Please get vaccinated

By YeOldeScribe ~ August 19th, 2021 @ 7:13 pm No Comments »

This little corner of the internet has been dormant for quite some time. Since the last time we’ve posted, America elected a narcissistic, sexist, xenophobic, racist, shuckster of a president in Donald J. Trump (and thankfully voted him out of office four years later). Perhaps it is for the best that we weren’t posting during the Trump presidency – former President Trump is the antithesis of everything it means to be a progressive. Rather than to focus on the past of give any more publicity to that sorry excuse of a human being, we would instead like to focus on the present, and the issue of vaccine hesitancy.

We will be the first to admit that it is highly unlikely that a) anyone still reads this blog and b) someone reading this blog has the chance to get a vaccine and hasn’t yet. Americans might not realize this, but the reason why most countries don’t have high vaccination rates is because they don’t have enough of the vaccine to go around – not because they read some pseudo-science on a blog. Most people in poor countries will need to wait two years (until 2023) for the vaccine to become available to them, because 80 percent of the doses available have gone to high income and upper middle income countries.

But let’s assume for a moment that you do live in a country where the vaccine is available and you haven’t gotten your shot yet. Let’s break down – with science and facts – the reasons why you should get the vaccine, and let’s combat some of the misinformation that’s out there.

The Vaccine Wasn’t Tested

On face value, this one seems to be legitimate. We went from Covid being first diagnosed in late 2019-early 2020 to vaccines in late 2020, which were distributed in early to mid 2021. That’s a crazy short period for developing a vaccine from scratch, and were that the case, people would have a right to be concerned. But the vaccines that are being used in the US are primarily mRNA vaccines, which scientists have been working on only in the last decade or so. (For a not-so-brief history of mRNA vaccines, click here.) This was an incredibly new field of science that didn’t really exist until the mid-2010’s, so scientists have been studying it in-depth over the last five to seven years. To address the issue of testing, yes, all the vaccines that are available have been tested extensively. There are rumors going around that the vaccines were allowed to skip both animal and human trials – but Reuters has debunked both those claims easily. The confusion largely stems from the difference between Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and full FDA approval. Many people think that EUA is easy to get and requires no testing. That’s not the case – here’s what all goes in to an EUA according to the FDA. Tens of thousands of people went through trials in order to determine how effective the vaccine was and what the side effects were. So why don’t companies go for full FDA approval right away? Easy – they can’t (at least not to stop a pandemic). Full FDA approval takes years, and in case you haven’t looked at a Covid chart lately, we don’t have time to wait for years on end to get people vaccinated. Besides, some of the vaccines are already on their way to receiving full approval, making the argument against them totally moot.

The Side Effects Are Worse Than Covid itself

Many vaccine doubters will point to the fact that in the US, Covid has a 98 percent survival rate, so there’s no need for a vaccine. The 98 percent survival claim is actually accurate – the rest of the statement is absolutely not. For the sake of argument, let’s just say everyone in the US gets Covid. With our current population and a 1.7 percent mortality rate, that would result in 5.6 million deaths. All of the sudden, 1.7 percent mortality looks a lot worse off, right?

But this ignores the fact that death is not the only outcome of Covid. In fact, there are over 50 long-term effects of Covid, not to mention the short-term ones. Many people who survive Covid are still dealing with the after-effects – just ask Rick Banuelos about it. Make no mistake about it – Covid is a life-altering disease for all in both the short and long term.

So what about the side effects of the vaccines? Well, to be blunt, it’s virtually impossible they’re worse than Covid. Side effects include pain, redness or swelling when you get your shot, and tiredness, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea are all delayed symptoms which may appear within 48 hours of getting your vaccine. From a personal perspective, our writer’s reaction to the Pfizer shot was some mild tiredness after both the first and second doses, but nothing that kept him out of work. However, we’re well aware that not everyone was so lucky. For many of our colleagues and friends, a day off of work was needed due to the vaccine side effects. However, the side effects went away after a day or two. We are not aware of anyone in our circle who had a reaction that lasted longer than that. Now you might have heard that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused by the FDA. This is true – but the pause was lifted in April and the vaccine is safe. Scientists identified 15 cases of a rare blood disease out of 8 million injections. They did their due diligence, added additional warnings to people who might be susceptible to it, and the vaccine is available again.

The Vaccines Aren’t Safe for those who are Pregnant or Wish to Become Pregnant

When the Covid vaccines were in trials, they weren’t tested on pregnant individuals. This led the blogging community to believe that the vaccines weren’t safe for those who were pregnant or wished to become pregnant, and the pseudo-science gained a ton of traction – enough so that one of our writer’s friends believes this misinformation to this day.

The CDC found in preliminary trials that the vaccines would be safe for those pregnant or wanting to become pregnant all the way back in June, and have recently confirmed those results. In fact, the most recent research actually suggests that pregnant women experience fewer side effects than the general population. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the FDA, the CDC and every other alphabet agency that studies this stuff says they’re safe and they won’t harm your ability to become pregnant. Plus, you can even transfer antibodies in breastmilk for those too young to get a shot.

Bottom Line

Are there other conspiracy theories out there? Sure. Some people believe the vaccine is a government tracking device (it’s not, and if you use a cell phone or social media the government is already doing this). Some people believe this is all a part of Bill Gates’ plan to take over the world (and ironically, most of those people use Windows). People who believe this will not be convinced by a progressive political blog that the vaccine is safe so we’re not even going to try. But if you’re willing to listen to peer-reviewed data and evidence, maybe some of the points we’ve made here have had some effect on you. And if you want to know where to get vaccinated now that you’ve read all this, please click here.

For those of you who have already been vaccinated, thank you for doing your part. Continue to social distance and wear a mask in public (especially indoors) even if you have been vaccinated. And stay tuned for more updates from PoliticalProgressives.com in the future!

Ferguson, Grand Juries and Justice

By YeOldeScribe ~ November 28th, 2014 @ 10:01 pm No Comments »

It would be fair to say there’s been too much media attention surrounding what’s been going on in Ferguson, Missouri. No one outside of the state probably even heard of the St. Louis neighbor before 2014. But when Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, that all changed. Wilson was white, Brown was black. Brown was unarmed. Some say he was surrendering when he was fatally shot. Riots ensued around the rallying cry “No justice, No peace.”

That “justice” came earlier this week. Prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch gave a 45 minute speech in which he announced a no-bill for Officer Wilson, meaning there would be no trial. Here’s the full speech:

You’ll note that McCulloch indites pretty much everyone except the officer who pulled the trigger on an unarmed civilian. Our favorite part was when he said the grand jury “gave their lives” to examine all the evidence. Was that really the choice of words you wanted to use there?

Look, we all knew this was coming. And maybe the evidence, if it had gone to a trial, would have supported Officer Wilson. We haven’t looked through the data dump McCulloch’s office provided yet. Frankly, we’ve waited a couple days to write so our post is informative and helpful instead of accusatory and filled with profanity.

The problem here is how this was all handled from the very beginning. It started with the Ferguson police releasing only the information that helped their case. Isn’t it amazing how the video of Brown robbing a convenience store was leaked to the public, but there were no leaks when it came to anything involving Officer Wilson? The official police report was also a joke, so it wasn’t until this week when we actually got to hear the full version of what the police say happened.

Cops protecting themselves isn’t anything new though. But something that is rare is a grand jury issuing a no-bill. At the federal level, attorneys prosecuted over 162,000 cases in 2010. 11 were returned without an indictment. In terms of percentages, that means the chances of Wilson receiving a no-bill was .00679%. If only.

The percentage is higher mostly because McCulloch didn’t do his job. He’s a prosecuting attorney, which means it’s his job to prosecute someone. Instead, he said from the beginning that he wanted to present the grand jury with all the evidence available and let them make an informed decision. Sounds great, right? Except that’s not what grand juries are supposed to do.

Grand juries exist to determine if a case should be sent to trial. And while their is good evidence that Wilson was not guilty of a crime, there was definitely evidence that something went wrong and a jury should probably examine the evidence. Even in McCulloch’s 45-minute grandstand evidence was laid out in a somewhat nonsensical way – McCulloch said Wilson was responding to a burglary, but it was earlier reported that Wilson had no idea a burglary took place. Wilson describes Brown as a “demon” at one point. Isn’t that enough evidence right there?

And can we all agree that when a white police officer shoots an unarmed black teenager, there should at least be a trial?

What McCulloch did was to have a “secret trial” with the grand jury. Even a halfway competent lawyer could have presented enough evidence to push this case to a trial. Instead, McCulloch didn’t present a charge. He didn’t present evidence in a way that would make any sense to a grand jury. He didn’t do his job and Wilson walked because of it.

As we said earlier, maybe the outcome would have been the same had this case gone to trial. But the fact that it didn’t even get that far shows just how broken our legal system still is.

Koster gets caught with hand in cookie jar

By YeOldeScribe ~ November 15th, 2014 @ 7:19 am No Comments »

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster

Photo via Wikicommons, CCL

Attorney Generals rarely make headlines. Many people probably don’t even know what their Attorney General does at either the state or federal levels. But after a New York Times article came out just a couple weeks ago, Missouri voters definitely know what an Attorney General isn’t supposed to do.

Chris Koster has served as the state’s Attorney General since 2008, winning re-election in 2012 largely because he’s had a pretty successful track record. As the top law enforcement officer of the state, it’s mostly his job to stay out of the headlines unless he’s prosecuting a major case on behalf of Missourians (and unless he’s switching parties to win an election). But Koster got busted in late October, and in a big way.

Here’s the NYT article, which uses Koster as a springboard to talking about corruption in many Attorney General’s offices throughout the US. If you’re looking for the money quote, here it is:

“Ms. Kalani‚Äôs firm [representing 5-Hour Energy], Dickstein Shapiro, had courted the attorney general at dinners and conferences and with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Mr. Koster told Ms. Kalani that he was unaware of the investigation, and he reached for his phone and called his office. By the end of the weekend, he had ordered his staff to pull out of the inquiry, a clear victory for 5-Hour Energy.”

Like we said: busted.

Now Koster isn’t the only person doing this, especially in the great state of Missouri. See, in the Show-Me state, there’s no limit to what lobbyists can donate and individual donors can contribute. As long as it’s recorded, you can give out hundreds of thousands in one setting, as Rex Sinquefield often does. Very few other states have such lax rules when it comes to “dirty money” like this.

But as the NYT article points out, campaign finance reform and changing the way donations are handled won’t fix everything. It’s the culture that lobbyists create that’s the problem. Lavish dinners and cocktail parties. Lobbyists drafting legislation that more often than not becomes law with minimal changes. These are just a few of the reasons why we’re in the mess we’re in.

The biggest issue here is that Koster was essentially caught red-handed. He’s supposed to be the highest ranking member of law enforcement in the state, and he got caught if not breaking the letter of the law, than certainly the spirit of it. And this isn’t even the first time he’s been accused of such misbehavior. But this is old news – the NYT article is from the end of October, and it’s almost Thanksgiving. So what’s changed? Not much.

Sure, Republicans in the legislature will go after Koster with a commission, and Koster has already said he’ll reform the office. In the end, this is going to amount to a slap on the wrist, though – if that. Koster was planning to run for Governor in 2016, and by then this saga will have blown over. Because in our modern political system, we half expect our politicians to take bribes.

Why Democrats got rocked in the 2014 Midterms

By YeOldeScribe ~ November 6th, 2014 @ 10:28 pm No Comments »

Liberals can be cute about it and say that they won some elections they thought they might lose. They can rationalize it and say that the losses weren’t as bad as they could have been, or that they did better than they thought they were going to. If they’re really desperate, you might hear them say that it wasn’t as bad as 2010.

But make no mistake about it, the Democrats got whipped two days ago. There’s no justifiable way to sugarcoat it. Not only did the Democrats lose the Senate, they lost gubernatorial races they were expected to win (or at least put up a good fight in). Take Wisconsin, for example. Mary Burke lost to Gov. Scott Walker 46.6% to 52.3%. In a contested election like that race was, a six-point victory is a blowout. Think soccer scoring, not football.

In Missouri, the results were surprisingly Republican as well. While it didn’t shock anyone that Vicky Hartzler won her election against a Democrat with no funding or real party backing, other elections certainly provided a jolt. Chuck Basye will take over the 47th State Congressional District from Democrat John Wright, who in our opinion did nothing to lose the seat except for being in the same party as the sitting president during a midterm election. Even in the elections Democrats won, they didn’t win by much. Nora Dietzel becomes the new recorder of deeds by a 1.2 percent margin. Brian McCollum is the new county collector after a three point victory and Kim Shaw will serve on the division 5 bench with a margin of victory of just 3.8 percent.

Now, when Boone County (and Columbia in particular) elect or almost elect a Republican candidate when a viable Democratic one is available, you know something’s up. So what happened this election cycle?

If we’re being honest, we can put a lot of the blame on the type of election: midterms. During a midterm election, the party in power almost always loses. This seems to be especially true when it comes to Democrats. A lot of that is just because of where the party chooses to spend their resources. Democrats open up their wallets when the stakes are highest during a presidential election, but can pull the purse strings taut when it comes to midterms.

Part of the reason is because Democrats didn’t run on a platform. Anytime you’re not giving voters a unified reason to vote for your candidates, it’s not a good sign. To be fair, the only platform Republicans ran on was “Obama is a bad leader” (to put it mildly), but that was enough a platform to get their base out.

A good reason why Democrats didn’t run on a platform? They didn’t have much to show for their last two years of leadership. A lot of that comes from a deeply divided Congress, so it might be unfair to place the blame on the shoulders of Senate Democrats. But who said politics were fair? Obama’s even getting the blame for the inefficiencies of Congress, which he has no control over.

But perhaps the biggest reason the Democrats got shellacked is because of turnout. When voter turnout is high, Democrats typically do better. And turnout for the midterms has been going down in recent years. Most importantly, turnout for younger voters is going down while the elderly population is voting at a higher rate than in previous years:

NBC Screen Cap

Graphic via NBC news

This chart tells you a lot. In the last three midterm elections, voters under 30 have cast their ballots at the same abysmal 12 percent rate. Now, to give millennials credit, they do vote at a somewhat higher rate in presidential elections. Ironically, the exact opposite is true for older voters. They are more likely to vote in midterms than in presidential elections. Their 37 percent turnout rate this year is 12 percentage points higher than their turnout in 2012.

You can blame the loss on a lot of things, but this is a troubling trend that Democrats will have to deal with if they want to contend in future midterm elections. Of course, if they can keep winning the presidential elections, maybe they don’t have to worry about it.

 

Further Reading

Please get vaccinated

Ferguson, Grand Juries and Justice

Koster gets caught with hand in cookie jar

Why Democrats got rocked in the 2014 Midterms

Your vote counts: Cast your ballot this Tuesday

Fox News: Young women belong on Tinder, not in voting booth

Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof set the record straight on Islam

Scalia poo-poos seperation of church and state

Why the Latte Salute isn’t a big deal

Why it’s ok (for now) Hillary hasn’t officially decided to run

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