Uncommon Sense

September 29, 2021

Logic, People, L–O–G–I–C

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:39 am
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Consider the following photograph.

The Young lady’s tee-shirt is implying that since Jesus wasn’t vaccinated, then she doesn’t need to be either.

I think this person needs a lesson or two in logic. According to her, Jesus wasn’t vaccinated, but then he wasn’t exposed to COVID-19, either and, well, vaccinations hadn’t been invented, yet.

Would it have not been better, instead, to ask “What would Jesus do?” And then answer “In order to love my neighbor, I will get vaccinated.”

In addition, Jesus, she claims, is a god. Gods don’t get sick unless they want to. Is she a god? No? Just an ordinary human? I wonder if she thinks that all of the rules that apply to gods also apply to her.

August 3, 2021

If I Said It Once . . .

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 7:46 am
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. . . some problems take care of themselves. I read this in this morning’s The Guardian:

Health and government officials have in recent days painted the resurgence of Coronavirus as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, highlighting that areas of the country with the most spread were those with lower than average vaccination rates, and almost all hospitalizations and deaths are now among those declining to be vaccinated.

I wonder when those most negatively affected will realize that they are being sacrificed on an altar of ideology.

July 31, 2021

OMG, We Are That Stupid?

According to surveys and modeling by The Economist magazine, the single greatest predictor of whether an American has been vaccinated is whether they voted for Joe Biden or Donald Trump last November.

Is there a better sign that we have taken a public health issue, a basic nonpartisan issue, and politicized it?

Are we that stupid?

Yes, we are.

Of course, a massive dose of demagoguery was involved but that is the direction our politics have been turning for quite some time.

Where were all of the anti-vax people when we developed the vaccination scheme for our children? For example, here are the common vaccinations that U.S. children are supposed to get:
Chickenpox
Diphtheria
Hib (protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b)
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Influenza (Flu)
Measles
Meningitis
Mumps
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Polio
Rubella
Tetanus
And for Chicago School Children
In addition to the above:
Invasive Pneumococcal Disease
Varicella
I assume your local community will have similar standards.

There were anti-vax people before, some screaming “religious exemption!” but they were a very small minority, not 40% of the population.

While researching the Chicago school vaccination requirements I found that religious exceptions are granted. So I downloaded the form and lo and behold, they require documentation! Here are the relevant sections on how to fill out the form:
How to complete the Certificate of Religious Exemption to Required Immunizations and/or Examinations Form
• Complete the Parent/Guardian sections, which include key information about the student and the school the student will be entering, and the immunizations or examinations for which religious exemption is being requested. Provide a statement of religious belief(s): for each vaccination/examination requested.
• The form must be signed by the child’s parent or legal guardian . AND the child’s health care provider* responsible for performing the child’s health examination
• Submit the completed form to local school authority on or before October 15th of the school year, or by an earlier enrollment date established by a school district.
• The local school authority is responsible for determining whether the information supplied on the Certificate of Religious Exemption to Required Immunizations and/or Examinations Form constitutes a valid religious objection.
Religious Exemption from Immunizations and/or Examination Form Process:
• The local school authority shall inform the parent or legal guardian, at the time that the exemption is presented, of exclusion procedures, should there be an outbreak of one or more diseases from which the student is not protected, in accordance with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) rules, Control of Communicable Diseases Code (77 Ill. Adm. Code 690).
• Exempting a child from health, dental, or eye examination does not exempt the child from participation in the program of physical education training provided in Section 27-5 through 27-7 of the Illinois School Code [105 ILCS 5/27-5 through 105 ILCS 5/27-7]. A separate request for exemption from physical education, if desired, would need to be presented.

The key part of this exception in my mind is: The local school authority is responsible for determining whether the information supplied on the Certificate of Religious Exemption to Required Immunizations and/or Examinations Form constitutes a valid religious objection.

So, the anti-vax people seem to be signing up to be home schooling parents, no? Oh, goody, the transmission of ignorance codified.

There are Always Consequences
The state of Montana recently passed what they, euphemistically, called their “Human Rights Act,” which does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or against trans children, but now protects a class of people who don’t want to get vaccinated, whether against COVID–19 or the measles. Yes, Montana’s “small government” Republicans have mandated by law that Montana’s citizens cannot refuse to hire unvaccinated people to work in their homes, or as caretakers for their elderly parents, or they will be in violation of the state’s human rights law. O . . . M . . . G!

Okay, let’s consider a hypothetical. Let’s say that a massive number of cases of leprosy break out in Montana and there is a vaccine. Who do you think would be first in line to get that vaccine? Those same assholes who passed this law and others like it under the false flag of “personal liberty,” which is a joke coming from the party that waved the flag of personal responsibility as a protection against government meddling in our public and private lives. Now they are employing government meddling to avoid having to recommend personal responsibility. That they consider COVID-19 and its variants to be basically a case of the flu, and a health basket case like Donald Trump pulled through it quickly telling them it ain’t so much, allows them to play fast and loose with the issue, milking it for political gain. But a nasty disease, such as leprosy, or one that makes your dick fall off, would have those very same Republicans trampling over other people to get their shots.

July 23, 2021

Are Religious Exceptions to Vaccination Requirements Valid?

According to the LA Times:

“Many universities, including the University of California, are requiring vaccination for all students, staff and faculty returning to campus. Many employers, public and private, are doing so as well. These policies are essential to protect public health. The virulent Delta variant of the Coronavirus has made it imperative to ensure vaccination of as many people as possible.

“Unfortunately, though, many of these policies have an exception for those who have a religious objection to vaccination. These are neither required by the law nor are they desirable as a matter of policy because they make it possible for anyone to circumvent the vaccine mandate.

“The UC’s mandatory vaccination policy, for example, has an exception for those who object on religious grounds. It states that this is because the law requires such an exemption, declaring: “The University is required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to . . . employees who object to vaccination based on their sincerely-held religious belief, practice, or observance.”

“This is simply wrong as a matter of law. No law requires such a religious exemption. In terms of free exercise of religion under the 1st Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago in Employment Division vs. Smith that the Constitution does not require exceptions to general laws for religious beliefs. In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said that as long as a law is neutral, not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion and of general applicability to all individuals, it cannot be challenged based on free exercise of religion. In June, in Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia, the court reaffirmed this legal test.

“Laws that require vaccination are the epitome of a neutral law of general applicability: a requirement that applies to everyone and that was not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion. Even if this were not so, the government can infringe on religious freedom if its action is necessary to achieve a compelling interest.”

Okay, now let us consider the “religious” basis for such objections. Most of the objectors in this country are Christians, so I will comment from that viewpoint.

Do you see anywhere in the New Testament, or even the Old for that matter, where it says “Thou shalt not vaccinate”? or “Thou shalt not take medicine of any kind?” or “Thou shalt not befoul your body, the temple of your soul?” Anything? No? Hmm, interesting.

Religion is the third rail of American politics, not Social Security or any other policy. (For those not getting the reference to a “third rail” it comes from electric trains in which the wheels of the cars travel on the normal two rails but a third rail is added to supply the electric power needed to make the train go. Touching either of the two and the third rail results in a massive amount of electricity coursing through your body and usually death. S)

Religion is such a hot button issue, if someone claims a religious basis for and exception to law or rules, we accept that without comment. We do not require people to fill out a form explaining the source of the objection with appropriate references and citations. Nope, we just accept what is claimed as being valid. (What can you expect from a government that accepted Scientology as a legitimate religion?)

Basically what we have here is people who are saying “Neener, neener, neener, you can’t make me! Uh, ‘cause, ‘cause . . . the Bible says so!”

No, it does not and we have to stop pretending that thousand year old documents, especially those which claim that diseases come from demon possession are fit guides to modern life.

There is a long history of “religious exemption” claims from fundamentalist theists. They opposed smallpox vaccination because it was against God’s will. They have opposed many other medical treatments as being “against God’s will” without showing how the heck they know what God’s will is. And endangering many of the rest of us. I think they are opposing modernity as a whole because they are losing an understanding of how they fit into our culture. Instead if white neighbors being the norm, now they neighbors “of color,” and . . . gasp . . . people of different cultures. It just offends their sense of the way things s’posed to be.

July 20, 2021

Right Wing Nonsense Has Religious Roots

In a recent column S.E. Cupp reported that “(Newsmax) Anchor Rob Schmitt, previously a host at Fox News, suggested that COVID-19 vaccines are “generally kind of going against nature.” He added, “Like, I mean, if there is some disease out there — maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”

Ms. Cupp’s point is that conservatives used to be against population control in any form, but apparently another conservative principle got Trump busted.

Actually, there is a long, long history of the religious opposing and protesting interventive medicine. The argument was it was God’s will that someone got sick and if they were to die from the disease and medical treatment prevented that then we were thwarting God’s will. (Hubris 101: How the heck can humans thwart the will of an all-powerful being? If such a being wanted someone dead, they would die, right?)

So, now a conservative icon (really?) is asking, shouldn’t we let COVID-19 run its course? Isn’t that the way evolution is supposed to work? (He didn’t add the evolution bit; I did.) Ah, so treating the disease is not a good idea, uh, so this means that when President Trump got the disease, they shouldn’t have spent millions of dollars treating him, to save his life? Trump was wrong and all of the medicos, too? Or is this just another sign of how shabbily the President was treated by liberal scientists?

It is hard to tell when these people are serious or just blathering nonsense because it drives ratings. One of the worst things we have done is made news media pay their own way.

June 28, 2021

It Is Easy to Be Confused

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Reason,The News — Steve Ruis @ 11:47 am
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I read two blog posts recently, one that stated that none of the vaccinated (in the US) are dying from COVID-19 and the other (from the UK) that only the vaccinated are dying from COVID-19. Actually, both are true.

In the US, the unvaccinated are many, just under half of the population. In the UK, the percent vaccinated is approaching two thirds.

The vaccines are reported to be in the mid-90’s% in preventive effectiveness, which is not 100%, so the vaccinated will still be getting sick, but the vaccines also prevent more severe symptoms, so the vaccinated getting the disease will be dying at a lower rate.

Consider a hypothetical region that is 100% vaccinated. What is the death rate of the unvaccinated? It is zero, of course. The death rate of the vaccinated must be higher, by default, but what people don’t hear is that the death rate is much lower than it had been for the unvaccinated. So, the vaccinated dying at a higher rate than the unvaccinated is a logical consequence of a vaccination program.

I wish that headline writers would strive to be more accurate and more complete.

Otherwise you end up with people seeing “None of the Vaccinated are Dying” and “Only the Vaccinated are Dying” and those who are not detail oriented throw up their hands and claim that “you can’t trust the news media because everything changes at the drop of a hat. Or the ideologues choose which stories to “pass on” to others who are like-minded.

In writing this I realize that a great many of the “issues of the day” have been treated the same way, exacerbating our divisions.

Do you have any ideas as to how to fix this? (Obviously expecting more from the general population isn’t going to work as it hasn’t worked for forever.)

May 11, 2021

Herd Immunity My Ass . . . Just Sayin’

Filed under: Culture,Medicine — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
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For your information, the adult population of the U.S. (18 years and up) is about 74% of all Americans. Of those 116 million have been fully vaccinated, about 34% of the total population. So, are we close to the 80-85% of the population needed to achieve the mythical “Herd Immunity”? We are not even half way there!

Part of this has to do with the fact that vaccines have just recently been approved for 16-18 year olds and, at least here in Chicago, youths down to 12 years old will begin getting vaccinated on Thursday!

In other words we haven’t even being trying for herd immunity as we excluded 26% of the population from getting vaccinated and we are just now opening the gates for part of those, the 12-17 year olds. We haven’t even begun on the under 12s.

And I am still hearing people claiming that everything will be “opened up” or “back open” by the Fourth of July.

I think these people need to start looking at reality. I have a fine view from this chair right here. I am sure they can find a similar viewpoint.

May 3, 2021

It Says So Right on the Label

Filed under: History,language,Medicine,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:00 am
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I was reading the label of an over the counter (OTC) medicine and right on the front it said “No Artificial Sweeteners” and “Contains 44% Xylitol.” Not being a chemist, you might not be confused here.

Xylitol is produced from xylose, a naturally occurring sugar, by both chemical and biological methods. In the chemical process, catalytic hydrogenation of xylose produces the sugar substitute xylitol. In the biological process, quite a few chemical “pretreatments” are needed before biological action (via bacteria or yeast) creates the desired product.

The distinction here between “artificial sweetener” and “xylitol” is “wafer thin” (“Waffer thin” as pronounced by John Cleese in the Monty Python masterpiece “The Meaning of Life.”)

The difficulty is due only to advertising, which is a form of propaganda (which it was called pre-WW2, then propaganda became a “dirty” word). In advertiser lingo there are “bad” words and “good” words. Only “good” words are to be used with one’s own products and only “bad” words are to be used with other products.

For example, here are some “good” words: natural and all-natural, fresh, wholesome, etc. And here are some “bad” words: artificial, synthetic, chemical, etc.

In the above instance xylitol can be found in nature, but it is hard to harvest, so it is synthesized chemically or biologically. Yep, xylitol (chemical names are not capitalized, btw) is artificial (the xylitol they put in that bottle certainly was anyway).

Now, before you go bonkers on me, do realize that butter is artificial. What? Butter isn’t natural? Nope, butter is not natural, certainly not “all-natural.” You can not go pick a pat or two off of a butter bush out back, you know. The word artificial means made through man’s arts. Many things you think are natural aren’t really. For example, you go out into your backyard and pick an apple off of your tree and take a bite. Hmm, natural goodness, right? It seems so (and I have fond memories of doing just that as a child; I can still recall the taste of those apples). But most often it is not. Most fruit trees have been artificially selected to produce “non-natural” fruit, hybrids. Almost all of the plants we eat were never part of nature. We created them though artifice. Artichokes were thistles, corn was this spindly little plant with inedible seeds, sugar beets were tiny little things, not the football-sized things we grow today, and all bananas and grapes had seeds. The change process is called artificial selection to distinguish our efforts from nature’s.

Take the case of aspirin. Aspirin, by far, is the most successful drug ever devised. It’s century plus history began from the recognition that a tea made from willow bark had analgesic properties (the Egyptians knew this). But the tea was bitter as hell and if you used a bit too much it gave you a very upset stomach. Much later, it was discovered that the active ingredient in the willow bark tea was salicylic acid. An effort was made to find a chemical variant of salicylic acid that was still potent by which didn’t have those side effects. Since salicylic acid is a carboxylic acid, one attempt was to turn it into an ester, a much less irritating class of compounds. Aspirin is the ester formed from salicylic acid and acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, and a star was born. Aspirin is artificial and I am happy about that.

Just being “natural” is not a sign of “good” or “safe.” Rattlesnake venom, arsenic, and monkey dung are all natural but I don’t want any of them in my body. In foods and pharmaceuticals, if a natural substance shows some promise, it is studied to see if modifications could make it better. In the case of pharmaceuticals, if they are strictly chemical we look to see if we can synthesize it as a lower cost/higher volume process of creating it. Instead of extracting rare colored dyes from clams, we can synthesize what we want and have more variety and permanence. This is what we do.

Problems arise when what we synthesize isn’t recognized by the biological process responsible for the breakdown and recycling of our wastes (they are not natural you see). We are currently experiencing these problems with oceanic plastic waste and microfiber residues in all natural waters.

A Side Note Question—What kills more fish: chemical pollutants or plastic waste? The answer is: commercial fishing. We kill via this method orders of magnitude more fish than all of the sources of pollution put together. I mention this because we have blind spots and advertisers take advantage of them.

April 6, 2021

Getting Shot in Chicago

Filed under: Medicine,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:37 am
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Claudia and I walked a couple of blocks to a local field house today and got our first vaccine shot (Pfizer). I have read a couple of people’s experiences but mine seemed different. We were greeted by the ward alderman himself (he is the one responsible for setting up the event) and every volunteer, paid or not, was cheerful, efficient and helpful. Lines were long but moved along smartly. There was a volunteer every few feet to answer questions. It was nice to feel a community coming together to help one another. (I wonder how that felt to staunch Republicans or Trumpsters?) No fights, no squabbles, just good vibes and gratitude flowing.

We can do this, so why can’t we do it more often?

Also, I wonder how many of you had a first thought that “getting shot” meant by a gun?

February 5, 2021

Anti-Mask Protests

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
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There continues to be anti-mask wearing protest rallies occurring fairly frequently (Only slaves wear masks . . . only slaves wear masks! Yeah!). The question is: what to do about those protesting by not wearing masks?

These are our fellow citizens so I think we should treat them with respect. I also expect them to treat the rest of us also with respect. So, they are free to make their own life choices. They are also free to suffer their own life choice consequences. This is a problem that solves itself, we just don’t want them to take us down with them.

So, we will respect their desire to not wear a mask, but this means that they cannot attend an event that requires masks. If a store/restaurant/whatever requires people to be masked, they may not enter. If the city or state they are in requires masks be worn out in public spaces, they must stay home. If their children’s schools reopen, but require the kids to wear masks, they will have to home school their kids.

I would also suggest that since they are engaging in reckless behavior that they should be last in line for respirators and oxygen in hospitals and last in line for vaccinations. Oh, and should they get the ghastly disease, their health insurance should not have to pay for their treatment because they were undertaking reckless behavior that they were warned against, but continued doing.

Oh, about the Anti-Vax Rallies . . . <ditto>.

Do realize I am being consistent. In my home state, California, a law was passed that motorcycle and scooter riders had to wear helmets when operating their rides on public roadways. Ah, the anguish expressed! “They are taking away our freedom!” riders complained. Not being someone to take away someone’s freedom, I also think that actions have consequences. So, if a motorcyclist gets into an accident when helmetless, then their insurance company should not need to pay out anything as reckless behavior was involved in the accident. (Yes, they still need to have insurance, silly!) Also, their health insurers shouldn’t be liable for paying to have them patched up, either. So, emergency healthcare professionals can, if they choose, patch them up a little, but only after their ability to pay has been established.

The cost of liberty/freedom certainly isn’t cheap. Sometimes it involves more than eternal vigilance, sometimes it involves hard cash. Maybe we should have the helmetless/maskless/vaccineless post a bond . . . hmm, still thinking about this one.

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