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If Something Is “Important,” It Doesn’t Need To Be Mandated.

Think about your life and how long you’ve been alive. Many of you are probably a few decades old if not older. In your life, have you ever had to tell someone to breathe because they just decided not to? I’m not talking about people who have some kind of trauma and you’re standing over their chest performing CPR and imploring them to take a breath. I’m talking you and some guy just sitting on the bench enjoying the afternoon in the park, or you and a friend out to dinner.

Did you ever have to beg someone to take a breath?

I know I haven’t, but there’s a very simple reason for that.

Breathing is important, and I don’t have to convince you of that fact.

A few years ago during the election, we were told that PBS is the single most important cultural thing on the planet. If we cut funding for PBS we would be sending the United States into a cultural abyss from which it would never recover and it would be all the fault of greedy capitalists who didn’t understand the importance of culture, education, and non-corporate entertainment. The same argument was made a few years earlier with regards to NPR. You can’t allow “corporate” radio to take over; we need a counterbalance to corporate radio!

PBS makes most of its money through donations and grants from private foundations. A chunk of PBS’ budget is funding from the Federal Government. In spite of the fact that PBS claims that it’s a small percentage of their funding, they’ll fight you tooth and nail to keep it because it guarantees that their programming will never be subject to market whims and demands. Even as it’s being beat into us that the money isn’t that important, we’re also being told that taking it from them would amount to slitting the throat of Big Bird.

Oh. Big Bird. I nearly forgot about him.

You see, as PBS held its hand out for federal money at a time when the federal government needs to cut spending, Big Bird and his pals over on Sesame Street are raking in the dough. Despite not wanting to be capitalist and run ads, Sesame Street’s merchandising could fund a portion of the operating budget way larger than what the federal government is handing them. While PBS profits from the money it takes in as part of its marketing strategy to put Sesame Street toys in front of every child, it’s returning nothing back to the taxpayer for the money it takes. It is essentially taking money simply because it’s there to be taken.

The argument is that this programming is important. We can’t be without it. So we’re begging you to fund what’s important!

Wait a second. If it’s important, why do you have to beg me?

If Bill Moyers and Sesame Street and Masterpiece Theater and all these things are so relevant, why the begging? Why the federal funding? If it mattered that much to people, they would be falling over each other to open up their checkbooks and write one out. Instead, we have to be told how important it is so that we can truly grasp it, and it’s never taken into consideration that maybe some people don’t feel it’s important, or that they do and it’s just not important enough to actually shell out some cash for.

This is the problem with government doing what’s good for us: they make the decision unaccountably, spend the money unaccountably, then use that spending to curry favor and votes all the while forgoing the simple logical check of “is this actually important?” That part doesn’t matter to them; only getting votes matters.

There is a world of difference between “nice” and “important,” and that which is “nice” isn’t always “important.”

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Government: The Worst Discriminator

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Statists would have you believe that government is the great equalizer. It’s the one thing protecting minorities from oppression by majorities. Without it, the world would fall into discriminatory chaos rife with racial segregation and other skin-color-based outrages.

The problem with those statements is that history does not bear them out. In fact, history not only doesn’t bear them out, it says the complete opposite. In every case of widespread sanctioned discrimination in the history of the world, there has been a government behind it, and often those governments were “democratically” elected.

It’s almost too easy to argue that government can’t solve discrimination because, for the most part, government never really solves anything. Often government officials get involved in an issue when it affects a preferred constituency and they can increase political power by exploiting it or solidify their base by pretending that the issue matters to them.

Consider this.

Many people in the United States talk about Jim Crow and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, but few people seem to be willing to discuss the fact that it was the government who created Jim Crow in the first place. In fact, while people talk about the various boycotts and sit-ins that happened throughout the south, they almost never mention the fact that the reason for those boycotts was that it was illegal for businesses to treat black people equally.

When Rosa Parks defied the rules about where black people could sit on the bus, she wasn’t doing so in opposition to the bus company, but in opposition to a government that not only condoned this discrimination, but required it. Whether or not the bus company cared, they had to enforce the law as it was written.

Separate drinking fountains, water fountains, and even schools were not created by private citizens because they didn’t like black people or didn’t want them to be equal. They were created because those things were mandated by law. Jim Crow wasn’t an extra-governmental conspiracy, it was government. When people oppose the idea of a stateless society, they often argue that it would result in the oppression of minorities and mob rule. Have we had such a great record in history with what we deem as civilized society? Probably not.

In order to understand why a stateless society would not be subject to the same discrimination as government, we have to understand what happens when government intervenes in the market, and how the business who we deemed a bad actor ended up gaining business over a good business. Government, essentially, re-enforced the discrimination of a business instead of letting the free market weed it out.

In a free market, however, Mike’s bakery would refuse to do business with the gay couple, the couple would go down the block to the LGBT-friendly bakery, and get their cake their and Mike would lose. The couple would continue to recommend the LGBT-friendly bakery to their friends, and the customer base for Joe would grow, while Mike would either have to change his ways or shut his doors.

When relationships are voluntary and done at the whim of both parties, they’re done for mutual benefit. You go to a bakery to buy a cake because you value the cake more than you value having the money in your pocket, and the bakery sells you a cake because they need your money more than they need another cake on the shelf. Without government pressure or manipulation, few businesses would survive if they didn’t have consumer friendly policies.

Think of it this way. During the Jim Crow days, businesses who followed the law and kept separate lunch counters, for example, were protected by the fact that their neighbor couldn’t do any better lest they be at risk of breaking the law. Because of that, discrimination was not only perpetuated, but required.

We can draw the conclusion that the only reason Jim Crow didn’t end sooner wasn’t because businesses wanted it, but because government required it. Now that’s not to say that some business owners didn’t like the idea of keeping blacks out, and I’m sure more than a few did, but we never had the chance to weed them out because they were hidden behind the discriminatory laws.

You can page through history and find any number of governments, legitimate or illegitimate, that kept discrimination going. Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia come to mind. Hell, I was watching a show a few nights ago and an American citizen of Japanese birth was in an internment camp during World War II, and those internment camps were in the United States. They were the law. The government created them, built them, then took away the rights of American citizens and put them there.

When the government decides it’s time to discriminate, they enforce that discrimination with guns, police and soldiers.  You have no recourse.  Frankly, if governments reach that point, you may not even have the power of the ballot box.  If, however, a company is acting in a discriminatory manner, you can choose not to participate in that company’s growth by not doing business with them.

You can never opt out of government, but you can opt out of being a consumer.

Oddly, in our heart of hearts, we believe that we’re going to make the world a more equal and harmonious place by appointing people to run our country that will basically ignore us unless it’s politically expedient.  At the same time, we’re going to force all citizens to interact with those same people regardless of how they feel about their policies.  Then, when you’ve had enough of that, we’re also going to punish you if you don’t go along and maybe confiscate your property or take away your freedom.

You’ll pardon me if I remain skeptical.

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How The Flight 800 Debacle Makes Me Disbelieve The 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

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When Flight 800 happened, there were very few people from New York City who believed the initial story.  It wasn’t 100% plausible, the government moved too quickly to quell stories, and there were so many witnesses who had no contact with each other spread over such a large area that it was almost impossible to believe that the “official story” was the right one.

Earlier this year, I finally got around to watching the Flight 800 documentary that aired on Epix and while critics of the documentary will tell you there was nothing there or that the official story is the right one, I’ll never believe it.  Too many questions remain unanswered.  Too many people involved in the investigation have said there were a large number of irregularities in methods and procedures, and too many times information that was in the official report has been contradicted by the same people who wrote the report recanting it.

In fact, almost everything that makes up the official account of that day has been questioned, brought into question, recanted, or challenged both by outside researchers and the actual investigators.

So how does this relate to 9/11 conspiracy theories?  Good question.

I’ve seen numerous believable theories about the 9/11 attacks.  Some of them are believable, some of them are utterly ridiculous.  The most interesting ones, however, don’t try to tell you what to think or what conclusion you should draw; they simply present evidence and allow you to decide for yourself.  I respect people who believe they’ve presented strong enough evidence on a subject and let you make your own decisions a lot more than people who tell you that “If you believe this, you must conclude this.”  Nope, I don’t work that way, and I’m just not wired to.

With Flight 800, the opposition to the official story was almost immediate.   The questioning from witnesses and the eyewitness accounts in newspapers and local media were rampant.  No matter what the NTSB said, there were people contradicting it.

But when people were cited and their name used in the coverup, they eventually broke.  Hank Hughes, one of the investigators from the NTSB, in particular worked hard to meticulously cite the problems he saw while he was part of the investigation.  Throughout the documentary, he absolutely refused to give in to pressure to keep his mouth shut.  Other investigators came forward and said they themselves had also felt pressured to keep quiet, but instead chose to not only speak up, but to request that the investigation be re-opened.

They would not allow their names to be hung on a conspiracy to deceive the American people.

Contrast that with 9/11.  While we have a plethora of dime-store documentaries and half-cocked internet explosive experts, we don’t really have a conspirator saying they were involved in a conspiracy.  While Flight 800′s conspiracy was the coverup and the half-hearted investigation, the 9/11 attacks’ conspiracy lies in who and how.

You would think that such a horrific thing done to fellow Americans would warrant at least a few of the co-conspirators coming forward, no?  A conspiracy of this size would require quite a few people to pull off, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that at least one of them would have a conscience?

That’s the problem.  Flight 800 had so many people involved with the investigation coming out and saying that it didn’t happen the way we were told, but none of the 9/11 investigators have come out and said “You’re being lied to.”  They’ve questioned details in the report, surely, but not to the degree of the Flight 800 story and when you think about it, the 9/11 attacks were almost 15 times as deadly.

Why is that?

People can’t keep their mouths shut.  Had 9/11 been a true conspiracy, someone would’ve spoken up by now.  After 13 years of having to live with that, I find it impossible to believe that no one’s conscience piped up and said “Hey, maybe we’re not doing a good thing here.”  We’re meant to believe that after more than 200 years of American history and people not being able to keep their mouths shut, suddenly everyone’s tongue is being held by the proverbial cat.

That’s a tough one for me to swallow.

I’m not totally ruling out the possibility that 9/11 was an “inside job” or that there was a massive coverup or some kind of governmental malfeasance.  It wouldn’t be the first time we were lied to in a systematic way for the sake of getting us all pissed off.  However, until someone decides they can’t keep this horrible secret any more, I’m going to let the conspiracy be simply that: a theory that simply doesn’t have proof beyond speculation from outsiders.

If, suddenly, we have a flood of 9/11 investigators that start behaving like the Flight 800 investigators, then I might change my mind.

The Uterazzi and Birth Control: Why Are They Lying?

I really can’t take it any more. I can’t take the liars and hucksters trying to frame things the way they are with a straight face. The simple fact is this: if you’re argument that the government is trying to ban birth control, you are a liar. End of story. Whether you’re a liar because you’re not fully informed (most likely) or you’re a liar because you’re politically motivated (equally likely) is immaterial, but you are a liar. The more you repeat the lie, the more you’re a liar.

Let’s look at the facts.

Birth control is not a right.
Firstly, let’s understand that birth control, like everything else, is not a right. A right is something bestowed upon you for existing that costs no one around you for you to have. Your right to free speech, free association (liberty), freedom of worship; none of those impose a societal burden. You can exercise your right to free speech until you’re blue in the face and nowhere in that time is an obligation created for another party. By those standards (in other words, the standards of common sense), birth control is not, in fact, a right. If you are entitled to birth control as a right, someone has to provide it for you. That puts an obligation on the provider of birth control, therefore it is not a right, but a liberally allowed privilege.

In future paragraphs, I may refer to a “right to birth control” as that’s what it’s being called, but it’s important to recognize what an actual right is for the purposes of this discussion.

No one is trying to “end” birth control.
This has not a single grain of truth to it at all, but yet I’ve seen this one repeated numerous times. It’s become a doctrine of truth among the uterazzi (writers with uteruses) that the big bad government (or at least elements therein) are trying to end your right to birth control.

The debate about birth control is not now, nor has it ever been, about “ending” it for anyone. The debate is who should pay for it. People with a brain in their head realize that you have all the rights in the world to have sex with another consenting adult that you want to, but if you make that choice who should pay for it? You. That simple. No one has argued otherwise.

But right wing male zealots want to stop insurance from covering it!
Nope. Another lie.

To understand this one, one has to have a cursory understanding of health insurance, something most people don’t because they don’t really pay for it (i.e.: they get it from another source and they just use it without thinking about it) and what a mandate is.

A mandate is something an insurance company has to cover. In some states, the total number of “mandates” can reach as high as a few thousand. That means (for example) that every insurance policy given to every customer of an insurance company has to cover breast cancer screenings, pregnancy care, prenatal vitamins, etc. “That sounds fine,” you say. Sure, if you’re a woman.

What if you’re a single gay male? Chances are you won’t be needing prenatal care any time in your life.

Clearly the idea of insurance is to pool health risks and have the premiums of that group pay for the care of those who need treatments for said risks, but at what point does that become burdensome on those that will never need that care?

Now let’s take it a step further. Imagine if, instead of a state mandate, you now had a federal mandate that all insurers cover something with zero copay. At first, you jump for joy because you realize that means free, not realizing that they money has to come from somewhere on these increased mandates, so where does the money come from? A rise in your premiums.

Welcome to the Obamacare birth control mandate, which now states that your insurance policy must cover birth control (not a health necessity by any means except in rare cases where the pills are used to treat another condition) with zero deductible.

So what’s the problem?
Well, the problem is that the mandate means insurance companies must provide free unlimited birth control pills as part of their coverage. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?

What if you’re the Catholic Church? See, the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in birth control or abortion, but the Obamacare mandate originally made no distinction and there was no opt out, so it was illegal for, say, a Catholic Hospital’s employees to have a health care policy from their employer that didn’t cover birth control. Whether or not you’re the biggest proponent of birth control on earth, you can clearly see the conflict. Instead of allowing companies to pick and choose the plan and coverage they offer their employees, the government has stepped in and said “you must offer this to all employees irrespective of your beliefs.”

You still don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and most likely because you heard about this compromise that President Obama put into place. “Those employers can opt out!” you say with smug self-assurance that would make Keith Olbermann weep.

That’s not what the compromise said, and since you didn’t bother to read it or understand it, let me educate you.

What if the employer is the actual Catholic Church itself? “They can opt out!” you say, with the gusto of a thousand good liberal activists. “It’s in the compromise! Non issue!”

Here’s the problem. The compromise did not only say that the church could just not offer birth control. What it said was that organizations opposed to birth control could opt out of offering them from their plans.

“See? They can opt out!” you say, smugly assured you’ve won the point.

The compromise also said that if a company opts out, the insurance company itself must offer that opted-out item to policyholders directly.

“So there you go!” you say, thinking you’ve heard it all because you didn’t do your research. “They get the coverage, the Church doesn’t provide it, and that’s that.”

The problem is that the Catholic Church is self-insured, meaning it is the insurance company. Translation: The church wouldn’t include coverage for birth control in its policy. By doing so, it would then have to offer birth control coverage to employees birth control to fulfill the obligations set forth in the compromise.

To simplify: I don’t have to offer you A as your employer, but I do have to offer A to you as your insurance company.

If you don’t see the problem with that, you’re grossly missing the point and I don’t think I can help you.

That doesn’t change the fact that Rick Santorum thinks that States can ban contraception.
The funny thing about that is that they absolutely 100% can, and there’s nothing you can do about it. States do have the power to regulate or outright ban contraception if they were so inclined. Santorum never said he would ban contraception, but he did say that states have the right to do so. Since the Constitution (that pesky document that for most “activists” only has a commerce clause and a 14th amendment) doesn’t talk about birth control, the power to regulate it lies with the states (the 10th Amendment). No state would be dumb enough to ban birth control, but since we’re only talking theory, theoretically, they could. It wouldn’t be popular (or politically expedient) but they certainly could.

None of this addresses the issue of banning birth control; there’s clearly an effort to ban birth control going on.
What’s funny about that argument, and I’ve heard it a lot, is that it’s oversimplified to the point of not being true. The argument isn’t over banning birth control. It never was. It’s over who should pay for it and if the federal government should be mandating it be covered with no copay and while it’s easy to get caught up in the “they wanna take my birth control away!” rhetoric, there’s no evidence in reality that that’s the case.

What is being argued is simple.

1. Sex is not necessary for survival, therefore birth control is not necessary for your health. Sex is a voluntary decision and birth control should be paid for by the person choosing to have sex.
2. If an employer has a moral belief that birth control is wrong, they should have the right to decide the coverage offered to its employees, not the state and not the federal government.
3. If the employer self-insures, the government should have no place in defining what coverage they provide.
4. Even if everything is banned by employers and the coverage is terrible, there are other options for health insurance where people can make choices (see? This is a pro-choice argument!) to get coverage that better fits their needs. In fact, if you supported Obamacare, you should be thrilled that this is happening because people can shop (soon) in the health insurance exchanges that were one of the keystones of the administration’s policy.

That’s that. Nothing more nothing less. The problem with the pro-birth control crowd is that they’ve grossly misunderstood the issue to the point where their arguments are no longer valid because they’re not based in reality. It’s sad that it’s come to this, but their argument is, essentially, that if someone doesn’t want the government to do something, they don’t want it done. That’s clearly not the case, but what is the case is that this issue is most amusing in one of its biggest ironies.

The people that are arguing for this have, mostly, been arguing for years that the government should stay out of their bedrooms and out of their uteruses. Well, when people want to get out of their bedrooms and uteruses, they yell and scream and complain. I would love to get out of your bedroom and uterus. All I ask is that you let me and not force me to pay for the things you decided to do in your bedroom with your uterus.

It’s that simple.

The uterazzi want you to believe that there is some imaginary assault on birth control happening. There isn’t. There wasn’t. There won’t be.

Anyone arguing otherwise is simply lying, and they deserve to be called out for it.

Wong-Headed Oklahoma About To Be First “Personhood for Embryos” State

Oh… This is not good…

Oklahoma lawmakers edged closer toward trying to outlaw abortion on Wednesday by approving “personhood” legislation that gives individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception.

The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 34-8 to pass the “Personhood Act” which defines the word person under state law to include unborn children from the moment of conception.

The measure now goes to the state House where pro-life Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than a 2-1 margin.

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Mary Fallin, who signed every anti-abortion bill sent to her last year, did not issue a reaction to the latest right-to-life measure.

“Oklahoma is a conservative pro-life state-we are proud to stand up for what we know is right,” Senate Pro Tempore President Brian Bingman, a Republican, said.

“This bill is one of many Senate Republicans have advanced which affirms the right to life and I am proud to support it,” he added.

You would think as a staunch pro-lifer, I’d be in favor of this. I’m totally not, as evidenced by an episode of IT.tv I did a few months ago…

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Support Starbucks: They Support Concealed Carry

Those who prefer to drink their lattes packing protection on their hip turned out at Starbucks across the country on the first day of a “buycott” organized by gun owners — countering the Starbucks boycott called this week by the National Gun Victims Action Council.

The issue of Starbucks allowing gun owners to openly carry their weapons in states that have “open carry” laws has been simmering for years. The new boycott, which launched Tuesday, aims at persuading Starbucks to join a growing list of retail chains, including Peet’s Coffee, California Pizza Kitchen and IKEA, which prohibit guns even when they’re otherwise legal.

“Starbucks allowing guns to be carried in thousands of their stores significantly increases everyone’s risk of being a victim of gun violence,” Elliot Fineman, head of the Chicago-based council, said in a press release announcing the boycott.

Most of the visible action Tuesday seemed to be on the buycott side of things, though, as gun groups across the country urged their members to show up at Starbucks — not necessarily with their weapons — and spend.

Joe Huffman, a Seattle software engineer who writes a gun blog based in his native Idaho, reported that he and his friends spent $131.64 at the Starbucks in Seattle’s main shopping district Tuesday.

“I wasn’t carrying a gun. I did have a jacket on that had an [National Rifle Assn.] life member patch,” Huffman said in an interview. “I wanted to demonstrate that even though they’re under a lot of pressure, we’re very appreciative of them standing up against those people.”

Starbucks’ position is not only smart, it’s correct. They allow concealed carry in states / cities that allow concealed carry. In other words, they follow the law.

For everyone yelling and screaming about this kind of thing, ask yourself this: what law would you allow Starbucks to ignore if you want them to ignore this one? Maybe keep those pesky negroes and gays out? How about charging them more so they won’t come?

What about not collecting sales tax?

How about having them ignore onerous food safety standards?

See, it’s funny how we won’t sacrifice those laws and regulations, yet when it comes to gun, everyone turns into a bedwetting douchebag.

The facts are simple: if the law says it’s legal, Starbucks not only shouldn’t be deciding what goes on, they have no right to. The law doesn’t end just because you walk into a store, and if the law says I can carry, then I can carry. End of story.

I’m glad they’re standing up to the gungrabbers and I’m damn proud to be a long time and regular Starbucks customer.

Bovine fecal detection at its best.