Throw me the ball – god

Prayer and the Big GameA recent poll suggests that 27% of US citizens believe that god plays a role in the outcome of a sporting event.

Another poll suggests that 77% of people believe prayer works in general.

The question I am going to ask about these statistics might not be the one you think.

So, here’s my question for the apparent 50% of people who believe prayer works but don’t believe that god helps win or lose a football game. Why not? If you believe that praying to god will cause god to change one thing, then why not believe god would change a sporting event’s outcome?

For the record, I want to be clear here, if you believe prayer works then you believe that god is fallible. That the master plan for your life changes as you pray. That the original plan of god got changed. If you believe god is infallible then prayer must be useless. The plan is at it was and cannot change. No amount of prayer can alter the course of the plan. But, getting away from logic for a moment I want to examine the psychology of those 50%.

I think the reason for the disparity in those who believe prayer works and those who believe prayer works for sporting events is quite simple. If god is willing to alter something as simple as a sporting event then god is capricious. God is willing to cause someone to lose a largely meaningless game because the other side prayed more earnestly. This makes god petty. That’s why most people who believe in the power of prayer don’t believe that it changes sporting events. Does god changes the outcome of the kickball game at recess? Where does it end? Those who believe in the power of prayer at some point realize it’s a ridiculous proposition and bail.

I believe in prayer they say, but not for silly things. God is above that.

If god is watching and making countless changes to the master plan at all times, saving a life here, ending a life there, picking which children in Sandy Hook to live, then god is a capricious prick. I want no part of such a god. If that god were to come to me right now and say, ‘I am God, worship me’. I would say no, never.

There is one other possibility and the most rational of my religious friends argue it. That god doesn’t alter the master plan for a prayer. That people pray to make themselves and others feel better about the troubles they are suffering. Prayer is merely a conduit of hope. To that I say, dispense with the prayer and get on with the hope. Don’t pray for my sister to fully recover from breast cancer, tell me that you hope she does, that you are thinking of her, that you care for me as a friend, and for her by extension.

I’m not militant about this. When friends tell me they are praying for a loved one I say, ‘thank you. That’s kind of you’. I know they are praying because they think it will help. That’s their business. Go on praying, just be aware of the logic behind your prayer. If you believe prayer works on any level you must believe it works at every level, even sporting events.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Zimbabwe Economic Woes

ZimbabweThere is a lot of chatter about the economic condition of Zimbabwe in the news these days and I think it’s a very interesting situation.

The history of the country is fairly fascinating and plays into those condition. I’m going to go over that quickly before I get onto the pertinent economic issues. Like most African nations prior to the arrival of Europeans it was a tribal state for most of its history. The region was rich in gemstones and a fellow named Cecil Rhodes recognized this and largely created the country. Current day Zimbabwe is a major of diamond exporter and Rhodes, a mining expert, saw that potential. He is also the  founder of the De Beers diamond company.

The country was eventually named Rhodesia in his honor and prospered when Europeans (read whites) immigrated and began both mining and farming in earnest. During what is called the Colonial era these European subdued native (read black) rebellions and forged a self-governing British colony. This colony prospered thanks to both the diamond mines and burgeoning agricultural industry lead by tobacco and cotton. The farming industry once contributed as much as 40% of the country’s exports and was also self-sustaining in the production of maize to feed its own people. However, gemstones were and remain the main economic money-maker in the region.

Eventually the British colony fell under scrutiny for their racial inequalities and sanctions followed. The British themselves, who outlawed slavery long before the United States, were proponents of majority rule rather the status quo of minority rule. The natives eventually waged a war of independence and gained the control of the country in 1979 instituting a relatively equitable system. Whites kept their property and control of the police, civil service, and judiciary while blacks took control of the government. Clashes between enemy tribes then ensued and many blacks were slaughtered by other blacks.

On an economic front there was general despotic rule in which unions were suppressed and socialist government take-over of universities was at least attempted. This mix of socialism with crony capitalism is worth noting. We tend to lump socialists in one camp and capitalists in another but under totalitarian rule the two intermingle quite nicely. A small minority gets rich using monopolistic policies coupled with socialist takeover of industry. A mix of two bad policies leading to … disaster.

The totalitarian regime seized farmland from prosperous white farmers who controlled about 70% of the arable land despite policies designed to encourage blacks to purchase that land. This redistribution failed miserable, as might be predicted. Without experienced farmers, capital outlays, and a long-term strategy the farming community collapses. A drought didn’t help.

Meanwhile the powerful regime grew rich off the gemstone mines virtually enslaving the population. Western horror at the conditions in the mines resulted in sanctions driving the country further in bankruptcy. Hyperinflation like that in Germany after World War I plagued the country and they even created a one trillion note at one point.

Elections remain largely fraudulent. Disease, mainly AIDS, is rampant and life expectancy is currently 39 years, the lowest in the world.

There are some encouraging signs for the country but the despotic regime continues.

What’s the lesson in all this? If you read my blog frequently you know the answer. Let the best succeed. Reward achievement. If the early white settlers had been fair-minded objectivist instead of vicious racists then blacks might have joined in the economic boom times and the wealth of the country naturally distributed to those most capable. If the blacks who came to power had been fair-minded objectivist they would have rewarded those whites who stayed and worked hard it would have resulted in equitable wealth distribution and a prosperous nation.

Instead, racism, greed, and hate won. That’s what those three things will get you. Disaster. Every time.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Raiders Coach Intentionally Lost Super Bowl?

Oakland RaidersThere is an absolutely astonishing story making the rounds in the weeks before this year’s Super Bowl and it is so crazy that I’m not sure what to believe. I’ll give you the details but I think it’s going to be weeks before we can sort this out, if ever.

A former wide receiver for the Raiders, Tim Brown, has accused the coach of taking intentionally damaging actions in the hopes of losing the 2002 Super Bowl. What, what, what? That’s crazy. Intentionally losing the Super Bowl? What possible reason could there be for something like that? It boggles the mind. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. As a rational thinker, my first reaction is: That can’t possibly be accurate.

To the evidence!

Super Bowl XXXVII (37, I do wish they’d just quit with the roman numerals already) took place in January of 2003 with the Oakland Raiders facing off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s coach was John Gruden who left those self-same Raiders just a year before to take the job. He had been the Raider’s coach for four season and left in, amazingly enough, a trade with Tampa Bay. The Raider’s got two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million in cash for their coach!

In any case, the man who replaced Gruden was Bill Callahan and the two teams met in the 2002 Super Bowl only a year after the trade. It is the suggestion of Brown that Callahan despised the Raiders and wanted to lose the game. His main piece of evidence of this is that the team practiced a running attack in the week before the game but on Friday, two days before the game and with no full-speed practices left, Callahan completely changed the game-plan.

This change resulted in the already unstable center of the Raiders, Barret Robbins, freaking out and begging Callahan not to make such a radical change without a single practice to work on the new scheme. It is an absolute fact that Robbins disappeared before the Super Bowl and was only found later in Mexico. Barret had alcohol and drug problems but this does seem to jibe with Brown’s story.

Jerry Rice, yes, the Jerry Rice, confirms that the game-plan was completely changed on the Friday before the game. Certainly in the game the Raiders relied heavily on their top-rated pass offense and barely ran the ball at all, eleven times which includes two passes where quarterback Rich Gannon was chased out of the pocket and forced to run. However, the Buccaneers took an early lead in the game and this might have forced the Raiders into a passing game. Still, if Jerry Rice tells me the entire game-plan was changed on Friday then I’m going to believe him.

Now, another Raider, fullback Zach Crockett remembers that the game-plan only changed after Robbins fled the team and couldn’t be found. It does seem clear that almost everyone agrees the game-plan changed dramatically two days before the game and with no time to practice. This is something that’s hard to fathom. Crockett’s explanation makes no sense to me. If you lost the starting center it’s even crazier to change the plan. The backup is less likely to be able to adjust than the starter.

Brown also claims that Callahan hated the Raiders. He hated the team he coached? Is that possible? There is no evidence so far that I’ve seen as to why Callahan would hate his own team although there is a suggestion that he was loyal to Gruden and wanted his old coach to win. That seems seriously far-fetched and I’ve seen little evidence to support this.

Later in Callahan’s tenure with the Raiders, Charles Woodson had some harsh words for the coach.

Certainly Callahan is not well-liked in Nebraska where he coached for four moderately successful seasons. For those of you unfamiliar with Nebraska football, moderately successful is pretty bad.

Meanwhile Raider’s quarterback Rich Gannon is more circumspect claiming that the game-plan change came not before the game but during the game when the running attack proved ineffective.

Another possibility is that the Raider’s mercurial owner, Al Davis, ordered the game-plan change and forced it on Callahan. No one  has any evidence to this being the case but it does have the ring of truth about it in regards to Davis.

Holy Cow! What’s a fellow to believe?

For the moment I’m going with the idea I stated earlier, that if you’re going to make astounding claims it requires hard evidence. I certainly see some evidence as to what Tim Brown is saying but not enough for me to believe that the coach intentionally sabotaged his own team. That’s just too much. I eagerly await further evidence from the players on the team in question.

I’m going to poll this one. Tell me what you think in the poll and in the comments!

[polldaddy poll=6848316]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

File Sharing and the Illegal Arrest of DotCom – The Saga Continues

DotComI know the world is fascinated with Lance Armstrong and Manti T’eo but today I’m going to post on a subject that I think is far more important to all of us. File Sharing. It’s not a sexy topic outside the geek world in which I reside but give this a read and see what you think.

About one year ago today the FBI asked the country of New Zealand to arrest a fellow named Kim Dotcom and his partners over his ownership of an internet file sharing site called Megaupload. It was a file sharing site where people could place files to be searched by others and downloaded. Some, if not many, of these files were copyrighted material. The movie industry, the recording industry, the publishing industry, and others consider people who purchase their material and then share it with others to be criminals. Because the site had this copyrighted material the FBI became involved most likely at the behest of the powerful music and movie industry.

The arrest itself used illegal warrants and Dotcom was illegally under surveillance; all of which has come out in court. He was subject to torture like tactics in prison, little food and water and deprived sleep. He was initially refused bail.  He is now free on bail and come up with an interesting way to start his company anew and be immune to prosecution. His new site will feature files encrypted so that the site administrator will not have access to the file contents. This means he will have no real knowledge of copyrighted material on his site. The FBI will have to go after those participating in file sharing rather than those simply providing a medium for others to carry on illegal activity. Because there are so many people fire sharing on such a vast scale it is all but impossible for authorities to arrest everyone involved and, if they did, would likely be subject to serious questions about their own families who are likely also sharing files illegally.

I’m an author of eBooks so this is a question that affect me directly. If people share my books without buying them then technically I lose money. But, the real losers, the ones who are pursuing this case, are the industries that profit off the artist’s work. Artists on their own will find a price point for their material that people are willing to pay instead of ridiculously inflated prices foisted on the public by the recording, movie, art, and publishing industries. I sell my books for $2.99. Almost everyone I know thinks that this is a reasonable price for a 300 page novel. If I went through traditional methods and got a publishing house to showcase my novel; the price to you would likely be $19.99. Now, in fairness, I went to agents and tried to get them to try to sell my books to the publishing houses and failed. So, maybe I’m just bitter. But as it stands now, I want nothing to do with the publishing industry. If people want to purchase my books for $2.99 then they will buy them. If my books are good, I will find an audience. If not, oh well.

That’s all beside the point to some degree. Digital media is here to stay and a real way to combat file sharing is for prices of such content to be lowered to a point where people won’t want to steal it. The other method is to put your content on Hulu and Pandora and other places where advertising pays per view. People watch what they want at the minor inconvenience of a few commercials. But, the illegal arrest of Dotcom and the continued prosecution of his case is nonsense. I have no doubt the movie, music, and publishing industries will try to stop his latest endeavor but I hope at some point they realize it’s hopeless.

File Sharing means that artists like myself can create and sell their work without an industry. That means you, the public, will have access to more material, better material, and at a better price. Sure, there are lots of horrible self-published books out there, and you might think mine are among them; but there is also amazing books, art, music, video, and other media out and available that would never have seen the light of day without file sharing and the internet.

Dotcom, you go! This eBook author applauds your efforts and prices his product so that even if someone does illegally download my books, they might enjoy them enough to go back and plunk down the $2.99 for legal copies.

I’d like to hear from other independent authors, artists, musicians, and the like to see what they think about this subject,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Lance Armstrong – Hero or Villain?

Lance ArmstrongI’ve spoken about Performance Enhancing Drugs in a number of other posts but with Lance Armstrong apparently admitting to his own use of PEDs in an upcoming (or already passed depending on when you read this) interview, I thought I’d revisit the subject. The main focus of the post will be an assessment of his character, hero or villain.

I maintain now, and have said for years, that virtually all athletes are using or have used PEDs. The testing is, and has been, far behind the sophisticated masking techniques available to athletes in an industry that generates billions of dollars for players, coaches, owners, vendors, and countless others. The cheating likely extends down to grade-school level where students want to gain an unfair competitive advantage over their peers.

But, if everyone is cheating then does anyone have an unfair advantage? My answer is no, they don’t. I’m not going to take on the debate if all PEDs should be made legal or not. Today I want to talk about how divisive a figure Lance Armstrong has become. I’ve been listening to sports radio talk-shows in the morning and reading articles when I come home. There seem to be two vehemently opposed camps.

Armstrong is a cheater, a lair, and a scum-bag. A villain.

Armstrong raised huge amounts of money, gave hope to countless thousands, and his transgressions were minor compared to the good he has done. A hero.

My own opinion is quite simple and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone else is having trouble coming to the same conclusion.

  • Armstrong survived cancer and continued to play professional sports at the highest level.
  • Armstrong, like everyone else, used PEDs to gain an advantage.
  • Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times.
  • When people accused Armstrong of cheating he lied, he bullied, he attempted to ruin people’s reputation, and he sued for millions of dollars despite the fact that he knew he was using PEDs all along.
  • Armstrong’s foundation raised millions of dollars and helped countless thousands of people.

That’s it. Armstrong did some horrible, reprehensible things for which he should be rightly condemned. Armstrong did some astonishing, wonderful things for which he should be praised.

I think the problem is that those who put their faith in him are either horribly angry at this betrayal or in absolute denial because they don’t want to think they supported someone who could do the bad things that he has done. This is called Cognitive Dissonance and something everyone should know more about.

However, this isn’t a psychology class. Armstrong is a man who did very great things and very awful things. There is no more than that. Those who would absolve him of the evil he’s done because it was for the greater good are delusional. Those who would discount the good he’s done because of the miserable actions he took are just as deluded.

Can’t we look at facts and simply state the truth? He did awful things. He did good things. There is no balancing of one against the other. Both happened. If you choose to forgive him for the awful that’s fine, but don’t pretend it didn’t happen. That he didn’t set out to ruin the lives of those who, rightly, accused him. If you choose to hate him then don’t forget the amazing good he has done for those suffering from the awful scourge of cancer.

That is all. Have a great day!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Blindness a Cause for Euthanasia?

EuthanasiaA rather morbid case has played itself out in Belgium recently and it made me think about euthanasia.

The basics of the story is that identical twin brothers decided to commit suicide rather than face a life of blindness. The pair was born deaf and recently suffered degenerative eye disease that would have quickly left them blind had they not killed themselves. Belgium has relatively forward-thinking euthanasia laws that allows people to opt for suicide under certain circumstances. If a person has made their wishes clear and is suffering unbearable pain, according to an attending physician, then it is legal have someone kill you. Belgium is considering extending the law to those suffering dramatic loss of mental faculties as well but that’s not really the point.

I’m a proponent of euthanasia to alleviate end-of-life suffering. I’m of the opinion that people in the last stages of life and suffering horrible pain with no prospects except more pain are more than entitled to kill themselves, it is cruel and vicious to force them to continue to suffer. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. This is simply someone facing a terrible ordeal who decides not to go on. Now, this certainly happens all the time without help. People kill themselves under far less duress. I friend of mine in college suffered horrible injuries because a man, whose life was in a shambles, decided to kill himself by crossing the highway divide. My buddy was coming the other way. So, the idea of someone who is suffering, being allowed to kill themselves without endangering others has an appeal to me.

However, the idea that someone who is suffering from a non-lethal, non-painful illness being sanctioned to kill themselves is somewhat disturbing. I’m fairly certain the government shouldn’t be all that involved in this decision one way or the other. If a person wants to kill themselves then they should be allowed to do it but if someone helps them that’s when things get tricky. The person helping could and has been charged with murder. So, should the government allow people to kill other people who want to die, for moderately good reasons?

Tough questions.

Medical advances are changing the world but the thought of living deaf and blind, Helen Keller excepted, is not a pleasant thought. Even if there was hope that a cure might be forthcoming.

I think that I’m going to have to come down against the Belgium decision at this point. If a person is suffering from terrible pain and wants a physician to aid in their death, that’s more than fine by me. On the other hand, if a person is suffering from emotional trauma, a non-terminal, non-painful disease; then they can and should be allowed to kill themselves. But, they should figure out how to do it themselves. It’s not that hard. Admittedly they might stupidly choose to cross the highway at seventy mph and maim an innocent but I don’t think that’s reason enough to allow doctors to kill anybody that asks.

People get depressed but then overcome that depression. People suffer terrible losses but recover. If you want to kill yourself then go ahead, but don’t ask anyone to do it for you and expect them not to be charged with murder.

It’s a tough one. What does everyone else think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

RG III and the I didn’t know Excuse

RG IIIAs my one or two loyal followers well know; sports is my first love. Long before I was writing Ayn Rand tribute novels dedicated to the ideas of Objectivism and Libertarianism I was living and dying, mostly dying, with the St. Louis Cardinals (football and baseball) and St. Louis Blues sports teams. While things have changed to some degree, I still love sports.

Last night I was doing some research into ACL injuries because of the Robert Griffin III situation with the Washington Redskins. I have an oar in the water on this one. My beloved, yes, I said “my”, read my Cardinals blog on the subject, my beloved St. Louis Rams have the Redskin’s first round pick next year and the year after. So, if RG III is disabled that would seem to indicate this pick might be of more value.

That’s not the subject of my blog today. What I want to talk about is how people use willful ignorance to avoid responsibility. Griffin is just my example.

The evidence that this is the case is a bizarre exchange between the doctor and the head coach of the Redskins. Griffin suffered an injury in an earlier game, came out for a play, and then went back in. Coach Mike Shanahan was asked about the incident and said that the doctored said it was ok for Griffin to return. The doctor, days later, denied even examining Griffin or clearing him saying he was very concerned by his return. Later the doctor hedged saying he didn’t examine Griffin and the quarterback went into the game largely on his own although the doctor gave some sort of a signal to the coach indicating it was ok for Griffin to return.

Here’s what really happened, in my opinion. Griffin partially tore his ACL at that moment. He knew something was wrong and avoided the doctor because that’s what incredibly tough football players do. Then he went back into the game. The coach didn’t want to ask the doctor because he wanted Griffin in the game. The doctor didn’t insist on examining Griffin because he also wanted Griffin in the game. The next few weeks the Redskin willfully pretended that things were ok by not doing thorough examinations. They didn’t want to know because knowing might be bad.

In the grand scheme of things this isn’t a huge deal but it mirrors something I see in today’s society and particular in our supposed leaders. These are the men and women who are supposed to be setting examples for all of us. They are our leaders, the men and women Ayn Rand writes about, the high achievers.

In the George W. Bush administration there was willful ignorance about our soldiers brutally torturing prisoners of war. There was a willful unwillingness to pass along information about the murder of a true Randian hero, Pat Tillman. President Obama didn’t know anything about the situation in Benghazi. Executives at Enron had no idea of the financial manipulations. The housing industry’s meltdown was systemic but no one wanted stand up and make hard decisions. No one wanted responsibility and underlings knew this and thus willfully refused to pass along pertinent information.

Rand writes specifically about this in the early chapters of Atlas Shrugged with Dagny Taggart makes a hard decision about the train on which she is riding. The people who are supposed to make the decision are paralyzed with fear that they will make the wrong decision and do nothing. She steps in and takes charge.

Failing to heed the moral of this story will bring this nation down. Leaders need to lead. They need to make hard decisions and sometimes make incorrect decisions. Voters need to elect those who are willing to make tough decision and be less eager to attack anyone who makes a mistake. Business leaders must lead instead of grub for more money and bail themselves out with golden parachutes.

I don’t want to be overly negative here. All is not lost. There are many leaders out there who are not afraid to make tough decisions and want what’s best their company, their constituents, their soldiers, and their country. Not only must such men and women step forward but we must honor those who do so and stop making excuses for those who don’t, even if they are from the party for which we vote.

Reward courage. Reward loyalty. Reward honesty. Reward honor. Reward kindness. Stop rewarding cowardice, betrayal, hate, and greed. Stop it in your own life wherever you encounter it, in the little things, in our everyday life.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Saving a Parking Spot and Run Over

Parking SpotThere is a fascinating story hitting the news today about an incident in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I’m torn to be honest.

Apparently a seventeen year old girl was physically blocking in a parking spot saving it for her brother’s girlfriend who recently gave birth. A driver, angered by the blocking, then bumped the pedestrian apparently trying to get her to move. The driver has now resigned from her position as a member of the local school board and may face criminal charges

I have to say I’m opposed to anyone standing in a parking space and holding it. I’m also a little confused by the logistic of the situation where a pedestrian could be in a position to hold a parking space. How did the teenager get to the Wal-Mart if not with the driver of the car? Was she just hanging out at the store waiting and got a call to save a spot? How long was she standing there saving it? Ten minutes? Does it matter? Seriously, I’d be pissed if someone was standing in a parking spot and claimed to be holding it.

Now, as to actually bumping someone with your car, that’s out of line. I’d probably end up driving to the next available spot but I’d be hot.

I’d hope the police would just make everyone shake hands and on move on but I guess that’s not the world we live in today.

Someone should tell that girl that there is no saving parking spots. I’m sure many people will defend her as trying to help out her friend but I just don’t see it. There are other options. Grab one of the motorized carts and drive it out to where she parks. Have someone else drive and drop her off at the front door. I just can’t justify saving a parking space at a public parking lot.

On the other hand, I don’t see it as an excuse to bump someone with your car. That’s flat-out dangerous and could have resulted in serious injury. Like I said earlier, I’d like to see an adult step-up somewhere, tell both people they were out of line, make them shake hands, and go on about their business.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Pennsylvania Sues NCAA over Sandusky Fine – Not What you Think

Greed***** EDIT ******

I’m now reading stories that indicate the original information I read was incorrect. The lawsuit does seek to throw-out the penalties claiming that the NCAA overstepped their jurisdiction. There are still parts of the suit seeking to spend the money in Pennsylvania but please take what I wrote below as an honest mistake based on the first stories I read.

If this new information is correct, and I think it is, a hearty of tip of the hat to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and a heartfelt apology for my original story! Well done, sir.

****** END EDIT *******

A news story just came to my attention about the fact that the Governor of Pennsylvania is going to sue the NCAA over the punishment meted out in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation situation at Penn State.

I wrote a blog not that long ago suggesting that the NCAA overstepped their authority in punishing Penn State for a criminal rather than athletic case. So, when I read the headline about the lawsuit I was quite interested. I don’t want to go back over the original crime or why I thought the NCAA’s decision was wrong. If you’re interested in that just click the earlier link and you can read my reasoning. What I do want to talk about is the lawsuit, my reaction to the headline, and my thoughts after reading the entire story.

When I read the headline I was excited by the idea that the governor of Pennsylvania, like me, thought the fines and punishments completely unjustified. I assumed that the governor wanted to rectify the situation by returning a criminal case to the court of law, where it belongs, and out of the jurisdiction of the NCAA. Judging by the first fifteen or so comments I read; the majority of people leapt to that same assumption.

Wrong.

Here’s the deal. The NCAA imposed a $60 million fine on the school. This money was earmarked for programs designed to help educate children and prevent child molestation in the future. Well, the lawsuit is about how that money is to be spent. Of course, I’m not surprised. We don’t care that the NCAA overstepped their legal bounds by imposing a fine for a criminal case over which the NCAA should have no jurisdiction. We’re just pissed that we don’t get a bigger hunk of that $60 million. Sigh.

The heart of the case is that the state of Pennsylvania wants all the money spent in the state. The NCAA has a task-force deciding how to spend that money. Let me guess, paying the task-force tons of money, putting them up in hotels, taking bribes from every organization that wants a piece of that $60 million pie, and otherwise acting normally. The NCAA presidents says at least 25% of the money will be spent in Pennsylvania but the governor thinks that’s not enough. Because he wants his own task-force to make those decisions I’m guessing.

It’s all a big fight over the money. Not anything important like ethics or legality.

Greed. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. I’ll be absolutely dismayed when I find out how much of the $60 million went into the pockets of friends of the NCAA task-force members. How much went to pay for expenses. How much went for studies.

I’ll just go curl up in ball now. Call me in the morning.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff – Booo!

Fiscal CliffI’m probably the lone-voice who is opposed to stopping the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” of 2013. Yep, I want to go over the fiscal cliff.

For an exhaustive understanding of the ramifications of both stopping and allowing the fiscal cliff to occur I’d highly recommend the Wikipedia article. It’s complex, long, and not easy to process. I’m going to try to summarize why I think going over the fiscal cliff is the better choice but please read the article and come to your own conclusion.

First a quick understanding of what the fiscal cliff entails. Basically, if the US doesn’t extend the debt ceiling then, by law, a series of automatic budget cuts take place along with the end of various tax-relief schemes. These budget cuts and tax-relief abatements are projected to reduce the current level of federal debt by 50% in one year. That is not enough. Even with the automatic cuts we will continue our debt spiral just at a substantially reduced rate. On the other hand, if we avoid the fiscal cliff then we reach 100% of GDP indebtedness in 2021. That means, if there is a resolution to the fiscal cliff, the United States will owe more than the entire GDP of the nation by 2021.

It is argued that we must avoid the fiscal cliff to stop a short-term recession. This is the sort of policy that got us into a debt mess in the first place. It all started when President Reagan came into office during the Stagflation years of the late 1970’s. We started to spend our way out of every potential recession. At that time, when President Carter left office, we were $700 billion in debt. We are now over $15 trillion in debt and, even with the fiscal cliff penalties, will continue to dive more deeply into that state.

The fiscal cliff penalties involve cuts to programs everyone likes. There are cuts to the military, cuts to social programs, cuts to education, cuts to everything. There are more taxes for virtually everyone that currently pays taxes. Either we accept these hardships now or we face nastier ones down the road. One side wants more taxes and the other less spending but neither can stomach both. This nation was founded as a Representative Republic. This form of government works because of compromise. Without an absolute dictator or a super-majority it is impossible to implement dramatic change. That’s intentional. Dramatic, one-sided change is rarely long-term good news for anyone, even those forcing through the legislation.

I’m not suggesting the fiscal cliff ramifications are good news but I’m saying that continuing on our current fiscal path will bring worse consequences down the road. We will eventually face an inability to pay our debt. This will result in all the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff and more. We are simply putting our head in the sand and then patting each other on the back on what a great thing we just did. This is madness.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Deadly Drugs – Already Legal

Prescription MedicationThere are many people out there who oppose the legalization of drugs because of the danger they represent to society. Well, I’ve got news for you. Drugs are largely already legal and lethal. Only the drugs that the drug industry controls are considered legal and alternates that could be dispensed cheaply are still illegal. This article describes how overdose from prescription medications now outnumber overdoses of illegal drugs. Prescription medication pain pills use has increased dramatically in the last fifteen years with it reaching a level four times higher in 2010 than it was in 1999.

At first glance my argument appears to support the continued legal penalties for drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and others of their ilk. If prescription medication kills so many people then we should think about making Vicodin and others illegal as well. I see the idea but my point is that the violence associated with illegal drugs would largely stop once we ended our prohibitionist laws. Also, many people who become addicted to prescription painkillers eventually turn to illegal drugs because they are far cheaper and readily available. This brings them into contact with hardened criminals. These hardened criminals are actually only a short step away from the doctor that prescribes Vicodin and the pharmacist that dispenses it.

So, prescription drugs are killers and lead to addiction. Illegal drugs lead to violence beyond imagination. What’s the answer?

There will always be people who seek out the chemical pleasure drugs induce; be it legally with alcohol or some other legal medication or illegally with marijuana or other drugs. There will always people in pain who have legitimate need for pain killing drugs to help them get through a medical crisis. We must accept this fact before we can arrive at a conclusion. Drugs will always, and have always, destroyed lives. People are documented as dying from alcohol related illnesses for as long as we have written records.

Once we come to that conclusion, that we cannot stop the self-destructive behavior of a certain percentage of our society, we can start to think about real solutions. How do we minimize such destruction and also minimize the criminal element that causes so much harm as well?

It’s a two-pronged attack. The first step is to legalize all drugs. Heroin is just branded as Vicodin or Oxycontin. It’s really the same family of drug and there isn’t any drug out there that isn’t dispensed legally by prescription. So, why not just make everything legal? It completely destroys the criminal element behind illegal drug production and dispensation which destroys so many lives.

But, that’s not the only attack. Even as a drug legalization advocate I acknowledge the dangers such substances represent. Should anyone be able to purchase heroin at the corner drug-store without a prescription? Would we end up as a nation of drug stupefied zombies? Certain psychoactive drugs are physically extremely destructive. Should we allow these to be sold over the counter to any comer?

I think the solution is one of education and available help. We should dispense with the nonsensical anti-drug arguments and give real information on the harmful effects of these substances. Then the industry of drugs should be taxed, yep I said it, to allow for free clinics for those who want help. Those who don’t want help, those who gleefully destroy their lives, there is nothing we can do for them and there will never be anything to be done.

It’s not a perfect solution. There will still be drug addicts. There will still be those who destroy their own lives and harm those around them because of these addictions. I’m of the opinion that people have to make their own way in life. If we allow people to make decisions like buying some heroin at the local drugstore without a prescription then eventually people will, mostly, make good decisions. We cannot be a nanny-state and a successful country.

We cannot force people into good decisions. We can give people information, give people choices, give people opportunities. When everyone has hope and opportunity I’m of the opinion that society succeeds. That people succeed. Maybe I’m an optimist.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Future Release: The Spear of the Hunt