Contrary to what that t-shirt says, water is not a human right

Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

The city of Detroit has begun shutting off the water to city residents who haven’t been paying their monthly bills. So far, over 15,000 residential customers have had the water cut off, and thousands more will be joining them shortly.

From The Daily Beast:

Tangela Harris been doing her best to keep up, but when she was no longer able to work she had trouble stretching her monthly $780 in disability benefits to pay the water bill. So her water service was disconnected. Harris has since come up with $1,100 to have services restored but is having trouble keeping her $180 monthly payment to the water department. On top of that, her home has entered foreclosure because Detroit water bills are rolled into property taxes.

“They can say my house is condemned and take it,” said Harris, 38, a community organizer. “People think we’re not prioritizing, but it’s not that simple when you’re under the poverty level. It’s a different mindset.”

I’m confused. Is Tangela Harris disabled, unable to work, or is she working as a community organizer? Those two things seem to be mutually exclusive. If you’re disabled to the extent that you cannot work and earn a paycheck, but must receive money from the government just to get by, I’d think that you couldn’t be a community organizer.

If she’s obligated to pay $180 a month to the water department, it must mean she is in arrears. When was the last time she paid a water bill?

We pay our water bill each month. We do this because we realize that if we don’t, the city of Hagerstown will turn our water off. Having water is important. Not only do you need to it to drink, without water, you can’t flush the toilet or take a shower. You can’t wash your clothes or brush your teeth. If I had trouble paying my monthly bills, and couldn’t pay all of them, my water bill would be one of the things I would insist on paying. I’d go without satellite TV and Internet. I’d go without my iPhone.

I would never go without water.

I don’t know the nature of Tangela Harris’ disability, nor do I know what she did for a living before she became disabled. I also don’t know what bills she chose to pay each month instead of paying her water bill. I do know that life is a series of choices. Sometimes we make good choices, other times we make bad. Hopefully, when everything is said and done, the good choices outnumber the bad.

Choosing to not pay your monthly water bill? That’s a bad choice.

According to the protesters in the above photo, water is a human right. Actually, it’s not. Water is one of the many things in life that you both need and must pay for. Water isn’t free because it costs money to get and distribute. What if everyone decided that water was a human right, and because of this belief, refused to pay for it?

My guess is that there would be a lot of stinky, thirsty people, who can’t flush their toilets.

Update (August 10, 2014): The Planet Money podcast covered this situation. It, like all Planet Money podcast episodes, is well worth listening to.

The problem with employer-sponsored health insurance


The Supreme Court ruled with one of its splendid 5-4 rulings that for-profit employers with religious objections don’t have to provide contraception coverage in health insurance plans. The five so-called “conservative” justices sided with Hobby Lobby, saying that the family-run company had to choose between violating its sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans, plans that the employees along with Hobby Lobby, pay for.

Funny, I know of no passage in the Holy Bible that forbids the use of birth control. How can something be a sincerely held religious belief if it doesn’t come from the actual word of God? It sounds to me more like a sincerely held personal belief, not a religious one.

Hobby Lobby is a private company run by billionaire David Green and his family. Each Hobby Lobby store, all 561 stores, are owned by Green and his immediate family.

Under the affordable care act (also referred to as “ObamaCare”), there are 20 FDA-approved methods of birth control. Green had a problem with four of them, two types of morning-after pills as well as two kinds of intrauterine devices (IUDs). Because of this Supreme Court ruling, Hobby Lobby employees will not have access to the morning after pill or IUDs, at least if they want their Hobby Lobby health insurance to pay for it. It does not effect other types of birth control, such as most birth control pills.

At least for now it doesn’t.

David Green may have won this one, but things don’t look good for him long-term. Though Jesus didn’t say anything about birth control or the various methods that can be used in achieving it, he did have a thing or two to say about rich people. David Green is very much a rich person, he’s an actual billionaire. This is what Jesus had to say about rich people and their chances of going to heaven (Matthew 19:23-24):

Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus didn’t say it was impossible for a rich person to go to heaven, he just said it was hard. Have you ever tried to drag a camel through the eye of a needle? Trust Jesus and me, it’s really, really difficult. According to Jesus, David Green will have a hard time getting into heaven and there’s nothing the five conservative judges on the Supreme Court can do about it. They might have a lot of clout, but they don’t have that much clout.

Cliven Bundy is a racist idiot

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, NevadaNevada rancher Cliven Bundy was in the news recently for allowing his cattle to graze on federal land without paying for the privilege. He’s evidently been doing this for twenty years. The reason he’s never paid for the privilege of having his cattle graze on federal land, like other ranchers do, is because he chooses not to do business with the federal government. Since nowhere in the Constitution does it say Americans can’t use land owned by the federal government, he’s not paying.

He claims that he’s more than willing to work with county and state authorities, because in his opinion, they have a much more rightful claim to the land his cattle is grazing on, than the federal government.

If Cliven Bundy sounds like an idiot, it’s because he is.

To wit, this is what he told the New York Times:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

If there’s anyone who knows about government subsidies, it’s Cliven Bundy. That is, if you consider taking something from the federal government without paying for it, a subsidy.

To wonder if black people would be better off slaves picking cotton means you’re a racist. To actually express that thought publicly, makes you an idiot.

What was Bundy doing driving by a housing project in North Las Vegas? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he just made the story up. If he has no problem mooching from the federal government, I’m sure he wouldn’t have any problems lying either.

Group wants to ban the word ‘bossy’

Group wants to ban the word 'bossy' - Bent Corner
Evidently if you use the word bossy, you are condemning millions of women to a life of perpetual servitude to overly assertive men. At least that’s what Lean In, the nonprofit group founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, would have you believe.

The word bossy is so destructive, that members of Lean In are attempting to get the word banned. They even created a video:

I guess I don’t really get it. Sandberg claims that when she was growing up, she was called bossy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but she turned out all right. She’s the chief operating officer of Facebook, this decade’s version of MySpace. She’s worth over a billion dollars. Am I to believe that by being referred to as bossy when she was a girl, she was somehow held back? Would she be even more successful today if the word was never used in reference to her? Would she be a trillionaire today instead of just a billionaire?

Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a leader. If you don’t desire a position of leadership because you don’t want to be referred to as bossy, then you’re probably not a leader. Not really. And that’s OK. It takes a certain type of person to be a leader. Not being a leader doesn’t make you any less of a person.

Much like how the world needs leaders, it also needs followers. If there are no followers, there will be no one for leaders to lead. To assume that everyone, male or female, should strive to be a leader, is silly.

Federal judge rules that NSA program appears to NOT violate the Constitution

bullet-points-like-a-brick-William Pauley, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, appointed by President Bill Clinton, ruled that the National Security Agency’s practice of collecting records of all telephone calls made in the United States, does not violate the U.S. Constitution, specifically, the Fourth Amendment.

Imagine that. An amendment to the Constitution introduced in 1789 by James Madison, does not prohibit the NSA from collecting millions of phone records. Go figure.

This of course contradicts a ruling made less than two weeks ago by another judge in another federal court. This case will surely end up going to the U.S. Supreme Court where it will end in a 5-4 decision. I don’t know how the Supremes will end up ruling, but it will probably end up as a 5-4 decision. Most important decisions do.

Not that this is really an important decision. I’ve never really understood the problem some people have with the NSA maintaining records of all calls made in the United States. These records merely mimic what is maintained by the various phone companies. If AT&T maintaining a record of all my calls doesn’t violate my privacy, why would the NSA maintaining a duplicate record violate it?

If I really cared, I guess I could forego speaking on the telephone. I could communicate only in person and by blinking Morse code to whoever I want to communicate with. Granted, that would require them to know Morse code and to be able to follow my eyelids. That could turn out to be a hassle, but at least the NSA wouldn’t know who I was talking to. Then again, they could care less who I was talking to. I’m not a terrorist, I don’t speak to terrorists, and I don’t facilitate terrorism.

Federal judge rules that NSA program appears to violate the Constitution

Federal judge rules that NSA program appears to violate the Constitution
Richard Leon, a federal from the U.S. District Court in Washington appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled yesterday that the National Security Agency’s practice of collecting records of all telephone calls made in the United States, violates the U.S. Constitution. Leon ruled in favor of two Americans who sued the NSA to have their phone records expunged from the NSA’s massive phone database. The judge ruled that the Fourth Amendment, the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure, made what the NSA has been doing, unconstitutional.

Is it really unreasonable for the NSA to have access to phone records that already exist with the various phone companies? AT&T already has a record of every phone call I make or take. Why would I care if the NSA has access to this same information? More importantly, how are my civil rights being trampled upon with the NSA having this information? I would think that if my civil rights were being trampled upon, I would know it. The only reason anyone knows that the NSA has access to records of all telephone calls made in the United States is because that coward Edward Snowden stole documents, sneaked off to China, and then leaked classified information to a reporter.

Personally, I have no problem with what the NSA has been doing. Mostly it’s because I realize they don’t care about me or what I do with my phone. They don’t care about who I call or who I talk to because I’m not a terrorist, nor do I facilitate terrorists. To the NSA, I’m just not important. The same can be said about most of the other people whose phone records are in the NSA database, including the two dorks who brought this lawsuit.