone to do something is a great way to make sure a sizable percent of individuals do not do that something even though it is in their best interest.

For the second month in a row Massachusetts has the highest unemployment rate.  That is thanks to Governor Baker’s disastrous business lockdowns.  Business owners are losing enormous amounts of money because they cannot open their doors.  So many business will never open their doors again.  All of this is unnecessary, About 200 individuals a day are discovered to be infected with the Coronavirus.  That is only because about 10,000 a day are being tested.  Deaths and hospitalizations are way down.

Report from Louisiana: Week One – Done

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Schools across the country are opening up, some all virtual, some all in-person, and some a hybrid mix A/B schedule. School districts are making decisions about transparency and how much information to share with the public with regard to Covid exposures and outbreaks. These policies differ from district to district.

When making decisions about exposure transparency several factors seem to be at play. First to consider is patient privacy, of course. Some districts are interested in image and in containing community panic. Others are wide open and are making weekly disclosure announcements.

In exploring this same topic last week, The New York Times spoke with Dr. Ashish Jha, of the Harvard Global Health Institute, who said “If schools don’t notify, it actually can make disease control more difficult. And it’s not like no one will know. Word will get out through a rumor mill. You don’t scare people by telling them what’s going on. You scare them by hiding information.”

Personally, I think communities should be informed, but I do see the problem if it is a very small community where patient identity would be obvious.

Most districts are choosing to notify only close contacts who might need to quarantine, and the rumor mill is taking care of the rest. This is a poor system.

I teach high school, and we had four days of inservice and training of the new programs that will support virtual learning, and then we had students for two days so far on an A/B hybrid schedule. We get half of our students on an A day and the other half on the B day, then they alternate Fridays.  This is my twenty-fifth year to teach high school, and it was the first year that I felt sad at the end of the day. There were no hugs, no high-fives, and no smiles that I could see because everyone was wearing a mask.

Many people were so anxious for schools to open so we could “get back to normal,” but let me tell you, this is in no way normal. When the bus drops kids off they go straight to a homeroom, or to the cafeteria to pick up a grab and go breakfast in a big Ziploc bag, then they go to homeroom. Everyone sits in homeroom until the first bell at 7:25. We are six feet apart, and there are no more than ten kids in any classroom at one time.

Same procedure for lunch.  The kids never go outside, and can’t let loose and relax much at lunch, because they are sitting six feet apart in a desk.

This is not normal.

Classes aren’t even normal. There are no group projects – we have to sit in straight rows all facing the front. Some elementary teachers have spent their own money to build plexiglass partitions and cubicles for students to avoid the rows.

The halls are quiet because you can’t stop and socialize – six feet apart.

It’s just very surreal and dystopian and it made me sad.

My colleagues and I are trying as hard as we can to find solutions, to break the monotony, to be engaging. To make them laugh, to feel safe, to feel welcome.

But this is not normal school. It still is better than 100% virtual for some students, that is certain. There is still bound to be a little bit of social stimulation here.

But outbreaks and exposures are already happening. I personally know of several in quarantine after only two days. I take precautions – I’ve bought a HEPA air purifier for my classroom (out of my own pocket.) We wipe down Chromebooks between each student, and desks, all day long. At the end of the day the custodians come in with foggers to kill any lingering virus. We have to exit our classrooms right after the students leave, so no more long afternoons at my desk catching up on grading. When I come home, I leave my shoes outside, change and shower immediately. The clothes go straight into the washer.

Meanwhile, a large part of the general public tells us teachers to quit whining, that grocery clerks, medical personnel, and other frontline workers have been working since March. Suck it up. I’m in my classroom from 9:05 – 2:15 with kids, with no personal break. None. I’m eating breakfast and lunch with them. (First block is my planning block, so after breakfast in have 90 minutes to take care of things prepping for the day). Cleaning. Sanitizing. Worrying – did I miss something?

I’m already exhausted, and I can’t imagine how my kids feel.

And if that’s not enough on anyone’s plate, here in Louisiana we have two hurricanes rolling in this week. TWO. IN THE SAME WEEK.

 I mean, really. Stop, already.

I’m not having a pity party, I promise. I love my job, and I love my school and my students, but I worry – this is not normal school. And if parents thought that’s what they were getting, it’s just not. Basically, they are getting virtual school, in person.  And they may or may not be notified if there is an exposure in their child’s school.

Even with all that, the kids really do seem happy to be back! And I’ll do everything in my power to keep it that way.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Everything fun has been canceled and it’s getting everyone down

Normally summers are packed full of fun events for me, so much so that I rarely have a free weekend between the beginning of June and the end of September.  This year has been the exact opposite, every event I usually attend except for one was canceled, and that was the Ham Radio Field Day event I organized. 

Two of the biggest events I attend every year are agricultural fairs. One is in Brooklyn Connecticut and the other one is in Woodstock Connecticut.  This year they were cancelled along with just about every fair.  I won’t get to pig out on fried dough, sausage grinders, giant donuts, and so much more.  Usually the Woodstock Fair has great concerts, horse pulls, midway rides, and so much more I usually enjoy.  Not this year.  So many people are going to miss out on so much fun, which they really need.  So many local businesses and traveling vendors rely on the fairs for so much yearly income.  They will sorely miss all of that income.  Even the Big E has been cancelled.

Every since I was four years old my family and I belonged to a fife and drum corp.  All summer long we would travel around southern New England attending fife and drum musters.   If you have never attended one I highly recommend doing to. It is a truly enjoyable way to experience history and a lot of great music.  This year all of the musters have been canceled.  They usually draw many hundreds, if not thousands, of spectators along with many dozens of fife and drum corps.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth.  I was looking forward to attending all of the festivities starting with the Mayflower sailing from Mystic Seaport up until the last event.  All of this has been scaled back or cancelled completely.  I was planning on taking bus trips to the events since I live so far away and traffic would have been a nightmare because of the crowds.  All of the bus trips have been cancelled.

These cancellations are not just affecting me,  they are affecting all of my neighbors, just about everyone in this country, and all across the globe.  These cancellations are having a very negative impact on my frame of mind.  They are really getting me down.  I know I am far from alone.  We all need fun events, especially if they are so much fun we look forward to them all year round.  These events are not cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic.  They are being cancelled because of government over reaction to the Coronavirus and by media coverage of the pandemic that has crossed over to hysteria,  How much longer the cancellations will go on is unknown.  Most likely they will go on until we stand up and say enough.

Governor Charlie Baker is placing all of his state under double secret probation

After a very modest and short lived increase in the number of Coronavirus cases in the state of Massachusetts, Governor Baker took a hissie fit.  He held a press conference where he harangued all of us for our bad behavior and announced that he is putting an indefinite halt to his painfully slow reopening process.  We are now stuck at part 1 of phase 3 of his plan and will not move on to part 2 of phase 3 until he gives it his personal approval.  In the mean time, thanks to his so expertly crafted reopening plan, Massachusetts is stuck with the nation’s highest unemployment rate. 

This WHDH News article discusses a very troubling new wrinkle to Governor Baker’s  Coronovirus response plans, a wrinkle that totalitarian dictators have used a great many times.  Our law enforcement agencies will now monitor us to make sure our behavior meets the standards of conduct laid down by our imperious leader, the great and terrible Governor Baker.

Baker also announced the formation of a an enforcement and intervention team, which will be tasked with ramping up enforcement in key communities and evaluating rising trends such as new positive cases and the percentage of positive tests.

Public safety officials, including state and local law enforcement, now have the jurisdiction to enforce safety orders and crack down on events hosted in violation of the orders, according to Baker.

“These teams will coordinate an increased enforcement effort across the state to assure businesses and residents are aware of and are following the COVID-19 orders,” Baker said. “By authorizing state and local police to enforce these orders, we can not only increase the number of people who will be out there to enforce these measures but also ensure that are penalties for those who refuse to make the adjustments that so many people in Massachusetts have made and continue to make.

Those who fail to comply with the orders will be subject to fines or cease and desist orders

Taking another page from totalitarian leaders Governor Baker announced  travel ban

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced a new order mandating a 14-day quarantine for anyone who travels into Massachusetts from a high-risk state in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning on Aug. 1, high-risk travelers who come into the Bay State will need to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative coronavirus test, according to Baker.

Our right to travel where ever we wish to is one of our most important rights, interfering with it is a major injustice.  Living our lives free of government snooping and government interference has always been something that sets the citizens of the US apart from the citizens of totalitarian nations.  That has all changed with this Coronavirus pandemic thanks to terrible governors such as Charlie Baker.  I am shocked and saddened at all of the people in my state who blindly submit to this type of injustice.