Equal Time

Back in the day the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Fairness Doctrine, which stuck with us until 1987. The Fairness Doctrine mandated that television and radio broadcasters give balanced coverage to opposing viewpoints on a topic. While the doctrine is gone the attitude many hold that broadcasters must give balanced coverage remains. Recently a group of creationists have taken offense to the way life on this planet was presented on the show Cosmos (a new show that many of my friends swear is the most important show on Earth but I decided not to watch). In reaction to this offense there has been come murmur about requiring Cosmos to provide airtime to the theory of creationism:

Creationists held a pity party for themselves Thursday because “Cosmos” isn’t being fair and balanced to their beliefs.

“Creationists aren’t even on the radar screen for them, they wouldn’t even consider us plausible at all,” said Danny Falkner, of Answers In Genesis, which has previously complained about the show.

Falkner appeared Thursday on “The Janet Mefford Show” to complain the Fox television series and its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, had marginalized those with dissenting views on accepted scientific truths, reported Right Wing Watch.

“I don’t recall seeing any interviews with people – that may yet come – but it’s based upon the narration from the host and then various types of little video clips of various things, cartoons and things like that,” Falkner said.

Mefferd said the show should at least offer viewers a false compromise.

I don’t care about this particular pissing match but it has provided me an convenient platform to discuss the idea of balanced coverage. When people think of balanced coverage they often believe that it requires all views to be given equal coverage or at least a mention. In practice this is not how balanced coverage works.

People often mistakenly believe that there are only two points of view on any issue. They see the issue as “us versus them”. That is to say one side of the issue, specifically the side they agree with, is correct while the other side is wrong. This leads people to believe balanced coverage involves providing the Republican and Democratic views of an issue, Christian creationism and evolution, Christianity and Atheism, etc. But binary options don’t cover all sides of an issue.

I’m guessing both Mefferd and Tyson would agree that the origin of life stories from Norse mythology shouldn’t be given airtime. In this case I would argue that such a viewpoint held by Tyson would be consistent since he is arguing in favor of providing scientific theories on his science show. But Mefferd, who is arguing that Christian creationism should be given equal time as evolution on Cosmos, would be making an inconsistent argument by claiming equal time should be given to her views without it also being given to other points of view.

The argument over the origins of life on this planet are the only occurrences of issues that are mistakenly treated as binary by the general public. Politics is rife with binary choices. We generally get viewpoints from Democrats and Republicans. Left out of the debate are libertarians, communists, socialists, anarchists, etc. Many people who argue in favor of balanced coverage between Republicans and Democrats would argue that third-parties or apolitical viewpoints shouldn’t receive any coverage.

This is where the idea of balanced coverage begins to look a little ridiculous. How can you offer balanced coverage to thousands of different theories and beliefs? Many religions have differing accounts on the creation of life on Earth. There are almost as many political views as there are people on this planet. Each of us is a unique individual so there is the potential of roughly seven billion points of view on any given issue. Mandating balanced coverage of all viewpoints of an issue is unmanageable. But offering binary choices and calling it balanced is dishonest. Either way mandating balanced coverage is idiotic.

How the Government Buys Corporate Cooperation

Some people wonder why private companies cooperate with the state’s surveillance apparatus. Doesn’t such cooperation hurt a company’s bottom line? Haven’t technology companies traditionally been protecting of customer data? Well it’s pretty hard to hurt a company’s bottom line when they’re being paid by the state to snitch on customers:

The documents consist of what appear to be invoices and emails between Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance team and the FBI’s Digital Intercept Technology Unit (DITU), and purport to show exactly how much money Microsoft charges DITU, in terms of compliance costs, when DITU provides warrants and court orders for customers’ data.

In December 2012, for instance, Microsoft emailed DITU a PDF invoice for $145,100, broken down to $100 per request for information, the documents appear to show. In August 2013, Microsoft allegedly emailed a similar invoice, this time for $352,200, at a rate of $200 per request. The latest invoice provided, from November 2013, is for $281,000.

That’s not bad money when you consider Microsoft doesn’t have to do any real work. But that still leaves the second question unanswered. Why would Microsoft, like most technology companies, put any effort into protecting customer data if they’re just going to sell it? The answer is in the question. The reason technology companies have traditionally been protective of their customer data is because they sell that data. If you don’t protect customer data then anybody can get it for free, which would be a damn shame to explain at the quarterly shareholder meeting.

The state has found a way to gain the cooperation of the private sector by appealing to its financial interest. As this is the case one cannot assume that any data they put on third-party servers is safe from the prying eyes of the state.

Rules Are For Thee, Not For Me: Part XXII

It must be nice being a police officer. In addition to a snazzy costume that causes people to kneel before their feet on sight (so they don’t get beaten) they are also allowed to break the very laws they’re tasked with enforcing. Hawaii has to have one of the funniest legal exceptions for police officers though and, unsurprisingly, the police are fighting the potential repeal of this exception:

Honolulu police officers have urged lawmakers to keep an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations, touching off a heated debate over the provision.

Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it’s unnecessary and can further victimize sex workers, many of whom have been forced into the trade.

This exemption is necessary. After all police officers have such a difficult job and they deserve a way to unwind. Isn’t that the standard go to excuse given by police apologists?

Making Up Victories

Mothers Demand Action (MDA) is one of my favorite gun control advocacy groups. Somehow the members of MDA manage to sound more insane than members of the Brady Campaign ever could. In addition to the rather insane ramblings made by members and over the top attempts at appealing to emotion the organization also has a habit of turning every defeat into a victory. Shall Not Be Questioned has the best example of MDA declaring victory over something that wasn’t at all a victory:

Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization funded by billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, is falsely claiming a victory for forcing a billboard company to take down a Slide Fire advertisement in Chicago.

The truth is that the manufacturer contracted for the billboard to stay up for only two months.

I’m sure you’ve seen children who have brutally lost at something only to refuse to acknowledge it. That’s what MDA reminds me of.

How Much Water Does the NSA Use

How much water does the National Security Agency (NSA) use? That’s classified. I’m not even kidding. According to the NSA the amount of water its new data center in Utah uses is a matter of national security:

The National Security Agency has many secrets, but here’s a new one: the agency is refusing to say how much water it’s pumping into the brand new data center it operates in Bluffdale, Utah. According to the NSA, its water usage is a matter of national security.

The agency made the argument in a letter sent to officials in Utah, who are considering whether or not to release the data to the Salt Lake Tribune. Back in May, Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle asked for local records relating to the data center, but when he got his files a few months later, the water usage data was redacted.

We live in an era where practically everything the government does is labeled classified, which makes the label meaningless. Furthermore labeling everything as classified makes oversight of any government agency impossible. The total lack of transparency is part of the reason elections are meaningless. How can the people know who to elect to take care of problem parts of the government if they don’t even know what those problem parts are?

What Being a Douchebag Gets You

There is a sizable population of people who don’t like those of us who carry firearms. When one of those individuals is a business owner they often post a sign informing would-be patrons that firearms are banned on the premises. I don’t have a problem with such signs. If you don’t like me then I’m more than happy to take my business elsewhere. But one business owner in South Carolina decided to go the extra mile and insult carry permit holders:

A firestorm of backlash has been mounting against a South Carolina pub that put a derogatory sign in its store window telling gun owners to keep out.


The story first gained traction when Twitchy posted several photos of the sign from Twitter.

“NO CONCEALED WEAPONS ALLOWED,” the sign warns. “If you are such a loser that you feel a need to carry a gun with you when you go out, I do not want your business. Douchebag.”

As you can imagine this cunning plan didn’t turn out as the business owner likely expected:

Backstreets Pub Deli in Clemson has a one-star rating out of five on Yelp, with pages upon pages of negative comments and reviews by Second Amendment supporters.

Personally I’m not a fan of such antics but this type of backlash is inevitable when you throw stones. Had the owner of Backstreets Pub simply posted a sign that said the carrying of firearms was prohibited on the premises that would have likely been the end of things. People who carry firearms would eat elsewhere and nothing more would be heard about the incident. But the owner decided to stoop to childish insults, which resulted in the insults being returned.

Just because you disagree with what a person does doesn’t mean you can’t be civil. Agree to disagree, avoid each other, and leave it at that. As soon as you begin issuing insults you should expect to be insulted as well.

Assault Tattoo

Disproportionate responses are standard operating procedure for most law enforcement agencies these days. If an individual calls the police claiming that they saw a man with a gun the appropriate response would be to ask if that individual was acting in a threatening manner. That question never seems to get asked. Instead police will often toss logic to the wind, grab their toys, and head out to harass the subject of the call. That’s what happened to a man in Maine who wasn’t even carrying a gun:

NORRIDGEWOCK — Michael Smith went outside shirtless after being awakened Tuesday morning, yelling at a tree removal company to get off his property.

The workers thought they saw a gun in his waistband and called police.

Smith, who’d gone back to bed, was awakened again minutes later — this time by Maine State Police at his front door, backed up by a group of troopers with assault rifles in his driveway. They were asking him via a megaphone to come out of his house.

Smith did have a gun. It was tattooed on his stomach.

Because Smith was yelling at the tree removal service I can see where a claim of threatening behavior could be made. But even then an appropriate response would have been to send a couple of police officers to knock on Smith’s door and ask some questions. Loading up an entire group of troopers is overkill whether or not Smith had a real gun.

Officer safety has become the go to excuse for police agencies to act like paramilitary forces. Why did so many police officers have to be sent to respond to a call about a man who was merely through to be in possession of a gun? Because officer safety. Either that or I must assume that police officers think so poorly of their ability that they feel the only way they could win a potential gunfight is with overwhelming firepower.

Rules Are For Thee, Not For Me

If you live in Minneapolis then you know that the words “snow emergency” mean that your car will be towed faster than you can turn your head if it’s not parked on the correct side of the road. Tow companies make a fortune off of unlawfully parked automobiles, which is why their response time for towing an illegally parked vehicle seems to exceed their response time for towing a broken down vehicle that is obstructing traffic. But sometimes tow companies get overzealous and they remove an unlawfully parked car owned by members of the oligarchy. When that happens tow company owners get to spend some time in a cage:

An ongoing federal lawsuit in Portland, Oregon accuses police officers of arresting two tow truck company employees after they towed unmarked police cars parked illegally on a private lot.

The five cars belonged to police officers and a DEA agent who were working on a nearby sting. A business owner at the lot says the cars were parked there over a span of two days. The owner first put a note on the windshields of the cars asking them to be moved. The next day, he spoke with one of the officers.

The officer allegedly “responded with expletives” to the note and insisted the cars would not be moved. The business owner then called the property’s trustee, who called a towing company. The cars were towed.

Later, several police officers showed up at the tow company’s office to get their cars back. Per protocol, employees of the company asked for proof of ownership of the vehicles. The officers were unable to display any information proving they owned the cars. They left and said they would return later.

Soon after, a group of cops both in uniforms and street clothes returned to the office. Then, according to the lawsuit, Sgt. Andrew Roberts showed his badge to the tow company employees and insisted that was all he needed to retrieve the cars. When the employees didn’t comply, they were arrested.

When a man in a funny looking costume that includes a badge and a gun walks into your business or home and makes demands you either company or get beaten and/or kidnapped. The tow company in this story made two mistakes. First, they towed vehicles that belonged to the oligarchs’ enforcers. Second, they didn’t do exactly as they were told when the costume-clad psychopaths with badges showed up. Because of those two mistakes the tow company employees spent time in a cage and now have to beg the oligarchs’ court system to be lenient and transfer some tax money from the city that employs the police to the employees of the tow company. Whether the courts will grant such a gift or not is up in the air.

But this story further demonstrates that rules are for us little people, not for those in charge. When we park unlawfully we will face parking finds and impound fees. But when the police park unlawfully they will arrest the tow company employees and take their vehicles back without paying the impound fee.

Dishonesty Kills Movements

A lot of drama exploded over Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. According to every account I had read the organizations of the parade had banned gay rights activist groups from participating in the parade. I didn’t bother digging into the story because I had other things to do. Yesterday I decided to read a couple of stories regarding the kerfuffle to see what exactly went down. As it turns out the story has two sides. Every article I’ve come across has given the side that explains how the organizers of the event discriminated against gay activists but then I found this buried in the linked story:

Parade organizers said Monday in a press release that they had been misled by MassEquality, which had applied to march on behalf of 20 veterans, and Mayor Walsh. The application came from an affiliate of MassEquality called LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] Veterans of Equality.

“We were unable to find any evidence of LGBT Veterans for Equality that would confirm them as a recognized Veterans Organization,” organizers said in the statement posted on their website. “It is our belief that the application submitted to us by LGBT Veterans for Equality was a ploy by them to enter this parade under false pretenses and is hereby denied.”

At a meeting in the mayor’s office Sunday night, parade organizers said, it became clear that MassEquality did not have 20 veterans who wanted to march in the parade. Instead they presented one “supposed veteran” and a group of other marchers carrying rainbow flags, parade organizers said.

“When asked about a color guard, their (lone) veteran replied that he wasn’t sure he could supply any more veterans willing to march,” the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the event, said in the statement.

Being unable to field the promised number of veterans and provide evidence that your veterans organization is at all recognized as such is quite different from parade organizations denying the applicants from marching on account of their sexual orientation. Were I organizing an event and participants misrepresented themselves I would also deny them participation.

But stories like this upset me because I feel that discrimination is a real problem and real problems are cheapened when advocates lie. Had Mass Equality simply brought up the fact that parade participants were prohibited from displaying their sexual orientation then I wouldn’t care. While I believe organizers of private events have the right to establish such rules I also believe that individuals have a right to speak out against such rules. Pointing out a rule against displays of sexual orientation would open the door for discussion. But, based on the press release by the parade organizers, that’s not what happened. Instead Mass Equality lied to the parade organizers and then lied about why it was denied the ability to participate in the parade to push its agenda.

A movement cannot succeed in the long run by being dishonest. Dishonesty is what ultimately killed the gun control movement, every segregation movement, and is beginning to kill the prohibitionist movement. I would hate to see the gay rights movement collapse due to dishonesty on behalf of some of its proponents.