Category Archives: Healthcare

Hobby Lobby Decision: Religious Conscience Protection, Or Unconstitutional Theocracy?

I have been following the Hobby Lobby case and it’s subsequent ruling, and I have to say that I am upset with the verdict. This is a position that, to be honest, is unpopular with my fellow Libertarians. After all, the importance of private property and voluntary contracts is very important to us. Now, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it’s a failure in healthcare reform, whether it’s socialized or privatized. But I am concerned about upholding the Constitution.

The thing is, I can kinda see where the private property, voluntary contracts, argument is coming from — especially since the ruling doesn’t allow the companies to ban the use of contraceptives by their employees. It merely says that the employers don’t have to pay for it if they don’t feel comfortable with that. From a certain point of view, that actually makes alot of sense.

But I do think it could also be thought of in a different way, even if we argue purely on the principle of voluntary contracts. This alternative view is a rebuttal to the argument that “if she wants to use BC she should pay for it herself, and if she doesn’t like that she doesn’t have to work for that company”. 

I posit that using the reasoning of voluntary contracts, the employer should remember that he has a contractual obligation to compensate his employees for their labor with agreed upon payment. this includes healthcare coverage. If his religious beliefs are offended by paying for his employees contraceptives, he either has to suck it up and fulfill his contractual obligation, or else not enter the contract. This ruling doesn’t honor voluntary contractual obligations; it allows one party to undermine the other. this is basically withholding payment.

It is also argued by a Quaker blogger and activist on her blog, Lee’s Bookshelf, that the “religious conscience” argument that Hobby Lobby was making was not only hypocritical, but insincere as well. In her article, titled [url=http://flowerhorne.com/2013/11/26/get-your-fake-conscience-objections-off-my-lawn/]Get Your Fake Conscience Objections Off My Lawn[/url], she talks about what it means to conscientiously object to something, and points out where the Greene family fails to understand the difference between that and demanding a free handout. Lee explains that when your conscience doesn’t permit you to do something, the correct response is to live your life in such a way as not to put yourself in the unsavory situation. The Green family could avoid having to pay for birth control simply by not operating a multibillion dollar corporation. But to own this company and then ask not to have to fulfill their end of the deal is ludicrous!

Now let’s tackle the religious argument. The ruling is that employers of private companies, including incorporated ones, can refuse to provide contraceptives to their employees on the basis of religion. Specifically, it allows the boss to refuse to pay for birth control and the Morning After Pill if they believe according to their religion that it is immoral.

The 1st Amendment states, and I quote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This means that no law passed by congress should contain anything about religion, in favor or opposed. This does NOT mean that someone’s religious ideals can legally trump someone else’s rights.

Thanks to  Zachary Hall for providing his opinion that was abridged by the editor.

 

The National Libertarian Party had the following to say:

In response to yesterday’s Hobby Lobby ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict made the following statement:

It’s strange that liberals and conservatives are making this ruling out to be a huge deal. All the ruling does is remove a very narrow coverage requirement, in very specific cases; 99.9 percent of Obamacare is upheld.

It’s true that closely held corporate entities should not be forced to pay for this particular contraceptive coverage. But focusing on that narrow issue misses the bigger point: No employer should be forced to provide any health coverage at all.

This ruling just draws the line between freedom and regulation arbitrarily. If these employers are free to ignore this particular mandate, why aren’t other employers free to ignore other Obamacare regulations? They should be.

Obamacare is unjust and unconstitutional from top to bottom. No employer should be forced to provide health coverage to its employees, or penalized by government if it doesn’t.

Religion is not the issue. The fact that these employers have religious motives doesn’t matter. Employers have the right to associate freely with their employees, and to come up with any mutually agreeable employment terms, whether their motives are religious, secular, generous, greedy, or whatever.

This ruling is a tiny island in a huge sea of Supreme Court rulings that have supported the federal government’s desire to regulate and control.

Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark said, “Cutting the government requirement that birth control be purchased only with a prescription and making it over-the-counter would advance liberty by giving easier access to birth control for people who want it without putting their employer in the middle of their personal choices. Government doesn’t make men get prescriptions for condoms, there’s no reason it should make women get prescriptions for birth control pills.”

The Libertarian Party platform contains the following health care plank: “We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions. People should be free to purchase health insurance across state lines.”

 

Bill Wohlsifer stated that he agrees with the Libertarian Party’s assessment of the ruling.

E-Cigarettes: Myth Vs. Reality, A Comprehensive List

myth versus reality

E-cigarettes have been a subject of much controversy of late.  First, they were a great way to quit smoking, then they were going to kill you with poisonous, antifreeze chemicals, then they were a harm reduction technology, then they targeted your children via some evil plot to addict your 4-year-old to nicotine, then they… well, you get the picture.  This topic, more than almost any other topic to grace the front-page headlines over the past 20-or-more years, is fraught with misinformation, disinformation, and dirty politics.  The anti-smoking community has taken on a life of its own over the past half-century and is now almost unrecognisable from the well-intentioned, fact-based institution it once was.  Nowadays, it seems more concerned with self-preservation in the business sense of the phrase than with actually fighting the health hazards associated with the tobacco industry.  So, in an effort to separate fact from fiction, here is a list of ALL of those so-called “facts” you’ve seen published all over the Internet and print-media:

 

-E-cigarettes contain the same toxic chemicals found in antifreeze:  Actually, the toxic chemical to which they are referring is ethylene glycol.  Polyethylene glycol used to be utilized in the manufacturing of some of the nicotine liquid found in E-cigarettes.  The word ‘polyethylene’ might sound similar to the word ‘ethylene,’ but polyethylene glycol is actually not dangerous to humans in the least.  Propylene glycol, which is now used in place of polyethylene glycol, works better and is actually much less dangerous than the already non-dangerous polyethylene glycol.  In fact, it’s been lauded by the FDA and many other organizations as one of the safest chemicals on the market.

 

-E-cigarettes still deliver nicotine, an addictive and dangerous carcinogen:  This could hardly be further from the Truth.  Nicotine is not now, nor has it ever been a carcinogen.  It’s association with tobacco and the many carcinogens contained therein has given rise to the myth that nicotine causes cancer, but nicotine, by itself, actually promotes health.  It has been shown to assist in synapse operations in the brain, thereby increasing our memory potential and other thought processes.  It has also never been proven that nicotine, by itself, is the highly addictive substance we have always assumed it is.

 

-E-cigarette vapor exposes other people to dangerous chemicals through second-hand inhalation:  Again, there are no “dangerous chemicals” in E-cig vapor.  All (I repeat ALL) studies of E-cigarette vapor, fumes, etc. have shown that the amounts of chemicals present in exhaled and sidestream vapors themselves are so low, they are hardly even measurable.  Additionally, vaporized glycerine/glycol is slightly heavier than tobacco smoke, and therefore does not remain airborne nearly as long as does the product of tobacco combustion.  The vapor also dissipates much faster than smoke.  So, with all of these facts, the threat of any E-cigarette vapor affecting anything around anyone who is actively vaping, even in an enclosed, crowded place, is nil.

 

-There haven’t been any serious studies about E-cigarettes yet:  E-cigarettes have been studied for over ten years now, and extensively over the last five years or so.  These studies have been done by reputable scientific organizations and have been done according to the strict standards of modern scientific experimentation guidelines.  There have actually been so many studies done on E-cigarettes, that it would be impossible to list them all here.  Suffice it to say, there have been more than a sufficient number of scientific studies perpetrated on E-cigarettes to avoid any accusations like this one.  The problem isn’t that there haven’t been enough studies, the problem is that none of these studies have succeeded in showing anything negative about E-cigarettes.  Those who throw around this statement are the same who have an interest in derailing the E-cig industry in favor of other, vested interests.  Their best attempts involve statistical manipulation like stating that “Dangerous Chemical X is present in E-cigarettes, and has been known to kill people.”  When in reality, that “dangerous chemical” is present at 5% of a concentration that would begin to present a health risk.

 

-E-cigarettes keep people addicted to cigarettes:  Well, the actual addictive qualities of nicotine are unknown… so this statement is founded on an unknown premise.  However, the premise is immaterial to this topic, because E-cigarettes actually do the exact opposite of “keeping people addicted to cigarettes.”  The long and cylindrical shape of an E-cigarette device, and the fact that there is nicotine involved, are the only things that this technology has in common with tobacco cigarettes.  There are literally hundreds of thousands (if not more) testimonials from people who have successfully used E-cigs as smoking cessation devices.  This statement in just as ridiculous as saying that nicotine lozenges keep people addicted to cigarettes.  Obviously there will be those who try E-cigs and return to traditional smoking.  Just as there are those who chew nicotine gum and return to smoking.  We don’t blame the gum, we blame the person’s lack of adequate resolve.

 

-The fact that this industry is not regulated means that we have no idea what is being put into our E-cigarettes:  Actually, the E-cigarette industry has been doing just fine regulating itself.  It has successfully governed itself with its own series of regulations implemented by universally accepted standards organizations.  AEMSA (the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association) and CASAA (the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association) have both done an excellent job of governing the industry without unnecessary government intervention.  Also, I have yet to come across an E-juice manufacturer that does not fully disclose all ingredients used in their production process… so obviously, we do know exactly what’s being put into our E-cigarettes.

 

-Regulation of the E-cigarette industry is necessary to prevent children from buying nicotine products:  I challenge anyone to find an E-cigarette store (or any business that offers E-cigs for sale in any way) that actually allows children under the age of 18 (or 21 in some states) to purchase E-cigarette liquids or devices.  Or, I could just save you the trouble of searching and using up about ten thousand gallons of gasoline by telling you that your search will be fruitless.  If teenagers are buying E-cigarettes, they are buying them the same way they’ve bought tobacco products for decades; fake ID, older siblings/parents, friends with store employees, paying someone to buy the cigarettes for them, or (in my case) tricking the proprietor of a cigar shop into thinking you’re a tried and true cigar connoisseur so they never think to ask you for an ID.  My point is that no measure, short of imprisoning all teenagers in death… er, I mean work camps…, will prevent them from finding ways of breaking the rules.  And since all E-cig retailers are already preventing kids from buying their products, regulation becomes at worst a redundancy and at best a moot point.

 

-The exotic flavor offerings of E-cigarette liquids are designed to target children and get them to start smoking:  There are so many things wrong with this statement, it’s hard to know where to begin.  First, the prospect of E-cigarettes being designed to somehow sucker kids into smoking is about as asinine as suggesting that flavored fruit chewing gums are designed to trick kids into drinking alcoholic cocktails.  Second, from a business aspect, would it make more sense to target a segment of society that is prohibited from using your product?  Or would it be smarter to target individuals who have developed a need for an effective smoking cessation avenue over long years of tobacco smoking?  Lastly, a person’s tastes increase in scope as they age.  They do not narrow as this statement would suggest.  Kids and teenagers generally have a small number of foods and flavors that they adhere to like super glue.  It isn’t until we age that we begin to broaden our culinary horizons.  With this in mind, it doesn’t make any sense to suggest that the availability of many flavors is designed to target children, when in reality it is designed to appeal to the wide palatal range of adults, whose tastes are as vast as the ocean.  As an addendum to this topic, I’d like to suggest (in the spirit of fairness) that if E-cigarette flavors are banned “for the sake of the children” we should obviously also ban all flavored liquors, vodkas, rums, hard lemonades, malt beverages, cocktail recipes, etc.

 

-Dripping style atomizers cause E-cigarette vapor to turn into formaldehyde:  There is actually no evidence of this ever having happened.  References to this supposed “research” are circular, and only refer to other news articles which refer to other news articles and so on, but never back to an originating study or peer-reviewed journal of any sort.  Chemically speaking, for glycerine and glycol to somehow magically change into formaldehyde would be just as likely as a block of cheddar cheese suddenly turning into a Ferrari via the wave of a magic wand and the utterance of the correct Voodoo spell.  And even if there are cases where one, individual E-cigarette or one, individual bottle of E-juice somehow produced traces of formaldehyde there are two things that must be kept in mind:  1. There have been cases when toxic chemicals have been found in supermarket beef or chicken.  These are mistakes and might possibly be grounds for a recall, but not a banning of all cows and chickens.  2. These “traces” of formaldehyde (assuming for the sake of argument that they exist) must still be compared with the known toxic levels of formaldehyde exposure for humans.  We’re actually exposed to formaldehyde all the time, but in such small quantities that our bodies very naturally metabolise said amounts and remain unharmed.

 

-E-cigarettes are a “gateway” to traditional, tobacco cigarette smoking:  Here is another statement that is actually the exact opposite of the truth.  E-cigarettes are no more a gateway to tobacco use than Naloxone is to heroine.  E-cigarettes are a “gateway” to healthy living without tobacco dependency, not a “gateway” to the exact addiction that people are attempting to escape with the help of E-cigarette technology.  The term “gateway” gets thrown around a lot these days without any real attention being paid to what it actually means.  The term is actually just a metaphor used for dramatic effect, and has no set-in-stone definition for scientific purposes.  I could just as easily say that Ford Mustangs are a “gateway” to motor vehicle collisions, or that living in the South is a “gateway” to racism.  These are meaningless statements using a word that is meant to draw shaky, unfounded conclusions based upon fallacious arguments.

 

-E-cigarettes have been known to explode while being used:  My apologies to whomever blew their face off with an E-cigarette, but one solitary incident does not an argument make.  E-cigarettes have batteries.  Batteries, no matter what type, under the right (and extremely rare) circumstances can explode or melt down.  Cell phones have the same kind of lithium batteries as you’ll find in E-cigarettes, and we hold cell phones up to our heads and faces probably much more frequently than we take a drag off of our E-cigarette.  The majority of these supposed explosion “cases” into which I’ve looked actually involved carelessness on the part of the user, not equipment that was so horrifically defective, that it suddenly just exploded for no reason.  Many people charge their E-cigs on the kitchen counter, where water has a habit of accumulating thanks to the close vicinity of the kitchen sink.  Others leave their E-cigs in a 180 degree car, sitting in direct sunlight for hours and hours during the summer months.  An accident is an accident, and they are occasionally tragic… but they are not necessarily cause for legislation unless the number of occurrences warrants concern.  Cars, airplanes, cell phones, toasters, lawn mowers, computers, windows… all of these things are involved in accidents from time to time.  Do we ban them all, or do we accept the imperfect nature of life and try to avoid danger as much as possible without locking ourselves in padded rooms so we can protect ourselves from absolutely every single potential threat in the world?

 

-E-cigarettes are even more expensive than regular, tobacco cigs:  I’m actually not even going to dignify this one with comment.  Sorry, but if you buy into this particular statement, no amount of logical reasoning is going to affect you at all.

 

Unfortunately, no amount of reasoning and/or logical, scientific proof will deter the anti-vaping elements of society from their crusade against E-cigarettes.  The reasons for this are disturbing, and I’ll only briefly touch on them here.  (These subjects are covered more completely (and sourced/cited) in others of my blog posts.)  Many anti-vaping organizations are heavily vested in pharmaceutical ventures which stand to continue raking in profits from products like Nicorette, Chantix, Wellbutrin, etc, if the more effective E-cigarette industry is buried under bans and unreasonable regulations.  Others are hell-bent on bringing absolutely everything under strict government regulatory control because of extremist political ideologies.  Still others are so opposed to tobacco products, that their hatred blinds them to evident truths simply because of the fact that vaping “kinda looks like” smoking.  Government agencies have only become interested in the regulation of E-cigarettes since the industry became a multi-billion dollar pile of potential tax revenue.  And lastly, there are those who are simply opposed to E-cigarettes because of the material they’ve read/heard from all of the previously mentioned groups.  Not everyone will agree with all of the reasons I’ve just listed, and that’s OK.  I only mention them in passing and am not currently interested in offering proof on their behalf (that’s for other articles).  The purpose of this blog post is to debunk myths about E-cigarettes themselves, not to throw blame at the potential sources of those myths.

 

If you have an interest in E-cigarettes, either on your behalf or on behalf of a loved one, please take the time to consider that all of the frightening headlines floating around the Internet and news media concerning E-cigs might be just that… frightening words aimed at striking fear into the hearts of the unsuspecting.  I implore everyone to do research, and to be sceptical of news stories in general until you take the time to look into the subject yourself in order to make an informed decision, not one based on panic and dramatic presentation.  Renowned philosopher, Rene Descartes, practised what he referred to as “methodic doubt,” which essentially meant that he would systematically doubt everything until he could prove to himself what was Truth and what was falsehood.  This goes for everything you might come across, not just E-cigarettes.  We unfortunately live in a world where we need to be sceptical of everything around us, because there are too many conflicting interests and ulterior motives.  However, we fortunately have in this same world a means to access almost all human knowledge throughout history with the touch of a few buttons and a thirst for learning.  Take advantage of our gifts and blessings, before those gifts and blessings get regulated and banned as well!

Keep Government Regulations away from Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic CigarettesRegulations are getting out of hand, as I’m sure more than a few of you have noticed at least two or three times in the last forty-five seconds or so. And I’m not just talking about E-cig regulations, but the entire regulatory environment of contemporary governments the world over. Somewhere along the way, someone must have looked at the world and said, “You know what this complex world of infinite possibilities and combinations of possibilities needs? A bunch of organizations composed of unelected officials with completely unchecked, limitless power to over-complicate this already overly-complex planet at an exponentially-increasing rate until the whole of humanity grinds to a screeching halt resulting from an inability to move an inch without violating multiple ordinances, directives, mandates, and caveats, thereby coming in direct conflict with a regulatory issue based on previous rulings by said regulatory issue’s governing agency.” In fact, I’m almost certain that is EXACTLY how the original statement was worded, to ensure compliance with preexisting vernacular regulations, of course.

 

Now, this is an electronic cigarette-related blog post, so I’m going to focus my attention here on the many proposed (and some already existing) regulations pertaining to the electronic cigarette industry. However, I’m going to do that via metaphor, and the metaphor I’ve chosen to employ is that of the Motion Picture Production Code (better known as the Hays Code) which was used in Hollywood as a pan-studio nationally-accepted guideline for the production of movies between the mid 1930s and the late 1960s:

 

Those of you who are adequately versed in the classic products of Hollywood of Yesteryear will immediately call to mind a series of favorite films released during the aforementioned time frame that are, at least by today’s loose standards, wholesome to the point of being tame. No profanity, no nudity, no extreme acts of violence (outside of a few cheesy Thompson submachine gun-related deaths in a handful of Cagney flicks), no blatant sexual innuendo or entendre, etc. We’ve been conditioned to think that this period of time was some sort of failure in terms of the grand American spirit of “free speech.” What many won’t understand about the Hays Code is this: it was NOT a system of government-sponsored regulations. It was NOT the “law of the land” by any stretch of the imagination. It was actually a privately-operated organization. Without going into too much detail, the Hays Office came about as an answer to an outcry put forth by a majority of the population, and it did a very thorough job of placating that outcry.

 

So what happened in the late ’60s? The Hays Office disintegrated into an acid bath of artistic expression. Enter the Motion Picture Association of America, heralded by the blessing of the Federal Communications Commission. At this point, the MPAA and the FCC undertook to over-complicate the film industry in the name of protecting civil, artistic, and free speech rights. Fast-forward a few decades and it is now quite literally impossible for parents (I speak as an authority in this treacherous arena) to protect children from knowing and watching and learning about every depraved lustful, gluttonous, greedy, violent, and otherwise licentious act of debasement known to mankind. So, what began with an oath to protect is now almost the diametric opposite of protection. The involvement of the government created more loop-holes in thousands of volumes of legalese for the passage of questionable or downright immoral entertainment than was ever allowed to grace the silver screen when the regulation was left up to the people, NOT the government.

 

So, how does this relate to the E-cig industry? A more accurate question would be, “How DOESN”T it?” Right now we are in the “Classic Hollywood” era of electronic cigarettes. We have our own Hays Offices, bearing the nomenclature AEMSA (American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association) and CASAA (Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association). These are just two examples of the E-cigarette industry policing the E-cigarette industry, without government interference. As it stands, and with only ourselves to govern ourselves (that concept seems familiar somehow, historically speaking) there exist sensible and effective regulatory measures used by E-cigarette and E-liquid manufacturers to produce safe and efficient products. In fact, believe it or not, these standards are written with safety and efficiency in mind and they do not fall short of these goals, as has been demonstrated time and time again by honest scientific attempts to study electronic cigarette technology and the effects of that technology on human health.

 

What we have to ask ourselves now is this; Do we want to reach the MPAA/FCC phase of E-cigarette regulation? Bear in mind that it wasn’t until the government involved itself with the cigarette (tobacco cigarettes, not electronic cigarettes) industry that chemicals such as formaldehyde, arsenic, etc. were put into cigarette tobacco in an effort to “regulate the consistency of the product by ‘reconstituting’ the tobacco.” Before that, tobacco was just a leaf that people burned and inhaled. If they chose to burn and inhale too much, they chose to accept the health consequences. Today, “tobacco” is actually a machine-pressed piece of paper made up of dangerous, poisonous… in some cases EXTREMELY poisonous chemicals, and a few bits of ground-up, highly-processed tobacco plant material. What will become of electronic cigarettes once the government unleashes its regulatory voodoo on what currently stands as a successfully self-governed, praiseworthy industry bent on greatly reducing the harm experienced by those of us who have chosen to maintain nicotine addictions? Big Tobacco is currently lobbying the FDA to include requirements in their E-cig regulations concerning the “regulation of product consistency.” A few years from now, all of our E-cigarettes might contain, as required by law, deadly chemicals like formaldehyde and arsenic.

 

We’ve seen what happens when the government dips their regulatory fingers into the entertainment industry; their so-called attempts to “protect” have resulted in my inability to keep my children from exposure to absolutely everything bad for them. Protection of the populace eventually resulted in protection from free-speech lawsuits. However, when the government wasn’t involved it was up to the people to protect themselves and they came up with a system that, while arguably a bit strict, worked perfectly well without government interference. And those who wanted to see a little more sin in their entertainment went to pulp/grind houses instead. Neither Hays-complient nor non-Hays-complient entertainment were illegal or regulated out of existence. They were just naturally separated by the will of the people themselves. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking, “Well, government regulation of the E-cigarette industry will take on a different and more efficient form.” Everything that the government touches seems to not only NOT work, but to result in the exact opposite of its intended goals. Once this big government mentality invades electronic cigarette technology, E-cigs will cease to be harm-reducing alternatives to tobacco-smoking. They will no longer be composed of three or four simple, non-toxic ingredients. They will suddenly be stuffed full of chemicals and “preservatives” that only a scholar of dead languages will be able to pronounce correctly, and they will almost certainly start killing people just as effectively as their plant-based cousins.