A Friday Round Up – What’s Going On?

Short Notes About Different, Interesting Things Recently Catching Our Attention

A Friday Tradition

We lived for several years in the Washington, DC area. This meant that WAMU was our PBS radio station. WAMU had a flagship program called The Friday Round Up, hosted by the legendary Diane Rehm. It featured a recap of things from the last week or so that merited highlighting. It was a favorite program of ours for many years.

With a tip of the hat to Diane and her successors, today introduces the Agents of Reason version of The Friday Round Up.

Vaccine Effectiveness

 A pretty good string of vaccination news is arriving. Both the vaccines approved in the US are doing very well proving out for both safety and efficacy. Add to that early indications that they also help dramatically cut virus transmission, which was not a sure thing.

Add to that that additional vaccines appear about ready to hit production for Johnson & Johnson and for another vaccine coming out of the UK. Even the long suspect Russian vaccine, Sputnik, appears to measure up. Going from two vaccines to five is a very big deal.

And to end on another good note, overall vaccine production is beginning to surge. Some of these vaccines only take one shot or mild refrigeration. Better days are coming. One important footnote: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine got some early bad press, citing an effectiveness rate of around 75%. The fine print counts: that is 75% against any infection and symptom. For serious and fatal infections, it’s about at 100%. Sounds good to me.

Of course, all is not rosy. We still have about 3,000 Americans dying of this thing every day. Supplies of vaccines and PPE are getting better but still not good enough. The inoculation rates for minorities, poor people, and frontline workers is abysmal. Still much to be done, but finally, some progress can be found.

What a Difference a Week Make in Washington

Hard to express how different our government is just about 10 days into the new Administration. To note a few changes:

  1. Competence – It seems to be everywhere. People who actually know how to run government agencies are all over the place. Press conferences are frequent, informative, and civil.
  2. Change – It is remarkable how much of the Trump legacy has been cancelled already. Not erased – effects take time. Trump loved executive action, much preferring it over legislation. That has a price. Biden is using the same tool to cancel dozens of decisions. To his credit, Biden has noted he does not like executive action and wants to codify policy by legislation. But he has wisely and broadly used executive action to get things moving. So far, not much pushback and only one judicial pushback. Bravo. Looks like Biden is going for the FDR model.
  3. Diversity – Biden promised to build a team that “looks like America.” He came out of the gate good to his word to an impressive level. Just look at the roster. A Black- South Asian Female VP. Cabinet secretaries that are gay, Latinex, transgender, immigrant, Native American – on and on.

    Most importantly – there has been zero sacrifice of competence and quality to achieve diversity. Turns out there is a lot of talent that comes in all sorts of packages. Imagine that!

  4. Republican Short-Term Memory Disease – For a while there, it appeared much of Republican Washington might have been awoken by January 6. Somber words were spoken. It did not last long. They may yet at least help do the right things about all this and the corruption of their party, but it is not a hopeful horizon. They did reaffirm Liz Cheney as a party leader, but they also failed to take responsibility for Rep. Greene of QAnon persuasions. Stand by. One cannot yet tell what will become of a once great party. Either way, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy looks like a dead man walking.

 I caught an important distinction about our country the other day. He noted that our country, while conflicted, is not actually divided on many fundamental issues. There still is a lot we all agree on. What we have is fragmentation – a substantial but still fragmentary element that drives the extremist and conspiracy theory types. They are dangerous and numerous but are not a major part of the country.

That sounds right to me. I suspect we will find out sooner rather than later if that is the case – or not.

The Best-Selling Home Furnishing

 The pandemic and all its enforced togetherness at home apparently has had effects on people. I saw a report that noted the best-selling home furnishing last year nationwide was room dividers. We just put in some more doors in our home, but that is pure coincidence….

Weather and Geography

Two of my favorite topics, ever since I was a kid. They came together personally in an interesting way. We moved into the Smoky Mountains a few years ago. I counted on some weather breaks since we were on the leeward side of the dominant winds, but I had no idea how big a deal this would be.

All through this Winter, we have watched ferocious storms coming our way from the Midwest roll right up to our mountains, pause, make a left turn, and proceed to pound the heck out of the MidAtlantic and the Northeast. It has been fascinating to watch. Weather and geography – they still determine a lot in our lives.

Your Call – What Caught Your Attention This Week?

What caught your eye/heart/imagination over the last week or so?

Send a note into the COMMENTS section of this blog. We would all like to know what the always perceptive and erudite readers of this blog are thinking.

See you next week.

                Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here. If you wish to share COMMENTS anonymously, make the last word in your comment “PRIVATE.” I will assure your privacy via anonymity.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com). Let’s grow our circle.


10 replies to A Friday Round Up – What’s Going On?

  1. Just as an aside an artist friend of ours from Blowing Rock, Alex Hallmark, designed and made that statue of Doc Watson you are sitting next to in Boone. Thanks for for Friday reflections!

    • What a nice connection to discover. Thanks! Your friend has real talent.

  2. Geography and weather are two of my interests too. I love thunderstorms (excepting one in Dallas one summer when I thought the world was ending) and in Michigan living on a lake you could hear one approaching for an hour and experience the excitement. Not here! The mountains also diverts summer fronts and two cracks of thunder marks a major storm lasting only minutes. Regardless, given the choice I will take Asheville anytime.

    Agree the last 10 days have introduced a breath of fresh air not affected by the mountains.

    • Once again, Jerry, great minds think alike. I do recall one thunderstorm, too, that I would like to have missed. I was flying through it in a helicopter and boy, we had no business in that one. I was not confident we would come out the other side. More than 30 years ago, still remember it vividly. I find all the micro climates in the mountains interesting. Can have completely different weather on either side of a ridge line. Amazing stuff.

  3. Bill,

    Enjoyed your Friday Round Up. When I stopped to think about the last 10 days the overriding impression is Blissful Calm! What a pleasure to not be lambasted on a minute by minute basis with pure incendiary rhetoric. I know we as a country have many issues to address. But, for the first time in 4 years I have hope things will get better.

    Love your blog.

    Rebecca Hammond

    • That is a perfect description. I feel the same.

  4. We lived in Boone for 36 years and enjoyed the sculpture of Doc Watson on King Street. In fact, Bunk was on the Town Council when it was approved for installation at that site. It is a wonderful sculpture and rightly depicts Doc Watson, who, when he was very young, would play his guitar on the street at that very spot (or so I’m told).

    • Another great connection. Thanks to Bunk and his colleagues- money well spent.

  5. Re your weather comment: I live in one of the few structural basins in the United States. Until 40 or 50 years ago, it was mistakenly called a valley. It is a relatively flat area surrounded by mountains and no water flows out of it. Anyway, we frequently have storms passing through our region that bypass us. Some people say we have a dome over our basin. We are at over 4000 feet and at the foot of peaks that go to over 8000 feet. The weather is vastly different just 20 miles up those mountains from us. There will be snow or rain there, and either rain or nothing here. Sometimes we have precipitation and they do not. It is routinely at least 20 degrees cooler there.

    • Yep- terrain and weather- the very definition of a complex relationship. Fun stuff to observe.

Your Turn to Comment