The military occupation of Ferguson is now over

Looks like the military occupation of Ferguson is about to come to an end

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the St. Louis County Police Department out of Ferguson yesterday and put state troopers in charge. He named Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson in charge of security in Ferguson. Not only is Johnson originally from Ferguson, he is a man of color.

In other words, he’s black.

This should help defuse a volatile situation. It’s certainly better than flooding the streets with policemen dressed up like they’re in the military. I’m old-school in that I think the police should look like the police, the military should look like the military.

What’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri?

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Ferguson, Missouri, a small suburb of St Louis, has turned into a warzone. On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man was shot multiple times and killed by an unnamed, white police officer. The killing took place in the middle of the street, at around noon and in front of lots of witnesses. According to those witnesses, Brown had his hands in the air and was asking the officer to not shoot when he was killed.

Crowds of people began to form almost immediately. The police responded by bringing in police backup from 15 other police departments, many of which wearing military garb.

The next night, after a day of peaceful vigils, things began to go violent. Crowds began looting businesses and vandalizing vehicles. Around two dozen businesses were broken into and looted.

It’s been a chaotic mess in Ferguson ever since. People have been protesting and the police have been assembling in mass, decked out in military garb and armed with military-grade weaponry and vehicles.

When did it become acceptable for civilian police to cosplay like they’re in the military?

I feel bad for Michael Brown and his family, but the unfortunate truth is that in 2014, when a police officer wants to kill you, they pretty much can kill you with impunity. That’s just the reality we live in. No amount of vigils, protests, or lootings is going to change that. The killing took place on Saturday and we still don’t know the name of the shooter. It’s as if we don’t deserve to know who murdered Michael Brown, simply because of the killer’s occupation. We do know the shooter is on paid administrative leave. In other words, become a police officer, kill an unarmed black kid in broad daylight and get an extended paid vacation, paid for by the taxpayers.

God bless America.

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

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

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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, Nevada

Nevada 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.