$3 Million in a bra?

Money In Bra

There’s a rather interesting story in the news about a school employee who stole some money over the course of seven years. Over that period she managed to steal an estimated $3 million by putting money in her bra as she was leaving school grounds.

The money came from students who paid cash for lunches over the course of the day. The employee was in charge of accounting for this money.

What I find interesting is that my first reaction, and that of most the people making comments, was that this was a huge amount of money to steal in seven years. That she must have had some specially made bra into which to stuff the huge wads of bills. Is that what you thought?

I heard the story as I was pulling up to pick up my dinner from a local grocery store and sat in my car for a few minutes before it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t all that much to money to stuff into a bra after all. My math skills being deficient I waited until I returned home to perform the calculations.

The first order of business was to determine how many days are in a school year. It turns out there are about 180 on average so I went with that figure. So, let’s work it out.

The number of years = 7

The number of days = 180

The total amount = 3,000,000

The unknown amount is how much was stolen each day (x).

The equation: 7 * 180 * x = 3,000,000

7 * 180 = 1,260.

So now we have 1260 * x  = 3,000,000. We move the 1260 to the other side of the equation and end up with this.

x = 3,000,000/1260.

The result is $2,380 per day.

Not so bad and it’s probably a good thing to get my algebra brain working again after all these years.

Now, let’s say it’s mostly $20 dollar bills, so that’s fairly simple. 2,380/20 = 119 bills stuffed into her bra on a daily average.

Our math isn’t done yet because I need to know how thick is a pile of 119 bills. Yes, I have a sickness, I admit it.

The US Treasury says that a dollar bill is .0043 inches tall.

Now we take 119 * .0043 and end up with .511 inches. Half an inch of bills every school day for seven years and we’ve got our answer! It can be done and without that much trouble.

Isn’t math great!

So, I was wrong and so were most of the people who made comments on the story.

Now, tell me the truth, when you first heard the story did you think, like me, it sounded impossible?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Tough Teacher is the Best Teacher

Tough Teaching MethodsThere’s a great article in the Wall Street Journal about why it’s better to have a tough teacher than an easy teacher. It goes into a number of reasons why this is the case and I largely agree with one important side-note.

The author recalls a tough music teacher who berated both her and fellow students by calling them idiots, who prodded their hands and arms into the proper physical position with pokes from a pencil. The article then goes on to say that a teacher would be fired for such behavior in the modern classroom.

The article continues by citing a number of excellent studies suggesting that teachers who tell us we are wrong when we make a mistake, that make us memorize fundamental ideas, that don’t mind assigning us exercises which we are likely to fail, and who put us under stress, are almost assuredly helping us.

All this is clearly true. I’ve spoken out a number of times on this subject even suggesting that it was a mistake to allow a wrestler with cerebral palsy win a match. That we did neither the winner or loser of that match any favors.

I’m in almost total agreement with the author and the article. Almost.

The one thing the writer conveniently forgets is that for every well-meaning Mr. K out there who called people idiots not because he thought they were idiots but to encourage them to try harder. For every Mr. K out there who gently prodded with a pencil; our past education system also spawned generations of sadistic, bullying, power-mad teachers who enjoyed mentally tearing down students, played “favorites” to birth sycophantic slaves, and who got sick gratification from doling out corporal punishment. I had  a couple of teachers that fit this mold and I’ll bet most of my readers did as well.

That much of the coddling of students we see today stems from reforms designed by former students who were abused in this fashion.

So, what’s the middle line? How do we get the tough, but loving, teachers who see our potential and drive us to our highest level of achievement while avoiding the sadistic psychopaths who enjoy torturing children?

There are no easy answers here at the Blog of Tom Liberman. I’m not going to stand up and call everyone else an idiot and claim there’s a simple path.

We must churn out people with education degrees who have learned these principles. In other words, we teach people to teach properly. Administrators must carefully interview potential teachers and weed out those with tendencies towards sadism. We must monitor a teacher’s progress in the classroom and, with tough love, help them improve their teaching skills.

We must listen to student and parent complaints and fairly adjudicate them. We must support teachers who practice tough love even if it hurts our feelings. We must fire, after fair warning, those who cross the line.

We must spend time and effort doing what is right, because it’s worth it in the end.

What would be the state of our educational system, our nation, and our world be if we had nothing but great teachers?

What I just wrote seems straight-forward I’m sure. Gosh, Tom, that sounds easy. Let’s get to work. Well, it’s the getting to work that’s the hard part and I like to think Mr. K. would agree. We can’t just espouse what are clearly good ideas and pat ourselves on the back.

No one can instantly make every teacher better. The Cardinals didn’t win the 2013 National League Central Division Crown with one victory (Go Birds!). It starts with one person and one action. The next action you take. The next action I take.

Each action, each decision, each moment of our lives is an opportunity to be better. That’s what being a Libertarian, what being a Objectivist means. Will I make mistakes? Was my Access 2010 class the other day not my best effort? You bet.

Will I try to do better next time? Will I realize the errors I made and correct them? How I answer is the real test.

It’s hard to pay attention to detail, to work at your craft constantly, to accept failure graciously, to change patterned behavior, to improve, to improve some more, to truly listen to ideas outside your ideology, to get better.

No easy solutions here.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Body Mass Index – The BMI Fraud

Overweight GirlAt lunch today I spotted an interesting article about something called BMI (Body Mass Index) which is often used, unfortunately, to measure if a person is healthy or not.

In this case an 11-year-old girl was determined to be unhealthy and overweight because she is 5′ 4″ 124 pounds. A quick perusal of the BMI charts indicate that this is actually a perfectly normal weight and it wasn’t until I read the comments on the story that I found out a new piece of information. When reporting BMI some school districts take into account something called the CDC Growth Chart.

This chart looks at normal children and their weight compared to statistical outliers. In this case the girl is very tall and heavy for her age and, despite being in the normal range of BMI, is considered overweight when the CDC Growth Chart is taken into account.

I’m not against  tracking people’s health and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything completely wrong with either BMI or the CDC Growth chart, if they are taken in context. That’s the problem. They are not taken in context and they are often used to fraudulently claim people are overweight.

Let’s get a little background first.

The BMI was created in the mid 1800s by a Belgian polymath. A polymath is someone who is extremely intelligent and excels in a variety of disciplines. This index is flawed under a number of circumstances particularly very tall people, very short people, small boned people, large-boned people, and people with large amounts of muscle mass.

BMI is used by most insurance companies as a way to determine if a person is unhealthy. Anyone who is so determined must pay higher insurance rates. There is clearly a financial incentive to have as many people listed as unhealthy as possible. In the United States what used to be healthy in 1997, a BMI of 27.5 or less, became unhealthy when the cutoff point went to a BMI of 25 in 1998. This instantly made 29 million Americans switch from the healthy category to the overweight category. And meant that everyone in that group had to pay more money to insurance companies. Everyone in that group became, at least psychologically, a target for the diet industry. It also means that the pharmaceutical companies have 29 million more potential customers for their medicines.

BMI has come to be an accepted measurement tool for a person’s health.

In the story in question, the 11-year-old girl is very tall for her age and quite athletic. She is not overweight nor are many of the people who are classified as such.

I’m not saying stop using BMI and the CDC Growth Chart. They both have real uses in determining if a person is overweight and unhealthy. I’m suggesting that we stop using them as blanket treatments and people who fall into the regions where the tools are no longer accurate be diagnosed with a different chart. Ideally a doctor would examine each person and make the determination on the results of the exam.

In the case of the 11-year-old, her mother was concerned that being labeled overweight would have a negative impact on the girl’s self-esteem. I don’t think this is a frivolous claim. When the administration of an organization makes such a claim there are real emotional effects. I feel certain that the girl’s mother can explain that the BMI scale and the CDC Growth Chart scale are not accurate for certain body types and her daughter has one of those. I don’t think there’s any real damage done but I do think real harm is done by over-reliance on a system that plainly does not work for certain people.

Everyone should have their health screened regularly. A doctor should see everyone and make the overweight determination based on a physical exam; not a chart that, even the most ardent supporters of will admit, fails under some circumstances.

The fact that we have approximately 48.6 million people in this country who don’t have health insurance and are thus not getting regular screenings is a serious issue. All of those people should be getting screened. When they do not they stand a far higher chance of having serious medical issues, expensive medical issues, that could have been prevented. The taxpayer largely ends up paying those bills.

I’m not going to get into a debate about Obama Care so don’t bother commenting pro or con on that issue.

My point is that we are currently relying on flawed systems, BMI and CDC Growth Chart, that are spewing out, in some cases, clearly nonsensical results. I choose to call that bad.

This is dogmatic thinking. Rigid thinking. Wrong thinking. We can do better.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

China, Tariffs, Monopolies, and Honey

HoneyI just read a fascinating story on Bloomberg Business Week about massive food fraud involving imported honey.

The entire episode could have been avoided if only we lived in a capitalistic system instead of a crony capitalistic system. It’s not that complicated but let me explain what happened and then I’ll talk about how it could have been avoided.

Not long ago I wrote about how a monopoly itself is not criminal but can lead to anti-trust behavior that is illegal.

In this case we have an entire country that engaged in the anti-competitive practice of dumping. Prior to 2001, China dumped huge amounts of cheap honey on the United States in an attempt to squeeze out competition. This included American beekeepers. They complained. These complaints proved to be accurate but, because China is a foreign country, it was impossible to arrest anyone.

Instead large tariffs were placed on Chinese honey driving up the cost of Chinese honey to the point where it cannot be profitable for an American company to purchase honey from China. This tariff is still in place and almost no honey brought into the United States, the largest honey importer in the world, is from China. At least it’s not supposed to be.

This is important. We, the American consumers, could be purchasing reasonably priced honey from China. This in turn would drive down the cost of honey. However, tariffs prevent it. The loser in this is the free market and the consumer. Not that China shouldn’t have been punished for their Dumping tactics but I’ll get to that.

In the meantime, China was still making huge amounts of honey but they couldn’t sell it to the world’s biggest honey importer because of the tariffs. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next.

A company in Germany, along with allies around the world, managed to route Chinese honey into other nations, repackage it, and sell it in the United States at a cheaper price. Many American companies were complicit in that they purchased the cheap honey knowing full well it was not from the purported point of origin.

However, because this honey was not properly labeled, much was getting through that didn’t meet Food and Drug Administration safety standards. In particular the Chinese use a pesticide called chloramphenicol which is banned in U.S. Food.

In addition, much Chinese honey is substandard but was being adulterated to pass as a higher quality and thus getting a better price. Fraud.

Eventually the government caught onto the scheme and arrested a few of the Americans involved, penalized the American companies, and put out arrest warrants on foreign nationals who will likely never be prosecuted.

Now, here’s the issue. If the governments of the United States and China had agreed to some large fine on honey exporters because of the dumping then China would have continued to sell honey in the U.S. We would not have gotten contaminated honey, we would not have gotten adulterated honey. China would have sold its low quality honey at a low price, honey from China would have been tested regularly for chloramphenicol.

However, the honey producers in the United States saw an opportunity to put competition out of business. So a massive tariff was instituted by well-bribed politicians that potentially caused real damage to American’s health and certainly has us paying a higher price for honey.

Don’t mistake this post as an excuse for China to engage in Dumping. They should have paid a massive penalty used to reimburse U.S. honey producers for lost sales during the dumping. But, after that, sales should have resumed as usual.

We live in a massively complex global economy and I absolutely think it is the government’s job to protect American businesses from foreign nations engaging in anti-trust practices. On a fair playing field I think our industry will win many of the battles.

This fair playing field comes with a price though. If another nation provides a product in a way that doesn’t violate anti-trust laws, they might well put American companies out of business.

Right now the playing field is largely unfair. Nations like China have, until recently, had extremely cheap labor which makes manufacturing a less expensive proposition. As these Third World nations begin to prosper they will eventually lose this edge. Manufacturing will return to the U.S. It is already returning.

The way to level the playing field is complex to say the least. Fines and tariffs are weapons in our arsenal. I’m not categorically opposed to either one.

The long-term goal is to have a prosperous, developed world where equal competition brings out the best in everyone.

I think in this case the attempt to level the field actually tilted the field in one direction. Just as the Chinese honey dumping scheme attempted to tilt it in the other. The result was that you and your family members probably ate adulterated honey.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Perceived Laziness of an Organized Person

An Organized MindOne of the employees at my office was let go today and, as I was discussing events with another employee, an interesting point of discussion arose.

The employee who was fired had what I would call a disorganized mind.

What is a disorganized mind? I think of it as someone who has trouble putting tasks in proper order of importance and who has difficulty stopping doing one thing and focusing on a second thing.

The second employee has what I could classify as an organized mind. I consider this to be someone who can keep track of a series of tasks and get them done largely in order of importance.

I don’t think that an organized mind and an organized desk are necessarily the same thing so I’m not talking about a person with a neat and tidy work area. Just someone with the ability to clearly define what needs to be done, how much time there is to do it, and in what order it should be done.

I consider myself to have a fairly highly organized mind although it does not carry over into my living quarters. Because of this ability to prioritize events, determine the best sequence to complete tasks, and the skill to ration my time appropriately; people with disorganized minds have, over the years, often considered me lazy. It’s a strange concept but it does make sense. To demonstrate let’s go back to the person who was let go.

At one point over the last few weeks she was unable to complete a task because there was “too much to do” and she asked the other person, “What do you do around here?” The idea being that the organized person had time to socialize, have a full hour for lunch, and appear to be calm and under control. Therefore that person must not have much work to do, certainly not as much as the harried, running around, unable to complete tasks person.

Of course the opposite is true. The organized mind completes more tasks, in a timely fashion, and with better results. What is unfortunate is that someone who appears to have plenty of time to do all their work is often branded as lazy or as someone who doesn’t have anything to do.

This has happened to me many times over the course of my business career. I would imagine that it has happened to virtually everyone with an organized mind at least once or twice. This is particularly distressing when the person so judging you is in a superior position within the company.

The hope is that you have a supervisor with an organized mind who understands that you are getting your job done in a timely fashion and doing it well. That this supervisor promotes such people and your business office becomes filled with organized workers.

I think too often we associate a frantic effort with hard work. Frantic effort is generally a product of poor planning. Now, there are times when unexpected emergencies arise and it becomes crazy but I’m talking about a more day-to-day way of going about your business. Even at the craziest of deadlines, with time running out, it is the calm person who can calculate what needs to be done and how long there is to do it that is most productive.

My point here today is to remind people, particularly supervisors, that those employees who appear to be easy-going and casual about their work might be much harder, and better, workers than those dashing hither-and-yon. When evaluating your employees look at the total amount of actual work they do, not how they appear to be doing it.

This is important to the success of your business. As employees succeed, a business succeeds, and in a larger sense, so does a capitalistic system.

For those with a disorganized mind, all is not lost. This is not irreparable. Write tasks down as they come to you and assign a numeric value to them. Keep this list handy and try to complete things in order of importance. If you practice being orderly in your thoughts often enough; you will eventually become so. I certainly wish I had applied this sort of thinking to my schoolwork when I was a boy.

If everyone did their job just a little better, what effect would that have on the world? It’s an interesting idea, at least I think so.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Blowout Week in College Football

Blowout Week in the NCAAFor those of you who are college football fans, this was a grim week. There were very few games of much interest and there is a reason for that. Money. Money for everyone except the players but I’ve written about that inequity enough. Today’s blog explores the reasons we have college football games that are not competitive around this time of year.

Why in the third week of the college football season do scores like 76 – 0, 72 – 0, 54 – 6, 77 – 7, and 56 – 0 occur more frequently? Why are the third and fourth week of the college football season largely not entertaining for fans of the game?

The top college football teams are increasingly moving into what are called super-conferences. These are powerhouse conferences with the best teams. The other conferences cannot and largely do not care to compete. The only way to compete in these super-conferences is to generate revenue. Bigger stadiums, better locker rooms, and more television exposure gives players a greater opportunity to showcase their talents for an eventually payday in the National Football League. It also generates huge revenues for the schools involved and the NCAA in general. Billions of dollars.

As college football teams and conferences settle into this model their schedules become all the more important. The conference schedule is when the teams in these new super conferences play games against one another. Generally this starts to happen around the fourth and fifth week of the college football season.

Many of these super-conferences are split into two divisions with the winner of each division playing in a massively lucrative championship game. As the stadiums get bigger, as the television contracts get larger, and as the luxury boxes get more expensive; the revenue rises. The schools want more revenue and this is quite natural.

After the conference championship game comes the Bowl Season. To determine who plays in what Bowl Game a series of six mathematical formulas are calculated based on team wins, points scored, points opponent scored, strength of schedule, and other factors. These results are averaged with human derived rankings called the USA Today’s Coaches Poll (current coaches) and the Harris Interactive Poll (made up of former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media members).

Starting next year the top four ranked teams will play in what is called the College Football Playoff system which culminates in a Championship Game hosted by the venue that bids the most. More money.

The pursuit of this money means that teams from the super-conferences don’t want their schedules to be too difficult in the non-conference season. They pay teams from smaller conferences to come in and serve as practice dummies. Thus we have a few weeks of largely uninteresting college football.

It’s not completely boring, there are always a few competitive games among those in the super-conferences but it’s generally a poor couple of weeks for the fans.

What’s the solution? Time.

College football with its super-conferences and playoff system is becoming a professional sports league. I think that eventually the polls and ranking system will be removed, the winner of each division within the super-conferences will play a championship game, and the winner of these games will compete in a playoff to determine a National Champion.

When this happens I suspect the schedule will essentially be designed by the NCAA much like it is in the NFL with teams from the super-conferences playing their early season games against other teams from other super-conferences. Schools that cannot generate enough revenue to enter the super-conferences will compete among themselves.

Is this a good thing? Do we need a junior NFL or should college football be for the kids? These are largely irrelevant questions. The lure of money is too strong.

Those colleges that don’t want to participate will continue on in the traditional way and those of us who appreciate the noble nature of athletics played for the sheer joy of it will turn to the Army-Navy game and the Harvard-Yale tussle. Personally, I’ll head on down to Francis Field on a cool November day to watch the Washington University Bears take on the Case Western Reserve Spartans.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

It’s How You Teach, Not Learning Styles

Teaching MethodsOne of my jobs at Acumen Consulting is being a technical trainer. It’s the thing that until recently has made up the backbone of my work for the last fifteen plus years.

There’s a very interesting article in Scientific American about something called Learning Styles. I’ve always been skeptical of learning styles in general but this article confirmed my doubts. The article attempts to be even-handed, so much so that I think it bends over backwards to soothe those who believe in Learning Styles.

I imagine this post of mine will generate some anger from those who believe in Learning Styles, we’ll see.

The idea behind Learning Styles is that students best learn in different ways and that educators need to take advantage of this. That some students learn by listening, some by watching, and some by doing. That those who learn in particular ways should be taught in that way.

There is no empirical evidence that this is true. It sounds true and that is what makes it attractive to people. We like things that have the ring-of-truth to them. Often times those sort of things are in actuality true. However, just because something sounds like it is true doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be experimentation to prove it.

In this case they’ve finally done some studies and no one has found any connection between a Learning Style and learning faster.

What they’ve found, and what my own experience tells me, is that good teaching methods yield more learning. Period.

I was taught what is called the three-step method. Tell people what you’re going to do, do it, ask them what you’ve just done. It works.

The more senses you get involved in learning the better you are. If you show them that’s a start. If they do it, that’s even better, if they talk about what they just did that’s best. If you are studying don’t use the highlighter. Get a notepad and write down what you would have highlighted, say it out loud as you are writing it.

In the article they mention the type of learner makes no difference when teaching geography. A learner who does best by listening? Bunk. Show them a map and they’ll learn more than if you describe the shape and size of the great state of Missouri. It’s how we teach, not how we learn, if there is even a real “learning style” which I doubt.

Some people are smarter than other people and there are those with severe mental disabilities but if we eliminate those at the ends of the Bell Curve I think it’s more than possible to teach almost everyone critical thinking and analysis. Teach them useful skills so that they can enter adulthood with the ability to work and earn a living. With a population schooled in these tools we can build a better society.

There are good teachers, great teachers, and those less talented. Hopefully you had a great one somewhere along the line. The odds are whatever that great teacher taught is what you are now doing as a career. That’s how important teachers are in the world and our lives. Great teacher inspire us and change us.

So, don’t fall back on the excuse that you’re a visual learner and that’s why you failed to understand something. Ask your teacher to explain it better. You can learn it, you can do it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (Fairly priced at $2.99)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

JP Morgan – Trying to Make Sense of Nonsense

JP Morgan ChaseJP Morgan Chase and Company is an international banking and financial service holding company. Employees of the company engaged in a series of trades in April and May of 2012 that generated about $6 billion in losses. By the company I mean investors who entrusted their hard-earned savings with JP Morgan Chase.

Now, a year and a half later the company has agreed to pay a fine of $920 million to various government regulatory commissions in the United States and England.

What’s it all about? I’m sure I don’t understand it completely, or even mostly, but I’ll do my best to explain what I do understand and my problem with the fine. Yep, I think the fine was unjustified.

After the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 the governments of England and the United States decided that a big part of the problem was banks behaving in dangerous ways. When banks take on very risky propositions they can lose the money of all their investors, they cost investors their life savings, their homes. They do damage to the economies of their countries which hurts people who had no investment with the banks. Your retirement money was lost even though you did nothing wrong. Too big to fail. Bailout, TARP, trillions of your tax-dollars spent to keep these institution afloat <—– (seriously, follow that link and read).

The governments of the United States and Great Britain passed rules about risky behavior. JP Morgan covered up violations of these rules and even went as far provide false information to the government about the trades in April and May of 2012.

With all this you might wonder why I think the fine unjustified. If a bank wants to make dangerous investments, that’s their business. If they lose $6 billion dollars that means other investors gained $6 billion dollars. Why should the government be involved unless the trades were criminal in nature?

Oh, yes, some of the trades were criminal in nature. Many of the trades were made simply to generate revenue for the people who worked for JP Morgan. I say arrest them. There are laws about larceny, let’s enforce them. The same during the original financial crisis with what were predatory loans. Loans designed to deceive the person signing the papers by increasing interest rates immediately after the purchase. Arrest the lawyers who wrote the language into the loans. Arrest the bankers who talked people into taking the loans. Fraud is a crime.

Arrest the real estate agent who bribed the home inspector to give an inflated price on the house. Arrest the home inspector. These are crimes and this is where the government should be involved.

What happens instead is regulations that do little good in the long-run while the actual criminals walk off with the money. Do we think such criminals will think twice before stealing again? That others won’t be attracted to the easy money? My easy money? Your easy money?

Do you think average home inspectors would continue to give out false pricing guidelines after a few hundred were sentenced to hard time in prison? The average real estate broker? Your average loan agent? Would a lawyer write deceptive language into a contract if he or she faced ten years in a federal penitentiary.

If you write a contract designed to deceive … jail. If we did that how long do you think before your phone bill became less complex?

The reason we don’t is because the phone companies, banks, and other enterprise businesses paid for your representative’s campaign, vacation, gave family members jobs, and much more. It’s simple bribery and that’s a crime also. Every single elected official in our government is guilty of taking bribes, every one.

Instead of arresting people the government and industry just play a shell-game with your money, with my money.

If you run a bank into the ground, tough luck. The bank closes and another, better run, one gets bigger with all that money. In the end this helps average people because even if your bank fails, another, better bank picks up the loan.

That will change the way financial institutions are run. This $920 million fine isn’t what forces a change.

The $6 billion JP Chase lost? That forced them to reevaluate the way they do business. They fired the people involved, the government is building cases against some of them. An excellent result. No fine necessary, in fact, the fine really comes out of the pocket of investors, not criminals.

I’m out-of-order? You’re out-of-order! The whole system is out-of-order!

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eNovel)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

 

Rand Paul and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Congressman Rand PaulThere was an article from capitol hill today about a topic I’ve talked about before, mandatory minimum sentencing. The idea is that power is taken away from a judge in the sentencing phase a criminal case.

I think mandatory minimum sentencing is wrong although for somewhat different reasons than Congressman Rand Paul, who is championing their elimination or at least modification.

I’m pleased that Paul returning to his Libertarian roots. Would that all politicians would take stances on political and philosophical beliefs rather than on what they think will get them elected. Some argue that Paul is merely courting minority votes and there might be truth to that. However, the underlying focus is on being a true Libertarian and how mandatory minimum sentencing goes against this philosophy.

Why is mandatory minimum sentencing against Libertarian philosophy?

Let’s first look at how the judicial system works. When a person is accused of a crime and, if they do not plea-bargain, the case goes to trail. The jury is tasked with simply determining if the person is guilty or not. This is why we see all those televisions shows where the judge doesn’t allow previous acts to be brought up during the case. It doesn’t matter to the jury if the person being accused committed the exact same crime three times before. The jury must only determine this case.

If found guilty the judge determines what the sentence shall be. This is where the problem arises.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines were instituted in 1984 to address apparent gaps in punishment.  Judges who gave severe penalties compared with judges who gave apparently small penalties for similar crimes. It was largely done as part of the utter failure we call the War on Drugs.

The guidelines themselves are broken down into 43 offense levels, six criminal history categories and four zones of time relating to incarceration. There are also a litany of causes which can reduce or increase the sentencing time.

These were all designed to ensure that equal punishment was dealt out by judges across the nation. Rand’s argument is that they are not working. That black people are far more likely to be sentenced harshly for the same crime as a white person. He argues that the guidelines have failed in their task. Statistics back him up.

I argue that there very goal itself is wrong. It is up to each judge to determine the penalty. If the people of a state do not like the decisions the judge makes, it is their job to replace the judge. This is our judicial system.

Who better than a judge, who has heard all the evidence both legally admissible and not, to determine the appropriate sentence? If a judge is giving harsh penalties to one ethnic group there are means to address the problem. The voting booth and appeals.

I don’t suggest that there aren’t poor judges out there who are racist and unfair; I just suggest that the guidelines have not alleviated the problem and additionally have caused people to serve inordinately long sentences for relatively minor crimes. Particularly for drug crimes where the mandatory sentencing is extremely harsh.

Don’t mistake my intent here. I don’t rail against mandatory sentencing because it leads to unfair penalties. I don’t rail against mandatory sentencing because it affects one race more than another. I argue against them because they are a typical extension of federal and state power into areas in which they have no business.

Bad judges hand out unfair sentences and mandatory sentencing guidelines haven’t solved the problem, they’ve actually made it worse. Not a surprise.

How do we ensure that judges pass out fair sentences? Get information to the voters. We live in the booming information age. I should be able to easily find all sentences handed out by a judge and base my vote accordingly.

How do we ensure that people do not get overlong sentences for relatively minor crimes? The appeals process will be unchained when minimum sentencing guidelines go away. An appeals court can decided a sentence was unfair. It’s not perfect for the person so sentenced but it is our system. With federal minimum guidelines as they currently stand, appeals are doomed to fail.

People will argue that I’m living in an idealistic fantasy world and I hear you. What I’m proposing isn’t an easy solution but I think it’s the best solution.

We tried to address a problem with government intervention to make things fair. It’s not working.

As is often the case with government intervention someone sees a problem and thinks the government can easily come in and redress the grievance. Issues like this are almost always complex in nature and not easily solved. So called simple government solutions generally exacerbate the problem.

Sentencing should be up to the judges who hear the cases. Judges should be voted on by voters. Appeals should be processed by appellate courts. There is a system and, although not perfect, largely works.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a 300+ page eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

 

 

Django Unchained and Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. JacksonI haven’t done a movie review in a long time so I thought I’d break the drought, sort of. My good friend Jeff invited me over watch the Rams game (darn you, Falcons) and we put on Django Unchained afterward.

Let me warn you that this isn’t really going to be a movie review. It’s going be about the actor Samuel L. Jackson. He played a role in the movie that showed what I thought displayed a tremendous amount of courage. It’s not a role a man lacking self-confidence can play and Jackson played it fantastically.

Jackson is, as I’m sure most of you know, a black man. The role he played was essentially a House Negro. This is a black person who worked with white owners to help keep the field, or working, blacks oppressed in exchange for a better position. In the movie there are a lot of unpalatable characters but Stephen, Jackson’s character, seems to me to be the most despicable.

The movie itself engendered a large amount of anger in the black community from Spike Lee and many others. Jackson had to know that his character would be perceived as vile, particularly among blacks. That’s why I think Jackson was both incredibly confident and quite brave to take on the role.

He didn’t just take on the role, he owned it. He gave us a look at what a house negro was. History gives us example after example of people willing to help those in power oppress their own kind. Collaborationism is one name for it and the term was used extensively during World War II to indicate someone willing to betray their country for favoritism from the new regime. It is not a new idea. In ancient Greece helping the Persians was  considered Medism.

Jackson’s character in the movie is vile. Jackson read the script and accepted the role knowing what he was going to have to do and then went out and did it with incredible skill. He is absolutely convincing as Stephen the collaborator. He gives us insight into the times and into the type of person who behaves in this fashion.

I’m not really going anywhere political with this blog post. I’m just here to say that I admire Jackson tremendously for his courage in taking on this role and his acting skill in bringing it to life. He’s an actor and it’s his job, but not everyone does their job so well, particularly when doing so might have long-term repercussions. It’s not far-fetched to imagine him being “punished” by those upset with his portrayal. Future roles might be denied. Who knows?

A tip of the hat to Samuel L. Jackson, a man of courage.

As for the entire movie? Typical Quentin Tarantino, entertaining, over-the-top, ridiculous at times, plot holes galore, but stylish and made with passion. I’d recommend it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

7 Million Chinese College Graduates

China College GraduatesThere was an interesting article in the news this morning about how a large number of college graduates in China are causing an employment problem in that nation. Larger numbers of graduates make the job market more difficult to penetrate.

It was an interesting premise but not what I took from the article.

If China is graduating seven million highly educated students each year and the United States is producing fewer that means a shift of brain power in the world. An interesting article here shows how China has already surpassed the United States in college graduates and India will do so soon.

This shift of intelligence is changing the dynamics of power and the role of the United States in the world. It’s actually a good thing that countries like China and India are graduating more students and empowering young women. This has many beneficial effects for the world including decreasing population growth and increasing general wealth and well-being. However, it is also a challenge to the United States.

I wrote not long ago about how there is a politically motivated movement to discredit science in the United States. There is a general undercurrent of disdain for academia and intellectual achievement. The power structure of the world is changing as we continue to move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The countries that embrace this change will lead this new world in the same way the United States led during the Industrial Revolution.

Graduating college students is directly related to new technology, new ideas, and a new way of producing wealth. I’m not suggesting everyone should go to college, that a college degree is the end-all goal of every single person. I am suggesting that the nation that produces the largest number of intelligent people will have an advantage in the new world.

As I said, I’m thrilled to see China, India, and other nations educating their youth and making the entire world a better place. I’m eager for the days of abundant and cheap energy, super-fast transportation, and a stable population with plenty of food and goods for all.

I’m not so encouraged by my country’s response to the gauntlet that has been thrown down by the emerging world, and by Europe and other places. Economic power is, in many ways, military power. If the United States is not making the important breakthroughs, if the United States is not leading the way then we will be following. In some ways we are already following.

China and India have a huge advantage in massive populations but the underlying issue is society’s emphasis on education. It’s stronger in other nations than it is in the United States.

My main fear is that as the United States continues to fall from our preeminent position of power in the world that the citizens of my country will grow increasingly frightened. That we will elect officials who stoke this fear and offer draconian solutions to “save” our nation. That the very tenants of the Founding Fathers will be discarded in order to make us “safe”. On a personal level, that my freedom will be taken away.

In order to combat this decline and this fear I say emphasize education, teach people critical thinking skills, and venerate science.

Let us not fear this new world but instead embrace it and join it as an equal.

 

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Tiger Woods – Ball Moved Rule

Tiger Woods Ball MoveProfessional Golf has a lot of rules and, prior to cameras being pointed at virtually every shot, it was largely up to players to report violations on their own.

In recent years fans carefully watching ever-present video have taken to calling in what they perceive as violations. That has happened again to Tiger Woods for moving a ball while removing a loose impediment. The rule is here.

I’m not against the enforcement of rules via video replay and I think making a correct decision is paramount. What I am against is overly picky enforcement of rules against what is not clearly a violation. I think the benefit of the doubt generally needs to be that no violation has occurred unless it clearly has happened.

I’m also against enforcement of rules against one player or team when the same is not done for everyone in the game. In this case Woods is clearly subject to more scrutiny because of both his popularity and unpopularity. The camera is on every single shot he makes whereas other players are not subject to the same level of observation.

In the incident in question the ball seems to wiggle but not actually change position. The rule states that if a ball moves it must be replaced in its original position. To my way of thinking, and I could be wrong about this interpretation, if the ball can’t be moved back to its starting spot because it’s already there, then perhaps the ball hasn’t really moved at all.

I suppose it could be argued that if a ball rolled several inches and then rolled back to its original location it clearly moved although hasn’t changed position. I would actually argue that the ball hasn’t really moved even under those circumstances. No harm, no foul. It’s in the original spot and hasn’t given the player any advantage.

That being said, my big problem here is the uneven application of video to golfers in a tournament. Popular, or unpopular, players are subject to more scrutiny and that in itself is unfair. Imagine if a baseball game involving my both hugely popular and much hated St. Louis Cardinals had video replay while a game involving the lowly Chicago Cubs did not. Say a similar event happens in both games but the Cardinals are punished because of replay whereas the Cubs are not.

The rules have to apply equally to all contestants otherwise they are not really rules at all. In this case Tiger is being singled out because of the large number of people who want to see his every shot.

I fully understand the desire to get the call right and I support that idea … to a point. When the violation is questionable, when the ruling comes long after an incident which was not ruled a problem at the time, when the player or team is subject to a far higher bar than other players or teams, well, I think this insistence on the letter of the law is petty.

Let them play!

Tell me what you think in the poll!

Tom Liberman

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Nuclear Waste – the Green Kind

Los Alamos Nuclear LabThere’s a little story in the back of the various news sections these days about how government spending on our various nuclear program is completely out of control. No one much cares because the beneficiaries of this largess are congress members and private contractors.

Despite what they say, Democrats and Republicans don’t care about government waste when it comes to national security or any company who bribes them by paying for their campaigns, hiring their friends and families, paying for lavish vacations, or simply with straight cash payouts (see below).

What is happening in this case is essential straight-out theft in regards to various nuclear programs in the United States. Contractors working for the National Nuclear Security Administration are under virtually no supervision and feel free to collect taxpayer money by the truckload. The people who are supposed to be watching these private contractors simply take kickbacks on the lucrative contracts they pass out.

Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico took $500,000 for unspecified consulting work. Work which cannot be confirmed. $500,000 in bribes, no wonder people want to get elected so badly. There’s a hugely over-budget contract for the Los Alamos national laboratory. Right now we’ve paid contractors $213 million dollars and the new systems don’t work. I wonder if those contractors contributed to Wilson’s campaign? If they paid her part of that $500K? Hmm?

Don’t mistake my attack here as one solely on Wilson. I don’t think for a moment that she is alone in all of this. Bribery is rampant in our government. Contractors bid for jobs and collect hundreds of millions, billions of dollars from the government and provide much less in actually product. They use part of this money to bribe the men and women who are supposed to be looking out for our best interests.

The article notes a plutonium plant that is completely unnecessary and congress is only now, under the sequester, stopping a further $6 billion in spending. A further $6 billion? How much have they already spent?

What about the plutonium conversion plant that is $3 billion over budget and unfinished. That’s $3 billion out of a total of $7.7 billion. How does a project get that over budget? Happenstance or intentional fraud and theft? I wish I could steal $3 billion dollars and get fired from the contract as punishment.

Do you know why this is coming to light? The evil, horrible, awful, ruination Sequester. That awful thing that means the government can’t pass out our tax dollars to every greedy contractor who claims to hate big government so much. Who in actuality loves big government and can’t get enough of the green it spews out.

Republicans hate big government? Ha. Enterprise businesses love big government and they love the money they get from it. Congress members love big government because enterprise business pays for their elections, their vacations, gives their friends and family members jobs, and once a congress member retires they immediately get a lobbying job that pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to go back to congress and purchase their old friends lunch.

The article states that virtually every single project under the umbrella of NNSA is over budget and behind schedule. The NNSA is a cash-cow for anyone who wants to steal money from your wallet. Your representative is likely complicit in this theft, in reality they orchestrate it.

I said long ago that the sequester was a good thing. I stand behind that statement. Bring it on!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eNovel)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

When is a Season not a Season – Apple Season Pass Lawsuit

Breaking BadThere’s an interesting case making its way through the court system right now in regards to iTunes’ download policy on a television show.

Basically a popular television show, Breaking Bad, broke their fifth and final season into two groups of episodes. The first eight episodes were released in July of 2012 while the second half of eight episodes was released in the summer of 2013. When people view television shows via download with iTunes and other services like Netflix they can either pay per episode or purchase season passes. Therein lies the crux of the issue.

Does the Season Pass cover the entire season as defined by the content maker or by the date it is released? Is a season that is broken into two parts, two seasons? That’s what Apple thinks and they refused to honor the original Season Pass and viewers had to purchase a second Season Pass for $22.99 or individual episodes.

The first time I remember a season being broken up like this was when the Sopranos broke season six into two parts. The first twelve stared in the spring of 2006 and the last nine in the spring of 2007. I don’t know what the policy of iTunes or other providers was at that time. There were probably incidents before that, it’s just the first I remember.

I think it’s an interesting question from a legal perspective. Who makes the decision on what defines a season? The content creator or the content provider? Both entities charge their audience money. Apple has to pay AMC money in order to provide Breaking Bad episodes on their iTunes network. Meanwhile people must then pay Apple for the right to download the episodes. The two transactions are separate entities.

The issue comes because of the “Season Pass” payment. If it was called a “Contiguous String of Episodes Pass” there might not be as much confusion although certainly the name does not roll as easily off the tongue.

Personally I think Apple has every right to implement whatever pricing plan they want. They could charge by episode groups. Discount for groups of ten. It’s their decision to make.

On the other hand I think that the consumer has every right to expect that something called a Season Pass would, in fact, count for the entire season as defined by the content creator.

So, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Apple chose to name their product “Season Pass” and this is clearly misleading to consumers. Apple has every right to charge for the two sets of episodes separately and consumers have a real complaint about being misled. Where does that leave us?

I think Apple would be wise to extend the Season Pass holders the rights to all the new episodes and refund any money paid out. Then they should revamp their naming scheme. If this case goes to court they will generate a lot of bad publicity at a time when they don’t need it. Sticking to their argument will garner them millions in revenue but I’m not sure it’s worth the price. An accountant might better be able to make that decision.

In my opinion the problem stems completely from lack of forethought. AMC announced the dual season long ago and Apple should have done a much better job of explaining their “Season Pass” policy. This lack of thinking ahead brought on problems that could have easily been avoided.

That’s common in life. It’s good to plan ahead, to anticipate problems before they occur. Particular when millions of dollars are at stake.

What do you think? Apple refund? Whining consumers?

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eNovel)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Craig James fired – why?

Craig JamesThere’s an interesting news story making this rounds about a college football commentator, and former player, named Craig James who was fired from his job after a single day.

If you read the headlines, and to a large degree the story itself, without knowing other facts conveniently ignored you will come to the impression that James was fired for some fairly mild anti-homosexual remarks. That’s certainly the exciting lead that I’m seeing plastered all over the media.

It’s not true. Craig James is being fired for something entirely different.

What I find most interesting about this case is that the story, as it is being currently reported, is generating a lot of controversy within the christian community and the homosexual community. Because the focus is on the one remark that James made during a failed political campaign, that gays, “will answer to the lord for their actions,” that is what is causing the uproar. Christians defend him as do those who decry the politically correct world in which one statement haunts you for the rest of your life.

I’m actually on the side of the Christians and anti-politically correct crowd as far as the one statement goes. People are entitled to their opinion as long as it doesn’t affect their work. But, here’s the problem. James wasn’t fired for that remark. He was fired for a series of incident’s that have alienated him from the powerful college football lobby. They don’t like James, and I’m in agreement with them there, and they put down the hammer when it came to giving him both a voice and a lucrative job.

Why don’t they like him? I’m happy to elaborate but the entire story is here.

Craig James has a son named Adam James. Adam James played football at Texas Tech for a coach named Mike Leach. Leach was very successful at Texas Tech which is in the middle of the football-mad state of Texas. Leach took the Red Raiders to ten consecutive Bowl Games.

Adam James did not play much at Texas Tech and his father spent a lot of time bothering Leach about it. Leach is quoted as saying he had more trouble with Craig James than all the other parent’s combined.

Adam James was demoted to third string and then suffered a mild concussion. When James showed up at practice late the day after the concussion he was put in a trainer’s shed for the duration of the practice and the next day put alone into the media room. Adam James complained to his father. Adam James went into a small closet adjacent to the media room and took a video of himself “imprisoned” in the closet. He sent this video to his father.

Craig James went for the lawyers. He wanted an apology. Leach refused. He wouldn’t apologize when, in his mind, he had done nothing wrong.

Craig James had his public relations firm post the contrived electrical room closet video on YouTube.

Texas Tech fired Leach.

Leach sued Texas Tech but eventually lost on the grounds that basically a University can fire a coach for just about anything.

There are a lot of powerful people in Texas who do not like Craig James. They think he, and his son, are responsible for the firing of an extremely successful coach. Texas has a lot of influence in the NCAA and with the networks that cover it.

So, when you read about the supposedly politically correct move of firing James after one day on the job, keep in mind that there is a lot more to the story.

I’m not attacking James here nor defending Leach. I’m trying to make sure people understand the totality of this story. To keep people from reading the headline and coming to an uniformed opinion.

Although, honestly, I think Leach should not have been fired and James and his son are complainers at best and liars who cost a man his job at worst. That’s not cool.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 and all awesome!)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Modern American Dream

The American DreamThere was a story in the news recently about how the American Dream is no longer obtainable. I think the very premise of the story completely leaves out the nature of our modern society.

Fifty years ago the American Dream was defined as owning a home and having a couple of children. This article focuses on the owning a home part of the equation. It points out that only 18.2% of Americans see the American Dream as owning a home. That more people view being debt-free and retired as the new American Dream.

The article then laments that people have lost their way.

I couldn’t disagree more. People haven’t lost their path in life, they’ve found a better one. If you don’t want to get married and don’t want to have children then owning a home is a nothing except trouble. A greater and greater percentage of our population has no desire to get married, no desire to have children, and because of that, absolutely no desire to own a home.

I’m not saying home ownership, marriage, and children are wrong. I’m just saying that for an increasingly large percentage of our population they are things people don’t want.

People want, among other things, an education, a good job, and wealth. I applaud them. An education often means going into debt early in life so wanting to get out of that state makes perfect sense. Does our current education system make debt-slaves out of students? Yes. A topic for another day.

The ability to retire and lead your life the way you want is an incredibly good goal. The fact that Americans are turning away from the traditional home-ownership, two-child, lifestyle is not a bad thing.

Change like this engenders fear in people. They ask: What will happen to our nation when people stop having children? Who will take care of the old people? Who will do the jobs?

I can’t stress my next  idea enough; We already have too many people! The flattening population growth the world is experiencing is a wonderful thing. It will certainly cause stress to economic systems that rely on constant growth but maybe that means we should change our economic model. Maybe we should  base our economy not on growth but on providing excellent products at reasonable prices while employing hard-working people. But, again, a topic for another day.

When we look at countries where women are empowered, have access to birth control, and close to equal rights; the population is actually declining. Hooray!

The modern American Dream is having a job you like, doing your work well and being paid for it, owning the things you want, and spending a greater percentage of you life with family and friends.

I want to reiterate that I’m not against home ownership, babies, and the old American Dream I’m just a realist. If people want a life that doesn’t include those things it’s not an indictment of modern society, it’s a celebration of it.

Imagine a world with a stable, sustainable population. People who work at rewarding jobs they like. A vast decrease in poverty and despair. Plenty of food and energy for all. Happy people working and playing with other happy people.

This might not be the American Dream but it’s mine.

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eNovel)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Syria – A Libertarian’s Dilemma

Syria ChaosThe situation in Syria has been going on for some time now and I’ve avoided writing about it because I’m extremely ambivalent about events.

I’m of one mind that using force against the Syrian government is just another example of U.S. meddling that will eventually backfire. On the other hand it is difficult to know of the horrors inflicted by weapons of mass destruction and just plain old weapons of destruction and not want to intervene. The human suffering is horrific.

As far as the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction the U.S. record is spotty enough that I don’t feel they alone are a justification to intervene. From 1980 to 1988 the Reagan administration allowed and possibly helped Saddam Hussein and Iraq to use such weapons frequently in the war with Iran. Nothing was done because Iraq was our ally at that time.

As far as the murdering of men women and children, we have an extremely spotty record there as well. The Rwanda genocide that occurred under the Clinton Administration, the War in Darfur which took place largely during the George W. Bush administration, and other such events happened without us feeling the need to intervene militarily. On the other hand the Clinton Administration did back Operation Deliberate Force during the wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

I guess once we get past much of the political rhetoric and posturing the question becomes: Is it the obligation of the U.S. and other free countries to help people oppressed and murdered by brutal regimes?

I say yes.

But, I’m not done writing yet so bear with me.

I think the U.S. should stand as a beacon of light against those that perpetuate such horrors. I think we made a huge mistake allowing Iraq to use chemical weapons on Iran. That we should have done more in Rwanda, Darfur, the Congo, and other places where such activity happens. I think we should eschew political niceties and help those being oppressed even if they disagree with our politics.

The question then evolves into what I mean by “help”.

Here’s what I mean. Help them help themselves. We’re already aiding the rebels in Syrian and that’s enough. If they can’t win without our direct military support then I must turn a blind eye to their suffering.

It’s hard to say that. It’s difficult to turn that blind eye when you see pictures of brutality. If I thought using direct military force would help, perhaps I’d be of a different mind. Unfortunately our best intentions end up hurting us more often than they help us.

Direct military aid in the form of airstrikes is certainly damaging to the Syrian regime but even the mere threat of such action disperses forces in a way that helps the rebels. Perhaps even more than the strikes themselves. Even if we sent in our brave citizens to fight on the ground would we achieve a satisfactory result? Are we happy with the current state of Iraq and Afghanistan?

The only real success I see in our many adventurers over the last few years was in the former Yugoslavia where our military action was limited and backed by a free people fighting hard for their own nation. That might yet happen in Syria, and Egypt as well, but the more we intervene, the deeper our involvement, the less chance I think it has of occurring.

We’re best offering limited help and letting the people of a country obtain their own hard-fought freedom. Once they do so we should welcome them into the world of nations with open arms, regardless of their political or religious beliefs.

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eNovel)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

 

 

Journeys Employees Quit – Important Lessons

Journeys ApparelThere’s an instructive news story making the rounds about some employees for an apparel and footwear store named Journeys. They quit in the middle of the day leaving an expressive note on the storefront.

This story screams to both my high-brow Libertarian ideology and to my deeply guttural personal life. This story is about the human experience, about capitalism, about self-loathing, and about self-respect. It’s got it all and I aim to tell you why.

First the facts. Three employees at a Journeys store left in the middle of the day without notice. The store manager, co-manager, and one worker simply closed the front door, pinned a note to it, and left.

We don’t know if the injustices that caused the employees to take such drastic action were real or imagined. We can hear stories from all sides and still not know for certain. The fact is, it’s unimportant to my discussion.

I once worked in an environment where the boss was intentionally unfair. Cruel for the joy of cruelty. I arrived early in the morning and was looking at the clock hoping for the end of the day within an hour. I lay awake at night my mind and stomach churning. I hated it. For nearly nine months I lived it. But, that’s not important either.

When we allow ourselves to be treated that way we undermine our own lives, we undermine the business for which we work, and we undermine the entire capitalistic system.

We excuse ourselves because we “need” the job. We don’t. You don’t; as much as you think you do, you don’t. I know it seems like you need that job but every day you spend there is a day of you life lost. A day you’re not out there finding work with people you respect, who respect you, who respect their business. It’s one more day that you turn into a bitter, self-loathing person who sneaks out when no one is looking hoping to hurt other people. The kind of person who pins nasty notes on walls because you’re too cowardly to stand face-to-face with those who hurt you.

The first time someone treats you like that stop right there and tell them you will not take it. There’s no need to yell, to scream, to whine about the unfairness of life. Explain, calmly and rationally, that you don’t like being treated that way and that you won’t accept being treated that way. If they fire you, you’re better off.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Sword of Water.

****************

Jon nodded his head and smiled narrowly at the girl, “Exactly. I say that there is much to fear. Sorus suggests we must use caution because of those dangers. He is not far wrong, but we must never succumb to fear. Fear is the tool of evil. Fear is the tool of the despot. The first time you hid from your siblings you did so because of fear. Did that help you?”

“No,” said Silenia, blinking back tears as the memories flooded into her mind with such vividness that she suddenly felt back in that place, hiding, always hiding. “Eventually I had to come out and they used the flat of the knife on me,” she sniffled.

“Yet was it ever easier to hide the next time and the time after, wasn’t it?”

Silenia nodded her head, pursed her lips together, and stifled another sob, “It got easier each time.”

****************

Not only does an employee who refuses to stand up to a bully hurt themselves but they hurt every employee who follows them, they hurt the business, and they hurt capitalism. If everyone refused to work for nasty people but instead flocked to jobs where good people treated employees with respect and with fairness; the whole system works.

Don’t get me wrong, fairness doesn’t mean you get paid for lazing around. Fairness means you work hard, next to other people working hard, and you make good money doing it. That’s American! Or it used to be. If the job needs you to work an extra three hours that night, you work it but the boss gives you the morning off. If the boss can’t give you the morning off then you get a bonus. That’s what I mean by fair. That’s what works, for business, for people, for our country.

Leaving in the middle of the day when there’s work to be done isn’t fair, it’s not right, and it’s a sign of having no self-respect. I can’t excuse it. I won’t. The boss treating an employee like garbage because they can get away with it? That’s just as cowardly, just as sick, just as filled with self-loathing.

This story? It’s a lesson all right, a lesson in everything that’s wrong.

Respect yourself. Respect your co-workers. Respect your employees.

Start right now.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 and worth all 299 pennies!)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Kicked out of Universal Studios for T-Shirt – Rightly so!

Offensive T-shirtThere is another one of those offensive t-shirt stories in the news today and this time I’m with the kickers out and not with the t-shirt wearer. Once we get past the attention grabbing headlines and read the whole story we start to hear both sides of the issue.

What was the offensive slogan? Police: Street Crime Unit

There might be more to this than I’m reading into it and if future revelations prove my original thoughts to be wrong I’ll be happy to rethink my position, as I’ve done before.

Essentially a family was in the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida and security asked them to leave because of the offending t-shirt. The story goes to great lengths to portray the family as the victims starting with the lead paragraph in which it is declared they were at the park for the sixteenth birthday party of the family daughter.

The family claims they asked to see the policy that referenced the shirt and were refused. They also claim they offered to purchase a different shirt at the nearby clothing store but were not allowed to do so. They were “terrified” at the threat of being arrested by security.

First off, it’s a good policy that Universal has. People who are not official security officers should not be wearing clothes that indicate they are such. In this case the man is not even a police officer; he was supposedly given the shirt by his brother. It’s incredible stupid and potentially dangerous to wear such a shirt at a public event at which you are not a security officer, even if you are a police officer in your day job!

A Universal spokesperson is quoted, near the end of the story, as saying that it is their practice to clearly explain policy decisions with the public. The spokesman welcomed a discussion with the family over events.

In other words, they’ve got multiple witnesses as to what occurred and likely some video footage as well.

In the meantime the family is squawking to every news outlet they can find. The park was kind enough to refund them the money they spent to see a show which they were prevented from attending.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m on the side of Universal in this one. Mistakes can happen but reasonable people generally find reasonable solutions. It almost always takes at least one belligerent party to cause events to spiral out of control. If I had my guess I’m pretty sure I know who was reasonable and who was not in this situation.

I think a casual look at my blog posts will show that I’m not always on the side of security officers and government agencies. There are situations where police officers act like bullies, where security far overstep their bounds (one of my friends was just involved in such an incident). However, when in doubt I generally side with security officials. In this case I’m not even in doubt. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think so.

Good on you, Universal. Maybe I’ll take my next vacation at your park, I like the way you do business.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 and worth all 299 pennies!)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Air Conditioning and the Common Cold

Common ColdI normally talk about Objectivism, Libertarianism, atheism, and topics of that nature but a recent battle with the common cold brings me to a more mundane subject. What effect does being in an air-conditioned environment have upon a cold?

When I get a cold it runs an extremely predictable pattern. I get a sore throat which lasts for about four or five days, then I suffer from nasty congestion for a day where it seems my head will explode, and finally I start sneezing, coughing, expectorating, and blowing my nose for a couple of more days until finally the cold ends about a week or so after it started.

I’m sure all my loyal readers were happy to read these thrilling details!

The reason I bring all this up is what happens at the very end of my sickness. Generally speaking I like to keep the windows at my house open until the temperature gets above 90 or below 50. I’m strange that way. I like the fresh air and frankly, I don’t like paying insane heating and cooling bills.

When the last part of my cold arrives I find that I’m generally much better when I’m in a fresh air environment. For instance, as I type this post I’m breathing freely and haven’t sneezed or coughed in a while. I still feel a little tingle in the nasal region and I know I’m still sick, it’s just the symptoms are mild.

Last night when I went to my mother’s air-conditioned house for dinner I was the same way until I had been there for about two hours. At that point I started to sneeze and needed to blow my nose frequently. The same thing happened at work this morning. I was fine until I had been at work for a couple of hours, in the air conditioning, and then I sneezed and coughed more and blew my nose more. It grew worse as the day went along.

I’m wondering if anyone else has this experience or if I’m just strange. Well, I’m strange, I think that much can be admitted safely.

Perhaps I’m just imagining my symptoms are worse?  I don’t know. Sometimes the person experiencing a thing is the least well suited to understanding it objectively. When you are sick do you feel worse in an air-conditioned environment?

Anyone?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 and worth all 299 pennies!)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt