Banning Boobies at School

I love boobiesThere was an interesting case a while back that is slowly making its way through the courts and is now one step short of the Supreme Court.

One of the various methods in which people support breast cancer research these days is a bracelet with the words I (heart) Boobies on it. It’s mainly designed for younger girls who wear that sort of thing and the Easton Area school district in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania decided that it was sexual in nature and banned students from wearing the bracelet.

A pair of girls defied the ban on Breast Cancer Awareness day in 2010 and were suspended for their defiance. Multiple courts have ruled that the district did not prove the bracelets were disruptive with the most recent being a federal appeals court. The district voted to continue the case which means it now heads to the Supreme Court.

The reason I find the case interesting is that it is a clash of my Libertarian ideals. On one hand I think the school has every right to have a dress code and enforce it. On the other hand I think individuals have the right to wear what they choose as long as it is not particularly disruptive.

The school board banned the bracelets originally because the term boobies was determined to be lewd and designed around sexual themes. This violated the dress code restricting sexual suggestive language or images. Several other schools have banned the bracelets as well.

So, where does a Libertarian land on this issue?

The bracelets are clearly not sexually suggestive and I reject that argument out of hand. It’s a bit humorous and certainly mentions the word boobies but it just doesn’t rise to the level of being sexual in my opinion. Likewise there seems to be no evidence that the bracelets were causing disruption in the school.

On the other hand, if the school wants to ban, say, black socks, then that’s their right. They pass a rule and any student who violates it should expect the punishment they get. It’s a stupid rule to be certain but the school has the right to make rules about dress codes. This is clear.

In the end I’m going to side with the district although not because I think the bracelets are lewd or disruptive but simply because the district board has the right to create whatever dress code they desire. If the students and parents of that district object they can elect new representation next time around.

That’s the way representative republics work.

I think what would have been best is if the girls followed the rule that year but started a political campaign to remove those who voted for the ban from office. Getting board members elected who see the stupidity of the rule and reverse it. That’s government by the people for the people.

That’s what we want. The courts have their place to be certain but I think every time we resort to them rather than creating a real political solution we get further away from what the Founding Fathers desired.

If you don’t like the decisions your representative makes; be it local, state, or federal, you have the power of the vote. When we hold people responsible for their decisions, not the rhetoric they spew during the election cycle, we make the country a better place.

Not to say that I don’t love boobies, I do.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

The Will of the People and other Nonsense

Democracy is badI wrote months and months ago that in the United States our form of government is called a Representative Republic not a Democracy. I laid out several reasons why I thought we were becoming a Democracy, why the voters of the nation increasingly think we are a Democracy, and how the politicians, elected by the voters, would eventually presume the same thing.

Here it is. A state representative from Nevada clearly believes he lives in a Democracy. He believes it is his job to enforce the will of the people even when he is diametrically opposed to that will. He thinks that if his constituents wanted to institute slavery in Nevada it would be his duty to do so.

I’ve got news for you, State Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, your job is make decisions on your own.

The job of the voters is to decide if they like those decisions and cast their vote accordingly.

I guess I’m saying that no politician, under any circumstances, is required to enforce what the people want. Politicians are simply tasked with doing what they think best for the nation, their state, and their district. It is our job to vote for the ones who do that properly.

When voters elect politicians who bow to no one, to no amount of money, to no union, to no corporation; when we elect politicians who fearlessly state their true beliefs to the voters without an eye towards winning elections. Then the wrongs will be righted.

When we vote for people who tell despicable lies to get elected, who will do as their masters with the money tell them, who do what the people want them to do because it wins them the election, we get, well we’ve got it.

Your vote, your country.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

The Spear of the Hunt – Buy it Now! $2.99

The Spear of the Hunt

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What happens when those in power will do anything to keep their authority even if it means betraying the very nation they promise to protect?

General Yumanar has led the armies of the Republic of Caparal to one victory after the next but his immense popularity is a threat to the corrupt civilian powers. They send him on a quest to retrieve the legendary Spear of the Hunt rather than allowing him to return home to acclaim and certain political triumph.

They hope he will never return.

The son of the most powerful family in all of Caparal joins Yumanar on the quest. Sent to spy on the general he must eventually choose his own loyalties. Will he choose his friend or his family?

Can You Apologize for Someone Else’s Mistake?

ApologyThere was an interesting article in the news which was put, mistakenly in my opinion, in the science section and thus I stumbled across it.

The nation of Cameroon issued an apology for their ancestor’s involvement in trading slaves to Europeans thus beginning the long chain that brought those slaves to plantations in the southern United States. The apology was issued specifically to genetically identified relatives of those still living in Cameroon but was extended to include anyone affected by the policies.

The genetic tracing part of the story is why it ended up in the science section I suspect. In any case, as I was perusing the comments I noted that there was a fairly heavy leaning towards the idea that it was wrong to apologize for something for which you are not responsible.

Clearly the people in power in Cameroon today had nothing to do with the slave trade of past centuries. The argument suggested that it was ridiculous to make the apology. That it was meaningless. That a the best remedy was to act with ethics and morality in the future.

I’m not unsympathetic to this point of view. I do think the apology is being made by people who did nothing wrong in the first place. That it doesn’t help those directly or indirectly effected by those misdeeds. It can even be said that such apologies can be used to excuse bad behavior.

On the other hand I do think an apology has the ability to heal hurt feelings. While apologies are just words that do not affect any physical change they can set the path towards a better future. It is probably true that an apology, even when for something you personally did, doesn’t really do anything to redress the original harm. It is merely an indication of your acknowledgement of wrong-doing. Of your intention to do better in the future.

Slavery was wrong. My ancestors weren’t even in the United States during slavery so should I apologize for it? What’s my responsibility?

Slavery wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to promote its cause. If I don’t want to apologize for the actions of people who died long before I was born then I have no obligation to do so. However, I am more than willing to denounce slavery. To admit that the United States, my country, engaged in this despicable practice for generations. I’m sorry that it happened. I’m sorry my country did such a thing.

Let’s dial it down a notch. Let’s say I’m at an event and one of my friends does something boorish. Gets drunk and makes inappropriate comments.

I can handle it by talking to my friend and trying to get him to restrain himself. I can handle it by watching it happen and then apologizing to people later. I can do neither or I can do both.

In the end, I guess I’m a proponent of both. It doesn’t hurt to apologize for my friend’s behavior. It’s better that I try to stop it before anything else happens. That I take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But, why not all of the above? Everyone knows I didn’t do it but they appreciate my apology nonetheless.

Must you apologize for someone else’s behavior? No.

Should you? It’s up to you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very, very soon!)

A Whiskey Tale – Jack Daniels v. Popcorn Sutton

Whiskey LabelsThere’s a little news story out today that makes me sad for a couple of reasons.

A fellow named Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton was driven to suicide by the government over his illegal activities and now his wife is being sued out of existence by Jack Daniels. It’s a sad story, pull up a chair and see what our country has become.

A fellow by the name of Marvin Sutton brewed his own Tennessee Whiskey for many years. He didn’t bother to get a license for his stills or pay taxes on his sales so he was considered a Moonshiner and Bootlegger. The reason we require a distillery to be licensed is that poorly produced alcohol has the potential to kill and cause serious harm. The reason we require taxes is to fund the government.

Sutton produced his illegal whiskey for many years and became prominent for his videos showing how to make whiskey. He sold to a small but dedicated group of buyers for many years until the federal government gathered enough evidence to try him for his crimes. He was found guilty an sentenced to 18 months in prison. At about that time he was also diagnosed with cancer and rather than serve his time he committed suicide.

I’m not opposed to the government making sure our food supply is safe and I do think they have the right to force licensing on production of things like alcohol. I’m also not opposed to taxes on alcohol. The taxes are justified by the distribution required. The roads necessary for supplies required to manufacture the whiskey and for the finished product to be shipped.

I’m not completely sympathetic to Sutton. He knew the rules and many other liquor companies manage to follow the regulations and turn a nice profit. He broke the law and chose suicide rather than prison. It’s sad, as I said, but he certainly bears the responsibility for the decisions he made.

Now, onto the next part of this story. His liquor had a small but loyal following and some of those backers had some money. They decided to form a company with his widow and began to produce and distribute, legally, Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey. Initially they used mason jars as a tribute to Sutton but as popularity grew redesigned the bottle and label. That’s where Jack Daniel’s comes in.

The bottles of both products are squarish and have black and white labels. The labels are not similar except color pattern. For Jack Daniel’s this was enough to suspect that consumers would think that Sutton’s whiskey was actually a new brand from Jack Daniel’s. They’ve filed a lawsuit demanding that Sutton destroy all existing bottles and turn over all profits from sales.

This lawsuit will be difficult to fight and will certainly cost Sutton’s company a lot of money. They might not be able to stand-up under the pressure. We’ll see. On the other hand, it might be that the publicity generated from the lawsuit will spur Sutton’s whiskey to new heights. I’m certainly curious about it now and I do purchase whiskey.

Still, I find the entire story somewhat disheartening. A fellow who wanted to make a quality whiskey. A widow who wanted to start a company. The massive forces arrayed against them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing that it’s unfair. The government has the right to regulate. Jack Daniel’s has the right to sue. It’s just a little sad that it’s so much trouble for a fellow to make and sell a nice whiskey.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very, very soon!)

Douglas Gansler and the Teen Party

Douglas GanslerThere’s a story just now hitting the mainstream news and it falls right into my wheelhouse.

The attorney general of the Old Line state of Maryland, Douglas Gansler, had his picture taken at a house-party at which a number of underage teenagers were drinking alcohol. Gansler is running for governor in Maryland and his political opponents are using this story against him. The event happened back in June during graduation season but, because of his political ambitions, is getting airplay now.

Let’s first get some background. Parents of the teenagers in question rented the house in Delaware and acted as chaperons during what is commonly called “Senior Week”. The idea being that the seniors are going to be out celebrating their graduation from high school and by providing a controlled environment the parents hope to keep the seniors from drinking and driving and other excesses.

Gansler knew that his son was at the party and entered the house for a short time to talk to him. He found his son, spoke with him briefly, and then left.

Gansler’s political opponents and the moral police are upset because he was clearly aware of underage drinking and did nothing to stop it. He is an official representative of the state of Maryland and as the attorney general his job involves prosecuting criminal activity. Gansler has also publicly campaigned against  underage drinking.

Gansler says that he has no moral authority to tell other people’s children whether to drink or not and has no legal authority to do so in the state of Delaware.

In my opinion what Gansler did was absolutely reasonable, prudent, and correct. Even if the party was in Maryland and even if the party wasn’t condoned by parents of the kids; it’s not his job to arrest people. I would argue that under those circumstances if he saw drunken people getting into cars he should have reported it to the police.

It is illegal in Delaware for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol but it’s also illegal to go faster than the speed limit. It’s illegal to cross against the light. It’s illegal to do a lot of things we see people doing all the time. It’s not the job of the Attorney General to arrest people. That’s for the police.

Getting beyond legal niceties, the culture of character assassination that pervades our political system is extremely damaging. As soon as we note that someone has done something moderately questionable the attacks dogs are released.

We have become a nation of sanctimonious, self-righteous, egotists. When it comes to a person from the party we support we put up with anything but the same behavior from someone of the other party makes them a monstrous human being.

Most kids are going to drink when they graduate from high school. To pretend otherwise is to be a complete fool. The parents who provided a safe environment for it to happen are to be applauded. If another parent rushed to the house and started scolding someone else’s kids they’d rightly be told to mind their own damn business.

When we lambaste Gansler we are saying loudly and clearly that everyone should tell everyone else how to lead their lives. That if you don’t tell other people how to lead their lives you’re derelict in your responsibilities as an adult.

If Gansler saw a drunken teen getting into a car to drive it away I do think there is a responsibility to attempt to stop it. In this case it’s just not his business.

We cannot expect people to be responsible if we never give them responsibility. These teens are soon to be adults. They need to learn how to drink responsibly. To behave responsibly.

Let’s say this story becomes a huge issue and Gansler loses the election because of it. What message have we delivered? That parents should intervene at any party at which they see underage drinking? Ha. Never going to happen.

What’s we’ve accomplished is to make sure anyone thinking about political office never goes to a party attended by their child in which there might be underage drinking. Gansler went to the party with concerns about his son. He checked in and left. Good job, dad. Don’t let the witch-hunters shame you into being a bad father, afraid to check in on your son because it will hurt your political ambitions.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very, very soon!)

 

Is a Lopsided Score Bullying?

Football Bully ChargeThere’s an interesting case in the news and it’s really not something I’d normally write a blog post about because everyone is pretty much in agreement.

However, I do want to make a point about something in this story that bothers me. First the details.

A powerhouse Texas high school football team defeated another school 91 – 0 in a recent game. The teams play in a division which is the second highest in the state so there are no mercy rules. Usually such rules are designed to stop or shorten the game to prevent such blowouts.

The coach seems to have taken any number of steps to keep the score down but rightly refused to tell his backup players to ease off. I was a backup most of my sports career and when I got in the game I wanted to impress the coaches with my play. By all accounts there was absolutely no attempt to run up the score or to get personal records for the players involved.

Everyone seems to agree the charge of bullying, which came from an email, is unwarranted. So, why the blog?

State law requires an investigation after any charge of bullying. Coach Tim Buchanan of Aledo in the great state of Texas had to go to the superintendent’s office and explain his actions. The school is performing a mandatory investigation and a written report is required within a certain period of time.

The reason these sorts of laws come into existence is because when real bullying occurs, no one takes responsibility. If a responsible person who witnessed the bullying took immediate action there would be no need for laws of this nature. If parents stepped up and disciplined the bully there would be no need for laws of this nature. If the person being bullied socked the bully in the nose there would be no need for these laws.

The problem is that administrators are afraid to step in because parents will file lawsuits. Parents refuse to critically examine their precious child’s actions. Children cannot sock one another in the nose without risk of imprisonment.So, we end up with a state sponsored attempt to prevent bullying.

We have all these laws to prevent bullying which get the state, the school district, and the coaches involved even when the charge is clearly ridiculous. After witnessing the turmoil caused by this one report what will stop agitators from filing bullying claims constantly? It’s quite possible the claim in this story was an example of trolling or a joke gone awry.

Don’t mistake my intention. Bullying is wrong. Running up a score for personal glory is wrong. I’m just not of the opinion that getting the state involved solves much of anything, and generally ends up doing more harm than good.

I’m certain from what little I’ve read that I can call Coach Buchanan a “stand-up guy” without any chance of being mistaken. If he thought one of his players was taunting a badly over-matched opponent, well, I wouldn’t want to be that player. He’s not the sort of man who causes these problems.

Let’s pretend for a moment we have raised a society of critical thinkers who stand-up and do the right thing all the time. When a bully picks on a helpless opponent someone immediately steps in and explains that what the bully is doing is wrong. Generally we’ve stopped the problem right then and there. Let’s say the bully continues and now faces punishment from the school and the parent agrees, extending the punishment to the home. The bullying generally stops. But, let’s say it continues. Now is the time to look for legal and state sponsored remedies.

There’s a case here in Missouri where a girl was allegedly raped but the charges were dropped apparently because the school administration sided with football players. It was a fight but the case has been reopened. The Trayvon Martin case was originally dropped. I’m not suggesting that bullies don’t exist. That discipline sometimes fails to work. That bad people get away with crimes. I’m just saying that with critical thinking and personal responsibility there is need for only limited state sponsored action.

When we become a nanny-state we absolve people of responsibility and open ourselves up to institutionalized corruption. We’re better off leaving these sorts of things in the hands of those closest to the problem. If they fail in their duties then there is a responsibility for the district, county, state, and federal government to become involved.

Greater power to the state means less to the individual. Small problems become big problems. Everyone becomes paralyzed with fear.

There are no easy solutions here. People must learn personal responsibility. Lawsuits against people exhibiting such responsibility must be dismissed by a jury of their peers. People who act responsibly must be praised. The weak must be taught to stand up for themselves. The strong must be taught to behave politely. People must learn to disagree with civility and come up with compromise solutions.

Eat moderately of healthy foods and exercise and you’ll lose weight. No one wants to hear it, but the real solutions don’t fit into sound bytes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very, very soon!)

No Coders, No Code

Computer CodeThere was an interesting article today in Small Business news about how the United States is not graduating many people who know how to write computer code. We don’t have teachers who can teach computer code.

The article points out that it is a growing field that requires far more people each year than are graduating from college. To a certain degree this is capitalism at work. If there are not enough people to fill a job, the salary for that job goes up and attracts more people.

Here’s the problem. Salaries aren’t going up because there are plenty of people to fill those job. They just aren’t from the United States. In countries like India, China, and Russia they are graduating large numbers of people with coding skills. The rest of the world is churning out scientists while the U.S. has a smaller and smaller percentage of their college graduates filling these niches.

As I’ve said before, I’m thrilled that the so-called Third World is changing their society in a capitalistic fashion. It’s great that China graduated seven million students from college last year. That India and the European Union are growing as well. When the world becomes filled with educated people who can do technical jobs with a high level of skill it helps everyone. That’s a great thing.

Women are becoming empowered. The birth rate and population growth is slowing and may soon even become negative! These are good things for our world.

What’s bad is that the United States is in danger of falling behind. We still graduate many students with scientific degrees, with the ability to write computer code, and who excel in all fields. That being said, the trend is not looking promising.

The success of the free market and capitalism is infecting the world. Oppressive nations cannot hide the lifestyle of those who live in modern, western countries. People who see that it can be better, want it better. The internet has made the world aware that it’s possible to have a good job, a nice house, and plenty of food.

This change has inspired nations like China and India and that’s good.

If China, India, and other nations start to produce all the best scientific minds, the best computer programmers, the finest researchers, and the most strident capitalists; what will happen to the United States? Will we be the world’s leading economy? Will we be wealthy and prosperous?

We face challenging times in the United States.

While our politicians play games and offer false solutions we sit by in idle leisure, generally happy with our lot in life. We have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry, and entertainment to consume. We are content to blame the other party for all ills without bothering to look in the mirror.

I’ve talked long enough about problems. What can we do to stop this trend?

I offer no easy solutions. Teach people critical thinking skills from kindergarten on up. Teach people how to think. Give them the tools they need to succeed in life. People with critical thinking skills realize that learning to write computer code will guarantee them a job and a decent salary in the modern world. They will not blame everyone else for what is wrong with their lives. They will not end up in a dead-end job and a miserable life. They will enrich their own lives and the lives of everyone around them.

The years are rolling past and time waits for no one. The modern world requires people literate with technology. The societies that produce the highest numbers of these people will become dominant. Those that do not will fall by the wayside. Not this year, not next year, but the wheels are in motion.

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

The Best Fans in Baseball – or Not?

Best Fans in BaseballIt’s a good time to be a St. Louis Cardinal fan as we head back to the World Series for the fourth time in ten years. We have a bevy of strong young pitchers and a good mix of veteran players that would seem to bode well for our future.

The Cardinals just emerged from a tough series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and there’s a lot of talk about Mickey Mouse, disrespect, and the Best Fans in Baseball.

For those of you who are new to baseball, there is a theory that St. Louis is home to the “best fans in baseball”. Best seems to mean that we treat other teams with respect, we understand the game from a fundamental level, and turn out to support our Cardinals in astounding numbers despite the relatively small size of our metropolitan area.

This moniker is a source of pride to many Cardinal fans and a red flag of outrageous hubris to those who do not like the Cardinals or their fans.

I’ve been a Cardinal fan at least forty-four years and possibly longer than that although my memories before my fifth birthday are fairly non-existent. I can say without hesitation that the people of St. Louis love the Cardinals. That they turn out by the millions to cheer on their team, that many fans are knowledgeable about the game, and often applaud opponents who make astounding plays.

I can also say without reservation that there are plenty of idiot fans who yelled at Hanley Ramirez for being a cry-baby after Joe Kelly broke his ribs with a fastball. I know that San Francisco Giant fans filled their park to a higher capacity than did the Cardinals despite finishing in last place. I saw Chicago Cubs fans standing in respectful silence after the death Darryl Kile.

I’ve been to Philadelphia and seen their great fans firsthand. While attending Cardinal games over the years I’ve spoken with respectful and knowledgeable fans from probably every team in the National League .

As a Cardinal fan I pose a simple question: Would the Best Fans in Baseball feel compelled to call themselves the “Best Fans in Baseball” with nauseating regularity?

I say no. I find the whole thing bothersome, an ego stroking exercise in stupidity. Stop flashing it on the video screen, stop writing it in every comment, and stop believing it to be actually true.

St. Louis has had tremendous success in baseball thanks to ownership, management, the fans, and mostly the great players that take the field and win the games.

As a proud Cardinal fan I suggest that we stop telling people we are the best fans in baseball and instead show them.

Cheer the team in victory, support them in defeat, and respect our opponents. Should we lose the game or the series act dignified in defeat. If we are fortunate enough to win, be magnanimous in victory.

When we respect each other we make the world a better place.

There are great fans in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and everywhere else teams play baseball.

Fans are a collective. I alone cannot make the fans of the Cardinals the best fans in baseball. No one can. I can only be the best fan I can be. So should we all.

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

Arresting Parents for the Crimes of Children

Bad ParentsThe recent case in which Rebecca Ann Sedwick killed herself after months of relentless bullying, mainly through social media and email, has once again brought forward the idea that parents should be punished for the illegal activity of their children.

The idea has a large emotional appeal because it is easy to blame poor parenting for bad children. Not only is it easy to associate the two but they are, in fact, often causally related. Children raised poorly by their parents often end up behaving in criminal ways.

The question that I intend to explore today is if such punishment is merited. Many experts argue that punishing the parent will do nothing to prevent such bullying but that’s not my focus here. I want to determine if parents should be held responsible for their children’s behavior.

There is some legal precedent for the idea. A number of states place various penalties on parents when their children are found guilty of crimes.

The idea is that parents would fear punishment based on the behavior of their children and thus take steps to curb said actions. If a certain number of parents are arrested for the crimes of their children, other parents will become more involved parents. That, out of fear, they will become better parents.

I’m convinced this argument is, at best, largely false. There are good parents and bad parents. Good parents will look at laws of this nature and possibly spend more time trying to be good parents; but the reality is that they are already good parents and their children are not likely to engage in this sort of bullying. Bad parents are living under the illusion that they are good parents or they simply don’t care. Therefore they will make no effort to change.

However, my main argument against this kind of law is that it punishes someone for a crime they didn’t commit. Yes, they were awful, absent parents but that’s not a crime. Their children committed real crimes and should be punished for doing so.

I think an interesting analogy would be punishing a dog owner for allowing their pet to roam free and defecate on lawns. The dog cannot comprehend the law and simply goes to the bathroom without cleaning up. The owner understands the law and allowed the dog, who doesn’t know any better, to violate the law.

Another example that comes to mind is leaving loaded firearms in places where children have access to them. A child shoots another child with said firearm. Parents have been convicted for crimes in these cases. I’m not opposed to convicting the parent of negligence in leaving a dangerous weapon so readily available but that is the crime of the parent. Possibly even convict them of negligent homicide. But the reality is the child pulled the trigger and should face whatever punishment law-enforcement and our judicial system deems appropriate.

I do not think a child is an animal. A child knows better; the sooner they learn there are consequences to their actions the better.

What message are we sending a child by punishing someone else for their crimes? It doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to imagine an angry child committing a crime in order to get their parent punished.

Those girls that bullied their classmate knew what they were doing was cruel and wrong. They should be punished. They should face the full force of the legal system. I have no problem with laws about making threatening statements, about libel, about slander. If the girls in this case have broken those laws then let them face punishment. They are not pets, they are people. Perhaps not adults but old enough to know right from wrong.

Laws must be enforced with blind justice.

In summation; people should be held responsible for their actions and their actions alone.

What do you think?

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

Goblin Valley – Boy Scout Self-Delusion

Goblin Valley State ParkThere’s a mildly interesting story in the news today about a pair of Boy Scout leaders who pushed over a boulder in Goblin Valley State Park.  The reason it’s such a big story is that the two are Boy Scout leaders and their actions are antithetical to the policy of the Scouts, which is to leave nature as it is found, “Leave no Trace”.

The two men noticed an apparently precariously perched boulder and decided it represented a threat to people who were walking nearby. They climbed up, and with some effort, managed to push the boulder over. It fell about five feet and rolled another foot or so.

What I find interesting about the situation is not the violation of scout ethics, the vandalism done to a park, but the self-delusional nature of those who did it. They have managed to convince themselves that they were saving many lives with their heroic deed.

This gives us insight into how flawed thinking can lead us to make bad decisions; that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Goblin Valley State Park is filled with rock formations of this nature. Most hiking trails have such formations. Whenever I go on a hike I usually see a large rock perched in a fairly precarious appearing position. I always feel the temptation to push said rock over. The idea being that moving such a massive thing with my own power makes me feel stronger.

I would guess that just about everyone who has ever seen such a rock formation has had similar thoughts. What is it that kept me from pushing over the rock? Why, even as a young boy of ten or eleven, did I realize that to do so was wrong? What keeps every person who see such rock formations from behaving in such a way?

Critical thinking.

There are the two conflicting thoughts. The first is personal gratification in pushing over the rock. The momentary elation in doing so. The second is that the park is not mine. That many visitors come to the park and that by selfishly pushing over the rock I’m potentially ruining other people’s experience.

It is clear that the glory of pushing over the rock simply overwhelmed the critical thinking capacity of the two scout leaders and they justified their actions with the nonsensical rationalization that they were saving many lives. Even now they claim that they did the right thing but should have notified a ranger. That is clearly a lie established to rationalize their own behavior. It is the lie they told themselves and now repeat for all to hear.

They are convinced that they saved lives despite the fact that Goblin Valley is filled with such formations by the thousand. Here is an image search.

They assume that they are good people and good people wouldn’t do a bad thing, therefore the bad thing they did must be good.

It’s a lack of critical thinking and such irrational thoughts lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions lead to a worse life.

When presented with any decision take a moment to make a critical analysis. Have you arrived at the conclusion that you want to be true or have you come to the conclusion that is true.

It’s an important question. Get in the habit of asking yourself that question before every decision. Is buying a gallon of ice cream the correct decision? Is tailgating on the highway the correct decision?

Life is decisions, one after the next. The more correct ones you make, the better your life will be.

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 (Out very soon!)

Zero-Tolerance means Zero Responsibility

zero toleranceWe haven’t had many of these zero-tolerance stories in the news lately but there is a big one out now.

In this case teenager Erin Cox went to pick up a friend from a party. The friend was too intoxicated to drive herself. When Cox arrived the police showed up as well and gave a summons to every underage person at the party. Cox violated the schools zero-tolerance policy for students attending parties in which alcohol is served. She was suspended for a few games from her volleyball team and removed as captain.

There’s a lot of outrage about the ruling because Cox was there not to party but to help a friend. That Cox is being punished for helping  her friend avoid driving drunk. I totally agree with the idea that Cox is blameless in this but I want to look at the idea of a zero-tolerance policy and what it really means: Zero responsibility.

The stated idea behind a zero-tolerance policy is to ensure the safety of people, generally students. The danger of drugs is so terrible that we cannot allow any drugs in the school; including aspirin. The horrors of teenage drinking and driving with its attendant accidental deaths is so great we must protect our students by punishing anyone going to a party where alcohol is available.

The reality behind zero-tolerance policies is that adults are afraid to make decisions. Zero-tolerances gives them the opportunity to mete out punishment without taking any responsibility.

Why are they afraid? Because if they give different punishments for the same crime based on circumstances they will be sued by the other parents, accused of favoritism, racism, nepotism, and just about anything else. They could lose their livelihoods in the storm of lawsuits that will follow.

Why are lawmakers afraid to make legislation? They will lose their job. That’s why we have a dozens of Propositions on the ballots when in a Representative Republic our elected officials should make decisions. It is why there is gridlock in Washington D.C.

Why does our legal system rely on mandated sentencing guidelines?

I’ll tell you why. Our society is filled with people more than happy to blame everyone else for what is wrong with their lives. Listen to a politician talk and if lips are moving, someone else is being blamed. It’s not just politicians. It’s everywhere and it’s rampant. Read the comments on any news story about anything. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Anyone who stands up and takes a position is bulldozed in the ensuing blame Olympics. I’m not surprised that schools enact zero-tolerance policies out of fear. I’m not surprised that Cox is being punished for her actions. Zero-tolerance means no one has to make a decision. That all decisions are mandated and that means that the person making the decision can utter the most useful phrase in the United States, “Blame Canada!”

So, in this latest case who are we blaming? The administrators who created this policy out of absolute fear that they’d be punished no matter what decision they made about student drinking. Whose fault is that? Look in the mirror. It’s your fault. It’s my fault. Our willingness to blame everyone but ourselves is to blame.

You don’t like zero-tolerance policies? Then stop blaming everyone else when something goes wrong.

You don’t like our useless government? Blame yourself and start voting better.

You don’t like your job? Go out and get a better one. Educate yourself. Work hard.

Your kid got the raw end of a deal? Tell them that’s life. Watch out in the future.

You don’t like this blog? Stop reading.

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 (Out very soon!)

The Spear of the Hunt – Coming Soon!

The Spear of the HuntGeneral Yumanar has led the armies of the Republic of Caparal to one victory after the next but his immense popularity is a threat to the corrupt civilian powers. They send him on a quest to retrieve the legendary Spear of the Hunt rather than allowing him to return home to acclaim and certain political triumph.

They hope he will never return.

The son of the most powerful family in all of Caparal joins Yumanar on the quest. Sent to spy on the general he must eventually choose his own loyalties. Will he choose his friend or his family?

What happens when those in power will do anything to keep their authority even if it means betraying the very nation they promise to protect?

The Spear of the Hunt.

Coming to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords soon!

Always $2.99

The Education Gap – Adults Count Also

EducationThere was an interesting study recently completed by a group called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies in which they tested adults in various countries on Math, Reading, and Problem Solving skills.

I recently wrote about how China and India are graduating huge numbers of college students and that the United States is falling behind. That this transition of intelligence from the US to other countries does not speak well of our nation and our chances to continue to be a world leader in scientific advancement, economic power, and military power.

The new study did not survey adults in China and India and I certainly wish that it had. It would give us a more complete picture. However, the U.S. continues to score extremely poorly on education tests pretty much across the board. This is often explained by the fact that in the U.S. we have a very diverse population with large numbers of immigrants. There is truth to this statement as smaller countries tend to have better educational systems simply because they have fewer students to teach.

The nations that dominate us in this most recent survey are generally smaller in population and that means we still have a greater number of highly intelligent people, it’s just that our average is lower.

I’m firmly convinced that our economic power, our scientific acumen, and our military dominance grew largely out of the fact we had a huge number of intelligent people in the United States in the 50’s and 60’s. Some of them born here and educated through our system and others who fled totalitarian regimes.

It matters not that we ended up with a huge advantage in intellect; it only matters that we had it and much of our power today stems from that time.

That advantage is clearly ebbing although we are still the world leader in economics, barely, and military might, by a large margin. It seems to me that if we continue down this path it is inevitable that new inventions, new ideas, economic power, and military power will shift away from the U.S. and to the increasingly smarter nations. That is why I’m disappointed India and China were not included in this survey.

I love the idea that other nations are producing intelligent adults. I’m all for education around the world. I love great ideas and the people who promulgate them. I think these ideas make all our lives better and result in economic bounty for everyone. I just want my country, the U.S. to keep up.

If this survey is to be believed; Americans rank 17th in Problem Solving abilities of the 23 nations surveyed. Yikes.

Here is a look at the entire file on the U.S.

They looked at a number of other factors and it makes for interesting reading including the fact that blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. were a significant drag on the scores. They make up a huge percentage of the worst scores with whites and Asians making up the high-end of the scale. Something the article does not talk about, I’m sure to avoid being accused of racism.

The article also talks about how those with higher intelligence are paid more, as it should be.

I’m not a fear-monger. I think despite these scores the U.S. has not fallen irretrievably behind other nations. We still have a massive population and many intelligent people. We need to focus on getting people to value education. President Obama, Colin Powell, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sonia Sotomayor, and other highly educated and prominent minorities are making that effort but it in the end it comes down to the parents and the communities.

Those people who value education will succeed in life and those who do not, will not. Those nations that value education will prosper and those who do not, will not. Those who spurn academia, education, science, and intelligence will reap what they sow.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, the rest of the world is gaining, are we up to the challenge?

Time will tell.

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

I Paid for my Ticket! Rude at the Game Explored

Rude FansI’m a huge sports fan as almost anyone who regularly reads my blog knows. My mother is a season ticket holder for the St. Louis Cardinals and I’m the same for the St. Louis Rams. I go to a healthy number of games each year and it seems to me that boorish behavior is on the rise lately.

I could be wrong about this. It could simply be me getting older and less tolerant; although those who know me will tell you that patience and tolerance are not character traits of mine. I’m not one to put up with stupidity and rudeness.

I’ve noticed an increase in haters and shouters at the games in the last few years.

Anyone who follows a sports team with passion will know of “haters“. These are people who predict dire results and are happy when the team loses or a player fails because they were right. They revel in the misery of fans who want the team to succeed. They dominate the comment section of sports stories and incessantly call talk radio shows to express their opinion.

They are now not shy about expressing their hate, loudly and repeatedly, at the game itself. No longer anonymous exactly but in front of a crowd of strangers they feel it’s perfectly acceptable yell out obscenities and vile words at those players who have engendered their hate. They ruin the experience for those around them, by golly they say, “I paid for these tickets.”

I remember as a kid people booing a player for making a bad play. I remember sarcastic applause when after a series of blunders someone made an ordinary play. I even remember people shouting out things like “you’re a bum”. What I don’t remember is the vile, unadulterated hate that strongly overrides rooting for the team. What I see now is a larger and larger group of people who want the team to fail, the player to fail, and cheer only halfheartedly at success. They only seem happy with a failure that validates their hatred.

As for drunks, there have always been drunks at games. I probably see fewer of them these days.

The reason I bring all this up is that I had a pretty nasty experience at the Rams game on Sunday. There was a group of about six guys near me who were clearly pretty drunk but of a good nature. They cheered the team a bit too loudly but I found them perfectly acceptable. They were in body-paint which is apparently against the rules because security made them go get shirts. This caused one of them to become belligerent for a bit but he settled down quickly enough.

What was the problem was that others felt the need to crowd around them, to encourage them into stupid acts, and generally obstruct my view of the game. It gets old after three hours. I paid for my ticket also, I want to see the game and not be subject to random people constantly standing in my way and not paying any attention to the game.

The mere presence of these loud, drunken fans seemed to encourage louder and not so happy fans around us. If they can be loud and drunk; then I can be louder and more rude seemed to be the message taken. One fan continually shouted in my ear, from behind, for the entire game. I was four rows away. I can’t imagine being right in front of him. He shouted things that had no correlation to what was happening on the field. He was shouting for the sake of being seen and heard. Super annoying.

A hater in front of me kept shouting out nasty comments at our quarterback, Sam Bradford, who has not had a great season. The hater really drew fuel from the drunks and was hand slapping with them continuously. I’m not exactly a Germaphobe (technically mysophobia) but there are lines I won’t cross and high-fives with ushers (who have touched hundreds of strangers) and people who are clearly drunk and have probably urinated on their hands is one of them. Anyway, we put the game away with a late touchdown pass from Bradford and the hater, who has been bashing Bradford all game, is slapping high-fives with everyone around and I’m not going to do it. So now he’s mumbling and claiming I snubbed his greasy, likely urine-covered, hating, hand.

As he’s walking away he calls me an asshole. I’m pretty grumpy at this point. I paid $200 for my two seats and have essentially had my eardrums, sensibilities, and view harassed for three hours. I tell him to fornicate with himself. He keeps walking but it could have gotten ugly.

I do think people have the right to cheer loudly at a game and to boo sub-par efforts. I just think that at some point the rights of the fans around you dictate you mollify your behavior. I’m not opposed to standing and cheering the team, which forces others nearby to stand, but I think standing at inappropriate moments and for long periods of time is rude. That blocking the view of others wrong.

If someone doesn’t want to touch you then why do you care? People are looking for a reason to be angry, maybe they’re unhappy in their lives away from the games, maybe they’re just miserable people. I don’t much care. I’m not a miserable person. I enjoy my life. I root for my teams. I want them to succeed. I try to be careful not to intrude on the people around me, verbally or physically.

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive but I’m honestly thinking about giving up my seats. I still enjoy the games very much. I love being at the game. The crowd, the atmosphere, the game itself. But there is a point where the experience becomes a net negative. Sadly, I’m getting there.

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

Pujols Files Defamation Suit Against Clark

Clark PujolsI wrote a blog a while back about how a former local radio host in St. Louis, Jack Clark, claimed that he knew “for a fact” that Albert Pujols used steroids.

Pujols vowed to file suit against Clark although most people felt this was merely bravado because proving that Clark knowingly lied with malice is difficult. That Pujols would face something called discovery in which the defense gets to interview many people associated with Pujols about his past.

Well, Pujols went ahead and filed anyway.

I find this interesting because Pujols is opening himself up to a lot of scrutiny. If in the discovery process it is found that he did use steroids he will certainly lose the suit and a great deal of respect in the baseball community. It was clearly in Pujols’ best interest to let the matter simply fade away. This is the strategy that almost ever other athlete accused of PED use has done in the past with the notable exception of Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong strongly denounced those who accused him, filed suits, won money, destroyed lives, but eventually admitted that he was using PEDs all that time. This effectively ended his career and has him embroiled in multiple lawsuits to this day.

Pujols faces the same situation. If it turns out he did use PEDs his long-term contract with the Los Angeles Angels might well be voided. His future reputation in baseball is on the line. This is the reason that Ryan Braun never filed suit against his accusers. He was guilty and knew filing suit would open him to tremendous danger.

On the other hand I empathize with Pujols if he has been falsely accused. I’m glad that he filed suit because it’s wrong when someone lies about someone else in order to gain publicity. We see it all the time in the news about politicians and celebrities. Lies are told with reckless abandon because the US court system is set up to protect the defendant and proving such cases is extremely difficult.

In this case I do think the fact that Clark said that he “knew for a fact” that Pujols was using PEDs is clearly a lie. Therefore I think Pujols has a chance to win the case.

Why is it a lie? Let’s imagine that Clark actually did have a conversation with Pujols trainer some thirteen years ago and that trainer did tell him Pujols was using steroids. This still doesn’t rise to the level of “know for a fact.” It is hearsay at best. Clark has no first hand knowledge of PED use.

In the radio show where Clark made these accusations his co-host agreed that he thought Pujols was using PEDs but carefully avoided such language. The co-host is a lawyer and long-time radio broadcaster who is well aware of the laws regarding defamation and slander.

I’ll be an interested follower as this case makes its way through the system.

I know for whom I’ll be rooting . I hope Pujols is able to prove his case and Clark is ordered to pay a fine, which Pujols says will go to charity, and apologize.

If evidence arises that Pujols actually did use PEDs, I’ll be saddened although not particularly surprised.

Stay tuned!

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

When is a Naughty Leopard neither Naughty nor a Leopard?

Naughty LeopardI’m just now reading about the Walmart Naughty Leopard controversy although the story has been out for over a week.

Walmart made the costume, which is designed for toddler girls, available for Halloween and there was an immediate uproar about the sexualization of young girls. People simply heard the name of the costume and immediately began to send in furious letters of outrage. Stories sprang up on all the media outlets about the horror of this awful, dangerous, evil costume that was turning little girls into wild sexual animals.

Enough outraged people inundated Walmart with complaints that the company pulled the costume from the shelves and issued an apology.

Do you want to know my opinion on this nonsense? Of course you do!

The costume has a major problem but being too sexy isn’t one of them. It’s a cute little costume that is not sexy, is less revealing that outfits I see little girls wearing out and about all the time, and in no way turns little girls in sexual objects.

So, what’s do I find wrong with the costume? Leopards are yellow/gold with black spots. The costume is black with purple trim. Seriously? Naughty Leopard? I’d call it the Purple Crab costume except the cute little ears don’t quite work.

Naughty in this case is meant to convey a mischievous little girl. Anyone who actually bothered to examine the costume before expressing their horrified outrage would have immediately noted all of this.

Walmart is a big-boy company and can make their own decisions but I find this absolutely ridiculous. Clearly someone at the company felt an apology was a cheaper and better solution than simply telling the outraged parents the truth. That the adults obviously jumped to an erroneous conclusions and that if they simply examined the costume in question they would find nothing objectionable about it. Walmart should be getting an apology from everyone who wrote in a complaint, not handing one out.

I haven’t even started talking about the free market yet. By golly, if people want to buy a costume then Walmart should sell it. It’s economics, it’s capitalism, it’s the free market that this country supposedly believes in. People need to mind their own business.

I guess it seems like a little thing but little things add up. Walmart wanted to avoid bad publicity and acquiesced to a popular but ridiculous and unfounded fear. When a business gives into fear, when a politician gives into to fear, when you give into fear, when I give into fear, we all lose a little.

I’m not afraid. I demand Walmart put the Naughty Leopard costume back on the shelf.

Who’s with me?

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

American Exceptionalism – Myth?

American ExceptionalismI’ve been hearing the term American Exceptionalism bandied about a lot lately and I thought it was good fodder for a blog. I think there are a lot of definitions as to what it means.

I’d urge you to read the Wikipedia Article but I’m going to go over some highlights and tell you what I think of the idea of American Exceptionalism, particularly the modern interpretation.

The first we hear of American Exceptionalism is from Alexis de Tocqueville and his book Democracy in America. He didn’t use the term exactly but it’s the origin of the idea. What de Tocqueville meant was that America was physically separate from Europe and its long political and social traditions. This meant that America could do things in a different way. He means that America is an exception to the traditional rules. He does not mean that Americans are exceptional as in superior.

This meaning of American Exceptionalism is no longer valid. The idea that we are physically separate from the rest of the world is just not true anymore. World economies are now intertwined and the politics of one nation directly influence others regardless of physical distance. If you subscribe to de Tocqueville’s definition then it no longer applies.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s Communist Russia was on the rise and there were many that felt the United States would be the next nation to embrace communism. A fellow named Jay Lovestone was originally a communist but eventually became fervently anti-communist. He argued that the United States was immune to communist ideology because of its strong capitalism and apparently limitless resources. A fellow by the name of Joseph Stalin refuted this argument and was the first to use the words American Exceptionalism.

The United States eventually rejected communism so it can be argued that Lovestone was correct and our exceptional circumstances granted us this immunity. This definition of American Exceptionalism proved at least partially accurate and our strong capitalistic history continues to mean that communist ideology has difficulty gaining a foothold. Therefore, for those of you who subscribe to this definition, it is still true.

Now I get to what happened in the late 1980’s and the rise of the neoconservative movement. This is real purpose of my post. Neoconservatives define American Exceptionalism as meaning that people born in the United States are superior to other people simply by the geographic location of their birth. That our nation as a whole is superior automatically.

From an Objectivist, Libertarian, Randian point of view I can say without hesitation that this idea is antithetical to everything I think is true. What makes a person exceptional is what happens after birth and has nothing whatsoever to do with their physical location when emerging from their mother’s womb.

To me the very idea that a person or nation is superior because of location is a vile and sick assertion. The reason you found success in life is because you worked hard, you studied hard, you made a place for yourself. The reason you failed in life is largely because you made bad decisions. It is the decisions you make after you are born that are important.

To anyone who believes that this is the meaning of American Exceptionalism I absolutely and totally reject your argument. This is a concept espoused by an entitled person, a weak-minded individual who doesn’t know what it is that makes people superior, exceptional.

To anyone who believes this nonsense I say; read Ayn Rand.

If you want to be exceptional, superior; get to work doing it. It’s not easy. It requires hard work, it requires attention to detail, it requires boldness, it requires strength of will. It doesn’t matter where you were born, what language you speak, how tall you are, how big are your breasts, or anything at all regarding the circumstances of your birth.

Every person can be exceptional. The nation that has the most exceptional people succeeds.

You can be exceptional but you aren’t born that way. You want to be exceptional? Get to work!

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