Gun Nuts Give Free Ammunition To The Enemy

by Luna Flesher

William Kostric bearing arms with this sign sets gun rights back a notch

William Kostric bearing arms with this sign sets gun rights back a notch

I like to think the Founders put the Bill of Rights in the order they did for a reason.  The First Amendment comes first because freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and so on are the most basic of human rights.  Then we need the Second Amendment to help us protect those rights, through use of force if necessary.

I’m just as big a fan of the Bill of Rights as the next gal.  But when the segment of our population most interested in protecting those rights is the segment most Out Of Their Minds at the moment, it seems to set the cause back just a bit.

We’ve already discussed here on this blog how those people seem to be using their free speech right to generate some of the best modern expressions of the absurd.  In a “nut” shell, they are wasting their platform to protest against fantasies and illusions, instead of bringing up a good points about something they can actually change.  Reality for instance.  Abuse of Amendment 1, already covered.

Let’s move on to Amendment 2.

Look, William Kostric.  First of all, congrats for being brave enough to go up against Chris Matthews on Hardball.  I absolutely hate that guy, because he tears down his opponent with verbal bludgeons and psychological trickery before he lets them say their piece. I would never accept an interview him. Kudos for not letting him get to you and for explaining your case as best you could.

And I totally understand your points.  The Bill of Rights doesn’t just say the right to keep arms, but keep and bear arms. I get that.  Guns are kind of useless if they’re locked up at home.

And I get the concept of doing something simply because you have the right to, and making sure to exercise rights in order not to lose them. That’s why I bought a handgun 8 years ago and still have it.

And I understand your point about how the law and culture in New Hampshire fully permits open display of weaponry without anyone batting an eye.  Free State Project, and all that.  I’ve even considered joining you guys there. Cool, fine.

And I totally get your point that public perception of guns is probably way skewed, and that maybe if more nice people open-carried guns more often, maybe everyone else would mellow out a bit.

But I’m sorry, William. You totally lost the public perception game this time. -1000 points for our side. Michale Moore couldn’t have done a better job at getting people to hate guns.  Hell, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold themselves couldn’t have made firearms seem more scary.

It’s not that you openly wore a gun on your leg on private property in New Hampshire.  It’s not that you were within sight of building where the President spoke when you wore it. It’s not that you protest the President’s views on recent issues.  No, no it’s none of those things.

It’s the sign, William.  The sign.  The sign would have been just fine all by itself. Free speech and all, and I love Thomas Jefferson so dearly.  But you had the sign, and the gun, and the current President nearby.

The sign read, “It is time to water the tree of liberty”.  Not the actual quote, which reads, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  No, specifically “It is time” to water the tree.

Not some theoretical distant time in the future. Not some reference to blood spilt in the past. No, you said it is time. Right now. To water the tree. With blood. While you are carrying a ranged weapon. In proximity to the President. That your peers have been calling a Socialist, a Nazi, a Terrorist… a tyrant.  You might as well have held up a sign that says, “Guns don’t kill people… I DO.”

This, sir, was no patriotic act. It was not a defense of your right to bear arms. No, Mr. Kostric, you set us back. Further sullied the image of bearing arms. Further relegated it to the pastime of crazies, extremists, fundamentalists, and people who would put passion for principle far above common sense.

If you were a patriot, you would respect the President, even if you do not agree with him. You would expect him to do his best to fulfill his oath of office, to defend the Constitution, until such time as he actually proves otherwise. You would follow due process, as outlined in the rest of the constitution, to have your voice be heard. And you would do so with reason and common sense, in honor of those rational Founders who wrote that quote you reference, who ensured that right you enjoy.

Thomas Jefferson was right about needing revolutions now and then. And we’ve had them. We’ve had many revolutions since 1776. And while they haven’t been bloodless, there has been less blood than you might expect, because that Constitution worked perhaps a little better than the Founders had hoped.  For the most part, our revolutions have followed due process.  The killings came during riots, protests, and yes, even assassinations.  But the majority of the blood spilt was unfortunately of the innocent, the patriots if you will — those brave enough to stand up for important new ideas, or for the rights of those who had been ignored.

Those revolutions were about change, not about keeping things the same.

To the guy who dropped his gun at a political meeting in Arizona, you have given evidence to the American public that those who bear arms are clumsy and know nothing about gun safety, reinforcing everything they’ve heard about accidental gun deaths. Or was it intentional? Like Mr. Kostric’s sign, does it imply a veiled threat? An Appeal to Force? Do what we say or we will kill you?

It makes me wonder here, which of you are the patriots, and which the tyrants?

I am not a pacifist, just a libertarian who remembers one basic principle: Never initiate force or fraud or threat of either.  When force or fraud is committed against me, I am willing to retaliate in kind, but I make awfully damned sure of who did the initiating, and make awfully damned sure I have exhausted every other course of action.

If any of you gun nuts decides you’ve finally had enough, that it’s time to fire the first shot, please stop and consider how much damage you will do to the cause of gun rights. Please do not generate more evidence for the other side. Stop trying to prove that Guns Are Only Good For Killing People.

8/18 UPDATE: This is becoming a fad.  Yesterday, 12 armed men showed up to an Arizona protest, again within proximity of the President. One carried an AR-15 assault rifle. What are you trying to prove again? No one is actually talking about gun control right now. It’s not on the agenda. Obama hasn’t said word one about guns.

But since you brought it up, you’re not making any liberals think, “hm, maybe guns are a good idea after all”. You’re making them ask, “and why do these states have the right to allow loaded assault rifles anywhere near the President?”

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Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 4:22 pm  Comments (7)  
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Health Care Debate: Krugman lluminates – Obama, Not So Much

by John Lindsey

health_care_0724Paul Krugman has an interesting piece bringing health care systems around the world into better perspective vis-a-vis US health care. The bills in congress are basically taking us in the Swiss direction; which isn’t the best, but would be significantly better and less expensive than ours.

Better, of course, unless the public option gets cut out of the final bill; rendering the whole thing a wasted effort or worse. No cost control means no reform.

Asked about a column by long-time Democratic strategist Paul Begala, urging progressives not to shy away from tackling health care in a more incremental approach, [Howard] Dean shot back: “The public option is incrementalism…. But there is no incrementalism without the public option.” He explained: “If you don’t have a public option this bill is not even incremental, in terms of adequate health care reform… Paul is not entirely wrong. It is just that the last shred of reform is the public option.”

Obama, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be able to keep his story straight.

Anyway, Krugman:

So where does Obamacare fit into all this? Basically, it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.

If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.

Our Healthcare System In Crisis: The Evidence

by Luna Flesher

It’s become clear to me based on the feedback from my previous posts on healthcare that many people in America don’t realize there are any problems with our existing system.

There is plenty of information available about these problems.  I always like to steer people towards personal research, but these links should get you started:

Plus:

And I’m not even talking about universal coverage to pay for those who can’t afford it.  I don’t have to even go there.  Because like it or not, we already pay for the poor’s healthcare through:

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Published in: on August 15, 2009 at 4:52 am  Comments (7)  
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American Idiot: Obama, Socialism, and the Soft-Pedaling of Racism

by John Lindsey

Bill Maher thinks we’re stupid. He’s almost certainly wrong. That being said, if he is claiming that too many Americans don’t know their asses from their elbows when it comes to knowledge about the rest of the world, their fellow citizens, or even their own government, well, that’s hard to deny.

Obama = SocialistTake the “Obama’s a socialist” claim popular with – well,  just about anyone on the far right – but most recently with the anti-health reform protesters. Now, the anger of these people is apparent, but the very act of calling the corporate-friendly Obama a socialist (apart from making actual socialists laugh) is to publicly declare that you wouldn’t know socialism if Karl Marx personally beat you over the head with it.

This is ignorance; but it is misguided (if not also ignorant) if we respond to these people as if what they’re saying has anything to do with whether or not Obama is a socialist. It doesn’t. If their anger is genuine but their accusations aren’t, it’s logical to suspect that the anger is probably coming from somewhere else.

Granted, Obama’s not the first politician to be called a socialist; nor is the use of class warfare by politicians and monied power a new tactic. Throughout our history, it’s been a highly successful method to persuade otherwise rational people to become hostile toward their own economic interests and their natural allies.

For example, many protesters of health care reform are older (and incidentally, predominantly white). Of this group, aprotest0709 substantial portion are on Medicare – a socialized, single-payer insurance system. Indeed, many of these folks would be destitute without it, which was the purpose of the institution in the first place. Why, then, would they protest a premium-driven public option? After all, they already enjoy a much better system for free. Oh, right – because it’s “socialism”. Or a “government takeover of health care.” Or – probably more accurately – because it’s “Obamacare”.

“Obamacare”, in the minds of many of these protesters, holds a stigma; because Obama himself has been (to them) successfully stigmatized. The demonization of Obama began during election season, and while vilifying political opponents is not new, the manner in which it has been applied to Obama is unique, for obvious reasons.

Whereas Democratic presidents are often portrayed as far-left advocates of causes and institutions that have become associated with people of color (e.g., welfare, Affirmative Action, discrimination in housing, and so on), Obama has been portrayed not just as a champion, but as a direct infiltration of these causes (it should be noted that forms of welfare not currently associated with people of color have no such stigma: unemployment insurance, Medicare, Social Security, etc.)

Hence:

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What is everyone so angry about?

by Roland Lindsey

I just read a very interesting article on newmajority.com.  In it, a conservative attends a town hall and describes his experience there.  As we’ve seen on youtube and in the mainstream media, he experienced a good deal of anger there.  From the article:

The town halls are exactly what you’re seeing on television. The crowds are overwhelmingly conservative — and I mean Glenn Beck conservative, not David Frum conservative. I’m talking angry, ready-to-roll conservative, not rational, let’s-discuss-philosophy conservative. I can’t think of any more appropriate word than ‘redneck’ to describe most of the crowd. Literally every person who took more than ten seconds to preface his question was shouted down by “Ask your question!” by an array of overfed hicks. They were also prone to shout “You work for us!” and “You just don’t get it!” at Cardin, as if Cardin should be expected to represent the ideals of the 9/12 Project or something.

What is causing all this anger?  Why are people so angry?  I keep hearing, “I want my country back!” yet I am struggling to understand where the country went.  The America we experience today is not all that different than it was a year ago at this time, although 3.7% more of us are now unemployed.  We didn’t see this anger during the election, or after the election.

So what is the fuss all about?

I wrote earlier about Rush Limbaugh lying to you.  But he isn’t the only one.

Consider what people are being told by mainstream media sources:

  • President Obama is not a natural-born American citizen
  • President Obama and the Democrats want to set up “death panels” to euthanize the old and handicapped
  • We are getting the British health care system
  • We are getting the Canadian health care system
  • The system we are going to get is worse than the British, Canadian, and our current health care system combined
  • Conditions today are very close to those in Nazi Germany
  • Conditions today are very close to those in Fascist Italy
  • President Obama is acting like Hitler
  • President Obama is acting like Mussolini
  • President Obama is a socialist
  • President Obama is a fascist
  • President Obama is a totalitarian
  • President Obama is a communist
  • President Obama is a dictator
  • President Obama is a racist
  • President Obama is the anti-Christ
  • President Obama is going to pay reparations to black people for slavery
  • It’s not too late to save our country
  • It may be too late to save our country
  • It’s too late to save our country except by revolution
  • The Democrats are trying to stifle dissent
  • The Democrats are calling peaceful, reasonable hardworking middle-class Americans “thugs”
  • The Democrats want to nationalize everything
  • The Democrats like to bailout big business with our tax money
  • The country is going to go bankrupt.  Soon!
  • The Democrats have created the biggest deficit ever because they want the country to go bankrupt.
  • President Obama wants the country to fail so he can reach his goal to rebuild the country into a worker’s paradise.
  • The President is working on a deal to combine Canada, Mexico and America into one sovereign alliance similar to the EU.
  • The President is going to take away gun ownership.

Given that all of that is obviously true, I suppose there is a good reason to be mad, after all!  When’s the next town hall meeting?

Which is more distressing?  That the media and talk-radio circuit spread such obviously false information?  Or that so many believe it without checking to see if any of it is true?

I get a kick out of reading this sentence:  “President Obama is a socialist and a great example of that is the GM bailout!” The sadness is that many would read it and not sense the irony; rather, rage against their future assignment to Collective Farm #328.

Published in: on August 13, 2009 at 9:27 am  Comments (8)  
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On Being Wrong

by Luna Flesher

It seems like the most important goal in life for some people is to be right. Decades ago, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed himself right, all the time, every time. His listeners, “dittoheads”, were vicariously right just for agreeing with him.  This set the trend for Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Newt Gingrich.

These leaders in turn have created the recent fad: to proudly declare one’s rightness, even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it. Even if it pisses people off, even if undermines the cause, even if it makes them look like complete idiots.

One can hardly blame them. Humans seem to be pre-wired to receive mental pleasure when we reinforce our existing beliefs. We are uncomfortable when our beliefs are challenged.  This concept is called Cognitive Dissonance/Consonance theory, which I have written about before, several times.  I will certainly write about it again, because it explains so much about human motivations.

In spite of how intensely you believe you are right, this is sometimes at odds with actually being right.  There is no human being on earth who’s entire belief system is 100% correct.  Not even Rush.  Even if you are right about a lot of things, you are most certainly wrong about a few other things.

If you think you are somehow one-0f-a-kind or special to have been blessed with the super power of Always Being Right, then I can easily show you the first thing you are wrong about.
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Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 9:51 pm  Comments (5)  
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The government is not trying to kill Grandma

by Roland Lindsey

Excellent interview here.

The media has gone crazy with this idea that the government wants to euthanize old and handicapped people, and that these things are in legislation before the Congress.  Yesterday, I posted quotes from Rush Limbaugh repeating the same lies.

Today, I saw an interview with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) about the issue.  From the article:

How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

Read the whole interview and stop listening to the misleading liars who are telling you anything different.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm  Comments (4)  
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Rush Limbaugh is lying to you

by Roland Lindsey

I started listening to Rush Limbaugh in the summer of 1992.  I was a 20 year-old conservative, and I found him witty, entertaining, and logical.  At the time, he was working hard on his program to defeat the election of Bill Clinton.  I even subscribed to the American Spectator, which was heavily advertised on his show.  Later, the former editor-in-chief of AS would talk about all the things they made up about the Clintons in their magazine, but at the time it seemed like Gen X had a Watergate to experience.  The problem existed:  It wasn’t true.

Rush has turned up the volume over the years, but I’ve always tuned back into his show.  I did take a hiatus during the whole Michael J. Fox debacle.  I remember driving in my car to downtown Seattle, and listening to Rush’s non-apology for his harsh criticism the day before.  When Rush offers a non-apology, it means he expands on the original statement or comment, and finds ways to make it even more offensive.

At some point, listening to him make fun of Michael J. Fox made me sick to my stomach, and I said out loud, “Screw you, Rush.”  I turned him off, and didn’t listen again for a year.

I tuned into Limbaugh this morning on the way to work.  I was shocked to hear deliberate lies coming out of the radio, and not only that, he accused the Obama Administration of lying about the same thing.  It sickened me.  I realized that those who go to Rush for their single source of news and commentary are being led to believe deliberate falsehoods.  And when Rush is dead wrong about these things, you never hear a correction or retraction.  It doesn’t matter to him, so it doesn’t matter to his listeners.  Here’s some of what I heard this morning.

“This is about Obama saying there is no euthanasia in his plan. What people have said is there is, there’s end of life counselling. Mandatory end of life counselling in the House healthcare bill.”  – Rush Limbaugh, 8/10/2009

This is patently false. There is no mandatory counseling of any sort in the House bill. I’ve read the section. Luna has read the section. Limbaugh is making this up.  There is a section on page 425 that allows a Medicare subscriber the option to have a counselor come to visit them and help them create a living will, if they want it.  This is a benefit, not “mandatory end of life counseling.”

“Obama’s even saying there’s no euthanasia in the plan and there’s no cutbacks in Medicare. What plan, Mr. President? You haven’t presented a plan. How can you tell us what is or isn’t in the plan when you don’t have one? All we’ve got to go on is the house plan and it’s all there. This is mind-boggling stuff. They deny what’s there. They deny what’s in it.” – Rush Limbaugh, 8/10/2009

Euthanasia is not in the House bill. You can read it.  Luna has, and you can read her detailed thoughts in her excellent piece here. But Limbaugh continually says it and then claims Obama is lying about it. Americans aren’t stupid. They simply trust someone who will lie to them.

What is Limbaugh’s motivation here?  As Limbaugh said back in 1992, “Follow the money.”  He doesn’t get any money from Health Care lobbies.  But he does get money from making incendiary and untrue statements.  It makes more people tune into him, which turns into advertising revenue.  There have been many things he’s said that are completely untrue.  He said that Obama didn’t have a birth certificate.  National Review flawlessly debunked that here.  He has called the House bill “Government-run Health Care”, “Socialist Health Care”, and other things when it is really nothing of the sort.  He has claimed that the good idea to put together a health database comparing treatments and outcomes is actually going to be used to ration care.

He claims any number of things as fact, when in fact, they are nothing of the sort.  And those who use him as their single source of information are led to protest against their own interests, and vote against their own interests.

Thomas Jefferson said:  “Knowledge is like a candle. When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished. It is enhanced and a larger room is enlightened as a consequence.”  A proper quotation updated to Rush Limbaugh’s practice in 2009 is “Misinformation is like a candle.  When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished.  It is enhanced and a larger room is misinformed as a consequence.”

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Health Reform Bill Reading Project: Part 2, The Gory Details

by Luna Flesher

As I’m sure you know, I read the House version of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Bill of 2009 over the weekend.  If you want the quick summary, and my opinion, please read Part 1.

As I read the bill, I made notes.  I basically summarized each part as I mentally processed it.  I did not leave anything out unless it was repetitive, technical (indexes, definitions, amendment legalese), or seemingly unimportant.

These are those notes, in the raw, with some minor spell checking and cleanup. In a way, this is a live-blogging event. I did intersperse a little bit of opinion, but not much.

The notes are roughly in the order in which they appear in the House AAHCA Bill, unless it made more sense to move it elsewhere (like where a later part of the bill was talking about something earlier).

If you happen to doubt my assessment of this bill, you can read the full thing yourself: http://docs.house.gov/edlabor/AAHCA-BillText-071409.pdf

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Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 7:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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Health Reform Bill Reading Project: Part 1, The Meta-Summary

by Luna Flesher

I have just finished reading the House version of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Bill of 2009.

I will give a detailed account in this multiple parts.  This post will be the overall summary.  See Part 2 for detailed dissection so you can judge for yourself.

Here are my qualifications, or lack there of:  I am simply an American who does not want to be screwed over by the health care industry or the government.  My political alignment is “pragmatic libertarian”.   I am generally skeptical.  I am intelligent, but I am not a lawyer.  I have zero law training nor any training in the medical or health fields.  In fact, I generally hate the topics of law and health because they bore me.  I only chose this task because 1) I was challenged to it, 2) I happened to have time this weekend, and 3) lots of people are claiming to be experts, but few actually seem to be reading the damn thing.

This is probably the last time in a very long time I will attempt something like this.

The AAHCA was 1018 pages long, approximately 200,000 words.  I did not log my hours, but I’m guessing it took me about 6 hours total, spread out over 3 days.  I spent 2 hours writing this summary blog post, and expect to spend at least another 2 hours compiling my notes for the detailed posts.

I am not a speed reader.  My intent was to find the truth of what the bill actually does, so my decisions were in good faith, i.e. if I felt I understood a section, I skimmed over details that were repetitive, reinforcing what I understood, or making minor modifications to existing laws.  There were vast pages of “hereby changing the semicolon to a period in title IV of USC blah blah”.  There were vast pages of tweaks to Medicaid.  These I read enough to make sure there was no overt funny business, but I did not spend many brain cells trying to comprehend these sections.

When I did hit a section which seemed important (of which there were many) I slowed down until I reached comprehension.  At times I did additional internet research to make sure I understood what it meant.  In my followup “detail” posts, I will make a note of anything I felt I didn’t fully understand.

There were complications on my understanding of sections which amended existing laws.  Since I have no understanding of those laws, and did not want to increase my reading time by ten to go read those laws, I made some assumptions.  Overall, I didn’t get the sense that there was any trickery going on.  The intent of the law seemed clear and in good faith, so my assumption is those amendments were in that same letter and spirit.

The intent of the law seems to be to improve quality care for everyone, lower or control costs in the industry, to help those who have no coverage to get covered, and to regulate against abuses that are currently going on in the health industry.

I did not see any attempt to replace the insurance or health care industries with government health care.  I did not see any overt violations of individual rights other than the usual: increases in certain taxes and increases in bureaucratic mass.  No death panels, no government takeovers of health care, no limits in doctor choice, no letting grandma die.

So let’s get started.

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Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 10:25 pm  Comments (5)  
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On Tyranny and Health Care: A Libertarian’s Plea for Government Interference

by Luna Flesher

If liberty is one of my chief values, and tyranny is its opposite, then tyranny is my adversary.

By liberty, I mean individual freedom from oppression by another; the ability to move about, act as I choose, and reap the consequences.  In order to fairly protect liberty, freedom must be limited when it begins to infringe on the freedom of others.  I was raised with the phrase, “Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

To be clear, I do not mean freedom from want.  Being handed unearned resources may increase choice, but this is not the kind of freedom a government can easily grant without violating the rights of someone else.  Nor do I mean the freedom to escape rightful consequences, both positive and negative.  You may act on your rights, but it is not freedom if you unfairly avoid what’s coming to you.  That usually indicates someone else’s rights are being violated, someone else is being cheated.

Tyranny, the antithesis of liberty, can come from any source.  Most libertarians and conservatives are rightfully wary of the tyranny of government.  Typically only a government has police power, military might, power of imprisonment, and the backing of society.

However, tyranny can come from many other sources — any individual or organization who wishes to impinge upon your rights.  They do this through the use or threat of physical force, breaking of contracts, and gaining consent through misinformation.  They avoid the negative consequences of harmful actions, reaping only rewards through unfair advantage, force, and fraud.

Besides governments, large-scale tyranny can come from corporations, outside governments, unions, organized religion, organized crime, academia, political groups, etc.

On a smaller social level, it can come from independent criminals, bullies, abusive families, cults, small businesses, private security organizations, friends and associates, or random people on the street.

We spend so much time thinking of government as the bad guy.  However we forget that its most legitimate purpose is to protect individual liberties from other powers that would exert force or fraud.  That’s why we have allowed the government military and police power in the first place.

We need to look around and ask what other large-scale tyrannies exist in America today.  A good measuring stick to judge this by is, “Does it initiate force or fraud?”  Since it is the topic du jour, let’s look at the health care industry.  Here are three ways it has initiated both.

1. When you or your employer pays for health insurance, you have a contract with the insurance provider to cover certain costs if you become sick.  Your contract is too probably long to read, too confusing for you to understand, and full of loopholes.  This is a form of fraud or uninformed consent.

Even if your contact in fact covers your expensive illness, as soon as you are diagnosed the insurer is likely to drop your coverage.  You will be stuck with prohibitive bills and likely bankruptcy.

You may think this is a rare occurrence, but it is not.  The leading cause of bankruptcy is due to medical bills of people who were already covered by health insurance.

If it happens even once, it is the government’s job to protect all individuals from fraud.

2. Various factors have driven up costs so that access to health care is barred to anyone except those with insurance or those who are very rich.  It is no longer possible for a middle class person to save a percentage of their income and pay directly for health services.

Insurance has created a non-level playing field.  It is a form of privatized socialism.  Doctor’s charges go up to subsidize insurance discounts.  Hospital bills are increased to cover those without health insurance who show up on the hospital steps.

The least advantaged are the employed middle class without employer-provided insurance, small business owners, and the temporarily unemployed.  The system basically forces you to choose between being insured or not having any health care.  The latter choice leads to bodily harm or even death.

If you decide to buy insurance on your own, the costs are prohibitive.  And if you have a “pre-existing condition” like a past treatment for a yeast infection or acne, you will be denied insurance.

It boils down to this:  If you choose to run your own business or freelance, or if you choose a small employer which does not provide health care, or if you are involuntarily laid off, you risk bodily harm.  Contrary to popular belief, “hard work” is not a factor for successful health in this system.

3. In most states, employees cannot choose their insurance provider.  They cannot choose their coverage.  In this sense, they are forced into a contract made between their employer and insurance company.  This limits consumer choice when it comes to doctors, level of care, customer service, price, level of bureaucracy, and reputation.  If my insurance drops my doctor from the network, I must find a new doctor.  If my insurance company raises rates or lowers coverage, I can’t walk away.  I’m trapped.

Conclusion

There are numerous valid sources that show how insurance companies extort, defraud, cheat, and oppress.  The evidence is overwhelming.  There are examples of corruption at every level of the health care industry.  The industry as a whole is the very socialist dictatorship we so fear.

The government seems to be the only entity powerful enough to reinstate the balance and protect the people.  This is the proper role of government.  Health care reform should be embraced by everyone who cares about individual liberty.

This is one time when it is proper to plea for government interference.

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm  Comments (11)  
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Defcon Recap 2009: Adventures of a Hacker Groupie

by Luna Flesher

As I so enthusiastically tweeted, Defcon 2009 was the best con I’ve been to since Radcon 1997. Here are a few highlights.

Getting There

The fun began at Sea-Tac airport, where we barely caught our flight by a thin margin. Getting to the airport 1.5 hours early only leaves room for one mistake, mishap, or other difficulty. We encountered several:

First, my iPhone fell out of my pocket and was back in the car. At the parking facility. To compound the issue, I hopped the wrong shuttle to fetch it. A shuttle that was going the wrong way. However a couple of helpful shuttle drivers got me to the right place, and I was back at the airport — just in time to make the flight assuming no other mishaps occurred. I’ve just got to say: Thrifty car rental, FTW.

Back at the airport, I breathlessly found my two traveling companions waiting at the agent. Apparently, two of our tickets have been canceled with no notice. And one of our bags was over 50 lbs.

After waiting forever, repacking the bags, rushing through security, running down halls, finding out there was no room for us on the plane, then finding out there was, we boarded the plane with -5 minutes to spare.
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Published in: on August 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Culture War at Defcon 17

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by Roland Lindsey

For seventeen years, Defcon has been a home country to society’s misfits. Geeks, nerds and hackers of all stripes make their yearly pilgrimage to the Holy City of Las Vegas to reconnect with friends and family from all over the world, and for one weekend, they are the normal ones. The mundanes cautiously pace through the halls wondering what happened to the rest of the retirees and beautiful people. Once they realize that an Evil Hacker conference is commencing at the hotel of their choosing, they utter a prayer for mercy and have nightmares amidst restless sleep about the 5 character glyph “PWN3D” being carved upon their virtual faces.

But even though the hackers seek the company of each other as a means to feel connected to others, there are further divisions within the group. One black presenter offered one way to remember who he was: “I’m the black presenter at Defcon, lol.” And although attendance of women is noticeably up, the “sausagefest” jokes can be found on the Twitterstream with great regularity.

One group that has sought to provide a meetup for another segment of Defcon society runs “Queercon” every year. It is as brash and uninhibited as its name, and most find it to be the most delightful gathering of friendly, fun people. In fact, although there are many parties where dancing is available, Queercon is usually the only one where you can expect to see a roomful dance all night long.

Being gay and geek is not exactly the most harmonious combination in the hacker space. This is most evident in the de facto insult in geek circles, which is typically some variant of “gay” or “fag” (“g4y” or “f4g” if you prefer.) It is one thing to be an outcast because you are gay in a straight society. It is another thing to be an outcast because you are gay and a geek in a straight and mundane society, and because you are gay in geek society. Unless you are a hot lesbian, in which case you will be drooled over, ogled and patronized all at the same time.

This year, I was very much looking forward to Queercon. I strode down the hall confidently, knowing a night of fun and dancing awaited me. Ahead I saw the Rainbow flag, and I smiled, and then looked again. The Rainbow flag was draped over the American flag on a flagpole. Uh oh.

Some geeks tend towards encyclopedic knowledge; whenever they see something they don’t understand, they look it up and add it to their mental files. As I noticed the flag, I mentioned to my girlfriend: “I don’t think that is quite legal.” She amended that it was technically legal, but against US Code. I examined it further. Apparently, they had some difficulty figuring out how to fly the flag, and in desperation had affixed some wire to the top of the flag and attached it to the Rainbow flag.

I decided it was unseemly, but not unforgivable, and regardless would likely not offend anyone bound for that end of the hallway. I didn’t mention it to anyone at the party. I probably should have, because I was wrong about whether or not someone would take offense.

Another geek, himself a former member of the armed forces, arrived at the party and pulled down the Rainbow flag. He gave the flag to those near the door and stated, “I don’t appreciate this flag being hung over the US Flag. It’s not right.” As he walked out, someone from the back of the party yelled out, “Hater!”

The former soldier returned thirty seconds later. He asked, “Are you calling me a hater?” He claimed the other only had the right to have a Queercon because he had fought for those rights overseas. There was disagreement. The argument escalated. The other persisted with the ad hominem, perhaps thinking if he said it enough, his opponent would say, “You’re right, I do hate you!” Eventually, the former soldier gave up and left.

The mood at the party was temporarily broken. Dancers stopped their gyrations.

If there is anything the geek community has learned from life is that mainstream society tends to reject us, and we have had some hardship as a result. We are misunderstood, underappreciated, and abused. We agree that this is not a good thing.

And yet, for all of our enlightenment and lessons learned and struggle together, we do it to each other. But then again, we have always done it to each other. What remains to be seen is if we can change any better or faster than the mainstream society that fears, misunderstands, hates, ignores all of us.

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 5:22 am  Comments (1)  
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Email Rebuttal: Muslims Are Taking Over Europe

I get a lot of forwarded political email, mostly of the sensationalist right wing bent.  These are often nonfactual or overly-alarmist, so I take time to point out these mistakes when I can.

I recently received one which was factually correct:  Yes, demographic studies are predicting that by sheer force of birthrate (helped a little by immigration), Muslim populations will be in the majority in most European countries in a few short decades.

I disagreed however with the tone of the email, which implied all Muslims are anti-Western extremists who support suicide bombings, building of nukes, and flying planes into buildings.  This kind of blind generalization is dangerous.

Just as with Christianity, there are those in the extreme and those
in the middle.  There are those who are fundamentalist and those who are secular.

The only real difference is that at this moment in history, the extreme factions of Islam happen to have state power in much of the Middle East.  For this reason, we make the assumption that all the people in these countries are in full agreement with their dictators.  But in fact, the people are often very unhappy about being oppressed.

Obama alluded to this a couple of months ago in his highly-criticized Cairo speech.  At Cairo University, home to many secular-leaning Muslims, he made an appeal to those many people in the middle-stream of the Muslim world.  They are unhappy about their situation, unhappy about being ruled in theocracies.  And more often victims of extremist bombings than we are, they are unhappy about terrorism.  Obama was speaking to them, yet he was criticized by the Right who blamed him for being too “soft”, too lenient on a people who supposedly are unanimous in their hatred of the West.

A few short weeks later, we go to see the faces of many Muslim men and women who are completely unlike this mass of thronging evil we’d love to hate.  In Iran, millions of people rose up against oppression by President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Ruler Khamenei.  Over the ensuing months, thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested, tortured, and even killed, simply for walking in the streets or publishing unapproved content.

When we are blinded by hate against a generalized concept of Islam, we are aiding those who prefer an extreme form of Islam.  We prove to the extremists that the West is adversarial.  We prove to them that we do not understand them.  We prove to them that we only want violence for them.

We perpetuate the fight, we escalate the violence, we continue give them reasons to hate us as much as we hate them.

If we could instead realize that Muslim people are just people, just like us, with families, hopes, fears, beliefs, misconceptions, and regular lives, then we can meet in the middle with those Muslims who also want to see past their hate to understand us.

The majority of them do not hate us as much you believe.  Does a majority Islamic population in Europe mean Europe will have to change? Absolutely.  But if you want an Extreme Muslim Europe, you will continue to hate Muslims.  What we want is a two-way flow of cultural understanding.  We want the non-extreme, moderate Muslims to carry the cultural majority within the Muslim world.

I’d highly recommend reading about the Iranian struggle against their government.  It goes on to this day, and they still need our well-wishing and support.  I have gained a love for the Iranian people, and a better understanding of Muslims in general.  There are many tear-jerking stories of brave people making very courageous acts that are reminiscent of our own country’s struggle for freedom.  You will find that a majority of Iranian Muslims are not unlike ourselves — the only difference is they completely lack the freedoms we so enjoy.

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Firing the War on Drugs

The right time to fire someone is when everyone wonders why this person hasn’t been fired yet,” said the mentor to this young manager. It was good advice, and I followed it to my own success, although some may say I followed it a little too often.

A Zogby poll in 2008 revealed that 76% of likely voters believe that the War on Drugs is failing. Of four options on how we should change our approach, the most popular option chosen was that we should legalize some or all illegal drugs.

And yet, despite so many debates, arguments, statements, speeches, articles, blog posts and other expressions of opinion on the issue, we are still left wondering, why hasn’t this person been fired yet?

The legalization of drugs is an inherently conservative position. William F. Buckley and National Review have advocated this position for many years, yet this journal of Conservative opinion is ignored on this point. I can think of very few other political actions that would simultaneously advance the causes of personal liberty, pragmatism, free markets, return to traditional values and states’ rights as drug legalization. And yet, conservative politicians are largely silent on this issue, save for those libertarians who have fought this struggle since its beginning.

We do not see politicians on either side of the aisle typing up the pink slip for the War on Drugs because they are afraid of being perceived as being soft on crime, and yet drug legalization would allow us to be tougher on crime. No one is harmed by the neighbor who lights up some marijuana, yet many are harmed by the hoodlum down the street robbing a store to support his habit. Freeing up resources to deal with the hoodlum in order to dispense liberty to the neighbor is a tough on crime position. And years after the decision is made to legalize drugs, the politician will be able to trot out statistics on how many more people were protected and served by law enforcement due to this decision, and everyone will wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.

We will close jails for lack of criminals. We will be a little freer than we were the day before. The markets will develop and the economic benefits will serve us all. The states will manage the markets to their benefit and see growth in their economies. We will spend a fraction of what we currently spend on treatment instead of incarceration.

So why hasn’t that irritating employee named theWar on Drugs” been fired yet? I don’t know, either.

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Health Care – Conservative solutions that don’t sound crazy

I have to say that most conservative arguments seem unconvincing and weak to me on health care.  The arguments about “We don’t want government making decisions for us!” is easily countered by “A bureaucrat in an insurance company is better?”  The argument saying “The government breaks everything it touches!” falls down when you consider the high efficiency of Social Security and Medicare (I know they are not sustainable, but neither is a health care industry that increased in cost 87% in the last 10 years.  Social Security and Medicare are more sustainable than that.)  Arguments about choosing doctors fall flat when Canada’s single payer system allows you to choose any doctor, anywhere, and they have a much higher percentage of private practice doctors than Americans.  Arguments about how happy people are with their health insurance fall flat when you realize most of those happy with their insurance have never dealt with a financially crippling illness, which almost always leads to bankruptcy.

So what’s a conservative to do?

There are some much better arguments that I don’t see prominent conservatives making.

Single payer systems are completely unrealistic when you consider they would instantly eliminate $100 billion+ in market capitalization due to the health care insurance companies no longer able to sell a product.  Are we cool with eliminating $100 billion from our economy right now?  Along with all the jobs?  Didn’t we just bail out a company worth $55 billion in 2000?  (GM, I’m looking at you.)  It’s crazy talk to consider this as an option.  And even if you do replace a 15% insurance company cost with a 4% government administration cost, you are only saving 11% of the cost by choosing single payer.

Any solution that attempts to alleviate the pain of health care’s costs needs to focus on…. Health care costs!  Right now, the insurance companies have had no incentive whatsoever to rein in costs.  They always get their 15% no matter what the care actually costs.  Consumers have no real clue what the procedures cost, so what would they have to complain about?

I had a routine physical a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see that my insurer paid $500 for the work.  In that time, I spent 5 minutes with a doctor, and 7 minutes with a nurse!  And that was it!  $500?  I could get a very high priced lawyer for the same cost and he would spend the entire 60 minutes chatting with me about anything I wanted to chat about.

We have seen that the current system has no mechanism for making providers justify their costs, and I believe that is the true problem.  If a provider had to explain why it cost them $500 to spend 12 minutes with me, and it was easy for me to compare what providers cost, and what their patient outcomes were, I would generally choose the best care for the lowest cost.  Transparency helps solve lots of problems, and transparency can definitely work here.  Today, the workings of health care are far too arcane and esoteric.  When we see a provider gouging people on the provider costs & outcomes website, let the market punish them!  Imagine the fun of browsing this site.  “Hey honey, look at this doctor!  Half of his patients die!”

I believe that there is value to making sure that everyone has access to care.  I believe most Americans believe that as well.  I believe in mandated health insurance just as I believe in mandated car insurance.  And I believe that when people cannot afford to pay for health care, we all suffer.  The government seems to be good at loaning people money these days, so let the government loan health care money to those who can’t afford it.  Many will never repay the loan, but some will.  Some will gladly repay it as their fortunes increase.

And finally, make this problem a states problem.  It costs far more to operate a practice in Manhattan than it does in Seattle, Washington, or Butte, Montana for that matter.  The federal government can mandate that the states must come up with a solution that makes sense for them.  The federal government can mandate insurance purchase.  The federal government can mandate that the providers provide complete transparency as to costs and outcomes.  The federal government can loan the poor money to pay their premiums.

Some states can choose to become a single payer system, allowing more doctors to practice more profitably because they don’t have to hire huge administrative staffs to manage claims.  Some states can choose to continue to manage multiple insurance providers.  Some states can keep things as they are.  And we, the people, will vote with our feet.  As always.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 6:39 pm  Comments (1)  
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Free Your Mind Using Good Mental Habits

by Luna Flesher (cross-posted from lunaverse.blogspot.com)

The world is full of many ideas and belief systems. Many of these ideas are contradictory, and they can’t all be true. It is obvious that believing something does not mean it is reality, no matter how many people believe it, no matter how good those people are.

Yet a lot of people are motivated to convince you to believe like they do. Many of these people are highly skilled in the arts of persuasion, and we’re all at risk of believing a lie.

So how can you sort fact from fiction, truth from lies? It’s not always possible, but good mental habits can increase your odds. Ultimately, the best judge of reality is you. If your goal is like mine, to bring your beliefs as close to reality as possible, then read on.
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Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cognitive Dissonance and This Election

by Luna Flesher (cross posted from lunaverse.blogspot.com)

Let me preface this by stating I am a pragmatic libertarian, meaning I am civilly liberal and fiscally conservative. I add “pragmatic”, because every situation is complex, and should be looked at from all sides, where “principle” is only one factor — reality is another.

I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on how people are persuaded, and how beliefs work in the brain. Most of my studies focused on cults and mind control, but it gives me an interesting perspective on societal dynamics as well.

There is a psychological theory called Cognitive Dissonance/Consonance. A cognition is defined as any thought, belief, feeling, experience, idea, or other mental “thing”. We have tons of cognitions, and they all add up to be our total belief system. Our brain is motivated to more or less keep these cognitions in harmony. When we encounter a new cognition that confirms our existing cognitions, we feel consonance. When something goes against our existing cogntions, we feel dissonance.
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Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 7:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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How Group Dynamics Are Changing

by Luna Flesher

Prior to the internet, group dynamics seemed to be as likely to produce greater stupidity (the lowest common denominator) as it was to create beautiful productive things.  Group have even produce great evils that could never come about under a single individual.  Members of such groups reflect that they never would have done such things on their own.  Much has been written on this.  Many researchers and authors attribute this to, among other things, the lack of accountability that a crowd can provide.

Internet technologies appear to be changing that, allowing the greatest common ideas and actions to float to the top.  Collaborative review allows acceptance or rejection of ideas before they are implemented.  Search and integration technologies allow us to access the right content as it is needed.

The iterative nature of these technologies mean that nothing is cast in stone, and can be quickly changed if needed.

Transparency helps to retain personal accountability that was lost in the large groups of the past.  In many ways, you are or can be more anonymous in these new communities.  But even with or without levels of anonymity, a record remains, attached to your chosen identity.

Transparency also helps us focus more on our commonalities.  In past dynamics, groups thrived on differences.  This Us vs Them mentality motivated people to destroy rather than create.  With physical barriers removed, information “wants to be free”, and we understand each other better.

When I read “We is smarter than Me”, in the past I would have laughed and said Fat Chance!  Now?  Through technology we’re able to keep the Me in We, which lets We reflect the best of the group.

Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment