The Future of Trump Parodies

Humor can be a place where we celebrate what we as a human race value: honesty, love, safety, racial equality, fairness, peacefulness. We usually do this by poking fun at the times when any of these values are violated by public figures such as world leaders or celebrities. Usually these violations happen once or twice, but what if it happens all the time … ?

It’s been an amazing month on the talk show circuit regarding how Trump and his administration have been lampooned by seemingly every stand-up comedian and talk show host — and don’t forget Saturday Night Live. It will also be interesting to note how much mileage you would get out of the political satire.

Melissa McCarthy will have to work hard to try to make the caricaturing of Sean Spicer fresh for the next four years. The same can be said for Alec Baldwin, or anyone charged with hosting a nighttime talk show, like Bill Maher or Stephen Colbert.

But I guess, it is not just Trump that is a laughingstock. It is also a large swath of his administration and his appointees. It looks comedians are already lampooning Education Secretary Betsy where can you buy tramadol DeVos, Chief Strategist (and probably the real (unelected) president) Steve Bannon (who right now appears on SNL as a kind of Grim Reaper), Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and of course Mike Pence (the Vice President), Jeff Sessions, the list goes on. The field is so ripe with those who shall be referred to as “characters”, that it could also turn out that the supply of satirical material will be nearly unlimited. It would be a surprise if somewhere there is a quiet, boring place in government where things just go on as usual, under this administration. A department inside of a department that no one has ever paid attention to and no politician cares about. Oh, the hilarious possibilities in that!

It is worth noting that I have not really been a fan of SNL for some time now, as many haven’t, but seeing that their ratings have been the best since the days of Wayne’s World, and possibly since the days of The Blues Brothers, it doesn’t look like they are going to slow down the pace any time soon, and it might be high time I start tuning in.

The disappearance of misc.activism.progressive and the emergence of Thought Crime Radio

Almost four years ago, the articles in the USENET newsgroup misc.activism.progressive ground to a halt, and moderator Rich Winkel has all but disappeared from the USENET, whom I learn resided in Harrisburg (up until 2010, at least), a half hour or so drive from his former employer, the University of Missouri. He is now a computer systems analyst, and in his spare time, is a writer for the Thought Crime Radio blog.

misc.activism.progressive (MAP) was a moderated newsgroup which accepted submissions from authors of left-leaning articles. Opinions ranged from the mainstream NY Transfer News Collective (who often sent articles from, or based on news from Reuters, Wall Street Journal, the UK Independent and other feeds from the popular press) to the conspiracy theorists at InfoWars.

Some time between 2007 and 2008, one of the biggest contributors to MAP, NY Transfer News Collective, stopped posting articles, and its parent company, Blythe Systems seems to have folded, leaving no Internet trace of itself. The daily output of MAP was cut in half as a result.

Postings gradually died out until March 2011 when they died out completely. As far as I had been able to search out, there appeared to be no warning of this in previous years. Mind you, one would have to search through tens of thousands of posts going back to 2007 just before things started to peter out. By about 2010, name searches for “Rich Winkel” began to come up empty, but his email address was still around.

This newsgroup was always a great source of thought and news regarding labour, politics, and “alternative voices” (as long as you stay away from Infowars). It was always weak on health and science coverage. Medicare was well-covered (because that was more about government, and they were always better at that), but articles along the lines of “chemical xyz can kill you” were usually flaky and withered once you did your own research.

Measles epidemiology and junk science

To take a very recent example, Rich Winkel attached his name to this article, written a few days ago, which claims zero deaths from measles since 2003, but 108 deaths due to vaccines during the same period. The first quote he offers for the zero figure was by CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat, filtered though Associated Press, filtered through Fox News, filtered though the blog Vaccine Impact. The VAERS database he refers to says in its disclaimer that any statistics mentioned should not be taken as cause-and-effect. Anyone with high school math can tell you that correlation does not imply causation. VAERS says that they take in all reported data such as mortality after the injection of a vaccine whether or not the death was associated with a vaccine. The deaths, in other words were recorded in the database even if there were pre-existing conditions, accidents, or whatnot.

But of course, zero is a powerful number. I mean, zero. Zero! How can you argue with zero? Well, in fact you can. Going back to the CDC’s epidemiological data, there are deaths on any year between 2003 and now caused by Measles in the United States. It’s just that the number of measles outbreaks themselves is so low in the United States that it would not surprise me that the numbers would be extremely low (during 2003-2012 between 1 and 4). If I were the CDC chairman, I would round those number to zero, too.

And that would be one death for every dozen or so cases – some years, that a dozen cases would be all of the measles cases in a country of nearly 300 million inhabitants. On the other hand, the 108 figure is quoted without saying how many Americans were vaccinated during the past 12 years. Once I do the research from the source (rather than from quotes of quotes), I seem to get a picture of a successful immunization program, and the 108 deaths (out of the hundreds of millions of vaccinated Americans) could have been due to anything. One death out of a dozen for measles is a larger number than 100 deaths out of 300 million for vaccinations, by several orders of magnitude.

Death is one of the end products of measles, by the way. The CDC reports that, worldwide, 168,000 people died as a result of measles in 2008 alone. That number is pretty sobering.  This is a significant decrease from over 700,000 deaths in 2000. The CDC says that all of these numbers are low, since measles tends to be under-reported. But the 78% decrease, no doubt happened due to a successful immunization program. The CDC says the worldwide numbers cannot go down to zero, since there are counrties such as India, which are slow to apply the recommendations of the WHO, or cannot afford to.

The Florida cases reported by the CDC back in September, 2014 consisted of four child siblings, all between the ages of 7 and 13, none of whom were vaccinated. Measles is transmitted through the air by affected people coughing or sneezing. Did it spread? No, it didn’t. Why? The children in the school they attended, as well as the staff, were immunized, according to the same article. The children attended an amusement park where it was likely someone with measles was there from another country (this is usually the main disease vector in the United States for catching measles in any given year).

The family of those children claimed a religious exemption from vaccinations, and for some time the children recieved a free ride from needing to be immunized thanks to being around their immunized classmates (this is called herd immunity), but that was no protection once they came close to anyone with the actual disease.

Questioning whether the vaccine “works” is a distracting issue (actually, a non-issue since whether the measles vaccine works is beyond debate by any informed person including the CDC and the WHO), and a confusing, obfuscatory barrage of decontextualized factoids from this-and-that source does not advance any useful discussion.

The Philosophical issue of vaccinations

The issue here isn’t about a non-working vaccine or about big bad pharma making money off immunizations (which they are, but in at least this one case, it is well-earned IMO), but Rich Winkel misses a greater philosophical question that can indeed cause much genuine and badly-needed debate:

The parents of these children deny their children the vaccination, making a claim to associated with their freedom of religion. Should the need to protect the population from disease override the indiviual’s freedom of religion for the good of the general population?

I would weigh in that surely, not immunizing your children places them in harm’s way, and you ought to be seen as a negligent parent if you chose this path, regardless of your beliefs; but at the same time, you are exposing others to disease by their lack of protection. The viruses don’t care about your rights, that’s for sure.

But hey, that’s just me. This is more of a topic which would play to Rich Winkel’s strengths, and it truly is a debate suppressed by the major media organs of our culture. I would leave the non-debate as to whether the Vaccine “works” to Fox News.

A Tale of Two Joes (Joe Sixpack and Joe Plumber)

It was the best of Joes, it was the worst of Joes; it was the age of connectedness, it was the age of alienation; it was the moment of truth, it was the moment of lies; we were shown the light, we were all kept in the dark; it was the dawn of Change, it was the twilight of monotony; we had everything to gain, we had everything to lose; we were taking the highway to Heaven to listen to Elvis, we were taking the highway to hell to listen to AC-DC.

— Chuck Dickens (I had to get that out of my system)! This was meant as a joke and does not confer a preference for the greater works of Elvis Presley on my part. And to put the Elvis fans to rest, I am also not a fan of either the greater or lesser works of AC-DC.

I have heard on the net about people commenting that Joe Sixpack and Joe Plumber have no place in political discourse. Joe Sixpack would likely desire intelligent discourse with a sober Palin maybe after chugging a sixpack or two. Then, sufficiently inebriated, would then proceed to have what would seem to the inebriated mind an intelligent discourse with Palin. This is also how a Joe turns a dog into a fox.

Joe Plumber, unlike Joe Sixpack, is not fictitious. He is properly named “Joe The Plumber”, and was first reported talking policy with Obama. Joe Sixpack looked like a hard-working guy and the press has been all over him. It is as if they, after looking strenuously across America for an everyday person to talk to, they found Joe The Plumber, who is just a common hard-working guy grossing about a quarter million per year, as he told Obama. In whose universe is someone like this an “ordinary American?” Joe The Plumber does not exist in the sense that the media is fabricating the narrative, anymore than Joe Sixpack would exist anywhere, at any time.

We all await a successor to George Bush The Lesser.

The “real” Joe Sixpack weighs in, with the truth behind the hoopla:

And, yet another Joe, some running mate of Obama’s who goes by the name of Joe Biden in this video, is said to “rip apart” McCain and Palin. All sensationalism aside, Joe Biden is simply telling it like it is.

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