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Ron DeSantis’s Case of Raging Hypocrisy by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross-posted from Marjorie Arons Barron’s own blog.

Ron DeSantis has had quite a summer. Running for re-election in 2022, positioning himself for a 2024 run for President, Florida’s Republican governor has been trolling Democrats, whipping up culture wars, cruelly using asylum-seeking Venezuelans as campaign props, and attacking Joe Biden. He contemptuously calls Biden “Brandon” and “the American Nero”  and derides Dr. Fauci as a “little elf” who should be “chucked across the Potomac.”

The Federal Emergency Management Association actively engaged in advance of Ian, and now the President is due to visit Florida and Puerto Rico to assess recent hurricane damage. So inquiring minds want to know: how will DeSantis publicly behave with Biden? Will there or won’t there be gracious words of cooperation and a reprise of the photo of Chris Christie’s enthusiastic thanking President Obama for supporting New Jersey after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy?

Don’t forget that in 2013 then-Congressman DeSantis excoriated post-Sandy support for the hard-hit Northeast region as a wasteful bailout. He was one of only two Florida congressmen to oppose a $9.7 billion flood relief bill. He also opposed the larger $50 billion Sandy disaster relief legislation, claiming it wasn’t narrowly targeted enough and not offset by cutting elsewhere. Come 2017, however, he supported a massive disaster relief bill, without any offsets, because it included help for Florida victims of Hurricane Irma.

And last week, before Ian struck, I don’t recall the Governor’s urging Republicans in the Florida delegation to support disaster relief for other areas of the country. They didn’t.  Florida’s two GOP senators (Scott and Rubio) didn’t support the $18.8 billion stop-gap budget the Senate passed on Thursday that included funds for FEMA to respond to Hurricane Ian and future disasters. Afterwards, Scott and Rubio wrote to the chairs of Senate Appropriations Committee requesting “much needed” financial support for Florida. That hypocrisy must be infectious.

My gag reflex is working overtime. To be sure, DeSantis is not an outright  climate denier  – as is Rick Scott, his predecessor. But he has avoided seriously connecting the dots…linking  the planet’s recent history of hurricanes growing more intense, storm surges getting higher, rising sea levels and much heavier rainfall and flooding because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture.

The “resiliency” plan that DeSantis touts (raising roads and installing pumps) is better than nothing but has myriad downsides. Building more homes in low-lying, flood-prone areas, instead of incentivizing construction elsewhere to accommodate the deluge of new residents, only makes matters worse.

The death count from Ian is nearly 70 and is expected to rise. Maybe some of the dead could have been saved had officials in Florida’s Lee County and at the state level  not dithered in issuing evacuation warnings. It’s the same laissez-faire spirit that had DeSantis telling residents that vaccinations were optional, masks unnecessary,  and Florida health officials wrong for urging a more robust response to Covid. In 2021, the Miami Herald reported, “DeSantis’ administration changed data, manipulating dates to create a non-existent decline in deaths when the opposite was happening.”

Each loss of life from Ian is tragic and should be mourned, but it’s worth remembering that the average daily death rate from Covid in Florida is still over 40. According to the latest, and likely-understated data, 81,416 have died from Covid in Florida, many of whom were proudly unvaccinated. As Miami columnist Fabiola Santiago wrote: “The undeniable reality is this: DeSantis could have saved lives had he taken COVID seriously. But he didn’t. It’s that simple.”

These numbers fit nicely with the governor’s craven stance on gun safety and other proactive, precautionary measures.  In seeking an appropriately pithy  slogan for his presidential campaign, perhaps he should tweak the Granite State’s motto. I can see it now. “Ron DeSantis: Live Free and Die.”

Lowell Monuments to Women

Here’s my list of monuments in Lowell that are dedicated to women. Hopefully there are some that I’ve missed because there are more than 600 monuments or things dedicated to people in the city so there is a definite gender imbalance.

Lowell Monuments to Women

Mary Bacigalupo Park – Shattuck Street – Named for Mary Bacigalupo (1942-2001). Led campaign to win Lowell All-America City status. Born in Lowell. Taught English and Social Studies in Lowell then was coordinator at Center for Field Services at UML School of Education. Also involved with CTI. Also in Human Services Corporation, Pollard Memorial Library, Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Flowering City, Ladd and Whitney Monument rededication.

Bailey Elementary School – 175 Campbell Drive (Highlands) – Grades PreK to 4 – Building constructed in 1992. Named for Dr. Gertrude M. Bailey (1926-2021) a longtime teacher and principal in the Lowell public schools who retired in 1987.

Colleen Creegan Park – Arcand Drive & Fr. Morrisette Blvd (at Lowell High) – She died from a pre-existing medical condition while a student at Lowell High in the early 1990s (The school’s TV studio is also named for her).

Bette Davis House – 22 Chestnut St – Privately owned home with plaque to Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Davis (1908-1989) who was born there. She moved to New York City with her mother and younger sister in 1921 after her parents divorced. Eventually she moved to Hollywood for a career in film. She won Academy Awards for Best Actress in 1935 for Dangerous and in 1938 for Jezebel. Davis returned to Lowell several times.

Dubner Park – Rogers and Merrill St at Concord River – Named for Jolene Dubner, an environmental and community activist.

Mary R. Galotta Memorial Bench – grounds of Lowell Memorial Auditorium. For Mary R. Galotta (1918-2007) who was active in the Gold Star Wives of Lowell and of America for more than 60 years, serving as the New England President, National Vice President, and a member of the National Board of Directors. Mary’s husband, Edward J. Galotta, was killed in action on March 8, 1945 on Iwo Jima.

Lucy Ann Hill Tree on Lucy Larcom Park. Dedicated to Lucy Ann Hill (1831-1923). Small plaque in front of tree reads “1932. This Douglas Fir Tree Planted by The Education Club of Lowell in Memory of Lucy Ann Hill, Founder.” She was considered one of the country’s foremost educators of her day. She and her sister conducted an exclusive school for young women at 228 Worthen St. In 1890 a reading circle was formed and in 1892 the group changed itself to Educational and Industrial Union. Later known as the Education Club. It met at homes of members until 1912 when it met at YWCA where it still meets now. Lucy was first president from 1894 to 1908.

Homage to Women – Public art – Market Street – 1984 – By Mico Kaufman

Knott Park – 150 Douglas Rd – I’m pretty sure this is named for a woman but I haven’t researched it yet.

Lucy Larcom Park – Along Merrimack Canal from Merrimack Street to French Street – named for Lucy Larcom (1824-1893). Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Lucy came to Lowell at age 11 when her widowed mother became a boarding house keeper.  Forced by economic necessity to forego school and work in the mills, Lucy still found time to write stories and poetry about her experience.  She moved from Lowell at age 21 and became a teacher and writer.

Laura Lee Therapeutic Day School – 235 Powell St (Highlands) – Grades K to 6 – Building constructed in 1890.  Named (I believe) for Laura E. Lee (1853-1906), a longtime teacher in the Lowell public schools.

McAuliffe Elementary School – 570 Beacon St (Centralville) – Grades PreK to 4 – Building constructed in 1993. Named for Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986), a New Hampshire school teacher who died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Murkland Elementary School – 350 Adams St (Acre) – Grades PreK to 4 – Building constructed in 1993. Named for Charlotte M. Murkland (1873-1961), a longtime teacher at and principal of the original Bartlett School.

Olga Nieves Park – 123 Adams Street – Born in Puerto Rico on 4/27/1952. Died in Lowell on 6/17/1987 age 35. Lived on Adams St. Survived by parents Eduardo and Marcolina Ramos Lopez and her husband Adolfo Nieves, two daughters and a son, all in Lowell public schools.

Rogers School aka STEM Academy – Highland Street – named for Edith Nourse Rogers (1881-1960) – After the sudden death of her husband, Congressman John Jacob Rogers, in 1925, Edith Nourse Rogers succeeded him in Congress and served there until her own death in 1960. Though a Republican, she was a strong supporter of Roosevelt’s New Deal. During World War Two, she sponsored the legislation that created the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAC) and helped draft the GI Bill which established financial and educational benefits for veterans.

Edith Nourse Rogers Portrait – in Lowell Memorial Auditorium Hall of Flags – Plaque reads “Edith Nourse Rogers, March 19, 1881 – September 10, 1960, Member of the House of Representatives, Massachusetts 5th District, 1925 – 1960, Mother of the G.I. Bill.”

Mary Ann Sanders Tyler Fountain at Tyler Park on Westford Street. Mary Ann Sanders Tyler (1823-1924) and her daughter Susan Emma Tyler (1852-1918) donated the land for Tyler Park to the city of Lowell in 1893. The park is named for the Tyler family but there is a granite drinking fountain inscribed to Mary Ann.

Stoklosa Middle School – 560 Broadway (Acre) – Grades 5 to 8 – Building constructed in 2005. Named for Kathryn M. Stoklosa (1927-1999) who served for many years on the Lowell School Committee.

Niki Tsongas Bridge – over the Pawtucket Canal in the Hamilton Canal District

Women Veterans Monument – Lowell Memorial Auditorium grounds – Dedicated on September 21, 1997 by the city of Lowell and the Greater Lowell Veterans Council. The monument honors the nearly two million women nationwide who have served in the military ranging from nurses and telephone operators in World War I to members of the combat arms today. The monument features the face of a woman service member framed by an American flag with the seals of the five branches of the military.

Working Women Monument – Market Street – co-located with the Homage to Women statue, this is a plaque affixed to a boulder. The plaque contains the names of numerous women active in Lowell civic and community affairs.

Boarding School Blues: Chapter 46

Boarding School Blues: Chapter 46

By Louise Peloquin

Ch. 46 “Advienne que pourra”

The headmistress orchestrated the honor roll ceremony two days before Christmas break. Her September welcoming speech had focused on “taking the highroad” until June, a recommendation reiterated that December day in the drafty, chilly reception hall kept just warm enough to stave off sneezes and sniffles.

The student body – seniors first – filed inside, took a cold metal folding chair seat, sat up straight and kept uniform-covered knees together. “A ladylike demeanor at all times” Sister Gerald specified before adding “no looking around, no grimacing, no outbursts. Behaviour befitting the occasion.”

The last injunction triggered a flurry of messages among Blanche and her buddies. An intricate series of winks, lip puckers, finger flutters and shoulder shrugs made it clear that no one was looking forward to discovering the list. Blanche signed “Advienne que pourra” (1) to Titi who responded with a dramatic roll of her twinkling dark eyes.

Once the students seated, four novices carrying two by four feet plywood boards concealed with pastel-colored sheets strode inside like bridesmaids down the aisle. The ceremony began with Sister Théophile’s invocation to patron martyr Saint Felicity. She asked the novices to place the boards on easels in the middle of the hall. One of the nuns-to-be slipped on the freshly-waxed oak floor and fell into a perfect split without dropping her load. The fall made the sheet flutter into the air like a butterfly and land on her head. She got up as nimbly as she had slipped, positioned her board on its easel and took her seat in the back of the room, Blanche and her friends recognized their good buddy Marieanne.

Next entered the headmistress, not the blushing bride but the stately queen about to grant royal titles to worthy subjects. She positioned herself in front of the first board, delicately pinched a corner of its sky blue sheet and folded it back. “We shall begin forthright. Here are the outstanding seniors of the 1965 Autumn term.”

A couple of gasps and muffled giggles accompanied several groans as the students discovered the list.

“Come now girls! Patience and composure! These boards will be on display in the gymnasium.” After the call to order, Sister Théophile removed the pale pink sheet covering the junior class list.

The first two boards left Blanche and her friends indifferent because freshmen didn’t associate much with upperclassmen. The elders didn’t want to waste time with “the juveniles.” Sophomore Madeleine was the exception because she enjoyed mentoring the “wets-behind-the-ears.” So when the headmistress removed the sage green sheet from third board, “the young’uns” zoomed in.

Titi’s gestures expressed her appreciation for the calligraphy. Andy’s shrugs demonstrated that she found the pageantry stupid. Blanche just tried to decipher the names. C spotted Madeleine’s and gave two thumbs up. Sitting a few rows away, the new honor roll recipient popped up from her chair like a jack-in-the-box, plopped down again and beamed with pride, tears welling up in her limpid green eyes as if she were a newly-crowned Miss America. Andy abandoned the sign language and whispered “Madeleine told us she didn’t give a hoot about the honor roll. How come she’s on it now?” From the girls’ vantage point, only the beautifully-scripted names were visible, not the details.

Sister Théophile stalled before removing the forsythia yellow sheet from the last board. While scanning every one of the twenty-six freshmen, she lifted the cloth.

Although skipping classes and trespassing on sacred confessional territory had killed her hopes of making the cut, Blanche was crestfallen. “Nope, no Blanche Réjean squiggles. Maman will be disappointed and Papa will tell me ‘persévère, c’est tout’ (2).” She was very pleased however,  to read Titi’s name in big beautiful calligraphy and was eager to discover the distinction specifics. When she saw “Andrea Tremblay”, a corrosive acid wave of envy surged inside and all she could do was stare. “How can that pain in the neck be on the honor roll?” She thought. “I don’t get it. Andy is right about one thing though. This list is stupid.”

The headmistress resumed her exposé. “There you have it girls, first-term honors. And this year, respecting the late Monsieur Dubé’s wish to reward distinguished students, a worthy representative from each class will receive one of his rare books. Sister Claudette, please come forward.”

The diminutive nun appeared out of nowhere. The weight of the prizes exacerbated her dowager’s hump. Without looking up, she handed the books to the headmistress as if she didn’t want to part with them.

Blanche figured “maybe Sister Claudette is worried the kids won’t respect ‘em and just dump ‘em in a corner someplace. I don’t know who’s gonna get those books but I’ll tell ‘em I’ll take ‘em if they don’t want ‘em.”

The headmistress announced “I have decided that this is the propitious time to distribute these treasures rather than at the academic year’s end. I shall now ask the Latin scholar, senior Francine Lafond, to receive this superb Latin Grammar.”

Blanche and her friends had seen Francine around but had never talked to her so hearing the name of this tall, lanky girl with a very frizzy red pony tail and very thick black-framed glasses didn’t faze them in the least. Still, per Sister Gerald’s indications, they clapped, feebly.

“The junior class will be proud of our budding historian Yolande Lavoie. Please come up for this illustrated edition of World War I horrors. Refrain from sharing it with sensitive souls as some ‘gueules cassées’ (3) photos are quite ghastly. Voilà Mademoiselle Lavoie. Enjoy your reading.”

Andy blurted a couple of words between two fake coughs. “Yeah we sure do enjoy looking at young men with half their faces blown off.”

C added while clearing her throat “it’s important for a future nurse to see that. I wonder if she’ll let me borrow her book?”

Yolande Lavoie, a willowy, close-cropped brunette, looked a bit more enthusiastic than her predecessor as she thanked the headmistress while accepting the thick black volume. As soon as it was in her hands, she opened it and gasped. Sister Théophile ignored the undignified reaction and carried on.

“Mademoiselle Alice Patenaude, your voice has graced our religious services for more than a year now. It is only fitting that you receive this bilingual libretto of Jacques Offenbach’s ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’. Perhaps you’ll want to learn some of the French lyrics and open our next piano recital with a song?”

“Mercy ma Sur (4), I do wanna improve my French. My grandparents speak it but I don’t and I…” blurted the stocky ash blonde. She took the libretto with her short thick hands, stretched her strong neck and puffed out her generous chest as if she were about to vocalize.

“C’est bien ma fille” interrupted the headmistress. “And now for freshman honoree Mademoiselle Cecile Coucy who performed an exemplary frog dissection. Monsieur Dubé’s portfolio of New England wetlands fauna goes to you Mademoiselle” solemnly proclaimed the headmistress. “Please note Cecile, that each page is an original watercolor. The details of toads, tadpoles and bullfrogs will astound you. And that marks the end of our honor roll unveiling. Sincere congratulations those who have been recognized and strong encouragement to the others. Always remember: take the highroad.” At that, the headmistress floated out of the reception hall with a squeak of each rubber-soled step.

The girls stood up from their cold metal folding chairs and filed out of the drafty, chilly reception hall, seniors first. An irrepressible urge to gossip spread like wildfire among the entire student body. But there were two more classes before recreation and Sister Gerald’s “ladylike demeanor” refrain managed to extinguish the sparks. Blanche focused on her Oxfords instead of exchanging sign language with her friends. Her right shoe was adorned with a couple of pine needle mementos from the last recreation outside. She wanted to congratulate Titi and yearned to give C a big hug. But the thought of Andy’s cheekiness made her blood boil. “What kinda flak is she gonna give me now? I feel like joining another gang after Christmas. I can’t stand Andy’s lip any more. I’ve had it. I’m done. I wonder if Titi and C would end it with Andy too? I dunno.”

Blanche was in the last row of exiting freshmen. As she was crossing the threshold, someone caught hold of her right elbow. “Blanche, come with me a moment. I shall give you a signed pass if perchance you arrive late for class.” It was Sister Claudette. Blanche hoped library duty would replace the history course. The freshmen trooped off leaving Blanche with Sister Claudette who breathed “Let me sit down for a bit. Carrying those heavy books revived the back pain. My physical strength is not what is used to be but, thank the Lord, my intellectual acuity remains intact. Blanche, you deserve a distinction for welcoming Monsieur Dubé’s treasures to the SFA library. Throughout this task you displayed conscientiousness, meticulousness and punctiliousness, in addition to total discretion. Therefore, the longstanding librarian I am rewards you with a precious papyrus, a roll of parchment I have been keeping for a special occasion. It was given to me by a relative who had the privilege of visiting Egypt years ago. I want you have it. Voilà ma fille.”

From the yellowed scroll, Blanche read the tightly-looped longhand:  “Certificate of honor for Blanche Réjean’s outstanding library duty in December 1965. May her love of books be lifelong. ’Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.’ – C.S. Lewis.”

A small rusty paper clip joined a dog-eared postcard to the papyrus. Blanche recognized the book mark tucked in the middle of “Ulysses”, a yellowed photo of Dublin’s Trinity College library, the “long room.” On the back of the card she read a single faded word – “paradise.”

Blanche and the librarian exchanged looks rather than words of gratitude.

1) French for “come what may” or “whatever happens happens.”

2) French for “persevere, that’s all.”

3) In French, literally, “broken mouth.” The expression refers to the young WW1 soldiers who suffered severe facial injuries.

4) “Merci ma soeur” – thank you Sister.

******

Read Chapter 1: The Announcement

Read Chapter 2: Facing the Inevitable

Read Chapter 3: Readying

Read Chapter 4: Au revoir!

Read Chapter 5: Arrival

Read Chapter 6: Settling In

Read Chapter 7: Beginning to Belong

Read Chapter 8: Quick Showers

Read Chapter 9: Inside & Outside Study Hall

Read Chapter 10: Math Manoeuvres

Read Chapter 11: Cinephiles

Read Chapter 12: Camera, Action, Lights

Read Chapter 13: Reconnecting

Read Chapter 14: Back to the Fold

Read Chapter 15: In the Night

Read Chapter 16: Parlez-vous?

Read Chapter 17: On the Agenda

Read Chapter 18: Dress up, sit up, chin up

Read Chapter 19: Post Conference Assessment

Read Chapter 20: Orderliness

Read Chapter 21: Inspection

Read Chapter 22: The Inner Sanctum

Read Chapter 23: Going Home

Read Chapter 24: Merci Mon Oncle

Read Chapter 25: The Food Fairy

Read Chapter 26: Bon appetit!

Read Chapter 27: Friends

Read Chapter 28: A Grocery Stop

Read Chapter 29: Tempus Fugit

Read Chapter 30: The Chapel

Read Chapter 31: A Nice Kind of Weird

Read Chapter 32: Mnemonic Device

Read Chapter 33: Cuisses de grenouille

Read Chapter 34: Run along now

Read Chapter 35: Consequences of playing hooky

Read Chapter 36: Good Vibes

Read Chapter 37: Never too many, never too much

Read chapter 38: Dust Bunnies

Read Chapter 39: I’m into something good

Read Chapter 40: Wistful and Admiring

Read Chapter 41: “Anywhere Out of the World”

Read Chapter 42: “If you really want to hear about it

Read Chapter 43: “Why don’t they go and create something”

Read Chapter 44: Squiggles, snowmen and angels

Read Chapter 45: A Measure of Mirth

Biden’s Covid declaration an unforced error by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross-posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

It felt a little like my gasp when Hillary uttered the term “deplorables” to describe Trump supporters. That meant trouble ahead. Biden’s poorly qualified assertion that the pandemic is over may not have been quite that explosive. But it was a thoughtless communications error.

Sure, we’re not where we were in 2020. Some of us have already had five jabs in the arm. Ignoring the real risks of potentially disabling long Covid, we’re venturing forth. We’re still wearing masks in large indoor gatherings though we’re increasingly in the minority. Along with the cohort of older folks, we’ve gone shopping and attended concerts and plays – masked. We’re attending classes both on Zoom and in person. We’ve dined on restaurant patios and even, despite some trepidation, moved gingerly inside. My husband and I have not (yet) been infected. But we’ve come out from under our rock to rejoin the human race, reveling in the vitality.

We still expect others who have been exposed to test before coming to our house or reschedule their visit. And, yes, there is still the occasional call informing us of the sad news of a friend’s death despite being fully vaccinated from this too-often lethal disease. So, the threat hasn’t disappeared.

We are well aware that Covid remains a leading cause of death in the United States, far worse than the toll exacted by the seasonal flu (which itself is expected to be much worse this year). About 400 people still die every day from Covid, and thousands more get infected. The infection data are likely a dramatic under-count due to unreported and undetected cases.

In the pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic, we accepted a raft of evolving government public health emergency measures. Now with widespread Covid fatigue, availability of vaccines and therapeutics, and mixed messages from public health officials, most of the country has decided to just live with it. What to do has become a personal decision. It doesn’t help that the rate of vaccination has dropped, especially concerning among those over 65 years of age, the most vulnerable population.

The problem with Biden’s loose lips is a political and public health concern. He got out in front of his health and science advisers, never a good move. Worse, he has undercut his own request that Congress approve money for vaccines, therapeutics, test kit distribution, research and public health education. Quick to respond to Biden’s gaffe, Republicans in Congress are already mocking his request for $22 billion in additional funding, which includes money for vaccine distribution and preparedness for future surges. Federal funding for vaccine purchases and distribution is expected to run out in January. The GOP is also challenging the extended mask mandate for federal organizations like the military and Head Start.

Technically, a pandemic isn’t over until the World Health Organization says it is over. For Biden to leap ahead of that official determination will signal to the pharmaceutical industry that it may raise its prices and enforce its patent protections.

Clearly, this is the time for President Biden to stay the course, not be distracted from his duties as captain of the ship.

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