Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know: Vaccines and the Bottom Line for "Big Pharma"

Ah, the glories of journalism fan mail: I got a hilariously misspelled and almost all-caps email accusing me of shilling for "BIG PHAMRA" [sic] because I am pro-vaccine.

As far as conspiracy theories go, this doesn't even make internal logical sense: pharmaceutical companies make very little money selling vaccines, but they can indeed make a fortune treating measles, polio and other diseases which vaccines can cheaply  eradicate. Andrew Wakefield, whose now-discredited "study" started the whole anti-vax nonsense, was proven to have undisclosed financial ties to various pharmaceutical companies; had his BS claims been true, Wakefield would've got very, very rich off them. 

Seriously: if anyone is "shilling for Big Pharma and/or Phamra" here, it's the anti-vaxxers who are destroying herd immunity and making lots of people good and sick -- the measles vaccine isn't very profitable, but treating the measles sure is! And iron lungs are exponentially more expensive than the polio vaccine, too.

Remember, if you must be an anti-vaxxer, make sure you buy up lots of stock shares in pharmaceutical companies first: if you're going to shill for Big Pharma and increase the net amount of human suffering in the world, at least make some money off of it! Jenny McCarthy does.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day (for those who care about such things)

Today of course is Valentine's Day, a.k.a. Discounted-Holiday-Candy-Sale Eve, which I noticed in a professional-consumer-journalist capacity by researching and writing this article explaining the legal difference between "chocolate" and "chocolaty" candy for sale in the U.S.

But on a personal level I'm ignoring Valentine's Day, as I've done every year since the millennium turned and some time before that, too. (I always figured if your relationship's in good shape you needn't to make a to-do over it, and if your relationship's in bad shape then making a to-do won't fix anything.) The only time my significant other and I ever "did" anything for Valentine's Day was the very first one after we'd started living together. Specifically: I sat home, all alone, while he went out with another woman.

About a month or so before that V-Day, which that year fell on a Friday, Jeff came home from work and started telling this long, rambling story, and I could figure out "Okay, he's obviously nervous about something and  beating around the bush to get to it, but what is it?" 

He kept talking about this female colleague of his and how she's getting married this Valentine's Day, and another female colleague is engaged but her fiance has already moved out of state for a good job, and she's supposed to be a bridesmaid at the first woman's wedding, and she's really nervous because her fiance will not be able to attend and she needs a man to escort her because she's part of the bridal party and there's no way her fiance can make it from Pennsylvania to Connecticut that evening unless he takes the day off from work but they really can't afford that and she needs a date because she promised she'd be a bridesmaid and ....

I finally interrupted Jeff. "So Modesty wants you to be her escort at Linda's wedding?" Jeff nodded, and I said airily, "Oh, yeah, you've got to take her. A woman can't be part of a wedding party unescorted. That looks wrong." And I still remember the look of happy relieved amazement on Jeff's face.

A couple days later Jeff came home from work with a tiny gift-wrapped box for me; Modesty bought me a gift to thank me for the loan of my boyfriend. When I first got the box, I said, "Aw, hell, I'm always happy to pimp out my boyfriend in exchange for gifts!" and when I opened it and saw a small Swarovski crystal globe of the world (that was when I still actively added to my Swarovski collection, before the company switched its focus to making tacky bling-bling jewelry crap), I added "Tell her she's allowed to fuck you. But only once! If she wants another go-round it'll cost her another piece of crystal."

So that's my sole Valentine's Day story: for mine and Jeff's first V-Day together, I sat home alone and pimped him out to another woman in exchange for sparkle-tchotchkes. (Although, since I only got the one crystal piece out of the deal, I'm pretty certain he didn't actually fuck her.)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year (Good Riddance to the Old One)

I know better than to try making official “New Years’ resolutions” (and if I did, I’d know better than to put them in writing, let alone post them online).

Hence, I’ll not resolve to post here more often, or stop neglecting this-here blog as I have lately. I hope to post more; I just dare not resolve to. Things haven’t gone well for me and my household in 2014, so good riddance to that year and hopefully the new one will improve.

On the bright side, I’m gainfully employed, as a consumer writer, though I tend not to post my professional articles here because this is, at least in theory, a blog dedicated to liberty-themed sociopolitical whatever, rather than warnings about the latest consumer scam or complaints about the latest generation of Keurig coffee machines.

Still, the end of 2014 finds my household arguably worse off than the beginning of the year. My spouse lost his job early in 2014 and has yet to find a new one. My mother-in-law passed away relatively suddenly in November (no mother-in-law jokes here; she was far kinder to me than my own mother ever was). Yet my personal complaints are downright petty compared to the rest of the country. I’ve literally lost count of how many unarmed Americans have been killed by police officers since last summer.

Names like Tamir Rice and Eric Garner start blending together with those of other police victims; of course, the year 2014 kicked off with two police in Fullerton, California, being acquitted of killing Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man whom they beat to death. As with Rice and Garner, the policemen’s actions were caught on video. No matter; by 2014 it had been pretty much established that American police have the legal right to kill pretty much anybody they want, so long as they’re in uniform.

No trend continues forever, and I take heart from remembering that the various trends which made 2014 so horrible have to reverse sooner or later. I just hope it’s sooner. Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Vote-Shaming; or, How Virginia Democrats Dodged a Bullet Last Weekend

Election Day is tomorrow and, as usual, I won't be voting for anybody; I'll only be voting against various candidates who give me the screaming horrors. Tomorrow, that'll mean voting against various sex-obsessed social conservatives who think whatever ails America can be solved if only the government could force women to bear children they don't want, and force gays back into the closet. In other words: when there aren't any libertarian candidates, I'll be voting for the Jackass over the White Elephant Party.

Yet a boneheaded publicity stunt which the state Democratic Party mailed me last weekend made me mad enough to almost consider staying home. Check out the ridiculously oversized postcard which came in the mail for me last Saturday (I included the dollar bill to provide a sense of scale):

It's my unsolicited “Voter Report Card,” sent courtesy of VaDemocrats.org and castigating me for having a voting history “below Virginia's average,” as records show I voted in the 2012 general election, but not those in 2010 or 2008.

Since the entire point of those “report cards” is to shame people into voting, I will only say: the Virginia Democrats are damned lucky I'm not the vindictive type, else I'd gladly find some Dem-hating right-wing lawyer to bring a nuisance lawsuit charging them with slandering my good character (civic duty edition): I did vote in 2008 and 2010; I just didn't vote in Virginia because I lived in Connecticut at the time.

In other words: those self-righteous busybodies tried shaming me for not committing voter fraud.

Although, to be fair: were I still in Connecticut, I'd be just as furious to receive a “voter report card” praising me for having voted in three out of the last three elections (not to mention that in 2008, I spent just under six days as a registered Republican so I could vote for Ron Paul in the primary. Spoiler: he didn't win).

On Saturday I left a message on one of the many various Virginia Democratic Party Facebook pages:

Friendly advice from a northern Virginia voter who does NOT want to see social conservatives win the election: kindly tell your buddies at Vademocrats.org to do their homework BEFORE sending out those insulting "voter report cards." I just got one castigating me for not having voted in the 2008 and 2010 general elections. Actually, I DID vote in those elections; I just didn't vote in Virginia because I didn't live here at the time. If you MUST insult people who'd previously been inclined to vote for you, at least try not to do it three days before the election; that doesn't leave enough time for voters to forget the insult.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mike Huckabee and the Modern GOP's [real] Goals

Mike Huckabee et al is freaking out and threatening to leave the GOP and take his supporters with him if the party doesn't put more focus on hating gay marriage and sexually active women who aren't ready to be mommies just yet. But do they actually think hitching their wagon to the gay-hating train is the way to win national-level elections in contemporary America?

New (serious) theory: the social-conservative national-level Republicans aren't even trying to win elections anymore; their goal is merely to win candidacies, so they can make stump speeches, get party financial backing and use that as a springboard to the lucrative lecture circuit.

Anecdote: in early 2008, when I got laid off from my alt-weekly job, I very briefly worked on a political [Congressional] campaign, but soon quit when I realized I'm not cut out for such work, even if it's a candidate I fully support.

This was the situation: 2008 election season when, you recall, the Republican Party brand name was extremely tainted, especially in Connecticut, which is a heavily Democratic state anyway. And in that particular district, in 2008, it had been exactly 50 years since the district had last sent a Republican to Congress. So: it's an anti-Republican district in an anti-Republican state at a time when even pro-Republican states were distancing themselves from the party brand, and I'm at this political meeting with the Republican town gadfly who wants to be a congressman and unseat a popular (though corrupt) incumbent, and I remember making some suggestion -- don't recall what, but it was definitely a "small government, personal liberty, fiscal conservative" suggestion, not a "social conservative sex-hating nutcase" idea -- but the party chairman said something like "That wouldn't play well to our base."

And I -- still naive enough to think they wanted actual advice on how to try winning this election, or at least give the incumbent a genuine challenge -- told him: "This district hasn't sent a Republican to Congress in half a century. I don't think your base is enough to win an election." Yikes. If I'd suggested the candidate make a point of publicly picking his nose at campaign appearances, that chairman could not have looked any more contemptuous than he already did.

The candidate lost, of course. That district remains firmly Democratic to this day.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bar Mitzvah Day for 9/11

Thirteen years after the Haymarket bombings or Pearl Harbor attacks, Americans weren't still waving them around as a constant reminder for everybody to remain terrified enough to increase government power and abandon individual freedoms.

Why are we still doing this for 9/11? The attack is now old enough to qualify for adulthood under Jewish law, which is makes it waaaay too old to still justify any adrenalin-inspired lack of critical thinking abilities.

To offer an analogy: if something truly terrifying happens to you, scary enough that you literally piss your pants at that moment ... well, I won't necessarily think any less of you or your bodily self-control, because I understand that in moments of extreme stress and terror, such could happen to anybody. 

But if you're still pissing your pants about that terrifying event 13 years later, you need to consider the very real possibility that you're not a person with normal bladder control showing a reasonable response to an ongoing threat; you are frigging incontinent. And if you're still pissing on the Constitution 13 years later, the same thing applies.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Chick-Fil-A: An American Tragedy

Chick-Fil-A's founder died today – not Dan Cathy, the CEO who a couple of years ago turned the chain into the official chicken sandwich of homophobes, but Dan Cathy's father S. Truett Cathy.

When the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha started a couple years ago, the word “tragedy” kept springing to my mind — not the modern watered-down definition “Any story with a sad or unhappy ending,” but the original Greek-drama definition of the word: a “tragedy” is the story of a hero brought down not by external forces, but by his own fatal flaw (his hamartia). Because the thing about Chick-Fil-A is, except for the whole “sexual bigotry posing as piety” hamartia (a huge exception, I'll grant), it really does sound like a thoroughly admirable organization.

Their franchising system is unique. With most chain restaurants, buying a franchise is not a way for a poor person to get rich, but for a rich person to get richer: getting the licensing rights, building the actual restaurant, buying equipment and similar things mean that acquiring a fast-food franchise, even in a low-property-values area, can cost you over a million dollars out of pocket before you even start trying to make any money.

But with Chick-Fil-A (as of a couple years ago, when I read the article), you can buy a franchise for as little as $5,000. Not that you can just stroll up to CFA HQ, write a check for five grand and become a franchisee on demand – I gather you must work your way up through the CFA ranks, be personally approved by the Cathy family and what have you (and, presumably, have a mainstream married churchgoing hetero sex life) — but even so: it offers one of the very few paths nowadays for an American worker with little money and no formal credentials to start at the very bottom and work their way up to the top — without beating Powerball odds to do so.

And CFA donates lots of money to charities — not just the gay-bashing organizations for which it became notorious, but scholarship funds, food banks and various other “help-the-poor-kids” things ... if not for the hamartia of letting that hateful Leviticus crap contaminate their New Testament, loving-Jesus Christianity, it would be a company admirable in every way. Instead, I can't even bring myself to patronize the company, for fear someone will see me eating their sandwiches and think I'm there for more than just the food.
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