Teaser – Science Week – Computers

ScienceYes, amazingly Science Week continues at the behest of my thousands of fans! Tomorrow I take on a subject near and dear to my heart, computers. My personal employment depends on computers and they have changed the world. I’ll look at the early days of computer development and the effect they have on the economy of the United States.

You might learn a few things you didn’t know about men like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and you will almost certainly gain a new appreciation for a personal hero of mine, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite … Al Gore!

Stay tuned for day four of Science Week!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Engineering

ScienceMy third day of Science Week pays tribute to the engineers of the world, both past and present. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to get to work in the morning, or at least it would not be nearly as easy. So, stick around and learn all about engineering!

Engineers have been an integral part of improving society since people began to write down their achievements and likely long before that!

Engineering has fascinated the world since early times with the ancients making spectacular structures like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Parthenon, the Great Wall of China, and the list goes on. I could easily wax poetic about my favorite subject, history, until your eyes bleed but I’ll refrain, you can thank me later in the comments.

My goal today is talk about how engineering and engineers have changed your life for the better and how important it is that we continue to encourage people to take up this noble field. Math and science are the backbone of all technological achievements and we do well as a society to tell children exactly that and reward them when they show an interest in those fields.

Modern engineering began in the Renaissance with men like William Gilbert and Thomas Savery A look at the biographies of those men is well worth a perusal for anyone with a casual interest in engineering.

The modern era traces its roots to Allesandro Voltra, Michael Faraday, and George Ohm among others. Gosh, I really could write a blog about each of these amazing men but as I sit here at my computer I cannot help but think about how much my life depends on modern engineering.

At its most basic engineers apply the principals of Physics and Mathematics to improve the status quo.

My alarm clock wakes me up in the morning and without the ability to tell exact time modern life ceases to exist as we know it. Thank you, John Harrison.

Of course, the alarm clock wouldn’t work without electricity, so thank you again, Allesandro!

I’m about to drive thirty miles to work. That’s a distance that would have been impossible until automobiles were invented and then roads for them to traverse. We take roads for granted but without them life is very different. I’m tempted to talk about the Via Appia and Appius Cladius Caecus but must refrain, stay on topic!

Concrete. There’s a story. I don’t have time to tell it all but suffice it say that the Roman engineers so valued it they kept their formulations as tightly held secrets. When the Empire fell concrete was lost until likely the 16th Century. Old Roman ruins still stand today!

My work today is in Granite City, Illinois and my drive takes me past the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium. Thank you, Jim Chibnall. I might be tempted to mention that this ballfield is where I get to see Adam Wainwright apply the principals of aerodynamics to the curveball.

Today I teach steelworkers how to use computers but as long as we’re talking about steel we need to think about all the products that use it. Did I mention that after I pass the stadium I get to see the most beautiful monument in the world? Thank you, Eero Saarinen and Hannskarl Bandel for the Gateway Arch. Made of steel.

Steel is in virtually every building, every car, and certainly in the Eades Bridge on which I drive over the Mississippi River. Thank you, James B. Eades.

Gosh, this post could go on forever and I haven’t even gotten out of the car! So, take a few seconds to appreciate all the work of engineers the world over and how it effects your life at almost every moment.

It seems like we want to emphasize business, and medicine, and law when it comes to educating our children these days and there is nothing wrong with those fields but without the engineers of the world … well … the world wouldn’t be what we know it.

So to all you future engineers out there, including my niece Tess, who are studying hard, keep up the good work! You will change the world.

Like, Tweet, Pinterest, Stumble, Digg, Comment, or otherwise share if you think someone you know might appreciate my blog!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Science Week – Engineering

ScienceFrom the coffee maker to the car to the elevator to the ergonomic chair in your office it was all designed somewhere, sometime by an engineer. Tomorrow I continue my science week with a tribute to the men and women who spend their days trying to make mine easier.

Stay tuned as I salute the engineer, be they mechanical, electrical, aerodynamic, hydraulic, or any other. Without them and their little friends the mathematician we would live in a very different world. You’ll learn about a fellow named Archimedes and another named Allesandro Volta. It can’t be anything other than one crazy, wild ride.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Modern Medicine

ScienceDay two of my science extravaganza is here and I’m going to talk about modern, western medicine. The reason I think this topic is important is because of how it has affected all our lives. I do not think modern medicine is perfect and some alternative choices have merit but I’m a major proponent of research and modern cures.

I’m going to start it off with a description of a diabetic ward in 1912 Canada. Dr. Frederick Banting, his student Charles Best, and biochemist James Collip used newly purified insulin for the first time. If you can read this and complain about modern medicine … well … I have no words for you.

Children dying from diabetic ketoacidosis were kept in large wards, often with 50 or more patients in a ward, mostly comatose. Grieving family members were often in attendance, awaiting the (until then, inevitable) death.

In one of medicine’s more dramatic moments, Banting, Best, and Collip went from bed to bed, injecting an entire ward with the new purified extract. Before they had reached the last dying child, the first few were awakening from their coma, to the joyous exclamations of their families.

Now I’ll go onto some statistics.

  • In the 18th century Smallpox killed an estimated 400,000 people a year. Today it is eradicated. Thank you, Vaccine Act of 1813 and Louis Pasteur.
  • Maternal death rate was historically around 1%. In modern, western countries it is now around .024%. That’s about 976 more mothers alive per 100,000 births. Thank you, Ignaz Semmelweis and Lawson Tait.
  • In 1952 58,000 cases of polio were reported in the United States resulting in 3,000 deaths and 21,000 cases of mild to disabling paralysis. In 1994 the Americas were declared Polio free. Thank you, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation.
  • Whooping Cough effects 48 million people worldwide and kills 295,00 people a year. In the 1940 it was reduced to 1 case in 100,000 in the U.S but declining vaccination has produced an increase in cases. Whooping Cough vaccine doesn’t last a lifetime and must be retaken. Recent negative publicity has caused a drop of vaccination rates. Whooping Cough is highly contagious. If a child at your daycare gets it because they aren’t vaccinated you are at risk.
  • Dental disease was a common killer prior to modern dentistry. It’s not easy to find exact statistics because dental disease often led to death in other ways. Diseases of the teeth quickly spread to the heart. With modern dentistry many lives are saved. Thank you, Pierre Fauchard.
  • My sister is cancer free thanks to Trastuzumab, thank you Axel Ullrich and H. Michael Shepard.

As I said at the beginning of the article I’m not completely against non-western medicine where it is shown to be effective. There is some evidence that Acupuncture, Chiropractic, and Massage Therapy can be effective. However, there are tremendous dangers to alternate medicine. Because it’s efficacy is largely unproven it leads to practitioners who are unregulated and prey on ill people desperate for a cure. It is particularly dangerous when used as a substitute, rather than a complement, to regular care.

I don’t really want to get into that debate. What I will say is that the odds are strong that you know someone who is alive and well because of modern, western medicine.

So thank you to all the researchers, assistants, technicians and the rest who are out there who are trying to find cures. Keep up this important work!

Comment, Like, Tweet, Stumble, Digg, or otherwise share if you want to say thank you as well!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Science Week – Modern Medicine

ScienceTomorrow’s Science Week topic is a subject that means a great deal to me. Modern, western medicine. In this day and age there seems to be an ever growing segment of the population turning to alternative medicines and at the same time not acknowledging the astounding contributions doctors and scientific researchers have made to our lives.

When I was a young man my neighbor’s mother died from cancer. Recently my sister survived what was a significantly more serious case. I’m going to tell you about diabetes, and smallpox, and polio and when I finish I hope you will appreciate doctors and researchers as much as I do.

Stay tuned!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Scientific Method

ScienceThe modern world was largely created by science and you don’t make it out of bed before you tangibly benefit from the work of scientist. Do you wear contacts or glasses? Do you have a mattress? Do you take medication to sleep or alleviate pain? I’m of the opinion that we largely take scientific advancement for granted. I’m going to spend all week talking about how science has changed our lives for the better but, being the critical analyst I am, I’ll also look at some missteps along the way.

I want to begin my analysis looking at the benefits of what is called the Scientific Method and how it is defined. The Oxford English Dictionary says “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypothesis.”

Basically, before something is promulgated as fact it must be tested in a measurable way and produce similar results. This is a part of critical thinking although there are divergences as well. One of the main arguments against this method comes to dealing with human immeasurables.

With the National Football League draft combine currently going on we have at hand an excellent example of this sort of issue with the scientific method when it comes to human behavior. NFL teams test players for a number of measurable abilities including strength, running speed, agility, and passing accuracy. These tests help the NFL teams gauge who they will take in the upcoming draft. However, the qualities displayed at the combine are weighed with the player’s past performance on the field, their positional need with that team, their leadership abilities, and their team skills all of which are observable but not measurable.

So, the scientific method isn’t a solution all the world’s ill. However, it is a method by which we gain understanding of the world around us and learn to manipulate it for our own benefit. I’m going to spend an entire day on modern western medicine later in the week and another on microchips and computers but I’m keeping it more general today.

There is evidence of the scientific method dating back to ancient Egypt and a medical text and certainly the Babylonians used it in their astronomical researches. It was not formally seen until Aristotle‘s literature came to light. Great mathematical achievements came under Arabic culture with Ibn_al-Haytham being a huge pioneer.

Modern scientific methods were used by Galileo in his discoveries about the nature of the earth in the cosmos, or more accurately, that Jupiter had moons that orbited Jupiter, not the earth. This conflicted with church teachings of Heliocentrism. This debate and eventual triumph of the scientific method changed the world.

Francis Bacon then came along and disputed the Aristotle method for a more modern interpretation. He said, ” For the induction which proceeds by simple enumeration is childish.” Let’s parse that incredibly important statement.

We cannot say something is true simply by numbering items that favor it. That is the thinking of a child. We must investigate, we must experiment, we must prove a thing true. Huge words by a giant. Take them to heart.

What we consider the scientific method today is certainly attributable in a large part to Sir Isaac Newton and his rules of reasoning. Two other men, of whom you have likely never heard, coalesced those idea. Charles Sanders Peirce and Karl Popper are important men and for those of you with a further interest in the topic I’d suggest a look at their Wikipedia articles.

In any case, I kick off Science Week with a salute to the Scientific Method through whose advancements made possible my ability to communicate with you via my writing, that allows me to drive to work in my Prius, that allows me to see through contact lenses, that allows me to order, pay for, receive, steep, and drink my tea from around the world in less than a week, that allows me to watch the Collingwood Magpies try to make it back to the Grand Final, and allows me to do so many things that I cannot begin to list them all.

Thank you scientists, thank you all.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Scientific Method

ScienceI’m going to spend all week talking science. I know this isn’t exactly an exciting topic but science has changed your life is so many it’s not possible to fathom. So stay tuned and maybe by the end of the week you’ll go out and thank a scientist!

I’ll start it off with the concepts of the Scientific Method and why it is so incredibly important to each and every one of us. Without peer review and exacting standards almost every factor of our life would suffer.

Stay tuned!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Privacy in the Modern World – Conclusions

PrivacyAfter a day off to talk about the magnificent sports rivalry between Kansas and Missouri that, barring a change of heart, has come to a conclusion I return to the highly popular issue of privacy in the United States and its impact on our freedom and safety.

Over the last few days I’ve discussed the definition of privacy and how it has changed over the years with advancing technology first from things like photographs to today’s computer age. What I want to discuss today involves how that technology and change in privacy is going to effect both our privacy and our freedom.

One of the most powerful new tools in the hands of both citizens and government law enforcement is remote surveillance devices. We’ve seen stoplight cameras for a few years and individual states have rulings on their legality in regards to the Sixth Amendment to the constitution of the U.S. I don’t want to get into that level of detail in this post and I’ll keep things more general.

The idea is that the state has certain legal tools which they use to promote the general safety of its citizens. We have traffic laws so that rogue drivers don’t put innocents at risk, the police serve a useful and important purpose in society. The difference between Libertarianism and Anarchy is an important distinction and all too often I think Libertarians slip into a more Anarchistic point of view. Again, I’ll save that topic for a later post.

We are going to see a huge increase of state operated drone vehicles in our skies and on our roads in the next few years. Largely these will be placed under the auspices of securing our safety and there is no doubt they do offer benefits in that regard. But, they also take away from our privacy. In the U.S. we are guaranteed protection from the state unless they have reason to watch us. The government cannot come into our homes without a warrant and they cannot listen to our conversations without probable cause but remote surveillance devices are always on, always watching.

Another factor is that citizens now have a far greater ability to watch the state. With remote control vehicles more readily available and increasingly powerful we can check up on the police and other government agents to make sure they are not overstepping the laws in the prosecution of criminals. We can also use such devices to watch for legal violations of neighbors, local businesses, and just about anything we want.

This opens up a huge area of questions. If I use my increasingly sophisticated remote control helicopter to spy on a neighbor, say, hitting his child, and then turn that over to family services what is the constitutional answer? Did I break the law? Should they go to prison? Have their child removed? Hidden camera have been used to tape people in normally private behavior for the purpose of humiliation or blackmail and has led to suicide.

It’s a hugely complex issue and I can’t come up with a single solution but I’d offer up this advice. Surveillance cameras offer useful tools to law enforcement and private citizens but also present significant issues in the realm of privacy. We have the right to privacy in our own house but there are ever increasing chances that it will be violated by people using such devices for their own purposes, well-intentioned or not.

In conclusion I offer the only advice that seems plausible.

  1. Diligently protect our freedom by prosecuting those who use such devices in violations of existing privacy laws.
  2. Invest in devices that pick up wireless signals that might be emanating from your residence.
  3. Keep your curtains closed.
  4. And most importantly, embrace Libertarianism. We have the right to privacy and we should respect that others have the same right.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Rock Chalk vs M – I – Z

Missouri - Kansas RivalryThe sports rivalry between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri will take a big hit when the Tigers officially move to the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 1012. Prior to that the two school met annually on the various playing fields starting in 1891.

I’d like to examine the origins the rivalry and then talk about whether or not I hope that it will continue. So, my loyal followers, put on your time travel caps and get ready for a journey back to a time when the issue of slavery was the dominant question in the United States.

Starting around 1854 the territory of Kansas was preparing to enter the Union of States and the burning issue was if it would be a slave state or a free state. There was a tremendous amount at stake in this decision because the concept of popular sovereignty was sweeping through the country. The idea was that each state would determine its own status as slave owning or not rather than the federal government assigning a status. The slave states desperately wanted Kansas to come in as one of their own because as free states joined the union the institution of slavery became more likely to be outlawed nationally. The free states and Republican Party, formed largely to stamp out the spread of slavery, wanted the opposite.

As Kansas got closer to being a state people from both sides of the slavery issue began to move into the territory hoping to swing the vote one way or the other. Many of the pro-slavery group came from the slave state of Missouri and dubbed themselves Blue Lodges. On the other side a group calling themselves Jayhawkers, formed largely of abolitionists, began to gather to swing the vote against slavery.

From there things got ugly. In the referendum deciding the slavery issue less than half of all voters were actually from the Kansas Territory and slavery won out in a largely illegal vote. The fallout from this rigged vote was that the newly created legislature actually moved from Kansas to Missouri to enact their legislation. Anti-slavery forces formed their own government in Topeka and began to pass their own legislation. President Pierce called this group revolutionary and sided with the pro-slavery forces.

The weakness displayed by Pierce in this time led directly to the Civil War and he is rightly, in my opinion, considered one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.

Violence ensued with John Brown leading the anti-slavery forces. The violence was not limited to the region as Senator Preston Smith Brooks of South Carolina bludgeoned Senator Charles Sumner while a colleague kept other senators at bay with a pistol. Immediately after this incident, Brown led his group against slavery forces hacking five men to death while raiding their home. Violence continued on both sides.

Eventually, after several fraudulent votes, Kansas entered the Union as a free state thanks to the Wyandotte Constitution.

Violence continued between both sides until the end of the Civil War. During the war atrocities occurred with Quantrill’s Raiders being one of the most galvanizing forces. The anti-slavery Jayhawkers and Redlegs were largely based in abolitionist Lawrence, Kansas and used it as a base to stage their raids on pro-slavery Missouri. Quantrill led an attack on Lawrence in 1862 in which his men burned the town and killed many men and boys.

The conclusion of the Civil War and the banning of slavery put an end to the question but bad blood still exists between the two states.

And thus ends our history lesson but now I want to talk about how important is sport in our way of life. Sports provides us with a peaceful outlet for our rivalries. When Kansas and Missouri started their athletic rivalry there were the sons of men who killed each other on the teams. They fought on the field of play and shook hands after the game. That’s an improvement if you ask me.

My hatred of the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs, and the Detroit Red Wings stems from sports rivalries with my hometown teams. Go Rams, Cards, and Blues! However; I have no interest in killing the fans of the other teams – misguided as their loyalty might be. 🙂

Sport is a good thing and I hope that the athletic directors of Kansas and Missouri can overcome their momentary anger and remember that Missouri leaving the Big 12 is not nearly as horrible as what happened prior to and during the Civil War. The fact that the two schools have become peaceful rivals gives me hope that all antagonistic forces can one day put down their weapons and take their fight to the field of play. Even the radical elements of Islam and the western world.

Isn’t a good game, win or lose, better than killing each other?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Rock Chalk vs M – I – Z

Missouri - Kansas Rivalry
Yep, tomorrow I expound on the nature of the rivalry between Missouri and Kansas and the potential for it to end with the Tigers moving to the Southeastern Conference. If you think you know everything about Quantrill’s Raiders, slavery, and the movement for statehood in Kansas you might just be wrong!

Stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on the not so pleasant details and tell you if I think the rivalry should continue or vanish into a sunset.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Privacy throughout History

PrivacyOn the surface this post is about how privacy has changed throughout history with advancing technology but the subtext is our privacy and how the state’s right to protect us is going to be clash in an ever increasing fashion. How we manage that is important to the future of the United States.

Now, on to the topic at hand, how privacy has changed both legally and in our expectations over the years. One of the first opinions about privacy written in the U.S. was The Right to Privacy by Samuel Warren and future Supreme Court justice Louis Brandies. In this article they point out that privacy was extended over the years to include things like vibration and dust as the world changed.

Privacy certainly factors into zoning laws as we would not want a factory to move to the middle of a residential region. These things make perfect sense to us today but when there was no such thing as a factory they did not merit consideration.

The main thrust of the paper was the intrusions that photography and newspapers presented warranted a new interpretation of privacy laws. I’d suggest a full perusal of the article because it is beautifully argued and astonishingly pertinent to today’s world even if the technologies discussed are outdated. It is fairly lengthy and you might want to skip down to the six enumerated privacy rights points.

Basically, people have the right to their personal lives and other people cannot splash that across the media without permission. Public figures fall under a different set of rules although personally I find the invasion of privacy of celebrities and politicians to be disgusting. The courts have ruled it legal enough.

Now, as to today’s technology and what it means for our privacy. The use of secure “land-line” phones is slowly going away and cellular phones broadcast over the open airwaves. This means anyone can technically listen in on your conversations if they have certain information and equipment. We are increasingly on wireless devices and although they can be encrypted there is always the possibility that someone is eavesdropping on those conversations.

Every email you send does not go directly to the recipient. It passes through numerous other computers on the way to that person and anyone with access to said computers can read your email.

Most of our purchases are made with credit or debit cards which are tied directly to our person. This means that information about our shopping habits is readily available to sellers. Every page we browse on the internet is tracked and you can’t eliminate this by stopping tracking cookies on your computer. There is a record of your computer visiting a particular site at all times.

We will increasingly consume media through streaming venues which again is information available for capture.

What does all this mean? It means that things we once considered private are now publicly available for consumption. My shopping habits, movie watching habits, reading habits, music listening habits, and other things are now public knowledge.

Most importantly what rights does this give the state and their law enforcement arms to access such information. There have been a bevy of cases testing the limits of this in recent years. Technology called Forward Looking Infrared allows police to see if we are using certain kinds lights in our house. The Supreme Court ruled this an invasion of our Fourth Amendment rights.

We will see a huge increase of drones patrolling our skies in the future as well as more cameras in many public places to watch for criminal activity. All of these things have both their good and bad sides. How they are used and the laws associated with their use will greatly effect our privacy in the coming years.

This is an incredibly important issue in the United States today because it pits our privacy and, to a large degree, freedom against the state’s duty to protect us from criminal mischief. That’s what I’m going to write about on Sunday. What right does that state have to invade our privacy in order to protect us? Stay tuned!

I’ve got a special article on tap for Saturday but I’ll let you know about that later on today!

As always, comment, tweet, stumble, digg, like, link, and otherwise share if you think others might be interested!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Privacy throughout History

PrivacyOn Thursday I tried to dissect the tangled weave of what privacy actually means and Friday I’ll review the history of privacy rights and the influence technology has had on them. I frequently hear people talk about the absolute nature of right and wrong but often times the definition of thing varies over time and culture.

I think that’s the case with privacy laws but after you read my take on the situation you can tell me what you think.

Tune in tomorrow to learn the exciting history of privacy!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Privacy in the United States – Definition

Privacy
Privacy is a complex issue in the United States. The advent of new technology is changing not only the perceived definition of privacy but also its reality. In this series of blogs I’m going to take on this complex issue and examine how it relates to every citizen of this county and, more generally, to the idea of Libertarianism and free thinking.

As is my want, I’ll start out with the general definition. This is a difficult concept because there is the definition of privacy, the general expectation of privacy, and the actual fact of privacy law in the U.S. Surprisingly, these three things are fairly widely divergent.

First I want to examine simply the concept of privacy. The dictionary seems a good place to start. Sadly, I don’t have a subscription to the magnificent Oxford English Dictionary site but Merriam Webster comes to the rescue.

a. the quality or state of being apart from company or observation

b. freedom from unauthorized intrusion <one’s right to privacy>

I think we are largely talking about definition “b” in this case. Our right to privacy from unauthorized intrusion. The first definition concerns itself more with my individual right to hide in my room typing my blog, writing my latest book, and playing Skyrim.

Now, as to our perception of privacy. An interesting story recently demonstrated that, largely, our sense of what is private does not mesh with reality. I don’t want to get into the details of the story but basically it talks about how our shopping habits, tracked through our credit, debit, and reward cards gives retailers a great deal of information about us.

We think that is private for the simple reason that until the advent of massive database tracking it was impossible for someone to keep track of that much information. Those sorts of databases now exist and combined with identifying tools like reward cards and tracking cookies it is possible for people to not only keep that information but mine it for gain, both yours and theirs.

How does that help me? It helps me everyday when I’m on the computer. Advertisements that interest me show up in my browser, books that correspond to my reading habits show up every time I visit Barnes and Noble or Amazon to check on the rather anemic sales of my books. This sort of targeted advertising will only increase as the technology blooms. When I check in at the grocery story my phone will tell me items on sale that I’ve purchased in the past. When my shirts start to get to be a year or so old  I’ll get an automated message from Brooks Brothers that I need some new ones.

These are the sorts of things we once thought private but are quickly finding out are not. If, say, I purchase an inordinate amount of Bookers Bourbon in a month perhaps I might get a call from an alcoholic center. It’s difficult to say how far this information will go but its safe to say that where there is money to be made the technology will follow.

When you are talking on the cell phone or send an email there is no privacy. That is open line communication and fully non-private. Everything you do on the computer at your workplace, browse the internet, send instant messages to your loved ones, or play solitaire is managed by the Information Technology team at your office. None of it is private.

Every web page you visit is tracked although this is where we start to get into the legal definition of privacy. While certain information is available it is not necessarily admissible in a court of law.

So, as to the legal definition of privacy in the U.S. There are different laws for public and private figures and I’m mostly going to talk about personal privacy for now. Public figures have less privacy than non-public ones for a variety of reasons.

As far as most of us are concerned, privacy laws essentially protect us from someone finding out information about us to either publicly disclose or use for personal gain. Yellow Journalism and the advent of the easily available cameras spurred many new laws in the past and new technologies are changing the landscape almost every day.

To try and wrap up part one I’ll mention the idea of tort law in the U.S. in regards to privacy. There are basically four areas covered and I’d recommend a long perusal of the Wikipedia article for better information.

  1. Intrusion of solitude: physical or electronic intrusion into one’s private quarters.
  2. Public disclosure of private facts: the dissemination of truthful private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable
  3. False light: the publication of facts which place a person in a false light, even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory
  4. Appropriation: the unauthorized use of a person’s name or likeness to obtain some benefits.

Ok, that’s it for part 1. Tomorrow I’m going to try and take on the history of privacy in the U.S. and how technology has, and is, currently changing it.

As always, Like, Stumble, Tweet, Digg, and otherwise share this information if you think someone else might find it of interest. Comment are always welcome!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Privacy

Internet PrivacyThis extradorinaily interesting case brings up a whole bevy of questions about the issues of privacy in the modern, computer age. In the United States there are fairly strong privacy laws but a great many people think they have far more privacy than really exists.

This is an incredibly complex issue and I may have to launch into a multipart examination! I know you can hardly wait. We’ll start it off tomorrow by trying to define what privacy really means, at least here in the U.S.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy from a Libertarian Point of View

Affirmative Action

Affirmative ActionYesterday I talked about how playing chess against a wide variety of players in the internet age improved my game at a much faster rate than when I played against the same opponent again and again. This led me to the conclusion that variety of experience leads to a better life and improved skill. I want to take this argument and apply it to the idea of affirmative action.

As usual, I think it is a good idea to actually define what we are talking about in order to fully understand it and come to accurate conclusions with our critical thinking skills.

Affirmative action is a relatively simple idea. A particular group of people is underrepresented in a situation and laws are created so that this group must be given an equal opportunity to participate. For example; a study reveals that while Martians represent 8% of the total population of Utopia City they account for 1% of students at Utopia University. A law is passed that forces Utopia U. to make certain 8% of its incoming class is of Martian descent.

It seems a quite reasonable solution to the problem and becomes even more reasonable when the problem is related to active discrimination against the party in question.

In the United States the original affirmative action laws, signed by John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961, were created to counteract racial bias against black U.S. citizens. It originally prohibited discrimination against people based on race, creed, color, or national origin.

The advantage to creating such laws is that the Martians get a fair chance to participate at Utopia U. Another advantage is that we expose all our students to a wider array of cultural ideas and this makes them a more rounded and essentially better people.

The disadvantages are that such laws work against institutions that are not practicing discrimination. If I run Utopia U. and my only criteria for admission is the students with the best grades then I’m forced to enroll Martians with lower scores at the expense of a potential students who have a better chance to succeed. This is, in itself, discrimination.

So, what’s the solution?

To my way of thinking there should simply be laws against discrimination but everyone should be able to hire, enroll, or otherwise deal with people as they see fit. If a case of discrimination can be proven then the violator should face whatever punishment the law suggests, fine or prison. The idea that we must have 8% Martians at Utopia U. as a way of trying to monitor discrimination is fine but it is not actual proof. We might have only 1% Martians because only 1% are qualified to get in.

The advantage of experiencing life more fully is not one the government can solve. We must actively try to experience life more fully and meet different types of people as I discussed yesterday. If we do this we become better and our friends and relatives will copy the behavior. I just don’t think the government can legislate this solution as well-intentioned as the idea might be. 

It’s fine to use statistical analysis to look for anomalies and then investigate potential discrimination but I think it’s a mistake to insist upon particular numerical values. The Supreme Court of the U.S. largely agrees with this point of view.

I’m of the opinion that affirmative action should largely be phased out although discrimination laws should certainly be kept in place. I see the racism problem as largely, although certainly not completely, solved in the United States. If we can instill a Meritocracy based system then all such nonsense can finally be put to rest.

One of the ways to do this is to always critically analyze a situation and make the best decision. The best decision is blind, like justice, of things like race, creed, sex, handicap, or other potential discriminations. Keep in mind that what is best for you and your future involves making good decisions. You want to surround yourself with people who are best equipped to handle the job regardless of any other factor.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Affirmative Action

Affirmative ActionTomorrow I’m going to take the idea of how diversity is a good thing from today’s post and extend that to the idea of Affirmative Action. If the playing field is unfair for a particular group of people is it the government’s responsibility to level that field?

I may end up taking a couple of days to examine this complex issue.

Stay tuned,

Tom Liberman

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Internet Chess and How to Improve your Life

Internet Chess You wouldn’t think that playing internet chess would give insight into a better way to lead your life but that’s exactly what happened to me when I started to play. I’ve discovered that diversity and balance improve life and I’ll tell you why.

I played chess as a young lad. My father taught me the game and I played him many times over the years. When I got to Junior High School, as they called it back in the old days, I joined the chess team. On that team I played pretty regularly with the same group of people and the instructor.

Once I got to high school I started to play water polo and never really looked at chess again except for the occasional game with a friend.

Many years later my niece took up the game in a relatively serious way. She started to play tournaments and I decided that I’d take up chess again so as to give her an opponent.

There are a number of places to play chess on the internet. I currently play slow chess at Gameknot and fast chess at ChessCube and Chess.com. The grand-daddy of chess sites is ICC where the masters play.

Now, as to my point. As a lad I played a lot of chess, particularly in junior high school. My game got to a level where I thought it was fairly good but the thing I didn’t consider was not necessarily the quality of my opponent but their quantity and different playing styles. In my youth I largely played people who used the same style and I played them over and over again.

When I joined the internet chess community I was immediately exposed to a multitude of styles, a huge variety of openings, and a vast array of levels. I played openings I’d never heard of against opponent both significantly weaker than me and infinitely stronger.

What I learned is that playing that variety of players with their varying styles improved my chess game far more quickly and comprehensively than playing the same people over and over again.

Now, I’m going to get a little philosophical. I think this lesson can be taken to your life as a whole. If you experience the same thing over and over again it is difficult to improve in anything. If your job has you doing the same thing again and again. If you have discussions with the same people again and again, if you eat the same food again and again, you are limiting your life. Not only are you not experiencing a full life but your skills are stagnating.

Try new ways of doing old things. Even if the new way looks really stupid give it a try. You never know what you might learn. Look at life differently, sit at a different place in the conference room, talk to someone new for a moment, try a different menu item or a whole new restaurant.

I suspect that the more of anything we experience the better we get. If you want to maximize your skills at anything then I’d suggest immersing yourself in a wide variety of that thing. Not that it is easy. It takes time and effort but in the end you will improve yourself and your life dramatically.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. If you’re playing chess on the internet and you see this flag then get ready for a beating!

Russia Flag

Teaser – Internet Chess

You might think that playing chess over the internet doesn’t really have any application to real life problems but you’d be wrong! Tomorrow I talk about how internet chess has given me a new respect for diversity and being a well-rounded person.

Stay tuned for a full explanation.

I know it’s hard to wait a whole day for a blog about chess but you can do it! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Anti-Trust Legislation

anti-trustAs a Libertarian I’m largely against government interference in the freedom of people to do as they will. There are limits and one of those is anti-trust laws. These laws are put in place to make sure that competition is waged on a level playing field. This is an area, in my opinion, that separates Libertarianism from Anarchism.

In any case, the purpose of this blog is to talk about why anti-trust legislation is needed. To start things off I’ll talk about the definition anti-trust. I’m going to generalize and a full perusal of the anti-trust Wikipedia article and its linked definitions is a worthwhile study.

Anti-trust laws are designed to stop things like collusion and cartel. Collusion is when a group of people agree to limit open competition. It is usually marked by uniform pricing among competing items. A cartel is an open agreement to set prices at a certain threshold.

A second thing they are designed to prevent is market dominance and particularly monopoly. Both of these situations occur when one supplier controls such a large percentage of a particular commodity that they can set a price as they choose rather than being forced to offer a competitive price by competition.

Acquisitions are also under the purvey of these kinds of laws. If one company attempts to purchase all its competitors then monopoly or dominance ensues. Both of those things hurt the consumers ability to get product at a fair price.

There are host of other anti-competitive practices that include things like dumping; wherein a company forces competition out of the market through cheap pricing, refusing to deal; when a group of companies refuse to purchase from a particular vendor to put them out of business, dividing territories; when two or more companies agree not to compete with one another.

In my mind we need anti-trust laws for the same reason we need laws in the first place. It is human nature to take advantage of a situation in any way possible. One of the pro-capitalist arguments is that it caters to human nature and I agree with this but we must also take human nature into account when we make our laws. Anti-trust laws and general regulation hopefully provide a level playing field against unfair practices that hurt capitalism and the consumer.

If we can apply broad regulation that levels the playing field then the business that is operated most efficiently wins. I think it is important for the business community to understand that some regulation is required to prevent unethical people and businesses from dominating the market and putting all the ethical people out of work.

I’m almost finished here but I think I need to explain what I mean by broad regulation. I don’t recommend legislation that takes every possibility into account because that sort of law is doomed to failure. What I mean is more general types of regulation that simply allow each company to play on the same field.

We have laws that make sure manufacturers put the quantity of material in the food container on the package. This regulation is easy to comply with and understand. That’s the goal of all regulation, simple and cheap to implement for the producer, easy to understand for the consumer. It’s not always easy to achieve but I do think it is necessary to allow capitalism and the free market to thrive.

I welcome disagreement as always!

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Anti-Trust Laws

Anti-trustAfter my Crony Capitalism post a little while ago several fellow Libertarians posted comments in support but mentioned that they didn’t think the government had the ability to create a level playing field through regulation. That this field was created by competition itself.

Tomorrow I’ll share one group of situations where I think federal oversight, in the way of broad regulations, is sometimes necessary in order to have a free market. Why I think unfettered capitalism doesn’t work without a modicum of government oversight.

I’ve got my bunker all prepared for a blast back from Libertarians!

Stay tuned and see you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist