Vaccines: Learn the Facts

Vaccines have become a hot topic in the news lately. Due to outbreaks of measles and other diseases, there has been a growing backlash against the anti-vaccination movement.

On one hand, it seems like that the decision to vaccinate a child should belong to the parents, and that it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. However, the situation isn’t quite that straightforward. Choosing not to vaccinate doesn’t just affect your child and your family; It can affect the rest of the population as well.

There are some people who, for a variety of reasons, can’t receive vaccinations. Since they can’t be vaccinated, they are reliant on others to do so in order to eliminate the spread of the disease. It’s also believed that as the number of un-vaccinated people increases, the population’s “herd immunity” decreases. And as a result, diseases like measles – once thought to be essentially eradicated – have been making a comeback.

Is this enough reason for the “anti-vaxxers” to be subject to the derision that they’ve received? To me, it all depends on why a person is opposed to vaccinations.

I’m all for people not blindly doing what they’ve been told. If you don’t want to accept as gospel that “every child must be vaccinated,” then please do some research and fully educate yourself. But also be sure that your sources are reputable since there is a lot of mis-information out there.

If you do a quick search on Yahoo! you’ll come across several sites that promote an anti-vaccine agenda. Before you believe everything you read on these sites, you also need to uncover the authors’ motivations and determine just how reputable they are.

There’s also a danger of confirmation bias. If you are skeptical of vaccines or want to believe that they’re harmful, then you’re going to find plenty of sites and “information” which back you up.

For instance, the anti-vaccine site VaxTruth.org seems to have uncovered some information that the CDC is being dishonest and covering things up.

Well, guess that proves it: Vaccines are bad!

But wait, maybe we should check to see what Snopes has to say about it. Oh. Okay then.

Like I said, it’s fine to be skeptical. But if you’re going to be skeptical, don’t stop once you find something that backs up your suspicions. Be thorough and make sure you’re getting the facts and not poorly supported opinions.

Another warning: If you perform research on the internet, you’ll find that there’s a lot more anti-vaccine stuff out there than pro-vaccine. Don’t place too much stock in this imbalance. There isn’t as much pro-vaccine information mostly because for many years, it was accepted as near-universal truth that vaccines were beneficial. For instance, people who believe the Earth is round probably aren’t going to write a blog post about it.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I am firmly in the pro-vaccination camp, and that my children have followed the recommended vaccination schedule and will continue to do so. But as I mentioned, I don’t want to blindly shut out opposing point of views, so I’m willing to take a look at the anti-vaxxer’s arguments to see if they have any merit.

Here are a few of the more prominent reasons why people choose not to vaccinate:

Chemicals are bad

This is probably more dangerous to put into your body than a vaccine. (Image source)

This is probably more dangerous to put into your body than a vaccine. (Image source)

Vaccines contain an imposing list of chemicals, and some parents are reluctant to have that injected into their children’s bodies. You might have read that vaccines contain potentially harmful elements like mercury.

If you fall into this camp, I recommend you take a look at the ingredient list of that soda you’re probably sipping on. Phosphoric acid? Does that sound like something that we should be putting into our bodies? And what about penicillin? Penicillin is made out of mold! Do we really want to have our children ingest mold?

The fact is, most of us are not scientists, and have no real clue about how chemicals will react with the body. We shouldn’t reject vaccines simply due to that ignorance.

Just let nature do its job

Some people believe that natural medicine is the best medicine, and many diseases would have gone away even without the vaccines. If that’s the case, could somebody explain this chart?

I’ll admit that science doesn’t always get it right. History is littered with cases where science has been proven wrong. It seems that health trends change overnight, and yesterday’s “must avoid” often becomes tomorrow’s “must do.”

However, there is one thing that science has been pretty consistent about over the years: Diseases are bad, and you should avoid getting one whenever possible.

God will protect my child

Some people don’t want to rely on doctors and medicine to keep their family healthy. Instead, they place their faith in God to keep their family safe. Perhaps they should read this parable.

Vaccines cause autism

But she was awesome on Singled Out! (Image source)

But she was awesome on Singled Out! (Image source)

Ah yes, this is the big one. The supposed link between vaccines and autism was one of the major reasons why the anti-vaccine movement began in the first place. The only problem, there’s no actual proven link between vaccines and autism…or at least not from a credible source.

And no, I do not consider Jenny McCarthy to be a credible source. The funny thing is, had Hugh Hefner simply chosen a different Playmate of the Year for 1994 (and Echo Johnson would have been a much better choice), the whole anti-vaccine moment might have never gained any legs.

Who knew that Hugh Hefner’s decisions would have such far-reaching consequences?

There are risks with vaccines

Maybe the vaccines aren’t causing autism, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved. A child could suffer side effects or adverse reactions as a result of a vaccination. Then again, you could say the same thing for just about any medication that exists.

Sir Alexander Fleming has doomed us all! (Image source)

Sir Alexander Fleming has doomed us all! (Image source)

Earlier I mentioned penicillin. Penicillin and it’s derivatives have long been the go-to drug for fighting bacterial-based illnesses. For the vast majority of people, the drug works exactly as it should with no complications. Unfortunately, there are some people who are allergic to the drug, or others who have suffered adverse reactions that resulted in serious injury or even death.

Does this mean we should avoid giving penicillin to our children? Probably not. Based on statistics, the risk of suffering major negative effects from the illness is much greater than the risk of a negative reaction to the drug.

At the risk of sounding blunt, if you or your loved one is one of the very few who suffer a negative reaction to a vaccine, then the unfortunate truth is that you’re just extremely unlucky.

I think just about any parent would be devastated if something happened to their child due to a vaccination. Therefore, some parents might choose not vaccinate because they would be better able to accept any negative outcome that resulted from that decision. For many people, it’s easier to absolve themselves of guilt if something bad happens due to inaction rather than action.

If a parent doesn’t vaccinate their child and the child gets sick, they can rationalize it as “fate” or “God’s will.” But if the child has an adverse effect to a vaccine? They will feel more guilt since they “caused” the problem.

There’s one major flaw in this line of thinking: The inaction is actually far riskier than the action. Vaccines can be risky and have unfortunate side effects. But you know what else comes with side effects? Measles…and polio…and whooping cough…and lots of other diseases which vaccines help prevent.

Yes, this is a real book. (Image source)

Yes, this is a real book. (Image source)

The anti-vaccination movement has brought with it a strange sense of nostalgia regarding these diseases. It’s now being spun as if they aren’t potentially deadly, but rather a harmless rite of passage. There’s even a children’s book based on the premise.

Maybe I’m wrong about the statistics. Maybe these vaccines are actually more dangerous than the government and other sources are leading us to believe, and the truth is being intentionally concealed.

But why would they do that?

The drug companies are getting rich from vaccines

According to some theories, the only reason why vaccines are so en vogue is because of propaganda from the vaccine manufacturers. After all, if everyone vaccinated their children, sales of the vaccines will be strong, and the manufacturers will continue to profit. And to ensure that this continues, the manufacturers have discredited anti-vaccine research and funded campaigns to vilify anti-vaxxers.

Big pharma getting PAID, y'all! (Image source)

Big pharma getting PAID, y’all! (Image source)

Anyone who tells you that the drug companies aren’t making any money off producing vaccines is probably being dishonest. It would be naive to think that big companies are going to serve as a charitable organization and simply donate vaccines to the people out of the goodness of their hearts.

Do you know why the drug companies are making money off of the vaccines? Because the point of a business is to make money.

Making money isn’t illegal or immoral, and just because they’re making money doesn’t mean that the vaccines aren’t beneficial. If you get a headache do you abstain from taking aspirin simply because the drug companies are making money from it?

Based on this article from 2005 (before the anti-vaccine movement really took hold), the drug companies might be making money from vaccines…but they aren’t getting rich. It seems like their vaccine business is too small of a percentage of their profits to embark on a worldwide conspiracy to protect it.

But maybe the drug companies are making more money than we think. After all, if they’re going to lie about the safety of vaccines, wouldn’t they also lie about their profits? Then how do you the studies done by the CDC and other researchers which also show vaccines to be (largely) safe?

According to some conspiracy theorists, the drug companies aren’t acting alone. The government is closely working with them to keep the vaccine machine humming along. If there wasn’t a conspiracy, then why would this exist?

Once again, the vaccine manufacturers are not charities. If they had to defend themselves against vaccine-related lawsuits, they might decide it wasn’t in their best interests to make the vaccines anymore.

Infringing on personal freedom

Thanks to the anti-vaccine movement, a few of these diseases have been making a comeback lately. It’s gotten to the point where there’s been talk of the government mandating that children be vaccinated.

First comes vaccines, and this is what's next. (Image source)

First comes vaccines, and this is what’s next. (Image source)

Any time the word “mandate” gets used, a certain subset of the population gets a bit upset. These are the people who believe that “The government has no right to tell me to vaccinate my children! It’s an infringement on my freedom!”

Some people don’t seem to understand just how government works. The government always has and always will take away personal freedoms in order to keep the public safe. That isn’t the sign of a totalitarian regime, it’s a sign that we aren’t living in anarchy.

Then again, some people probably object to other public health measures like sanitation standards and car seat laws. How dare the government oppress us like that?

Here’s a thought: For the government to pass a law like that, it would pretty much require agreement between Democrats and Republicans. And these days, if both political parties could agree that vaccines are necessary, then that’s a pretty good sign that vaccines are necessary!

I’m sure that if you were skeptical about vaccinations before, reading this hasn’t been enough to change your mind. But I do hope that if you a skeptic, this causes you to be thorough and learn all the facts before making a decision. Because as I mentioned, your decision doesn’t just affect you and your family. It could affect all of us.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was V and the topic was “Vaccines”

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The Usual Suspects

The following is a piece of flash fiction in response to a challenge offered by Susan at Polysyllabic Profundaties. The challenge was originally offered in October(!) and while I had started on the story back then, I never got around to finishing until now.

Better late than never, right?

After talking to her for ten minutes, Lawrence decided that Gail would be perfect for the job. It was clear that she had the right mindset: She was angry, looking for revenge, and most importantly, she didn’t seem to much care who she got her revenge upon.

The next few decisions weren’t quite as easy, but eventually Lawrence assembled a crew that he hoped would be up for the task. At the very least, he felt confident that none of the group would turn on him if things began to fall apart.

It was a Friday night, and the group was gathered around a table. The smell of leftover Chinese food lingered in the air as they got down to business and went over the details for the next day.

While Lawrence tried to maintain a sense of enthusiasm, he could tell that not everyone was feeling as confident. Reynolds was being particularly negative, but that wasn’t surprising. He was the last to commit to the plan and had always been the most skeptical.

When they named their child Henry David, Bruce and Judy Thoreau thought they were setting up their son for a lifetime of success. Instead, it just led to a lifetime of resentment.

Some people enjoy being named after a celebrity. Henry did not. As he crassly told anyone who asked, being named after a famous poet was “the gayest thing ever.” And so, since the age of 15, Henry had insisted that everyone simply call him “Reynolds.”

It wasn’t clear why he settled on that particular name, especially since he never provided an explanation that made much sense. Most people assumed that he just took the name from a box of aluminum foil.

Lawrence wasn’t particularly fond of Reynolds, and given a choice, he would have avoided working with him. But considering that his parents owned the Longwood racetrack, Lawrence didn’t see any way the plan would work without him.

“You have this all planned out like it was some kind of movie script. But we all know that it isn’t going to go down like you think it is. All it takes is one guy deciding he’s gotta use the can at the wrong time, and we’re screwed.”

Lawrence tried to reassure him, but it didn’t seem to have much effect. There were a few nervous moments when after Reynolds (correctly) pointed out, “And when s*** goes wrong, me and Gail are the ones who are going to get caught, while the rest of you are sitting here planning your getaway.”

Lawrence couldn’t deny that. But he needed to either get Reynolds fully on board or end this thing now. “Reynolds, I’ve heard your concerns. Now you need to tell me one thing: Are you in or out?”

Everyone was finally able to breathe again when Reynolds finally answered, “In.”

The next day went almost according to plan. There were a couple of mishaps, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome.

As planned, the race came down to a photo finish. And sure enough, when the results were revealed, Ballerina – who began the race as a 20-1 longshot – was revealed as the winner.

The following afternoon, as he stared at the stacks of money piled on the table, Reynolds couldn’t seem to wipe the smile from his face. “I gotta hand it to you, Lawrence. I had my doubts.”

Lawrence smiled almost as widely as he patted his cohort on the back. “I know you did, buddy. I know you did.”

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was U and the topic was “Usual Suspects”

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The Outing

Every so often, I am left alone with the twins. On some of these occasions, I become oddly adventurous and decide to leave the house. The trips aren’t usually too ambitious, but when babies are involved, even short trips can be a bit of an endeavor.

To avoid disrupting their schedule as much as possible, outings have to be scheduled around the twins’ meals. Since this doesn’t provide much of a window, it is necessary to prepare in advance by loading up the diaper bag with two of just about anything a baby could possibly need.

Once it’s officially time, “all” I need to do is strap them into their car seats and load both car seats into the van. If I’m lucid enough, I’ll even check to see if the double Snap-n-Go stroller is in the van too. (There have been days when it wasn’t. Those were very sad days.)

Once I arrive at my destination, it’s just a matter of unfolding the stroller, removing both car seats from the van, snapping them into the frame, and we’re all set! Simple, right?

I’d like to say that at this point, the trip becomes a little less stressful. However, I often have to deal with the reactions of people who are shocked by seeing two babies at the same time.

It seems that many people can’t quite get a grip on the concept of twins. For instance, some people will stare in amazement or make comments like, “Look at that! Two at once! How did that happen?”

I usually refrain from explaining that I have an astronomically high sperm count. Usually.

Sometimes people want to learn more about the twin experience, and will pepper me with questions. The first question is almost always the same: “Are they identical?”

In all fairness, if I ever saw twins, that would probably be the first question I asked as well..presuming I don’t already know that the twins are different genders.

Babies can be rather androgynous, and when I have them in their stroller, it can be especially difficult to tell their genders. But if I respond that one baby is a boy and the other is a girl, please don’t follow up by asking, “Oh…but are they identical?”

Perhaps these are the infernal twins he was talking about?

Perhaps these are the infernal twins he was talking about?

That’s still probably better than the one guy who asked if they were “infernal twins.” I don’t think he understood why I laughed and said “Sometimes it feels that way.”

Others will make comments such as, “Twins, huh? You’ve got your hands full!” Thanks for pointing that out, buddy. Here I was thinking that this was going to be a breeze.

There are also the enthusiastic sorts who say, “You’re so lucky! I wish I could just take them home with me!” There are days when I’ve been more than a little tempted to fulfill their wish.

Perhaps my favorite reaction was from a little girl who pointed at us enthusiastically and shouted, “Dos bebes!” My Spanish may be a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure that means “two babies.”

Eventually, one (usually both) of the babies will get fussy, or I’ll be worn out from pushing around the double stroller. At that point, all I have to do is walk back to the van, load in the car seats, fold up the stroller, and drive home. And then, our big adventure is finally complete.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was T and the topic was “Twins.”

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Skipping a Day

Those of you who have been religiously following my progress through the Blogging From A to Z Challenge have probably noticed that I didn’t post anything yesterday.

The problem with trying to post something every day is that it tends to limit the length of each individual entry. Or if I do attempt to write something lengthier, I may not feel completely satisfied with the result. In particular, I felt that my post on evolution was lacking, and it would have been much better had I spent some additional time on it.

The entry I intended to post yesterday was similar to that one in both mood and length, and as the day crept on, I realized that I would have trouble completing it. I had three choices of what to do:

  1. Stay up late trying to finish – This didn’t seem like a wise move. I can’t always count on getting a good night’s sleep, so it doesn’t seem wise to voluntarily limit how much I get.
  2. Post something that wasn’t quite finished – I already made that mistake, so I didn’t want to post another entry that I wasn’t satisfied with.
  3. Say “screw it.”

Obviously, I went with option number three. Was this the right choice? Probably. At the very least, I’m not regretting getting some extra sleep.

Unfortunately, this means that I wasn’t able to complete the A to Z challenge. Ultimately, I think I’ll be okay with that. After all, I’m working a full-time job and taking care of three kids. If my blog sometimes get shortchanged in terms of time, that’s not the end of the world.

And back to CVS we go! (Image source

And back to CVS we go! (Image source

Actually, it’s a minor miracle I’m finishing today’s post, because the Cutlet has once again fallen ill with strep throat. I had to take her to the doctor this morning, and I’ve been attending to her this afternoon. (And yes, this is the second time in less than a month that she’s had strep. Hooray for parenthood!)

Unfortunately, this illness hasn’t rendered her sluggish and wanting to just lie around and watch television. Instead, she’s been in need of near-constant attention. Even putting on a Monster High movie didn’t keep her quiet for more than half an hour!

So for tomorrow, I had a mildly ambitious post in mind for the letter T. But if I end up just posting a series of Tweets (And that would totally count, right?), you’ll know the reason why.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was S and the topic was “Skipping.”

Posted in Randomness, The Cutlet | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Q is for…

The month of April is moving along quickly, and so is the Blogging From A-Z Challenge. We’re already up to the letter Q, which is unfortunately one of the trickier letters to find a topic for.

I’ve been considering a few different Q topics, but I wasn’t sure which would make for the best post. I’ll go over some of the possibilities.

Queens

Having gotten so much exposure to Disney Princesses over the past few years, I figured I could just discuss a queen from one of the Princess movies. Then I realized that in many of Disney’s movies, the queen is absent, and presumably deceased. In Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Snow White, the royal mother is nowhere to be found.

Queen Elinor (in human form) (Image source)

Queen Elinor (in human form) (Image source)

The two most prominent queens are the evil queen from Snow White, and Queen Elinor from Brave, and neither of them fares all that well. The former is pure evil and eventually falls off a cliff. The latter gets transformed into a bear for the majority of the movie. But at least she’s a heroic bear!

I could also discuss the band Queen, but I’ve never really been a huge fan of them. Sure, “We Will Rock You” is obviously awesome, but the awfulness that is Bohemian Rhapsody cancels that out.

Ugh. Thinking about Bohemian Rhapsody made me think about the movie Wayne’s World..and the fact that the movie is now 23 years old. Wayne and Garth are now officially middle-aged.

I’m feeling really old now. Better move on to the next potential Q word…

Quicksilver

In last summer’s blockbuster movie X-Men: Days of Future Past, the breakout character was the mutant speedster known as Quicksilver. For many viewers, he was their favorite part of the movie. (Which makes it even more curious that he barely appeared in the second half.)

The good news is that Quicksilver will be making an appearance in this summer’s blockbuster, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron! Except thanks to some uncertainty regarding the movie rights of the character, it will be a completely different version of Quicksilver, played by a different actor.

And ironically, the actors played best friends in the movie Kick Ass. (Image source)

And ironically, the actors played best friends in the movie Kick Ass. (Image source)

Will this cause a lot of confusion among the non-fanboys? Probably!

It does slightly worry me the sheer amount of characters that they’re going to be stuffing into Avengers 2. Is it going to be headache-inducing just trying to keep track of who’s who?

Don’t blow this, Marvel! I don’t get a chance to see many movies these days, and since this is one of the few that I’m going to make a point to see, I need it to be worth my while!

Dan Quayle

Remember this guy? Despite being a relative unknown, George H. W. Bush picked him as his running mate for the 1988 Presidential election. His inexperience and habit of making factually incorrect statements made him an easy target for late night comedians.

By 1992, most of the Quayle jokes had run their course…and then when making a public appearance at a spelling bee, he misspelled the word potato:

Just think if sites like BuzzFeed were around back then. “This politician went to a school spelling bee..and you won’t believe what happened next!”

Hmmm…none of these topics would really make for a good post. Maybe I should just pass on today’s post and come back tomorrow. I assure that you I already have a good topic picked out for the letter R!

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was Q.

Posted in Pop Culture, Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Mystery Pony Theater 3000

The Cutter:

As part of the Blogging From A-Z challenge, I was going to write something about My Little Pony for my “P” day.

But since Evil Squirrel wrote an awesome post about ponies yesterday, I figured I’d avoid being redundant, and just re-blog what he wrote.

Or maybe I’m just being lazy. Either way, enjoy!

Originally posted on Evil Squirrel's Nest:

This post has the official Bronyman Cutie Mark of Approval. This post has the official Bronyman Cutie Mark of Approval.

prompt logoIt’s the funnest day of the week at The Nest…. Friday!  That means it’s time once again for one of my beloved readers to pick up a pointy stick and prompt the squirrel!  The good news is that I gained a couple more prompts over the week to get the amps up to 11… which means this series will last until at least June 19th now!  The bad news is…. there’s still a bunch of you who haven’t joined in on the fun yet!  Come on, it’s quick and painless…. submit a prompt for me via the contact form in this post, and get your day to be my inspiration!  I like a lot of the suggestions so far… and even the more challenging ones should still be a lot of fun once it comes time to put keyboard…

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Lessons Learned from Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act – commonly referred to as Obamacare – has been in place for a few years now. Despite the ominous warnings from the ACA’s opponents, it has not caused a shutdown of the United States government, nor the complete destruction of the health care industry.

In the past, I’ve discussed the widening division between political parties in America, and how people seem to be more entrenched than ever. The reaction to Obamacare is a perfect example of that. Proponents of the ACA claim that is has been a wild success, while opponents regard it as a failure.

In an attempt to see both sides of the story, I’ve read opinions on the law and it’s effects from pundits who sit on different ends of the political spectrum. It’s been a fascinating experience, and I’ve learned (and in some cases, re-learned) some things about the American people.

There is a lot of Obama hate out there

Not everyone is a fan of Mr. Obama (Image source)

Not everyone is a fan of Mr. Obama (Image source)

It’s near impossible for a president to be universally liked, but the amount of vitriol directed towards Obama seems both excessive and unnecessary. Didn’t the Republican party used to stand for something besides simply opposing Barack Obama? For instance, does Ted Cruz have a platform aside from “I’ll do the opposite of what Obama does?”

With half of our country’s political leaders telling the people that everything the president does is bad, it’s no wonder that many people seem to oppose the ACA purely because of it’s nickname.

Maybe Obama should have pushed for the ACA to be nicknamed “Reagancare.” I bet Republicans would have been all about it then! Or perhaps he should have just let Mitt Romney win the 2012 election and institute his near-identical plan. Then just about everyone would have been happy.

Obamacare is not perfect

The health care issue is nothing that Twilight Sparkle couldn't handle! (Image source)

The health care issue is nothing that Twilight Sparkle couldn’t handle! (Image source)

If someone could figure out a health care system that would work perfectly for everyone, that person would likely be very rich. Either that, or they’d be disillusioned because by the time their perfect system made it through the gauntlet that is our nation’s political process, it would probably be unrecognizable.

I actually did come up a brilliant plan that would work for everyone. Unfortunately, the plan relies heavily on the healing properties of a unicorn’s horn, so there may be some problem with implementation.

Speaking of implementation…

Implementation of the law has not been without incident

There have been some issues with the ACA, and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Did anyone really think that the United States could perform an overhaul on its entire health care system, and there wouldn’t be at least a few problems? It seems like some people expected the president would press a button and Obamacare would magically take effect across the land.

And no, this is not a condemnation of “big government.” This is a realization that this is a nation of over 300 million people, and enacting a law that affects just about all of them in some way is not going to be a simple task.

Obamacare doesn’t benefit everyone

Remember how I said the United States has over 300 million citizens? Chances are, if you enact a law that affects the entire population, not every one of those citizens is going to benefit.

I may love his pizza, but it seems that Papa John is a huge a**hole.

I may love his pizza, but it seems that Papa John is a huge a**hole.

Perhaps you’ve heard the stories about companies needing to lay off employees or raise prices because of the higher costs that Obamacare has forced upon them? I’m sure there have been some small businesses that have been negatively affected and forced to make tough decisions. (On the other hand, it seems that Obamacare is also being used as a convenient excuse for a**hole business leaders to cut costs.)

But has it been disastrous to the American people? It certainly doesn’t appear that way. The “horror stories” which were supposed to result from the ACA haven’t really happened. (More on this later.)

On a personal note, I have not personally benefitted from the law. My insurance and health care costs have gone up over the past two years, and I’m sure that others have met with a similar fate.

The reason for this seems relatively simple: Now that insurance companies are forced to cover higher risk customers, their operating costs are going to increase. Those costs are then passed on to other customers like myself.

Some people find this to be terribly unfair, and wish they didn’t have to help pay for others. Which shows that…

People want to help the poor…but let “someone else” pay for it

If you took a survey and asked, “Are you in favor of all citizens having health care coverage?” I believe most people would respond affirmatively. If you followed up that question by telling them that their health care costs would rise as a result, I suspect that they might re-think their answer.

For example, take a look at the results of this Gallup poll.

Apparently most Americans think that the government should absolutely help the poor. But they need to do it without raising taxes…or adding to the national debt.

So it should be no surprise that most people are fully in favor of everyone getting health insurance. But they’d like someone else to foot the bill if that’s okay.

People would rather have something that doesn’t work as long as it’s cheaper

When touting the law, Obama definitely shouldn’t have said, “You can keep your insurance policy.” That was a half-truth along the lines of “Darth Vader betrayed and killed your father.”

Since the implementation of Obamacare, the insurance companies have indeed cancelled many policies. In some cases, the policies have been replaced by a different policy that was equivalent. In other cases, the policies were cancelled because they didn’t provide coverage to the minimum level required by the ACA.

Back in the day, many people had insurance policies which didn’t really provide much assistance if the holder actually required medical care. They were more like “insurance” policies, and were the equivalent of carrying around a note from your parents saying, “I have health insurance.” Sure, it might make you feel safe and sound, but good luck trying to actually use it when you need it.

Instead of asking for Obamacare horror stories, maybe Cathy McMorris Rodgers should have asked for horror stories of people who had inadequate coverage before the ACA went into effect.

People don’t understand how insurance works

I’m astounded when people make statements like, “Why am I forced to get insurance?  I’m young and healthy!” These people apparently have no idea how the basic concept of insurance works.

Yes, you are young and healthy NOW.  The point of insurance is that you will be able to receive health care in case you some day are not quite so young and healthy.

BOOM! Now you need insurance. (Image source)

BOOM! Now you need insurance. (Image source)

For instance, tomorrow morning, you could step off the curb and get hit by a bus.  Or you might be handling your junk and feel a lump down there.  I have a feeling that you’d be very thankful for that insurance, and you’d certainly be happy to not have to worry about the term “pre-existing condition.”

And if you end up staying healthy throughout the rest of your life?  I suppose that in a manner of speaking, you lose. That’s how insurance works.

But if that happens, then what the hell do you really have to complain about?  You’ve lived a healthy life!

This has been an enlightening experience for me, and I hope you’ve learned some things as well. Chances are, we’ll all have further opportunity to learn even more over the coming years. Because despite what the ACA’s opponents would like, it doesn’t appear as if Obamacare is going anywhere.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was O, and the topic was “Obamacare.”

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Washington Nationals: A Team Built for the Regular Season

The Washington Nationals are going to win the National League East in 2015. They’re not off to a great start this season, but it doesn’t matter. They’re going to win the East – likely by a comfortable margin – and will probably finish with the best record in baseball.

The Nationals have an insanely good starting rotation. All five of their starters have finished in the top ten of Cy Young Award voting in the past three years, and any of them could conceivably make the All-Star Game this season. The rotation is so good, that Tanner Roark – who had a 15-10 record last year – can’t even crack it.

Teams with elite starting pitching almost always make the playoffs. When a team can start a top-flight pitcher every night, it’s inevitable that it will win the vast majority of games. The last team that touted a similar “super rotation” was the 2011 Phillies who won 102 games and finished 13 games better than the second place team in the division.

But this season isn’t about winning the National League East. The Nationals have already proven they can do that, capturing division crowns in 2012 and 2014. This year, the Nationals need to accomplish what it failed to do in both of those years: Win a playoff series.

Honestly, considering the hype surrounding this team, winning just one playoff series would be seen as a disappointment. Although nobody on the team has outright said so, it seems obvious that anything less than a World Series appearance would be seen as a failure. (Then again, I basically said the same thing back in 2012)

Unfortunately for Nats fans, it wouldn’t shock me if they once again suffered an earlier than expected exit from the playoffs.

Having an elite starting rotation becomes much less of an advantage once the playoffs begin. It doesn’t matter if the Nats have amazing depth, because teams typically only use four starters in the playoffs. And when it comes down to it, just about every team in the playoffs has a good starting rotation.

It’s more common for playoff games to be determined by the rest of the roster, and the Nats don’t appear to be quite as impressive in that regard.

The Nats have struggled to score runs early in the season. A big part of that has been due to some injuries, and once Jayson Werth, Denard Span, and Anthony Rendon return from the disabled list, the lineup will look much better.

On the other hand, injury problems can sometimes become a season-long trend for a team. Sometimes teams spend the entire season waiting for everyone to get healthy, but it never happens.

Even when healthy, the Nats’ offense isn’t overwhelming. While there are few obvious weak spots in the lineup, they also lack the type of hitter who can be counted on to carry the team. Which Nats hitter would opposing managers game plan around? Maybe Bryce Harper can become that player, but he hasn’t shown that he’s at that level yet.

Drew Storen could once again cost the Nationals in the playoffs. (Image source)

Drew Storen could once again cost the Nationals in the playoffs. (Image source)

But the biggest problem for the Nats appears to be their bullpen. The relievers have pitched poorly this season, most notably when they managed to blow a lead in all three of their games against the Phillies last weekend.

The bullpen won’t kill them during the regular season because the starters will likely pitch deep into games. In most games, the Nats won’t need more than 2-3 innings worth of relief. They should be able to get through that with the pieces on hand.

The playoffs are a different story. Playoff games often come down to late-game pitching matchups, and the Nats will likely be at a disadvantage there. They don’t appear to have many (any?) dependable options, and Drew Storen might be the worst closer in the league. He’s already blown one playoff series in his young career, and if the Nats don’t upgrade, he might get a chance to blow another.

I have some advice for Nationals fans: I know that 2015 might seem like it’s only about the playoffs, but that’s the wrong mentality. Don’t treat the regular season like a formality. Instead, you should enjoy it as much as you can.

While the first two weeks haven’t lived up to expectations, this is probably just a minor bump in the road. Eventually this team will find its stride, and once that happens, it will be magical.

Enjoy watching an All-Star starting pitcher every night, and delight as they mow down one overmatched lineup after another. Enjoy it as the Nats pile up victory after victory and run away from their competitors in the East.

Enjoy it while you can. Because once the playoffs begin, you might not find yourself enjoying things quite as much.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was N, and the topic was “Nationals.”

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A Blogger’s Analysis of the 1989 Cleveland Indians as Depicted in Major League – Part Six

In honor the 25th anniversary of the movie Major League, I am attempting to chronicle the events of the movie from the perspective of a sports blogger.

For past installments: Part One – Part Two – Part Three – Part Four – Part Five

Not Half Bad? Not Half Good.

Let’s not fool ourselves; The Indians are not a good team.

With a 38-43 record at the midway point of the season, they are in better shape than just about anyone could have predicted. But there’s a big difference between exceeding absurdly low expectations and being good.

Expectations for this team were indeed low. If you recall, just about every set of predictions had the Indians finishing in last place. Two weeks into the season, many people – including myself – thought this might be the worst team in franchise history. Considering the Indians’ sad history, that is really saying something.

I have been proven wrong. These Indians are not the worst team in franchise history. They’re not even the worst team in the American League East this season! Believe it or not, there are two teams below them in the standings.

But for some reason, this unexpected non-horribleness has caused some people to refer to them as “good.” This team is not good. To be “good,” I think a team should at least have a winning record, which the Indians most certainly do not.

I have a suspicion that the second half of the season is going to show us all just how not “good” they really are.

Can the team really count on Jake Taylor and Eddie Harris to stay as healthy and effective as they were in the first half? At their age, it seems inevitable that at least one trip to the disabled list is in store. Even if they remain on the field for the duration, you’d have to think that the heavy workload will soon start catching up with them.

I’m also skeptical about Pedro Cerrano. He’s shown some impressive power, but there’s a very good chance that he’s going to struggle in the second half. I know we’re not supposed to talk about this, but there’s mounting evidence that Cerrano simply can’t hit a curveball.

cerranoTo his credit, he’s displayed a remarkably good eye at the plate, and has consistently worked himself into favorable counts. But pitchers will eventually adjust, and it will be interesting to see how Cerrano reacts.

There’s also a growing concern that he has TOO good of an eye. It’s nice that he doesn’t chase many pitches, but considering that he’s the team’s primary power source, the team might prefer that he be a little less selective. After all, a walk doesn’t do the team much good if the batters following him in the order can’t drive him in.

On the other hand, I fully expect Roger Dorn’s recent hot streak to continue for a little while longer. Another good month could finally allow the team to trade him to a contender, and be free of his massive salary. I imagine Dorn would welcome a change of scenery, so expect him to be plenty motivated.

As for the rest of the team, I just don’t see much reason to think that they’ll continue to play as well as they have. Remember that most of these guys were basically signed off the scrap heap before the season. Most of them were considered to be fringe major leaguers at best.

Eventually, they’ll probably start playing down to their talent level, and we’ll get a return to the poor level of play that we saw during the first few weeks of the season.

So my suggestion is to enjoy this non-awfulness while you can. Because I have a feeling that it isn’t going to last for long.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was M, and the topic was “Major League.”

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Sympathy for Jon Lester

I feel sorry for Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. Initially, it’s tough to see why Lester deserves any sympathy. After all, he is a successful pitcher who is well-compensated for his talents.

Jon Lester (Image source)

Jon Lester (Image source)

But money can’t solve all problems, and in this case, Lester’s hefty salary probably makes it worse. After all, a person who makes as much money as he does should surely be able to overcome a seemingly minor issue such as this.

What is Lester’s problem? He can’t seem to throw the ball to first base.

Obviously, throwing the ball to first base isn’t his primary concern. As a pitcher, it is much more important that he can throw the ball effectively to home plate. But his inability to throw to first appears to be becoming increasingly problematic.

There will be times when Lester needs to field the ball and throw it to first base. And if runners get on base, he will sometimes need to throw the ball over in order to keep the runner from getting too sizable of a lead.

Here’s what happened the last time he tried to do that:

Lester attempts a pick-off

I’ll assume that Lester is physically capable of throwing to first base, and that his problems are all mental. I can certainly relate to that.

Back in my softball playing days, I would often serve as the team’s pitcher. I was effective enough at the job, but I sometimes ran into problems when the ball was hit near me and I had to make a play.

Like Lester, I would try my darndest to get the ball to the first baseman, but sometimes, the ball didn’t quite go where I intended. After a few misfires, I began to overthink every time the ball came my way. And in sports, overthinking things often makes it worse.

It became somewhat of a running joke among my teammates. Or at least it was a joke after the game. While the game was in progress, it must have been insanely frustrating to see me botch what should have been easy outs.

I found that if I took several warmup throws to first before the game, the problem was much less severe. But even then, there were still times when I’d fire the ball well over the head of the first baseman.

In recent years, I rarely pitched, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. But every now and then, my services were needed. Inevitably, an opposing player would hit the ball back to the mound.

What happened next? It all depended on how spry our first baseman was feeling that day.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was L, and the topic was “Lester.”

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