Category Archives: Libertarianism

SCOTUS For The Average Joe – Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht

MS&D, affectionately known as Merck, developed a drug for postmenopausal women called Fosamax. It was designed to prevent osteoporosis.

Here’s the thing with Fosamax, it has certain risks for femur stress fractures. Several women experienced this, and sued Merck.

Merck was aware of the issue, and had previously notified the FDA that their shit might cause a problem here and there. However, the FDA looked over the evidence, and didn’t feel it warranted a warning, and told Merck, “Don’t worry about, bro. Leave the label as it is.”

It wasn’t that the FDA said, “Don’t do it or else, motherfucker.” But they gave Merck reason to believe they’d reject a change to the label if Merck put it on there.

So Merck left the label with no warning for this problem, and crossed their fingers.

The lawsuit was based on a state law that requires drug companies to warn people about this kind of shit. But, Merck was complying with the FDA, which is a federal regulator. So Merck was all like, “WTF, man? Can you motherfuckers short this shit out and get back to us?”

Sort it out SCOTUS did. They told the state, and these women with the fucked up femurs to go kick rocks. If the FDA says leave the label as it is, that’s the law of the land, motherfuckers! Federal government for life!

All nine justices in favor or Merck.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

 

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SCOTUS For The Average Joe – Biestek v. Berryhill

So this dude Biestek was a carpenter and contractor. Biestek had problems, y’all. Like seriously, this dude was defective AF.

He had degenerated discs in his spine, which made it hard to do labor with the pain that comes from this. He had hepatitis C, presumably because he stuck his dinger somewhere he shouldn’t have. And, he was depressed, which seems pretty understandable with the other two problems.

So dude decided to file for government disability assistance, because finding a job that doesn’t require labor, was apparently too much to ask.

The Social Security Administration denied his bullshit, and told him to take a walk. In reviewing his case, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), going on testimony by an expert in job availability,  basically decided Biestek was clearly able to be productive, and based on stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their own independent research, argued there was plenty of shit Biestek could do for a living, and thus had zero business asking the tax payer to fund his life in perpetuity.

Biestek appealed, and the ALJ testified against him, saying he could fucking work, and there were jobs available for him. But the ALJ didn’t really supply a whole lot of data to support that claim. And by whole lot, I mean didn’t at all. Basically, they just said, “I know my shit. Don’t question me.”

So the court was asked to determine if the ALJ’s expert must provide all their data to be considered expert testimony, or if their opinion is good enough. To be clear, the court was asked to say that in any case anywhere, data should be provided, not just for these mother fuckers. But the court was all like, “We’re all intelligent people here. We can hear shit on a case-by-case basis. We’re not going to make some grand fucking rule that says you must provide data or get the fuck outta here. And if we determine someone is an expert, that means they have a wealth of knowledge in their head, and we shouldn’t expect them to carry around their life’s work like a huge set of encyclopedias everywhere they go.”

Six out of nine SCOTUS justices said they can’t be bothered with data every goddamn time, and think an expert is an expert. Just take their goddamn word for it.

Ruling for Berryhill, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration.

Hear oral arguments and read about the case here.

The Myth of the “Militia” clause in the 2nd Amendment

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. ~ 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.

Nothing seems to evoke more passion from either side of the political aisle than the 2nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution. People on the Individual-Right side of the fence often cite the “shall not be infringed” clause, but those who wish to limit or eliminate the individual right to bear arms often cite the “well-regulated militia” clause.

Former ACLU Leader and Mathematics Professor Ira Glasser

The anti-individual-right argument being that the framers meant for Americans to be able to form militias to protect the people or the country, and those militias would need to be armed. This sentiment has been echoed by such noteworthy Civil Rights leaders as former ACLU head and mathematics professor Ira Glasser, which he discussed at length during the March 2nd, 2018 Comedy Cellar podcast. (click to listen)

NYC Comedy Cellar

Side Note: Don’t be fooled that the podcast is from the Comedy Cellar. Owner Noam Dworman is quite fond of discussing politics, and is incredibly thoughtful, fair, and insightful on the subject.

Oddly, the person who got it right (IMO), contradicting Ira Glasser, was Noam’s co-host, comedian Dan Naturman, who often describes himself as left-leaning. Dan does possess a law degree from Fordham University, making him the only person trained in law involved in the discussion.

While Noam Dworman tends to be right-leaning, he understandably felt the need to defer to Glasser’s judgement, since his work with the ACLU would seem to assert Glasser would be the more knowledgeable person in the room—but on this issue, he just wasn’t.

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Comedian Dan Naturman
The argument the anti-individual-right group presents seems pretty sound on the face of it, but there are several flaws with this line of thinking, making it unarguably incorrect.

But let’s break down the flaws of these arguments one by one.

THE CONTRADICTION

The first issue is that it is entirely contradictory with the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights was drafted, not as a set of laws for the people to heed, but instead, limits set on government as to how government may restrict the people’s individual rights.

The Bill of Rights Institute writes:

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. James Madison wrote the amendments, which list specific prohibitions on governmental power, in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties.

So if the 2nd Amendment was drafted to allow the establishment of militias, and was not meant as an individual right, it would be inconsistent with the other nine amendments.

Our founding fathers believed you have inalienable rights by virtue of existing, and they cannot be taken from you. They don’t come from government at all—the founders of our country were very clear on that when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Bill of Rights places limits on what government may do, not establishes the formation of government entities. Those things are laid out in the first portion of the Constitution. But it also is written with the intention that the power comes from the people, not government.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

For instance, our first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” versus something like “You are free to practice any religion of your choosing.”

This pattern is consistent throughout the Bill Of Rights, and while most see both those phrases as essentially the same, there’s an incredibly important distinction. As the Bill of Rights are written, the people have the power and are imposing a limit on the government’s ability to limit their religious freedom. In the second theoretical example, it implies government has the power and is granting religious rights to the people.

So now that we understand the Bill of Rights (it’s in the name, for Pete’s sake) establishes rights of the people, not of government, and thus contradicts the idea that the 2nd amendment was meant to help local militias to form, let’s move on to issue #2.

THE MEANING OF THE WORD MILITIA

The meaning behind the word “militia” in the second amendment.

If we assume the term “militia” refers to local military and police, which are government entities after all; the people arguing the 2nd amendment was set up to allow local governments to establish militias comprised of the people believe our forefathers wrote an amendment that says that government cannot infringe on government’s rights to bear arms. This is not only inconsistent to the rest of the Bill of Rights, which guarantee individual rights, but its redundancy is nonsensical. If government cannot infringe on government’s rights to carry guns, then there would be no reason to even mention it in the first place.

The militia clause does refer to government, but not just local governments, it means any government. It wasn’t a right of the militia, it was a limit on it. This will make more sense as we move on to the next issues.No_gun[1]

THE MEANING OF THE WORD REGULATED

The third important issue people get wrong with this, is believing “well-regulated” is synonymous with “well-organized.”

Merriam Webster defines “Regulate” as:

A: to govern or direct according to rule

Bto bring under the control of law or constituted authority

If the people arguing it was meant to set up militias we’re correct, “well-organized” would have been a more proper wording. But instead, the only logical interpretation was that they meant for the militia (the armed wing of government) to be controlled or regulated. They believed the way you do this, is to prohibit government from disarming the public as the British tried to do before the revolutionary war broke out—arguably the prime motivation for the 2nd amendment in the first place.

WHAT IS BEING PROTECTED?

The last issue with the anti-individual-right argument is what it argues is being protected. The incorrect argument is that it’s protecting a country (state) which is free. But the reality is it is protecting freedom itself, ensuring the state remain free. You’d have to deny nearly all of America’s founding history to believe that freedom wasn’t at the core of everything the founding fathers did. Freedom was always more important in their minds. Far more important than the state.

ANOTHER WAY TO WRITE IT

With all that in mind, let me reword the amendment in the way it was intended using language that is maybe more understandable in today’s vernacular.

In order for the people of the United States to remain free, the militia shall be kept under control by the people of the United States who have the right to keep and bear arms.

This is precisely how the amendment was intended, and the only interpretation of it which cannot be easily challenged.

Click here for several quotes by the founding father’s to bear out this claim. It was painfully obvious that they wanted government to fear the people, as many of them specifically wrote.

They knew government will always be prone to becoming bloated and oppressive. And while a government can pass a million laws, those laws have no teeth if there is no militia to enforce them. So in order to keep that government, specifically its enforcement wing (the militia) well-regulated, the people should be armed as well. This way, the government (and militia) always have some level of fear from the people. It’s the only reason to use the word “regulated” that makes sense.

The United States Supreme Court in 2008 with District of Columbia v. Heller held it is an individual right saying the following:

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. (click for entire transcript)

This opinion, being current precedent, effectively settles the argument for now.

IS THIS IDEA OF THE GOVERNMENT FEARING THE PEOPLE EVEN REALISTIC NOW?

Since the United States Military is infinitely more powerful than its armed citizens, many argue the point becomes moot, since we “the people” couldn’t possibly fight them. Which in a narrow scope might seem accurate, but again, if you apply a little skepticism, it isn’t.

While it’s true, the U.S. military’s might is overwhelming—it’s arguably more powerful than nearly all the rest of the world’s military’s combined.

But, they’re still given orders by an elected government. When the military kills the citizens, it usually isn’t well-received by the people who voted for them, threatening their re-electability.

It’s also important to remember ours is a voluntary military comprised of the people, and thus aren’t likely to murder their brothers and sisters for no good cause.

But we actually have evidence it can work.  Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy, and a large group of supporters showed up armed to the teeth to fight the federal government over a land dispute. No shots were fired, perhaps in remembrance of the Waco Texas incident, and the federal government did back down. Those armed citizens, in this modern era with our massive military prowess, did precisely what the 2nd amendment was designed to enable, they fought the law, and the law didn’t win.

So why do gun control advocates believe this is what the 2nd amendment implies? It’s likely a simple case of confirmation bias—a phenomenon whereby someone attempting to prove something they hope to be true/false, eschew interpretations that conflict with their bias and/or accept suspect data that supports their bias, due to an inner desire to substantiate their argument.

We are all prone to do this, and with the exception of devout skeptics like myself, we’ll rarely even know we’re doing it, nor act to correct it.

Some may have come to these beliefs due to their own life experience. For instance, former US representative Gabby Giffords who was brutally shot in 2011 by a crazed killer on an unhinged political shooting spree, or former Reagan White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in a failed presidential assassination attempt.

Their lives were forever changed because of gun violence, so it’s quite reasonable to assume they would advocate limiting our right to bear arms. And when people have been forever affected by senseless gun violence, it behooves all of us to respect their trepidation in respect to lax gun laws. We haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.

James Brady & The Reagan Assassination Attempt

But apologies to those who wish to limit our rights to bear arms, and believe the “militia” clause supports your argument. If you want to argue against gun rights, using the “militia” argument, it just isn’t consistent with the rest of the Constitution, and you’re unfortunately misinterpreting the clause.

How To Do Liberty Right: Freedom For Me = Freedom For Thee

Despite those with maybe some rare psychological condition (libertophobia?), we all want to be free. Specifically; I don’t think a single person has something they want to do, that they then want government to prevent them from doing it. So denying others similar freedoms should reasonably be thought of as hypocritical.

While everyone can apply their own nuance to what liberty or freedom means to them, I’d like to politely take the role of arbiter for a moment, and share where I think many go wrong when proposing roles of government. Here are a few instances I’ve come up with. Feel free to add more in the comments below.

You have the right to say whatever you want. You don’t have a right to be heard or to be uninterrupted.

Because I have a decent number of people I enjoy interacting with on social media, I am rather uninterested in disrespectful discourse, since there’s so much respectful discourse I could be having instead.

As a result, many often insinuate when I mute or block those people on Twitter, I’m stifling free speech. Which is a pretty outlandish false premise.

On social media, you might get blocked. In person, people might walk away from you. But, if you want to be heard, and people are exercising the right to take their leave of your message, maybe you need to work on your delivery of said message, or the message itself. But you don’t get to compel them to listen. Nor should you argue that them blocking you is anti-free speech.

Milo Yiannopoulos

Your right to free speech means you can’t be impeded by government for exercising your right to speak. It doesn’t mean that protesters can’t protest Milo Yiannopoulos, employers can’t fire you for saying something inappropriate, or people on social media can’t block you.

You have a right to seek employment, but not a right to be employed.

If you go to seek a job, assuming it’s a private business versus a government job, the business OWNER owns that business, no different from you owning your home stereo for instance.

If no one has a right to dictate to you what music you play on that stereo, you don’t have a right to dictate who they hire, serve, what they pay you, or anything else.

The job market and the consumer markets are intended to be free markets. Either both parties agree to terms on what is to transpire, or one/both of them walk away. But forcing one party to comply with the other’s wishes is a mafia tactic, not something the people should be sanctioning.

Does that mean a bigoted jerk could put a sign out front denying service to gays, blacks, whites, women, Latinos, Asians, et al.? Yes, it does.

Does a private citizen who is offended by that practice have a right to share it on social media, maybe get local news involved, protest this business, etc., until the market decides that this bigoted jerk doesn’t deserve their money, then watches his business fail due to lack of revenue?

Why yes…yes it also does!

You have a right to engage in free speech, you don’t have a right to put someone in harm’s way utilizing speech.

Using the “Fire in a crowded theater” analogy, you can say the word “Fire” in a theater, you can even yell it if the theater were empty, or if the people know you were joking. If there’s actually a fire in the theater, you’ve not only broken no law, you’re potentially a hero.

But if there’s no fire, you have instead put people in danger by creating a stampede that may lead to people falling, getting walked on, and harmed. So it’s not the “Speech” that is being prosecuted, it’s the act of putting others in danger.

Think of it this way. The 2nd amendment guarantees your right to own and fire a gun, but it doesn’t allow you to shoot someone who is no threat to you.

In the same vein, the first amendment guarantees your right to free speech, you can’t use that speech to harm someone either.

You have a right to ask someone for help. You do not have the right to dictate they help you.

If your car breaks down, you don’t have a right to demand a mechanic fix it so you can get to work.

So that should also mean you don’t have a right to demand a teacher educate you because you need a better job, or demand a doctor help you because you’re sick.

Doctors and teachers have the same rights as everyone else. As such, consumers have no right to free services or goods.

Free Education and Free Health Care are nothing more than servitude (if you force them to provide a service) and/or theft (if you force the people to pay for their services). If it’s volunteers and private donations, that’s the only way it is a completely moral exercise.

You have a right to equal protection and service from government, not from the private sector.

Waiting in Emergency department

If you’re LGBTQ, you have a right to dictate that the government acknowledge your marriage, and under our current system, to have a judge (a government employee), perform the ceremony. You’ve paid taxes into that system, and the government cannot discriminate. If the government employee doesn’t like it, they should have joined the private sector.

But you do not have a right to ask a private pastor to do the ceremony, nor do you have a right to dictate a baker bake you a cake. Why? Because they have the same rights you do.

Summary

People often think those who champion freedom are being selfish, and it is certainly true for some. But the people who are truly libertarian in their beliefs are also not hypocrites. They believe others should have the same rights and don’t have to agree with someone to support the rights of another.

  • A teetotaler can support the rights of alcohol drinkers
  • A monogamist can support the rights of a sex worker
  • An atheist can support the rights of churches, synagogues, etc.
  • A non-gun owner can support the 2nd amendment
  • A heterosexual can support gay marriage
  • Someone does not like abortion can support a woman’s right to choose
  • A clean person can support another’s right to use recreational drugs
  • A helmet-wearing motorcycle rider can support another person’s right to not wear a helmet

I can go on forever about what it means to do liberty right. Hypocrisy is never considered a good trait to have. So hopefully, after reading this, you can find an area where you’ve had the opinion that government should restrict someone’s rights and are now second guessing that thought. Liberty for me, must come with liberty for thee.

A Straw Man and the Easily Offended: Occasionally, People Have Cause to Tell You How You Should Feel

 

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Chances are, if you’re on social media, you’ve no doubt encountered the easily-offended. You say something entirely innocuous in intent, and yet the listener assumes the worst possible scenario your statement could have meant, and then attack you via that assumption.

Recently, I had an actress friend from Twitter call online bullies out as “terrorists.”

Her tweet was clearly tongue-in-cheek; she knows the difference between a suicide bomber for instance, and an internet troll. Nonetheless, people took offense to her supposed equating of terrorists to online bullies, and she felt compelled to apologize.

I responded, “Nice of you to do. It’s irksome that people can be so easily offended, though. If you meant no offense, none should be taken.”

Internet Troll

Another of her followers inserted herself into the conversation with:

This is wrong. You don’t get to dictate how others feel. That’s like saying “she’s a slut” oh[sic] but don’t take offense because I didn’t mean it! Like[sic] hell no. If it can be offensive, you should be aware of that.

This sentiment of not being able to tell others how they should feel is echoed by many, and it seems fair on the face of it, but in my opinion, logic dictates quite the contrary in many situations.

My reasons for this boil down to arguably the most famous and common of logical fallacies—The Straw Man Argument.

It basically goes like this.

I say, “I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan.”

A Browns fan hears this and attacks me, saying something like, “Don’t trust that guy, he hates the Cleveland Browns.”

While this might seem like a fair conclusion to make since they’re division rivals, one does not technically assume the other. The fact is, partly because I’m squarely between the two in Columbus Ohio, I’d say the Browns are my 3rd favorite team (behind whomever is playing the Pittsburgh Steelers). So an assumption was made based on what I said that is entirely false.

Thus, it’s a logical fallacy, because they’re attacking a “straw man” of what I actually said, and falsely assigning that “straw man” to me. In any sort of debate, straw man arguments are  frowned upon for their inherently fallacious nature.

Click Image for more info

But one doesn’t have to make a verbal argument to build a straw man. Simply taking offense at a statement where no disrespect was intended is fallacious for the same reason.

For instance, I once had an ex-girlfriend who was sadly suffering from bipolar disorder. One night, we were going out to dinner, and she opted for a little black dress that I thought looked great on her.

The conversation went like this:

Me: Honey, you look great in that dress.

Her: Oh, so I look like shit any other time?

(No, that’s not a joke. Bipolar disorder is a very serious mental illness that can often lead to over-reactions like that from the sufferer. Click the link to read more about this condition.)

Hopefully, this over the top example explains why in fact, it is sometimes quite right to correct how someone is feeling. She was mad at what she felt my statement meant, when what I actually said and meant had no commonality with how she inferred it.

Arguing that I don’t have a right to correct her emotional reaction is preposterous in my opinion, unless we disagree on the premise that a straw man argument is a logical fallacy.

However, this mindset isn’t a license to say everything that’s on your mind. You can’t be the Andrew Dice Clay of your office, saying things you know will offend someone, but because you think it’s funny, you assume this makes it OK. If you knew it would offend them and did it anyway, you meant to offend them. They have every right to be upset whether you think it’s just you being funny or not.

But what’s the difference?

People often say things like, “I’m not mean, I’m just being honest.”

So let me illustrate the difference. Imagine you got a haircut, and you ask you spouse what they think.

Honest: The stylist did a nice job, but honestly, I don’t like that style on you.

Mean: Whoa! Did you lose a bet? I’ve seen a baboon’s ass with better looking hair than that.

Sure both of those statements are essentially saying the same thing, but one is clearly just honest, and one is clearly mean-spirited while coming from an honest place. The reason the latter is wrong is that not only does it convey your honest thoughts (the part that’s valuable information the other person requested), but it also serves to demean the person it’s said to (the part that’s immoral). Any reasonable person should know the difference.

This easily-offended issue is a problem because it promotes dishonest conversation and sometimes outright lies.

Imagine for a second I had a new girlfriend who decided to surprise me by making me dinner. The choice she makes includes cooked broccoli, a vegetable when cooked, that I’d classify as a hate crime. It smells like feet, for Pete’s sake! Why would anyone want to eat that?

She may have cooked the broccoli as good as broccoli has ever been cooked, and I still won’t like it. So I have two options, I can tell her I really don’t like cooked broccoli at all and potentially offend her, or I can tell her it’s delicious and power through it like the nice guy I am.

If I choose the dishonest route so as not to offend her, she may go on cooking her world-famous broccoli the entire time we’re dating, and I end up buying a dog to sneak broccoli to under the table just to remedy the situation. Maybe she doesn’t even like cooking it, and is just doing it to make me happy. This means that we’re both unhappy for literally no good reason—clearly a potential lose-lose situation.

The reason the framers of the U.S. Constitution wrote the free speech clause of the 1st amendment was not to let people talk about the weather. It was to allow free discourse, including that which offends others, because there’s value in such discussions. And it was the first amendment, largely because they understood it was one of the most important.

People learn how the other person feels, people find out that they’re sometimes not alone in their perceived controversial thoughts, truth-to-power speech can turn into meaningful movements, and people don’t go on being forced to eat cooked broccoli.

So if this is the problem, what’s the remedy?

If someone says something that you find offensive, I highly suggest you stop for a second and really consider whether they meant any disrespect. If it seems fairly obvious they didn’t, for the love of all that is intellectually honest, stop lashing out in retaliation.

If you’re not sure whether they meant to insult you, instead of snapping back hatefully with the worst possible assumption in your heart, be open-minded that they might not have meant to be insulting, and simply ask them to elaborate, or ask specific questions about what their underlying intent was.

In the age of Twitter’s 140 character limit and the inability to see someone’s facial expressions, a lot of context gets lost on social media. They might have wanted to add such nuance, and simply didn’t have the space or the writing prowess to convey it.

If you often find yourself getting upset when others around you don’t seem to be so bothered, it should be a sign that you are potentially someone who could fairly described as easily offended.

If you really wish to gain control of your emotions, consider trying to practice what Biology and Philosophy Ph. D Massimo Pigliucci, host of the wonderful and thought-provoking Rationally Speaking podcast  promotes, the philosophy of stoicism. I promise you, this way of thinking will eventually lead to you feeling better about yourself, reduced overall stress, and more meaningful and positive interactions with others, whether it be on social media, or in person.

Open and honest respectful discourse is important to our social structure, and for advancing understanding in general. Those who seek to quash it because they can’t control their emotions should be encouraged to learn the art of respectfully agreeing to disagree.

Whether discussing things like racism, politics, religion, or other heated topics, we’re better off if we feel free to speak our minds, and then debate those thoughts with mutual respect, stoicism, and honest candor. Hate, insults, and other heated responses only serve to upset both parties, and rarely achieve the goal of bringing us to a place of better understanding.

A lesson In Skepticism: Assumptions Are Bad, but Great Discussions Can Ensue From Them Nonetheless

Recently, a friend shared this meme on Twitter. Like anyone who stands behind and supports our military, I couldn’t help but be a little put off by Lena’s supposed argument. So I quoted the tweet with “We all have our problems. Unless your problems are life and death, your problems don’t make you special, they make you normal.”

This meme appeals to those of us who feel a heavy debt of gratitude towards our military. Sadly I jumped to conclusions that I absolutely shouldn’t have, and neither should my friend I discussed this meme with shortly after.

While we took different positions, he and I both assumed that Lena was referring to her claims of assault/rape during college. Sadly for Lena, the accusations she made against a person she identified as “Barry” were deemed to be about someone who never met her, and she was forced to walk her statement back.

She later stated that “Barry” was a pseudonym she had given to her attacker. It just happened to coincidentally somewhat describe a man she went to school with named Barry, who was then sadly attacked in the media after many assumed he was her rapist. To her credit, Lena eventually confirmed he was not her attacker, but no doubt Barry endured a lot of unfair stress and insults to his character as a result.People will argue whether it was her exhibiting a Munchausen Syndrome type scenario, seeking attention by claiming to be a victim when she wasn’t. But unless you were there, or unless she ultimately admits no such attack happens, she should rightfully be taken at her word that she was assaulted. Rape is not so uncommon, especially when the parties are impaired (drugs and alcohol), as Lena admits to during the attack.

Being famous, she would also likely understand that she may open herself up to a slander claim if she identified her potential attacker by name, when that attacker has neither been indicted, nor convicted of such an assault. So her pseudonym claims are entirely plausible and even logical if true.

As I give her the benefit of the doubt, I also have nothing but sincerest sympathy for what she would have went through. While I think her literal words—as written in the meme—are effectively falsified by the meme, I absolutely understand and acknowledge that I have not known the fear of being raped, nor ever been the victim of any type of sexual assault. So while I absolutely sympathize—in that context—I cannot empathize.

It should be noted that there are many false rape accusations leveled at people for a myriad of reasons from later regret of a consensual tryst, to the aforementioned Munchausen Syndrome where people derive pleasure from playing the victim. But that being said, unless I am the accused and know I’m innocent, or witnessed the event with my own eyes and saw the consent, I will never claim a woman is lying when she says she was raped, and neither should you.

Because if they are telling the truth, how dare you make them feel like the villain in this equation when you have no knowledge of the truth. We have a presumption of innocence in this country. It’s based on the solid scientific principle of falsification, largely attributed to Karl Popper. Because of its greater likelihood of coming to a truth, it’s the moral way to approach such a claim as well.

So what was our mistake in the assumptions we made? There were actually a few.

  1. We both assumed that the text of the meme was what she said verbatim—it wasn’t.
  2. We assumed she was talking about herself—she wasn’t.
  3. We assumed it was about rape—it wasn’t.

My friend and I weren’t even in the same ZIP code.Lena Dunham endorses Hillary Clinton

As it turns out, Lena—being a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton—was supporting her campaign in an interview with Page Six (I could not find a reputable source to confirm what she said or where she said it, so I’m taking this with a grain of salt too). Lena is quoted as saying, “The other candidates are white men and they cannot understand, even if they can understand it intellectually . . . for what it’s like to be under that kind of attack, and I’m so impressed by the way she continues to soldier forth.”

Lesson learned, always be skeptical of memes, even if they’re shared by someone you trust. But nonetheless, there are many great discussions worth having about the assumptions we did make—even if they weren’t true—aside from the lesson we already learned about making assumptions.

So let’s take a couple of them on.


If she had been discussing women living in constant fear of being attacked by man, is that fair?

Well, yes and no.

From a purely literal sense, if you fear someone who is of no threat to you, that is effectively an irrational fear. But as famed psychologist and skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer explains, in man’s evolutionary history, we are prone to a phenomenon he calls patternicity: finding meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.

Dr. Michael Shermer

As he goes on to explain (click the link above for a more descriptive example), if you assume something is a threat that isn’t and flee the scene, you’ve endured no harm. But if you assume no threat when there is one, you are likely to be harmed. So it makes sense we’ve evolved to assume things are threats, even when that assumption may be false, as an effective method of self-preservation.

So for women to assume that some men are predators, even if those men are perfectly honorable in their intentions, is not entirely irrational, even though the feared assault is highly improbable (most men do not assault women). They have my sincerest sympathy that a small segment of the male population have implanted this fear in them, even if they have nothing to fear from me personally.

So men, while it’s easy to get mad at women for assuming the worst in us, understand that it’s a simple self-preservation instinct which is entirely natural and beneficial to their safety. Just make a sincere effort to make them feel as safe as possible if you wish to quash that fear and/or get to know them.


If we address my reply to the Tweet, I believe this is also a worthwhile discussion to have—not all problems are equal.

I get depressed about being single, or not reaching the level of success that I feel I should have attained in life. But I do have a job, I’m reasonably healthy, and have a wonderful family and friends. So I rarely openly share my issues, because I feel some level of guilt for complaining about these things when I see a baby with Leukemia, a soldier who lost limbs in battle, or homeless and/or jobless people whose lives are largely without hope.

It is important that we empathize where we can with people, and sympathize with them otherwise, no matter what they’re problems are. It helps to bring our community together, and it’s just the right thing to do in my opinion.

But for the person doing the complaining, it’s also important to keep your own problems in perspective. Problems aren’t that different from a hospital’s triage.

Society’s efforts should be focused on the most dire problems first, and we can address the less dire ones when the emergencies have all been dealt with. For instance, if I encountered both a drowning baby and a guy who’s depressed he broke up with his girlfriend and just wants to talk, I’m probably going to try to save that baby and leave the heartbroken dude to sort out his own problems. If my love-struck compadre were to complain about my choice, I think we all understand he’d be out of line.

My underlying point though, is that almost everyone has problems. We all love to believe we are unique in our pain—and somehow most others have a nearly perfect life.

But is this true?

No one was more loved or respected than Robin Williams, and with his portrayal of a homosexual cowboy, and then Batman’s The Joker, Heath Ledger had just solidified himself as Hollywood’s newest top shelf actor. Both of these men, by all accounts, were on top of the world.

Yet sadly both of these men, with so much love and respect heaped upon them, with none of the financial stresses many of us face either, could bear to live life another day.

And frankly, I defy you to ask anyone about their problems and find someone who responds that they don’t have any.

While someone may not know your specific pain, they almost assuredly have problems you don’t understand either. If you want sympathy and respect, don’t assume you’re the only one hurting. You’re dismissing the pain others around you are enduring—that’s pretty insulting.

I can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is that we be open about our problems, and discuss them with others. Bottling them up often ends in self-harmful or violent acts. So making the effort to not alienate those you’d like to sympathize with is something I think we should all strive for when we do reach out for help. I believe my approach would yield a more positive social interaction.


So now that we’ve covered our false assumptions, let’s address Lena’s actual claim.

A large portion of political arguments these days are hyperbole and hyper-partisanship. All sides of the aisle tend to overstate their strengths, while dishonestly ignoring their weaknesses. I’d be skeptical of anyone making a political argument on the campaign trail. But that being said, does Lena have a point?

On the face of it, no. History is littered with politicians attacking other politicians. Hillary Clinton was by no means the first to be the brunt of hateful political attacks. Some of hers are only unique in that she’s a woman, but most arguments were against her policy or character—not the fact she’s missing equipment down below.

America has never had a woman president, nor even a female vice-president. For a significant portion of American history, they wouldn’t have been allowed to do so. They weren’t even allowed to vote before 1920, with the passage of the 19th amendment.

The heinous acts toward the black community in American history dominate our culture. There are a multitude of movies, documentaries, and other media depicting the slavery era and civil rights movement—far more than there are about the hardships and atrocities women have endured as a group.

Yet I suspect many may be surprised to know that black men had the right to vote after the passage of the 15th amendment in 1869, over 50 years before woman had such rights in America.

So women have gotten pretty poor treatment throughout history (not just America) without nearly as much attention given to that fact, compared to others.

I readily admit it’s plausible that a large majority of men will vote for another man. And, since many women still claim to support the traditional notion of being subservient to their male counterparts, many women may not necessarily vote for a woman either. This makes Lena’s underlying point more than fair.

Much like Obama overcoming the racial barrier on the path to the presidency, our first female president will likely have higher hurdles to jump than her male counterparts do to get there too.

However, if I can pose a hypothetical situation for a minute, I don’t think I could be easily convinced that if Republicans had chosen a well-respected woman like Condoleezza Rice, and Democrats had chosen  someone who’s largely scandal-free like Tim Kaine as their nominees, I’m not convinced Condoleezza wouldn’t have gotten the same votes Trump did, and Kane gotten most of the votes Hillary did—yielding the same result.

I think if we’re honest, it would have been a far better election, with a better outcome, no matter who won, compared to the two highly-hated candidates the big parties actually picked.

Hillary most assuredly lost some votes solely by virtue of her pesky second X chromosome, but I am firmly convinced that she lost far more votes be virtue of being laden with a series of potentially immoral, corrupt, and even potentially criminal acts.

I’m of the opinion she got far more votes by virtue of being a Democrat from people who didn’t like her, than she lost by virtue of being a women from people who would have otherwise voted Democrat. Most heated political arguments are partisan in nature, not sexist.

So is Lena’s argument valid? Somewhat. Do I think it cost Hillary the election? No.

I think Hillary Clinton’s actions and persona cost Hillary Clinton the election. Trump was arguable one of the most beatable Republicans in recent history. Laying that defeat at the feet of her gender seems improbable to me.

But if you disagree, there’s a comment section below…have at it. Debate is good! Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Is Health Care a Right?

If you’re a limited-government advocate, you’re almost guaranteed to be a detractor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) colloquially known as Obamacare. The AHCA from the GOP designed to replace the ACA, has recently been passed by the House, but is largely believed to not have a chance in the Senate.

President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

If you’re old enough to recall the Clinton presidency, you may remember that Hillary Clinton was appointed by her husband Bill to the “Task Force on National Health Care Reform.” Her mission was to improve the state of health care in the United States, and her suggestion was a single-payer system similar to what many nations in Europe and Canada use.

This single-payer system was originally supported by President Obama as well, prior to becoming president. But the political climate in America is still one of limited government more often than not, so the ACA was a compromise Obama was willing to make to achieve his goal of every American having “basic access to health care.”

The bill being one of the larger in American history had a lot to it, and as such, had a lot of things people from many places on the political spectrum took issue with.

The extreme of the left, like self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders argued for a universal plan, not a privatized option like the Affordable Care act. So in their estimation, the plan didn’t nearly go far enough.

Those on the right, felt the mandate requiring people to buy insurance was counter to American values, and challenged that, as well as several other facets, in the Supreme Court, ultimately losing their fight after Chief Justice John Roberts arguably rewrote the law to allow it to survive instead of casting the deciding vote to strike it down.

Supreme Court of the United States Chief Justice John Roberts

Many libertarians like myself, are left wondering why government should be involved in health care in the first place. I think our position is pretty consistent and straight forward, although I always cringe at the idea of speaking for other people. But I will try to state the libertarian position as I’ve consistently observed it.

Health Care is not a Right

The argument from those pushing for government-funded health care is the idea that it’s a right—some going so far as to say it’s an extension of your right to life. But let’s break that down for a second, as it depends on how you define rights in general.

The Constitution doesn’t mention health care, so there’s no honest metric one could use to say it’s a Constitutional right. However, most argue that it’s a basic human right.

The United States Constitution

If we compare health care to other well-understood basic human rights, it becomes fairly easy to understand how healthcare is different. Religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom in general, life, air, etc., these things all have one thing in common. They do not require any action from another person.

Rights by definition, should not involve the action of another person, because otherwise, your right to have their labor or goods trumps their right to keep their labor or goods—therefore one person ends up having more rights than another.

Healthcare requires goods produced by the pharmaceutical industry and medical equipment from manufacturing companies, as well as the efforts of a medical practitioner like a doctor or nurse, it isn’t just something that exists in the ether for all to consume.

If we force those people to do such work through laws like EMTALA, which require emergency rooms to treat people, regardless of their ability to pay, this arguably violates the 13th amendment which states:13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Making a doctor save someone’s life versus giving them the option, even if they get paid to do so, is both immoral and potentially unconstitutional.

A quick internet search yielded no instance where SCOTUS has granted certiorari (agreed to hear) any petition challenging EMTALA, although the 11th Circuit upheld the law in BAKER COUNTY MEDICAL SERVICES INC v. ATTORNEY GENERAL, August 2014, The challenge there was not against the 13th amendment, it was against the 5th, which reads as follows. (The bold portion was what the challenge argued against.)

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The reason the law was upheld, is because the law only applies to hospitals which voluntarily work with Medicare. So the court ruled that their participation was voluntary, while the plaintiffs argued not taking Medicare is an undue financial burden, and therefore not really a choice. (Almost all hospitals accept medicare, because they’d have a hard time making a profit if they rejected all those who are on it). Government often gets so involved, that they create the problem by virtue of their intrusiveness in the marketplace.

The Supreme Court Of The United States

Moving past EMTALA, if we assume that the doctors help someone voluntarily, and expect to get paid by government, then the second issue arises that the taxpayer and/or fellow healthcare consumers, end up footing the bill.

What logical argument can one make to indicate that person A is responsible for person B? While it’s certainly altruistic in its intent, and I understand the idea that if we all band together to help those in need, society is potentially better off because of it; that’s still a moral judgement you’re making that others may not share with you.

There’s also a rather large hypocrisy in play for these beliefs. Speaking to a doctor who promotes a single-payer system, my argument was that at some point, that doctor expects to retire. While my taxes help pay for health care, my dollars don’t cure anyone. My dollars pay a doctor who then cures someone.

So if a doctor chooses to take a day off, or retire, they have opted to not help someone who could have used help. If I were to tell those doctors that now the government gets to dictate how many hours they work, and what time they may take off, they’d be apoplectic. Yet I do not get to choose how much of my paycheck funds the health care of another.

Much like mass and energy are interchangeable because one can be transformed into the other, so are labor and money for the same reason. Forcing someone to give up their money to pay for services they’re not receiving is no more moral than forcing them into servitude for the same purpose.

As much as it may seem heartless not to do it, you cannot divorce that fact from the equation.

This brings me to the “are you just going to let them die” argument, that is often bandied about as justification for forced medical care.

The number of visits to a doctor that are life threatening vs just quality of life issues are very small. Even Emergency Room visits, according to one government study puts the number of visits that could have been treated by a normal doctor or Urgent Care facility vs the emergency room at somewhere between 13.7 and 27.1%. That doesn’t include all the times people just went to their doctor, or an Urgent Care facility. So it is more than fair to assume that less that 10%, maybe even less than 1% of all medical care required is non-life-threatening.

If that’s true, then most of the time care may be refused, it is not about letting someone die at all.

But also, if we go back to labor and money are interchangeable, arguing that myself or anyone else is “just letting someone die” assumes that we owe them their life. Which again means that the government would get to decide when a doctor may retire or otherwise not work.

Waiting in Emergency department

While it’s easy for those of us who aren’t medical doctors to sit at home, and say “someone should help those people” (referring to those who can’t afford to pay for health care), the fact is that any government requirement for them to be helped requires violating the actual enumerated constitutional rights and largely accepted human rights of a number of people, in order to preserve a non-enumerated right of one person.

If you want to help people, you should volunteer to help. Go to school to learn medicine, and do the good deeds you want done. But the moment it becomes compulsory for you or anyone else, it is no longer moral.

With the number of charities that were doing great work to help the less fortunate before laws like this were passed, the idea that such people didn’t get help, is misguided. While there were some people who did not receive care, there were a good number who did. But more importantly to libertarians like me, liberty remained in tact, and not one right was violated.