Thursday, May 7, 2015

Let's TPP The Neighbors!

Friends, it's time to talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. This is a free-trade treaty involving twelve nations around the Pacific Rim (and possibly more later). These are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, The United States, and Vietnam. Collectively these countries account for 40% of the world's GDP, making this one of the most significant trade deals ever brokered. Naturally, this has attracted staunch advocates as well as fierce opponents. Who's right and who's wrong here? What follows is my qualified analysis after doing some research, and I hope people find it helpful.

Elizabeth Warren is against it. So is Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton has tentatively said some things in opposition, but is (as always) holding her cards close to her well-tailored blazer. But Barack Obama is very much in favor of it, and many analysts see this as a legacy deal for him. Why the disparity? What has some Dems fighting to stop it, while others within the same party are so anxious to see it passed?

First, let's all acknowledge something here: we're all flying blind when it comes to the issue of this trade deal. Much of what's involved is being kept secret, and it's only through security breaches that we know anything about this treaty at all. Were it not for Julian Assange and Wikileaks, we wouldn't even be able to have this debate. (Something to bear in mind the next time someone attempts to argue that Wikileaks is tantamount to treason.) But if we don't know what's in the TPP, how can we truly evaluate it's merits or demerits? The sad answer is, we can't - not really. But we can take the information that's been leaked to the general public, analyze that, and at least come to some reasonable (if tentative) conclusions. We can also evaluate the actions of certain insiders (people who know what's going on) who champion or chide this deal, and draw some conclusions based on what they have to say and what we know about them, personally.

First, let's talk major impacts. What significant changes will this treaty bring, based on what we currently know? Well, primarily, it seems that the major beneficiaries will be businesses which rely heavily upon intellectual property rights. Copyright infringement will be more sternly enforced under this trade deal, allowing Hollywood to crack down on piracy of movies, and tech companies to better able to control unauthorized use of proprietary software. It would also better enforce trademarks, making knock-off brands less profitable for foreign manufacturers. Sadly, it would also make it easier for major pharmaceutical manufacturers to keep cheaper drugs out of the market. Given that the businesses which rely upon these kinds of laws are typically left-leaning in their political support, it's understandable why some Democrats might be in favor of such a deal.

What about jobs? Opponents say that this trade deal will be "NAFTA on steroids," and that more jobs will be lost overseas, labor unions will be weakened, and what jobs remain will have lower wages. This seems to be a legitimate concern. According to the Economic Policy Institute, such a treaty would have a negative impact on both number and quality of jobs unless it included a strong provision regulating currency manipulation. In other words, it should do something to prevent a country from deliberately devaluing its currency by over-printing its money, thus gaining a trade advantage by being able to export more and offer cheaper labor. If a strong currency control were present to prevent such actions, lower-valued currencies would quickly balance out, and American jobs would, in fact, be protected. But does the TPP include such a provision? Sadly, we are not sure. It could potentially protect jobs, but even if it did, it would not necessarily create them. A recent report has shown that nearly 80% of Americans already live below or near the poverty line. The last thing we need is something that will diminish or limit wage growth, even a tiny bit.

Will lower tariffs boost the economy? Proponents say that there will be a benefit in reduced tariffs and more open trade, but is that true? Economist Paul Krugman points out that tariffs are already so low in general that a further reduction really won't have a significant impact, and he's right. There may be a few more American cars in Japan, but aside from that, there will not be much of a change. Therefore, arguments about more open trade increasing business are unfounded. Unless this trade deal suddenly includes China and India, any increased business activity will be negligible.

What about the environment? Will this trade deal violate national sovereignty and allow mega-corporations to sue the government in order to circumvent mining, foresting and fossil-fuel rights? Critics say it will. They say that a corporation could call upon third-party arbitration to get around restrictions meant to protect the environment. But is this true? Possibly, but not necessarily. For starters, the arbitrator could potentially see the wisdom behind the environmental protections and rule against the corporation's lawsuit. Also, other environmental protections could be added through such a treaty. Yes, the 12 nations involved represent 40% of the world's economy, but they also represent 25% of the world's fishing consumption. A trade deal that opens up trade in fish - provided that fishing has been done within legal restrictions - could actually benefit everyone by allowing fish populations to recover, resulting in more food for everyone, to say nothing of a healthy ocean. Such a trade deal would also be able to clamp down on illegal trade of black-market natural resources, and not just illegally caught fish or whale-oil. Poached lumber, game or other ill-gotten goods could have a more difficult time getting to market, decreasing both supply and demand and actually helping the environment. There is risk, but there is also potential reward.

Finally, let's look at Obama and his endorsement of the TPP. He has flat-out called Elizabeth Warren wrong for opposing it, and this comes from a man who seldom has a harsh word for anyone, much less someone within his own party. What are we to make of this? Surely, Our Trophy President knows more about what's potentially in this treaty than we do. But are we simply supposed to put our faith in him on this one?

Critics of this trade deal are calling it crony capitalism. They say that Obama is paying back the big corporate donors who helped him get elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. But he's a lame duck now. Obama could simply decide to screw over Big Corporate in favor of what the people of America better need for a sustainable economy, right?

Ah, but there's the matter of his successor, isn't there? In order for Hillary to win, she'll need the backing of the same big corporate firms who backed Obama. It's no secret who those corporate firms are. Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Google, Hollywood, Music Firms, Big Pharma, Big Banking, Comcast and Time Warner. Maybe the TPP does make us lose ground somewhat, but it helps the firms just named quite a lot, and that could have major benefits for the Democratic Party.

Ultimately, it might boil down to one simple question: Do you trust Obama's judgement on this, or not?

So here is my cursory, and very tentative conclusion: Will this treaty hurt the American economy? My view is that it will, but not, I think, by very much. The benefits are not substantial, but neither are the costs. Yes, it will hurt unions, but they're all but dead, and the concept of unionizing needs to hit the reset button - possibly by unionizing the service sector. Yes, it could hurt the environment, but it could also help it in other ways. Yes it could cost jobs in the short run, but it could protect them in the long run.

The bottom line is this: We live in a post Citizens' United world of politics, and that means the big donors get to decide who can compete, and how well they are funded. We The People get the final say (if we actually bother to vote, that is), but the nominations and the popularity contest is directed by the money. If the TPP turns out to be a bad deal, but gets Hillary elected by making the Big Corporate Donors happy, it's worth the trade-off. Treaties can always be re-negotiated, especially if people get disgusted and show a significant amount of buyer's remorse. But we are probably only one more presidential term away from putting the Supreme Court out of reach of moon-bat conservatives, and thus ending the destructive culture war that has so torn our nation. The TPP might be the key to doing that. If so, I say fine - for now. I reserve the right to change my mind if new evidence comes to light.

But I also say this: We need to get more people involved in the debate! Go tell people to read up about this treaty. Get them interested! Get them motivated! Let's tell them how important it is to at least try to learn about just one complex piece of legislation before it happens. In other words...

Let's TPP the neighbors!



Monday, April 27, 2015

The End Of Journalism In America

One last thought regarding CSS, Corporate Sponsored Stupidity (see previous post). I mentioned that CSS has so infected the minds of people that the news only placates to one side or the other - such is the brand-loyalty which has poisoned citizens against the truth. Well, there is another consequence that I would be remiss not to address. The news now has to disguise itself as comedy in order to entice people to watch it.

This phenomenon seems to affect the young people of America more, and this makes sense. They are the ones who grew up in a corporate-dominated world, with corporate-dominated media, where advertising assaulted them from the cradle on into adolescence. Naturally they would suffer from CSS more acutely - albeit more sophisticatedly - than older Americans who saw corporate advertising evolve from earlier, less effective formats. As such, the necessity of disguising the news as comedy seems to be targeted at young people, because it's the only way to get them to watch. They have to literally be lured into learning things by laughter. Jon Stewart and John Oliver tell us that they are comedians, not journalists. I respectfully disagree. They ARE journalists. It's simply a new variety of journalism - one which has evolved to not only report the news, but then figure out a way to get people to sit up and notice it. First they have to dig up the news, and then they have to dig down to reach you.

The opposite situation seems to apply to older adults with CSS. The way to entice them into watching the news is to get them pissed. They are the angry generation, and so want to get mad about something. Vietnam is over, forgotten are the liberal ideals they had in their youth, and they now want to defend faith and family, not realizing that by supporting today's so-called conservatives, they are eroding both. So their news comes in the form of angry white males who vent and vent and vent, and, according to the ratings, people just love that shit.

You  know what? Fuck all this. Does anybody give a shit about the truth for the sake of the truth anymore? It seems not.

So that's my take on it. People need to give a shit about the truth. Say what you will about Jon Stewart and John Oliver, but they at least do, if only because the truth is so bizarre that it's funny.

Do you give a shit about the truth? Or do you blindly bat for Team Conservative or Team Liberal?



Corporate Sponsored Stupidity (CSS)

Remember TV back in the 70's? It was awful, wasn't it? Even the so-called "good" shows, like Emergency!, or The Rockford Files were only good because the leading characters were good. The supporting cast, however, might as well have been played by cardboard cutouts. Why on earth was television so bad back then? Well, the consensus is that it was due to only three networks being on the air to choose from. Any given television program didn't have to be all that fantastic. All it had to be was better than the other two shows available. Oh, sure, there was public television and the token UHF channel, but the former was for kids and snobs while the latter was where old programs went to die unnecessarily prolonged deaths. For the entirety of the 70's and 80's, the UHF outlet was pretty much where you went to watch Happy Days, Scooby Doo, or (heaven help us!) Gilligan's Island.

But at least one thing was good about 1970's television: the news. With three choices to pick from, and with every household tuning in at precisely 6:00 to learn about what was happening right after eating dinner, there was real competition to be the best in journalism. The news had a solid time-slot which was, up until very recently, all but unshakable. And people had a real sense of value for the truth. Lack of journalistic integrity was the kiss of death for any network. Over-editorializing was generally rejected, even by those who might have agreed with it. It was the glory age of Walter Cronkite, which saw the overturning of the Red Scare, the end of the war in Vietnam, and the resignation of a dishonest president. It guided us through the lunar landings as well as the Iranian hostage crisis, and let us know through a prolonged gasoline shortage that, although things were bad, things were moving to make it better. Best of all, it was local. The local newscaster you saw lived in the area. Very likely, he or she grew up there. There was no need for journalists to hop from city to city like carpetbaggers. There was assurance that your friendly face on TV reporting about local events was someone who pronounced the suburban villages correctly because he grew up near them. In short, it was an age of journalism. Not perfect, but fairly responsible.

Kiss all that shit goodbye.

Today, the news has been hijacked by well-moneyed interest groups bent on influencing the public for its own ends more than for safeguarding the truth. And, just like back in the 1970's, there are only three outlets to choose from. Thanks to some unwise deregulation of the airwaves in 1996, and an end to the fairness doctrine before that in 1987, the news is now dominated by three outlets, none of which have a regular time slot, and almost all of which are no longer local. Whether it be your traditional television channel broadcast at your nearest city of residence or a giant cable network, almost all the stations are now owned by three corporations: Newscorp (FOX News), Time Warner (CNN), and Comcast (MSNBC). And it doesn't matter which affiliation your local station might have, whether it be the traditional CBS, ABC or NBC, or the more recent ones like the CW (essentially what's left of UPN and the WB). They're all part of one of three hydras. And all three of them back corporate interests over your own.

It's primarily for this reason that they pay people full time jobs to do nothing else but pour fuel on the political fires of America. Because with each election cycle, they get to cash in. Every two to four years, huge amounts of money get dumped into political advertising. All that money doesn't go down a deep, dark hole, you know. It all goes into the pockets of the three big companies who own damn near everything. And they get to charge premium prices for ad time due to high demand - which only gets higher as they continue to influence the general public through professional polarizers such as Rush Limbaugh or Ed Schultz. People become so pissed that they open up their pocketbooks wide to do battle with the other side, liberal vs. conservative, not realizing that the money they dump into the machine is only making their problems worse, not better.

Were it not for the Internet, this would mean the downfall of Western civilization.

This consolidation of network power has not only affected the news, although that's its greatest consequence. It has also affected attitudes in general. Television has always been funded by advertisers. Yet those advertisements have had much more than a selling effect for products. They are deliberately designed to convince you, the consumer, to be dumb enough to buy their product over their competitors' products based on some shoddy argument which doesn't hold up under close scrutiny, but which they're counting on nevertheless. In other words, they win when you don't think too much.

And if you think they wouldn't dare try to deliberately try to dumb down the intelligence level of the general public so that they can boost their profit margins, you'd be mistaken.

This results in a phenomenon which I will dub "corporate sponsored stupidity." (CSS for short.) It essentially means that people get primed to believe complete bullshit by giant mega-corps who depend upon such blind faith for the sake of their shareholders. The CEO's of these corporate giants fully realize the potential this has to influence politics, and so have worked hard to harness CSS to favor their own political viewpoints - ones which are often conservative due to the elderly status of most zoots. But CSS also has another unintended and dire consequence. Because it primes the proletariat to be accepting of bullshit, the public ends up buying into nonsense which is crackpot, but which follows the same template of argument the corporate advertisements do. So people believe wrongly that vaccines are harmful, refuse to vaccinate their children, and then their children (and worse, those of other parents) become sick. People believe the lunar landings did not take place, not because the evidence is compelling, but because the conspiracy theory is. People believe in creationism rather than evolution because the religious advertising follows the corporate model of inducing stupidity. Or worse, people believe a war is justifiable because the propaganda machine says so.

CSS has infected the minds of most people so much that the news can now only be reported in such as way as to lure viewers into learning what's going on in the world. Liberals, fired up by CSS to be more irrationally liberal, suddenly want more and more liberal news sources. Conservatives, fired up by CSS even more so become irrationally conservative and listen only to the conservative news outlets. The result is a growing level of polarization in news coverage that gets ever worse and worse. As we all know, FOX is primarily conservative, MSNBC is primarily liberal, and CNN, well, CNN basically twists in whatever direction the wind is blowing in, which often means reporting human interest fluff over the real news that's going on, i.e., over-covering a downed Malaysian Airlines Jet while ignoring critical legislation being considered on Capital Hill.

Well, I have to say that it's time to call out Corporate Sponsored Stupidity. Come on, everyone! Purge yourself of your CSS! And don't think you don't have it. We ALL do! Somewhere, somehow, even the most rational and level-headed of us are bullheaded and wrong about something.

So find that something, or group of somethings, in your life. Then choose truth over what you would prefer.

And the Truth will set you free!



Monday, April 13, 2015

Ready For Hillary?

Well, it has started. Hillary Clinton has officially announced her presidential bid. Does she have my vote out of the gate? Probably.

I say "probably" only because there might actually be a Democrat who unhorses her in the primaries. I don't think that's likely, but you never know. Not Elizabeth Warren. She said no, and she meant it. And certainly not Joe Biden. But maybe HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Who knows?

Ah, but here come the naysayers, some of which were undoubtedly the same giddy fools who gleefully anointed her as Obama's successor before he was even sworn in for his second term. Now the buzz is somewhat negative, and Facebook is already humming with posts about how Hillary is the right hand of Satan. I would like to address some of the points such people bring up, as I feel it's important to do so. It's dirty work, but somebody's got to do it.

First, let's get the big stuff out of the way: Is she a liar? Ruthless? An insider? Someone who bends the rules whenever it suits her? Yes, she is. But let's get this straight: That's what I want! Sure she's a battle-hardened bitch, but we need that. We need someone who's willing to spank the crybabies of Congress until their bottoms are blue, and then send them to bed with no supper!

Gennifer Flowers? Monica Lewinsky? Whitewater? Travelgate? Vincent Foster? Sure, that's a lot of baggage. But it's Bill's baggage, and the last time I checked, he's not running.

Benghazi you say? Yeah, the Republican-led investigation into that cleared her. So, unless you are still under the delusion thatFox News is fair and balanced, there's no scandal, there.

Emails? Yeah, not so much, either. Unless an off-account email is found which is a clear breach of national security, I don't see much of a problem. Besides, we've all done personal stuff on company time or dime, haven't we?

We've had it good with Professor Obama. But while good ol' Prof was my first choice then, the Tough Ol' Bird is my preferred choice now. Make no mistake, the bitch is back! And I'm good with it.

Then again, I'd vote for Bill Cosby, if it meant keeping the crazies who pass for conservatives out of the White House.



Sunday, April 5, 2015

What Easter Means To Me

So it’s Easter weekend, and lots of people are doing their traditional things with baskets full of jellybeans, chocolate and what have you, and we unbelievers are doing our thing pointing out the various aspects of Easter which are Pagan in origin or which have their roots in other religions such as the cult of Attis or the Cybeline vestils. And all I can do in light of all this is reflect on the contrast of what I thought about Easter back when I was a Christian, and what Easter means to me now.  Back then, I thought Easter was an even bigger deal than Christmas, because, you know, this wasn’t the birth of Jesus, that was just the opening act.  This was Jesus coming back after kicking death in the ‘nads! This was IT! This was the whole point of the whole hullabaloo. 

And now?  The whole thing means less than nothing to me. I have no church service to attend, no kids to take on Easter egg hunts, the whole thing comes and goes and I scarcely notice.  And part of what has led to that shift in mentality is simply the realization of what Easter is supposed to mean, namely the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The whole point of his death is blood atonement, which goes back to the sacrificial scapegoat ritual under the Jewish rite of Moses, where a goat takes on the sins of the people and is then sacrificed. So something innocent dies to pay for the wrongdoings of something guilty, essentially two wrongs making a right.  And nobody seems to figure this part out.

How amazing is that?

Not so amazing as this: I’ve been sick this week, which is very odd for me. I almost never get sick. But this week I came down with some killer thing which has given me the worst sore throat I’ve had since I came down with strep throat when I was a kid. The pain I’ve had to endure at the most inconvenient of times has been maddening. And for me, it just underscores the absurdity of the intelligent design argument, that this fine machine called the human body can be so easily fucked up by one little microorganism that just destroys even the ability to swallow, it’s just nuts. 

And yet, my little bout with pain is nothing compared to what some people go through for their religion.  In Iraq, Shi’ite pilgrims flagellate themselves with huge whips made of iron chains with hooks on the ends of them. In India, 200 men chopped off their balls because a guru said it would bring them closer to God. A recent HBO documentary showed the insane things some people were willing to do for scientology and the abuses they endured in that particular cult. In India again, certain people are having themselves be nailed to crosses to reenact what Jesus allegedly went through on the first Easter weekend. Now, let me just focus in on that last one.  People crucifying themselves.  Sure, they get taken down after a time, but not until they’ve hung there for a while with nails in their hands and feet!  And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing in Christianity which requires anybody to do this! It’s not expected, it’s not requested, it’s just done because some people want to better relate to what Jesus went through.  Now, my little bout with pain reinforced how absurd all that was.  But just imagine how unreachable these guys are, who actually crucify themselves to relate to Jesus – just imagine how impossible it is to touch people like that with logic and reason.  And how truly similar is that mindset to the ones which are held by suicide bombing terrorists, or followers of Jim Jones, or any number of other people who do the utterly absurd.

All the fun stuff about Easter is Pagan. The bunnies, the painted eggs, the baskets, the treats for kids.  All the nasty stuff is Christian, the blood and guts show followed by four gospel accounts of an empty tomb which disagree with each other. What does Easter mean to me now? In a way, it still means that it’s the central focus. But to me, at least this year, what it means is…

Some people are just plain gone! 

I’d be willing to be crucified to defend the truth. Others are actually willing to let themselves be crucified for the sake of mere faith. They are so unconcerned with challenging their assumptions that they will drive nails into their body rather than face one fairly asked critical question.

I can simply no longer relate to that line of thinking. That’s what Easter means to me. I celebrate the ability to question critically and commit myself fully to the truth. And I mourn the loss of those who willfully handicap themselves against doing this. I get to fly, and they choose not to. So my symbol for Easter is not a bunny, or a baby chick. 

My symbol for Easter is a bird that has clipped its own wings.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

47 Republican Impeachments Are In Order

So, 47 Republican Senators, including Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have recently signed off on a threatening letter to the nation of Iran, which says, in essence, that any treaty agreed upon by the executive office without congressional approval could simply be overturned in the next administration.

I could reprint the letter itself here, but enough media outlets have made that available. I could also post the reply that Iran's Foreign Minister made, appropriately disrespecting these idiots for their fantastically immature and inexperienced attempt at undermining diplomacy.

"So what?" you might say. They sent a letter, and it got pissed on. No harm, no foul. Obama went over the head of congress on immigration, so this is just congress going over the president's head right back. Tit for tat, right?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

The international embarrassment alone should be enough to warrant immediate dismissal from office. I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ! How could anyone have even conceived of doing something so incredibly dumb? But alas, being a complete moron is not an impeachable offense, and may even help someone win an election in certain states. And the problem goes much, much deeper than mere embarrassment over how stupid the people we (bafflingly!) allow to govern us are. No, this is treachery on a grand scale, and the fact that the 47 senators who did it are too ignorant to even realize it makes it worse, not better.

First, we need to understand Iran a little bit better. This is not just an Islamist Theocracy looking to get its hands on nuclear power. There is also a significant percentage of Iranians who want an Arab Spring variety of revolution to overthrow their existing government and bring freedom in the form of a secular democracy. You may recall five years ago the tumult that erupted in the streets after an Iranian election was seen to be rigged, and protesters in that country took to the streets. The Iranian government tried to censor the media coverage, but they didn't anticipate that citizens would post their homemade videos onto social media, and so we all learned about these heroes of democracy in Iran. These Iranians are on OUR side! They fight for freedom and democracy! No, their numbers are not large enough to overcome a rigged election, but they are certainly are large enough to make the Iranian government nervous! There lies our key advantage.

Enter the nuclear weapons problem. Analysis has shown that Iran's citizens largely don't want its government to have a nuke, largely because they don't want to incur the wrath of the U.S. and its allies. They do want nuclear power, however. They want to be able to power their lights and their homes and their TV's and cell phones at cheaper prices. Who wouldn't? But can they do it without the Theocracy of Iran stabbing them in the back by obtaining nuclear weapons first?

The experts say, probably not! Because the citizens who want revolution might well pull it off if the government is seen as its primary enemy. But what if that shifts? What if the big, bad United States threatens it with military actions over violations involving procurement of fissionable materials? Well, then, the democratic-minded citizens will see the U.S. as the greater enemy, and side with the government they despise in order to save their homes and their families from potential destruction from the bigger threat.

As such, the smart move, diplomatically, is to gradually ease trade sanctions and slowly allow Iran the ability to build nuclear power plants.  This also gives them the ability to make a dirty nuclear bomb if they wished, and this makes us all nervous, but you know what? It's an uncomfortable arrangement we can actually live with in the long run. So long as the democratically minded citizens remain allied with us from the inside, the chances of Iran's Theocracy becoming a rogue nuclear power are small.  For more on this analysis, I defer to the real expert, a brilliant mathematician and expert on the nation of Iran, Mr. Bruce Bueno De Mesquita.  You can watch his TED Talk video here and see for yourself the situation I am describing. (The talk is six years old, but still relevant.)

Now, the real consequences of the letter sent by the 47 backstabbing senators begins to become clear. At a single stroke, these dunderheads have given the Iranian Theocracy exactly the ammunition it needed to convince the democratic secularists among its citizenry that the United States is the bigger threat to their well being than they are! As such, the letter does all the following things at once:

1.) It directly attacks democracy by undermining the efforts of pro-democracy activists who want to make Iran a democratic republic.
2.) It promotes nuclear theocracy by providing political power to the idea of the Iranian regime having, and using, a nuke.
3.) It strengthens the resolve of the Iranian people against the West, so that economic sanctions will have less effect psychologically and strategically.
4.) Due to the above, it could very well spark a war, because if Iran obtains a nuke, only a military incursion will take it away from them again. Israel will insist on such an incursion, and if Israel strikes, we will have to as well.

And this is before we get to the other things the letter does, such as disrespect the office of the president of the United States, shame our country, insult the time-honored and respectable offices and representatives of our diplomatic corps...

Let's face it, everybody, these 47 Senators, whether they meant to or not, have committed an act of war against the American people. They should therefore be immediately recalled!

I'm not one for picketing, demonstrating, or taking to the street with a pitchfork and a torch, but I'm ready to over this one! To attack democracy not only here, but in Iran as well? Bullshit! Let's throw the bums out!

Physically, if we must.



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Bill Maher: Snap Out Of It!

This week we’re telling YOU to snap out of it, Bill Maher!  And we tell you this with sincere love. Four years ago, you caused a real stir among your fellow atheists as they sought to reward you for your vigilant stance for what’s right, as well as speaking up loudly for those of us who lack faith in imaginary beings.  We gave you an award for your groundbreaking documentary, ‘Religulous,’ because you frankly deserved it.  Yet you had to spoil everything by siding too closely with vaccine deniers who had already been largely discredited by that point.  You disappointed us all by confusing the noise with the music and giving professional bimbos like Jenny McCarthy additional credibility.  It was a betrayal as deep and as hurtful as if Al Franken somehow endorsed Sarah Palin’s bid for the presidency!
            Yes, you have since toned down your rhetoric, declining for a time to speak out against vaccines in general.  And you have also had the good decency to keep your mouth shut about the subject for a few years while you focused your attention on political bullshit instead.  Yet in the aftermath of anti-vaccination sheeple allowing measles to creep back into our nation and threaten our kids, you have allowed yourself to be pulled back into the debate.  You seem to have backpedaled on your original anti-vaccination stance, somewhat.  You even told us all in your most recent broadcast of Real Time that you were not an anti-vaxxer and were in favor of basic health essentials such as the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella) being given to children.  That’s a little bit better.  Yet somehow you still maintain that the flu virus is somehow a scam perpetrated by Big Pharma.  For evidence of this, you cite a report that says that the flu vaccine was only 23% effective at stopping the flu this season, and this, you tell us, is your vindication for all the flak you took on this subject four years ago.
            Well, Bill, let me break this down for you in terms even Chris Christie and Rand Paul can understand:  There are hundreds and hundreds of varying strains of the flu virus out there!  And any one of them could potentially give you the flu.  When someone receives a flu shot in a given season, that flu shot only contains what the CDC has determined to be the three, maybe four, likeliest strains of flu to be common that year.  Any more than that, and the cost of producing the vaccine becomes too high.  But if a flu strain other than one of those three spreads unpredictably, the flu shot won’t work.  It’s a little like protecting yourself from the rain with a leaky umbrella.  It won’t keep you 100% dry, but it’s sure better than nothing.
            Well, an unpredictable strain of the flu is infinitely more likely to spread if more and more people don’t get their annual flu shot.  People who get their shots year after year are more immune than those who do not, and that helps protect the other people around them.  This, because a different strain of the flu might not be in this year’s flu shot, but maybe it was part of last year’s batch.  Or the year before.  The more people who do regular flu shots, the better.  In other words, the umbrellas may be leaky, but if everyone huddles together, not as much rain will get through.
            But Bill, fewer and fewer people are getting their flu shots than ever before.  If fewer people get their flu shot, then any potential flu virus is more likely to spread.  And if fewer people got their shot in the past, that adds to the likelihood that an unpredicted strain will cause an epidemic.  This year that’s exactly what happened!  You, Bill, are part of the reason that happened!  Your 23% figure is not a vindication of your original point, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy which you, unwittingly, helped to orchestrate!  You can say that you’re not an anti-vaxxer all you want, but the truth is, you ARE an anti-vaxxer!  Maybe not as insane as Jenny McCarthy, but for some damned reason, just as stubborn!  While you blame the McCarthys of the world for their silliness in letting measles back into society, you fail to see how your own big, fat mouth played a crucial role in all of it, especially among those sensible enough to be otherwise more progressive in their views!  And, sadly, several children have died from this anti-vaccination nonsense – no, not from measles, but from the flu!  The embarrassment of your role in all this is hanging outside of your zipper, tiny, pink and shriveled, for all the world to see!
            Big Pharma profits from flu vaccines, you say?  Let’s take a good look at that: Yes, the companies that make flu vaccines are the big pharmacy companies.  The top five are Sanofi, Merk, Glaxo Smith-Kline, Pfizer, and Novartis – names we are all familiar with.  But the scam is not in their production of vaccines, but in their lack of production of them.  If they produce enough vaccine for everybody, then some of the vaccine will not be used due to over-production.  This results in a very large financial loss to these companies.  So, to ensure that their profit margin isn't jeopardized, they deliberately produce too little of the vaccines needed in a given year.  This keeps the price artificially high, and prevents any possibility of overproduction biting into their profits.  This is why, whenever there is a huge flu outbreak, the media reports that only children and the elderly should receive the flu shots.  There isn't enough to go around, and so the most vulnerable need to move to the front of the line!
            But the outrage doesn't end there. When fewer people get their vaccines, the various flu viruses get to spread!  This increases demand and jacks up the price of that which they already under-produced!  The more anti-vaccination people there are out there, the higher Big Pharma’s profit margin gets!  The scam isn't in the vaccines, it’s in the lack of vaccines!  And it’s high time you understood that!
            Bill, we love you, but damn it all, our heroes being right only 98% of the time just plain drives us bat-shit crazy!  Therefore, Mr. Real Time, we at the Sacred Cow Wursthaus take great pride in ripping off your overpriced silken necktie and whipping it across that bigass nose sitting on your unjustifiably smug face.  Bill Maher, snap out of it!