Elected officials lead us simply because of their positions — we have chosen them to do so. They lead by policy-making, they lead with the tone they set and the issues they choose to pursue.
That canny Cajun James Carville had this to say in Vox in April: “the Democratic Party can’t be more liberal than Sen. Joe Manchin. That’s the fact. We don’t have the votes.”
When it comes to the board of trustees of the Vermont State Colleges System deciding that the name Vermont State University should now represent Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College, an adage comes to mind: “It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Vermont is experiencing, first-hand, the far-reaching impacts of climate change and the global nature crisis. Winter temperatures are rising and snowfall totals are dropping, while many species of wildlife are shifting their ranges further to the north and higher in elevation if they can, or…
The late author Michael Crichton would’ve loved the scientists and entrepreneurs at Colossal, the American company that wants to repopulate the Siberian tundra with herds of woolly mammoth-like creatures, ostensibly to help combat climate change.
By President Biden’s predictions, fully vaccinated American adults would be able to receive a third shot of the coronavirus vaccine starting Monday.
On a surreal, sultry October night in 2001, the Yankees came back to the Bronx tied at two games apiece with the Oakland A’s in a playoff series delayed by the 9/11 attacks. The Yankees had been down 2-0 but battled back to force a deciding game, a moment that galvanized the hopes of a batte…
The influenza pandemic of 1918-’19 is the worst infectious-disease outbreak in American history.
By the time the sun set on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, a wounded, grieving nation wept. The full magnitude of the loss of life wasn’t yet known, but this much was certain: The United States had suffered an unprecedented attack on our own soil, with civilians, service members, and politica…
Federal judges ruled the traditional one town, one vote principle unconstitutional and in 1965 the Vermont House of Representatives voted to reapportion themselves. The representative of Stannard literally cried claiming their small community would never again have a representative. Fifty-si…
I consider myself a long-time champion of local democracy. I co-wrote with Frank Bryan a book subtitled “recreating democracy on a local scale” (The Vermont Papers, 1989). But over the years I have occasionally had the thought that there can also be a problem with local democracy, when power…
As I sit here, with four walls facing me, and a ceiling suspended above, my privilege in this world is unveiled. I’ve never had to fear where I will sleep the following night, search for a place to bathe nor go hungry because of food scarcity. I am never lacking in my basic human needs — for…
My biological Dad just bought an unfinished house near me. It is a solid timber-framed little gem tucked into what could only be described as an idyllic small canyon. The brook that runs through it begins about four miles west in an area well above 1,000 feet above sea level. There are no vi…
OneCare Vermont is an organization of health care providers with the shared goal of improving the health of Vermonters while slowing the rate of cost growth. These two outcomes are the essence of what we call value-based care. We have demonstrated success by bringing doctors, hospitals, and …
MICHAEL GERSON COLUMN
Advance for release Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, and thereafter
(For Gerson clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)
WASHINGTON -- "Poor is the nation that has no heroes," Cicero said. But poorer still is a nation with the kind of heroes celebrated on Fox News.
The nation's leading purveyor of lethal medical advice during a pandemic (trademark pending) has recently elevated the resisters against coronavirus vaccines -- an airline pilot here, a nurse there -- as models of citizenship. These abstainers are risking their livelihoods in the cause of . . . what? Well, that depends on your view of the vaccines themselves.
For generations we've had vaccine mandates, particularly for childhood diseases, in every state plus Washington D.C. Few thought to call this tyranny because communities have a duty to maintain public health, and individuals have a duty to reasonably accommodate the common good -- even if this means allowing your child to be injected with a substance carrying a minuscule risk of harm.
So there can be no objection rooted in principle to vaccine mandates, unless you want to question them all the way down to measles, mumps and rubella. The problem must be covid-19 in particular.
If the coronavirus vaccines are risky, experimental concoctions with frequent side effects, then government and business mandates are social coercion run amok. We might as well mandate vaping.
But if these vaccines are carefully tested and encourage greater immunity to a deadly disease, with minimal risk of side effects, then the "heroism" of vaccine resisters takes on a different connotation: It means resisters are less courageous and more selfish than your average 6-year-old getting a second MMR dose. Perhaps vaccine mandates should be modified to include lollipops for whingeing malcontents.
So which view is correct? If only there were empirical means, some scientific method, to test the matter. If only there had been three phases of clinical trials, involving tens of thousands of volunteers, demonstrating the drugs to be safe and effective. If only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration were constantly monitoring safety concerns about the vaccines. If only we could estimate the number of covid deaths that might have been prevented if vaccine uptake were higher.
To break the suspense -- we do live in such a world. "From June through September 2021," concluded a recent Peterson-KFF report, "approximately 90,000 covid-19 deaths among adults likely would have been prevented with vaccination." So the matter is simple: Who is making vaccination more likely to take place, and who is not?
In this light, it's hard to blame the small group of workers who have been misled into believing that liberty is the right to infect your neighbors with a deadly pathogen. The main fault lies with the media outlets that spotlight and elevate such people, and with political figures who seek their political dreams by encouraging lethal ignorance.
In the latter category, the Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas are the repellent standouts. If the coronavirus could vote, these men would be governors for life. Most recently, Abbott issued an executive order saying "no entity" could impose vaccine mandates in his state. So far, many Texas business entities have treated his order with contempt, preferring to comply with President Biden's vaccinate-or-test mandate.
In my political youth, conservatives praised state governments as "laboratories of innovation." Now they're graveyards of sanity and public spirit. And the actual graveyards provide evidence.
The effectiveness of vaccine mandates is demonstrated by current practice. The United States has generally high rates of coverage for childhood vaccinations. But in states that make it easy to gain an exemption -- for religious or sometimes "philosophical" reasons -- the rates of coverage decline. And we've seen outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles as a result.
For my part, I'm not even sure what a "religious" exemption means in the case of covid. I understand that a few religious traditions object to receiving medical care entirely. But I don't think this is the main excuse for evangelicals seeking exemptions from covid vaccinations. What type or tradition of religion asserts the right to avoid minor risks and inconveniences in service to our neighbors? The Church of Perpetual Selfishness? The coven of Ayn Rand? Do Christians really want to be identified as people who permit breast augmentation but frown on vaccination? Getting vaccinated is not only good public health; it is also a small but important act of generosity.
Abbott and his ilk are seeking a morally desolate world in which people demand their autonomy even if it kills their neighbor. But there is a better world in which institutions have duties to the health and safety of citizens, and citizens have obligations to the health and happiness of one another. That is not only a better place to live -- it is a place where more of us would remain alive.
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Michael Gerson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As is often the way, Vermont boasts some of the most forward-leaning voter access laws in the country. Early voting, mail-in voting, and more are all initiatives that the state has undertaken to expand to all eligible voters their constitutional right to cast a ballot and lend their voice to…
When we mention “development” many people think of large-scale projects. Yet within Rockingham Incremental Development Working Group (RIDWG), the focus is on individual property owners or “micro-developers,” each pursuing their own tiny development interests and goals. The Incremental Approa…
I’d like to apologize because I’ve been keeping a secret. Sitting in a Guilford, Vermont farmhouse, I’ve known for several months about the Pandora Papers. But like 600 journalists in 117 countries around the world, I was sworn to secrecy.
As someone who consistently touts the inherent goodness of human beings, I was particularly struck with the following statement that I recently encountered online: “Sometimes you need to stop seeing the good in people and start seeing what they show you.” I felt the anonymous author was spea…
We have over 2,000 woodworking shops in Vermont.
Letters to the Editor
To the Editor: On Wednesday (Oct. 6), a picture perfect Vermont fall day, a good friend went for a bike ride that ended suddenly with a crash on the West River Trail. He doesn't know what happened because he remembers nothing from that day. His only souvenirs are a concussion, four broken ri…
To the Editor: In congratulations for reporter Bob Audette's excellent reporting of the kerfuffle between the town of Chesterfield and Joy LLC ‘s admitted failure to follow the rules ("Spofford Lake property owner presents 'olive branch' to town," Oct. 12), I offer the following assessment. …
To the editor: I am responding to the article complaining about a problem with Halifax employee paychecks ("Halifax employees experience payroll delays," Oct. 7). I also question the placement of this article by Chris Mays on the front page of the Brattleboro Reformer.
To the editor: I concur with letter writer Mark Hanna of Whitingham ("Problems with new delivery plan," Sept 30) about the short-sightedness of the Reformer's new delivery plan.
To the editor: We appreciate your intentions to save energy by piggybacking delivery of the paper with the (continually deteriorating, under Mr. Louis DeJoy, but that’s another conversation) United States Postal Service. But this won’t play out well.
To the editor: As high school vandalism, fights, and weapons make front page news, I hope we can acknowledge that bad things sometimes happen in good schools because teenagers are very prone to making mistakes.
To the editor: I am writing in response to the article which appeared today (Oct. 5) in the Reformer regarding Peter Shumlin’s proposed development of the Ranney Farm in Westminster West ("Shumlin's neighbors turn out to oppose subdivision"). I am one of the "neighbors" who oppose the propos…
To the editor: Regarding the article "'Climate vacations' proposed to replace Christmas, Thanksgiving," Oct. 6. Thanks to the Reformer for covering this new idea in climate rescue.
To the editor: Watching Farmhouse Square at Retreat Farm go from an empty expanse of grass to a sea of people on Thursday afternoons is always mesmerizing. The formula is simple — good food, live music, an inspired setting, and a community that clearly loves to be together.