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The Daily Banter Mail Bag: Anti-Vaxxers, Snowden on NBC and Our Spirit Trees!

In this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the anti-vaxxers, the NBC News Snowden interview and which trees we are.
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In this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the anti-vaxxers, the NBC News Snowden interview and which trees we are.

The questions:

1. A new report says there were a record number of measles cases between January 1st and May 23rd of this year. The CDC says anti-vaxxers are to blame. Do you think it's time to make vaccines absolutely mandatory for children and not something that's ever subject to exemptions?
-- Chris

Ben: I don't think you can, or should legally mandate vaccination for children. But there should be real costs for parents who decide not to, like their children not being allowed to go to public schools, and them being held criminally culpable should their child, or someone who comes into contact with them get seriously ill or die from an easily preventable disease. To anyone out there considering not vaccinating their children, please do some historical research into how many deaths there have been due to diseases that are now easily preventable. In fact, just look at life expectancy and infant mortality in developing countries where vaccinations aren't easily available now. Then stop being an asshole and vaccinate your kid.

Chez: There's no way to make vaccinations mandatory, per se. Most daycares and schools refuse to allow unvaccinated children to enroll, but most also allow for religious or philosophical exemptions. In other words, stupidity exemptions. Does that make my position clear? The fact is that unless you're living in a hole, you have a responsibility not only to your own kid but the other children your kid interacts with (as well as all those kids' parents and basically a lot of other people they come into contact with). That's the social contract and when it's a matter of putting lives in danger society might have to step in and force you to do what you're too ignorant and stubborn to do on your own.

Bob: This really isn't my beat or my area of expertise, but I'll try to answer as best I can as an observer. Look, we all have to admit that for a period of time there, no one knew exactly why there was such a high rate of various post-natal syndromes, especially what appeared to be an alarming spike in autism-spectrum occurrences, and simultaneously there was a movement to demonize Big Pharma (often valid, sometimes not) and with it a backlash against over-medicating our children. So I don't entirely blame some parents for being cautious. That said, the science is now more or less in and it's definitely not looking good on the anti-vax front. My worry, though, is that we're entering into an era where the pendulum is opposite of where it was in 2005-2006-ish and suddenly parents will resume pumping their kids full of pharmaceuticals again. I mean, why not? The anti-vaxxers were sooo wrong, and so... pills and shots for everyone!

2. I felt like Brian Williams REALLY dropped the ball on that Edward Snowden interview. If you were him what would you have asked Snowden (or what question did you want to see Snowden answer)?
-- Todd

Chez: It's not so much a question as a follow-up question -- a series of them. He barely challenged Snowden, proving himself at that moment to be every bit the "hagiographer" Glenn Greenwald once accused him of being. Only in a way that benefitted Snowden and was therefore entirely acceptable to Greenwald.

Bob: In order to avoid a 10,000 word answer, allow me to direct you to Kurt Eichenwald's article at Newsweek. You're going to want to read this.

Ben: I didn't watch the interview, so can't comment on it. As I've said before, I'm not on the same page as Bob and Chez on this - I think Snowden did a good thing generally speaking, even though he's a very flawed character and shouldn't be heralded as some national hero (especially while shacked up with Vladimir Putin, a notorious thug and serial human rights abuser).

I will say this however, I don't really care enough about the issue to get into a serious argument with anyone about it. Personally, I think preventing the rapid heating of our planet, fixing the deeply corrupt financial system we live under, and stopping another George Bush from getting anywhere near the White House is far more important than whether the NSA has the ability to parse people's emails. As for the Brian Williams interview, what did anyone expect? Him to turn into Seymour Hersh over night?

3. In honor of Barbara Walters upcoming retirement, if you were a tree what kind of tree would you be?
-- Samantha

Bob: An Ent.

Chez: The larch.

Ben: I actually had to google that reference as I had no idea what you were talking about. To answer your question, a Bonsai tree. I learned about them in Karate Kid and they are sort of like ninja trees.