Tennessee’s Very Bad, No Good, Awful Example

Less than two weeks ago, Tennessee ordered an end to all vaccination in schools and no more information to teens about vaccine availability—for Covid-19 or for anything else.

Just three weeks ago, only 195 people in Tennessee were hospitalized with COVID-19. In Memphis, Methodist University Hospital had no COVID patients at all. Now numbers are soaring. Covid-19 hospitalizations across Tennessee almost tripled, to 579. 

On July 12, the state fired its top vaccination official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health. Dr. Fiscus issued a written statement, saying in part:

Each of us should be waking up every morning with one question on our minds: ‘What can I do to protect the people of Tennessee against COVID-19?’ Instead, our leaders are putting barriers in place to ensure the people of Tennessee remain at-risk, even with the delta variant bearing down upon us.

What’s more is that the leadership of the Tennessee Department of Health has reacted to the sabre rattling from the Government Operations Committee by halting ALL vaccination outreach for children. Not just COVID-19 vaccine outreach for teens, but ALL communications around vaccines of any kind. No back-to-school messaging to the more than 30,000 parents who did not get their children measles vaccines last year due to the pandemic.  No messaging around human papilloma virus vaccine to the residents of the state with one of the highest HPV cancer rates in the country. No observation of National Immunization Awareness Month in August. No reminders to the parents of teens who are late in receiving their second COVID-19 vaccine. THIS is a failure of public health to protect the people of Tennessee and THAT is what is ‘reprehensible’. When the people elected and appointed to lead this state put their political gains ahead of the public good, they have betrayed the people who have trusted them with their lives.”

Just a little reminder about vaccines:

Vaccination ended smallpox. Smallpox used to kill millions of people every year. A smallpox epidemic swept the United States between 1898 and 1904. Various state and local health officials mandated vaccinations. Some people resisted fiercely

“The very first vaccine, which protected against smallpox, was developed in England in the late eighteenth century; it consisted of pus taken from a cowpox blister, which was inserted into a small cut in the skin. As word of the new procedure spread, it was met with enthusiasm but also dread. While many patients and physicians were eager to fend off one of that era’s most feared diseases, many others balked at the prospect of contaminating their healthy bodies with disease matter from an animal.”

Vaccination became standard, but some still resisted and there were isolated U.S. outbreaks until 1949. In the 1950s, the World Health Organization mounted a major global vaccination effort. This completely eradicated smallpox. No cases have been found anywhere in the world since the mid-1970s

Vaccination ended polio. 

“Polio infections peaked in the United States in 1952, with more than 21,000 paralytic cases. Following introduction of effective vaccines in 1955 (inactivated polio vaccine, IPV) and 1961 (oral poliovirus vaccine, OPV), polio incidence declined rapidly. The last case of wild poliovirus acquired in the United States was in 1979…. The Global Polio Eradication Program has dramatically reduced wild poliovirus transmission throughout the world. Type 2 and 3 wild poliovirus have been eradicated worldwide and endemic circulation of type 1 wild poliovirus persists only in two countries.”

Before COVID-19 even existed, historian Elena Conis reviewed the history of vaccination resistance, which has met every single new vaccine from smallpox onward. Her conclusion sounds prophetic, in the light of today’s vaccination resistance:

“Back then, states responded to epidemics of vaccine-preventable disease with ever-stricter laws and regulations requiring vaccination, and citizens who opposed vaccination pushed back with lawsuits and proposed legislation of their own. In time, other factors quieted the issue—in the face of war, or a new epidemic, or new cultural and economic preoccupations of the middle class, vaccination consensus often came easily. But, eventually, the issue always came back to the forefront. Americans’ reasons for resisting specific vaccines have always reflected the norms and anxieties of a particular moment in time; our national dispute about how much power government should exercise in enforcing vaccination, however, has been with us since the dawn of vaccination and shows no promise of permanent resolution.”

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Why I’m Staying Far Away From My Unvaccinated Relatives

Edward Jenner, English physician who discovered the smallpox vaccine in 1796. Vaccination eradicated smallpox from the world.

Just three weeks ago, only 195 people in Tennessee were hospitalized with COVID-19. In Memphis, Methodist University Hospital had no COVID patients at all. Now numbers are soaring. Covid-19 hospitalizations across Tennessee almost tripled, to 579. 

More than 95 percent of these new wave of COVID patients are unvaccinated. Nearly 80 percent are tied to the Delta variant, which is highly, highly contagious. And COVID is hitting young people hard. The average age of patients has dropped from 61 to 51. 

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Complicating the Simpleminded Story About Crime

Screaming about crime is a favorite past time of conservative politicians and headline writers. Like most things, facts about crime are more complicated than the fear-mongers want us to know. Here are a few of the complicated facts. 

Murders are up in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019. That is true in many states and cities, but not all. Murders are up in some cities with Republican mayors and some cities with Democratic mayors, and down in others. They are up in cities that trimmed police budgets slightly (and no city made major cuts). They are up in cities that increased police budgets. Politics has nothing to do with it. 

The murder rate in 2020 was far lower than the murder rate 25 years ago. A study of crime in 34 U.S. cities during calendar year 2020 found a homicide rate of 11.4 deaths per 100,000 residents. In 1995, the rate in the same cities was 19.4 deaths per 100,000 residents. 

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Too Lazy to Work? Not Really.

Some employers say they can’t find workers after the pandemic. People are lazy. They would rather collect unemployment. Et cetera. Do I believe that? No. The story is more complicated.

Many of the jobs that go unfilled are low-wage jobs. They pay so little that people literally cannot afford to work. 

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MN Republicans are not serious about law and order

You might think Republican law-and-order types would support funding for more prosecutors. Nope. Not when that request comes from Minnesota’s chief prosecutor, Attorney General Keith Ellison. In this legislative session, they would not fund much-needed attorneys for the criminal division of the attorney general’s office.

Originally published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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Time to Rebuild the IRS

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In 2011, the IRS investigated 2.4 million “nonfilers” – people who just didn’t bother filing or paying taxes at all. Last year? Only 362,000. That doesn’t mean people have become more conscientious about paying taxes. The dramatic drop-off in investigations, like the 42 percent drop in audits over the same time period, shows just how badly the IRS has been gutted over that time period. 

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Digging Deeper: The Justice Department Investigation of Minneapolis Police

On April 16, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced an investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department. The investigation will focus on patterns and practices of policing, not on an individual case.

This is the first “pattern and practice” investigation ordered by the Biden administration. Garland also revoked the Trump administration’s near-ban of these investigations.

This article was originally published by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

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Rotten Apples, Rotten Tree

6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. My phone buzzes with a text. “What are your thoughts on Walz ordering the National Guard to Brooklyn Center?” 

Governor Walz did not just call out the National Guard. He called out the whole armada of police and military forces assembled under the banner of Operation Safety Net. Operation Safety Net (OSN) was set up to protect property and police from any protests or violence happening after the Derek Chauvin trial. Over the past week, OSN proved unsafe in the highest degree for human beings.  

I hoped the National Guard would not be like the police. I hoped that the “citizen” part of their citizen-soldier identity would keep them from the violent, fearful, and racist police mentality that killed Daunte Wright. Instead, they proved indistinguishable from the other branches of the rotten tree that is policing in the United States. Continue reading

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Billions in Profit, Not One Cent for Taxes

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Fed-Ex, Nike, Xcel Energy, and dozens of other huge and hugely profitable companies paid not one red cent in taxes last year. While some 55 large corporations avoided taxes entirely, even more companies paid historically low levels because of the 2017 Trump tax cuts. This is just plain wrong.

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Hate Crime

Photo by L.C. Notaasen, published under Creative Commons license

 Two days ago, a 21-year-old white man went on a shooting rampage that targeted Asian women. He killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

Police said they do not know whether this was a hate crime. 

Instead of my usual analysis of events or issues, this blog post is mainly other people’s words.

Rest In Peace: 

– Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, mother of a 14 year old & 8mo old 

– Xiaojie Tan, 49, massage therapist & owner of 1 spa 

– Daoyou Feng, 44 

– Julie Park, in her 70s 

– Hyeon Jeong Park, 50s 

– Paul Andre Michels 

(2 more not yet named) 

CENTER THE VICTIMS. #StopAsianHate

Twitter says: She was old enough to be my grandma, 

and also

I am kind of not okay about the fact that this 21 year old killed women my mother’s age and so many people are like “well, shrug, that’s what happens when you have irresistible objects of lust.”

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