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Capitol View commentary: Friday, December 10, 2021

Capitol View
Posted at 12:53 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 17:34:43-05

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL 5 Political Analyst

December 10, 2021

WAITING FOR OMICRON, VIRUS NUMBERS STILL RISE AS DELTA VARIENT LINGERS; THE VIRUS MISINFORMATION CONTINUES AND IN TENNESSEE THE BULLYING BY REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS; ANOTHER WEEK IN A WACKY DECEMBER IN WASHINGTON; NEW SKY-HIGH INFLATION NUMBERS RELEASED AS PRESIDENT BIDEN’S POLL NUMBERS CONTINUE TO SLIDE; VICE MAYOR JIM SHULMAN ON INSIDE POLITICS

WAITING FOR OMICRON, VIRUS NUMBERS STILL RISE AS DELTA VARIENT LINGERS

In several parts of the country, COVID-19 numbers are trending up again as it has every time colder weather emerges and people gather in doors for public gatherings.

While the Omicron variant has been found in an increasing number of states (but not yet here in Tennessee) the Delta strain is still by far the dominant variant of the virus in the U.S. We are now averaging nationally 121,000 cases per day, up 15% in the last two weeks, while hospitalizations are up 27% in that same time period. Deaths still number up to 1,275 per day, up 12% in the last 14 days.

So far the omicron cases in this country have stricken a number of fully vaccinated people, but those cases have been mild. At the same time, we are approaching some new grim milestones in the U.S. Those would be 50 million COVID-19 cases and 800,000 deaths. Better news is that 200 million folks in this country are now fully vaccinated, although with more contagious omicron variant on the way, it appears those who have received only two shots will need a third booster dose to maintain their protections. Therefore, soon there will likely be a new definition of fully vaccinated to require a booster shot.

The FDA has now approved Pfizer’s booster shots for those 16-17 years old, and similar approval seems likely soon for Moderna’s booster dab. Like we have in so many areas in fighting COVID-19, Tennessee is well behind the rest of the country in getting teens and children vaccinated especially in the rural areas.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization continues to maintain boosters are hurting vaccine equity worldwide and that the virus and the pandemic will never be under control until all countries are vaccinated, not just the more affluent ones.

As for other communicable diseases, the flu, which was not a big problem last year, may be returning with a vengeance. Cases are up 335% across the country including more cases in Tennessee. The Bottom line to keep yourself and your family safe: get your Covid and flu shots now!

THE VIRUS MISINFORMATION CONTINUES AND IN TENNESSEE THE BULLYING BY REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS

As the battle to stop COVID-19 continues, the misinformation efforts by national Republican leaders seems only to increase. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is at it again. He says mouthwash can provide protection against the virus. NEWS FLASH! It cannot!

Here in Tennessee, the Republican bullies in the General Assembly have threatened to dismantle the state’s medical licensing board unless it takes down statements on its website that says doctors could face penalties, including having their licenses revoked or suspended, if they knowingly peddle false information about COVID-19 vaccines. The bullies say the state board is overstepping its authority and it is up to them to hold the group accountable. Faced with being abolished, and a new board and members appointed, the current board buckled under to the threats, and took down the information. But they did leave the policy in place to act against quack covid vaccine doctors.

Earlier this year, Republican bullies threatened to dismantle the Tennessee Department of Health unless it changed the way it was promoting the Covid vaccines. The Department complied but not before the state’s chief doctors on vaccines was fired.

The activities of some local school boards during the pandemic, particularly putting mask mandates in place, has also raised the ire of state Republican lawmakers. In an effort to change the makeup of those school boards, a new law was passed allowing school board elections to be conducted on a partisan basis. It appears some Middle Tennessee counties will do it that way although what Nashville will do remains unclear.

While school elections seem destined to become more political, the retention of teachers to stay in the classroom appears to be a growing problem across Tennessee due to low morale.

There were more developments this week in a somewhat related, on-going controversy over no-bid contracts issued by the administration of Governor Bill Lee, during and even before the pandemic. Some high- profile Republican lawmakers on the powerful Fiscal Review Committee are so fed up with the practice of no-bids, they are threatening to change the state’s guidelines.

One Democratic lawmaker wants to go even further. She wants the Davidson County District Attorney to launch an investigation.

A BLIGHT ON NASHVILLE

They had both been there so long (at least two decades or more) you probably thought the controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest bust in the State Capitol and his statue on private property along I-65 South would never go away.

But now they are, vanishing within 6 months of each other. The bust was dismantled and taken to the State Museum back in June. The statue (one of the ugliest ones I have ever seen), was taken down this week after its ownership changed hands through the will of the previous owner, which is now in probate court.

The statue removal came as a surprise. The bust removal took forever, the way the state law is intended to “protect” historical artifacts in control of the state.

The new owner of the Forrest statue, the Battle of Nashville Trust, had it right in a statement the group released calling it “a blight on Nashville” that had been repeatedly vandalized and was in poor repair, adding:

1.The statue is ugly

2. Even General Forrest would think so.

3. General Forrest was not involved in the Civil War battle of Nashville and therefore the statue was a distraction to the critical nature of what happened in the battle and the work of the Battle of Nashville Trust.

It so happens I was in the State Capitol on Wednesday. For the first time since it was removed, I saw the site on the second floor, across from the Senate and House chambers, where the Forrest bust resided.

It is all but empty now. There is just a floral arrangement with a few flowers and a small tree or bush, either dead or without any leaves. It was all in a large urn, the kind you see in a funeral home.

It all seemed strangely fitting to me

ANOTHER WEEK IN A WACKY DECEMBER IN WASHINGTON

Lawmakers knew they were in for a tough month of December facing difficult decisions on an ongoing spending bill, funding the Defense Department and the raising the debt ceiling.

Somehow it appears it has all been handled with the debt ceiling legislation poised to get through the Senate through a one- time compromise by party leaders. The agreement of GOP leader Mitch McConnell to go along and provide up to 14 Republican yes votes to pass the bill and avoid a filibuster, has caused major pushback among some conservative lawmakers, exposing once again the sharp fissures in the GOP, including former President Donald Trump.

The former President this week also lost another major legal fight in the Appeals Court, regarding the House Select Committee getting access to White House records around and concerning the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Now Mr. Trump’ s only hope is for the Supreme Court to intervene.

Another part of that House investigation includes former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows testifying and providing documents. After saying he would, Meadows now says he won’t, and he has filed suit in court. It appears the full House will be asked to hold Meadows in contempt of that body next week joining another former Trump advisor Steve Bannon who has been indicted on that charge by the Justice Department.

The House will also vote next week to a create a new office within the State Department tasked with combating Islamophobia. This comes after Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Colo.) recent Islamophobic comments suggesting that her Democratic colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota— one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress — could be a terrorist.

There had been calls to strip Boebert of her committee posts as has already happened other GOP lawmakers in an increasingly combative atmosphere on the Hill.

As for the Build Back Better bill in the Senate, it seems, thanks perhaps to a single Democratic Senator,   the measure is as mired in a mud of delay in the upper chamber as it ever was in the House. That means chances of a final bill being approved before the end of the year look more and more remote.

Senator Machin likely poured even more political salt in the wound, by joining with Republicans to pass a resolution banning any funds for President Biden’s vaccine mandate. The measure is purely symbolic as the House would likely reject it and the President would veto it if it came to his desk.

NEW SKY-HIGH INFLATION NUMBERS RELEASED AS PRESIDENT BIDEN’S POLL NUMBERS CONTINUE TO SLIDE

There was more bad economic news for the Biden administration today (Friday). The latest government figures show inflation in November at a 6.8% annual rate, the highest in nearly four decades (1982).

Not all the news was bad with first time requests for unemployment assistance at its lowest level since 1952.

Some still say inflation may ease soon creating a different political calculus by the November mid-term elections next year.

But for now, President Biden’s polling numbers continue to sink as reflected in several major polls this week.

One way for the Biden team to respond seems to be to push back on its media coverage, an effort I predict may not work out well.

VICE MAYOR JIM SHULMAN ON INSIDE POLITICS

Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman

He is the presiding officer of one of the largest local legislative bodies in the nation.

He appoints all the Council committees and who leads them each year.

He also next in line to be mayor if that position ever becomes vacant.

But just who is Jim Shulman and what does he think about the many issues facing Metro and most local governments?

Vice Mayor Jim Shulman is our guest this week on INSIDE POLITICS.

He is a frequent guest on MORNING LINE with Nick Beres on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.

But this is the first time we have had the honor of having him on this show.

We welcome the Vice Mayor to the program!

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday.

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you

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Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my own Facebook page, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.