Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. July 22, 2021.

Editorial: Even Parson’s tardy half-awakening to vaccine imperative irks those who’d rather die

After stocks tumbled Monday on news that the COVID-19 pandemic could sabotage our economic recovery, some prominent conservatives came out forcefully in favor of lifesaving vaccinations.

With the market in full slide on Monday morning, Steve Doocy said on “Fox & Friends,” “If you have the chance, get the shot. It will save your life.” That night, Sean Hannity implored viewers to “take COVID seriously,” and said he believes in the “science of vaccinations.”

A Tuesday column by Hugh Hewitt said what’s true: “At this moment, the national security case for the federal and state governments to mandate vaccinations among the active-duty military and National Guard is so obvious as to foreclose debate. The same is true for all employees at all levels of federal, state and local governments. We don’t know what is ahead; it could be awful, and so the governments have to act accordingly. Mandates on the private sector are beyond the government’s authority right now, but it may not remain that way: The risks are that real.”

Suddenly, more conservatives were willing to echo Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s call for the revivification of common sense. Last week, Cox blasted right-wing “talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine. That kind of stuff is just, it’s ridiculous. It’s dangerous, it’s damaging, and it’s killing people. I mean, it’s literally killing their supporters. And that makes no sense to me.” If your product is fury, it doesn’t have to make sense.

But when we first heard that Missouri’s Mike Parson was going to announce some incentives to encourage Missourians to get vaccinated, it looked like even Gov. HardHead had at last seen reason. And he had, sort of.

On Wednesday, he said Missourians who get a COVID vaccination will be eligible for a prize of up to $10,000. More people need to “consider” getting inoculated, said Parson, such a bold follower of his base that he’s careful never to get out ahead of them.

Naturally, even this mild, tardy effort to save lives drew an angry response from many of those watching his announcement online. If the vaccines “were good you wouldn’t have to bribe, buy or coerce anyone,” said one. “Pick up a bible. We are in Revelation.”

“Gov. Mike Parson sold himself to China,” said another. “I’m ashamed to admit I voted for you,” said a third.

Maybe the answer to Gov. Cox’s question about what possible sense it could make to be complicit in the death of your own supporters is that politicians like Parson have for some time been listening to those unvaccinated Americans who say things like, “Parson sold himself to China,” instead of listening to those who, as Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Brytney Cobia has told us, often use their final words to plead for the vaccine.

“One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine,” she wrote on Facebook last Sunday. “I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political.”

On Wednesday, Parson not only stated the obvious but understated it: “COVID cases have been increasing in Missouri, and across the Midwest,” he said. “Unvaccinated Missourians are the primary target of this COVID 19 strain.”

Thankfully, Donald Kauerauf, announced as Missouri’s new health director, was more direct. “People need to get vaccinated,” he said. “It’s a clear answer. People need to get vaccinated.”

MISSOURI ONE OF THE SICKEST STATES WITH DELTA COVID-19 VARIANT

For months, public health officials and others have been telling the governor that the delta COVID-19 variant would arrive, and that the surge among the unprotected would overburden hospitals and health clinics, disrupt businesses and schools, and kill more people.

Parson responded to these warnings by speaking unhelpfully about personal responsibility, local control and freedom. “We’re not going to force anybody to take a vaccine in this state,” he said Wednesday.

Perhaps the kids lining up for required inoculations could contribute to the governor’s understanding of the state’s vaccination policy.

His cowardice has contributed to the fact that fewer than half of those eligible in our state have had full doses of any COVID vaccine. By some estimates, Missouri is now one of the sickest states in the nation from COVID.

“We’ve got six times, seven times the number of new cases per day coming now than a few months ago,” outgoing Kansas City Health Department Director Rex Archer said Wednesday.

Perhaps a chance for $10,000 will get more shots in arms. We’ll see.

The announcement is important either way, because Parson does seem to be waking up to the continuing danger of the COVID virus.

Yet in his remarks Wednesday, Parson still couldn’t resist undercutting his own message by urging Missourians to disregard the “clutter” when making their vaccine decisions. “You look at some of the news agencies in this state,” he said. “It’s totally propaganda.”

He specifically mentioned the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri Independent and The Kansas City Star. Shots at us are fine, but not when they undermine this simple message: Get the shot. To quote Steve Doocy, it will save your life.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 22, 2021.

Editorial: Parson’s allegation of coronavirus ‘propaganda’ is dishonest and dangerous

Gov. Mike Parson, embarrassed by another spike in Missouri’s coronavirus infections, has once again resorted to his stock response: Shoot the messenger. Parson on Wednesday singled out the Post-Dispatch, The Kansas City Star and the Missouri Independent nonprofit news site for spreading “propaganda” about the delta variant that’s raging across the state.

It’s a curious allegation, given that the data these and other credible news organizations have reported comes from official figures about new coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths. That data for this supposed propaganda originates with Parson’s own government.

Even worse, Parson himself engaged in spreading misinformation by falsely claiming the Missouri Independent is “a George Soros organization” (a reference to the liberal Jewish billionaire and reliable bogeyman for right-wing fanatics). The trope of a supposed Soros/Missouri Independent connection — one with a disturbing undertone of anti-Semitism — has been debunked by fact-checkers.

Missouri has among the lowest vaccination rates in America, and among the highest new infection rates. That’s not propaganda but verifiable fact confirmed by data from Parson’s own administration. The fact that Parson on Wednesday unveiled a major new incentive program of $10,000 checks to get people to take the vaccine indicates that he understands the scope of the crisis in front of him. And yet, for no apparent reason except his own thin skin for criticism, he insists on taking potshots at mainstream media organizations for reporting the facts.

Parson was asked by a reporter Wednesday about “certain news outlets that are raising questions about people getting the vaccine.” The question was an obvious reference to irresponsible coverage by conservative-media organs like Fox News, whose commentators have outright lied about vaccine-related fatalities and other issues.

Indeed, Parson’s answer began by bemoaning news agencies that engage in “propaganda,” putting out “misinformation, just simply to put fear into people’s minds and just cause chaos” — a perfect encapsulation of right-wing social and new media’s bizarre anti-vaccine campaign. But then Parson revealed that he was actually talking about mainstream Missouri publications that have been reporting the facts from his own administration and warning the public about the ramifications of refusing vaccination.

Parson’s deft shifting of blame from his own end of the political spectrum isn’t quite as irresponsible as the behavior of Fox News or of some of Parson’s own fellow elected Republicans. But the more their base of followers is encouraged to distrust solid information from mainstream sources, the more likely those followers are to embrace the flurry of dangerous lies coming from the right. The result being more vaccination reluctance followed by more deaths and hospitalizations from the coronavirus.

Parson didn’t offer a single specific example of the supposed propaganda he thinks these news organizations are spreading. If he has such examples, let’s hear them. If not, he should heed his own advice from that press conference: “All you’ve got to do is just be honest.”

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Jefferson City News Tribune. July 24, 2021.

Editorial: State needs action on illegal slot machines

Illegal gambling machines have pervaded our state in recent years. Lawmakers and law enforcers need to address the problem.

Illegal gambling machines have pervaded our state in recent years. Lawmakers and law enforcers need to address the problem.

The Missouri Gaming Association estimates there are at least 14,000 illegal machines — almost as many as the number of legal ones in the state’s 13 casinos.

We understand the Gaming Association’s opposition to illegal gambling — all those machines at gas stations, restaurants and truck stops are taking a chunk of profits from the casinos and the Missouri Lottery.

But the public should care, too. These machines aren’t regulated or taxed like ones in casinos. So there’s nothing to guard against minors or problem gamblers playing and the state isn’t getting a financial boost from the unregulated machines.

Unlike the Missouri Lottery, no proceeds from the unregulated machines are being used for education, for instance.

As we recently reported, the machines are similar to slot machines: Players insert money, choose a game and wager, and are usually paid by a business’ cashier if they win.

Owners of the machines have tried to get around the law by claiming they have elements of skill, so they aren’t games of chance.

However, the Missouri Highway Patrol said otherwise. In June, it confiscated 50 of the machines from two businesses in the Springfield area.

The bust seemed to be a show of force, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Much more enforcement is needed.

Action from state lawmakers also is needed to clarify the laws. Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, advanced a bill this past session that would have done that. But it never advanced past the Senate floor.

We urge lawmakers to make addressing the problem a priority during the next session.

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