Energy Freedom

Go Star EnergyA fellow by the name of John Gallagher invited me to be on his podcast to talk about energy freedom and I just finished up. It was an interesting discussion.

Normally John talks with environmentalists and he thought having a Libertarian would be an interesting change of pace. We agreed on many things although not everything.

I’m not sure when the interview will be posted but head on over to the site to see what it’s all about. John is a big proponent of EV and PV energy which is mainly solar to you and me.

He works in an oil field which makes for an interesting time with his fellow workers I’d guess.

He is very optimistic about energy independence in the coming years and for a Libertarian like myself that is good news. Energy independence is energy freedom.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Facebook Post leads to Ticket for Dog Walking

Facebook crimeThere’s an interesting little story in the news today about a woman who made a Facebook post about walking her dog in a dog park which requires those who use it to have a permit.

I’m certain the park in question requires a paid permit because someone must spend the time, effort, and money to keep it nice. The people who walk their dogs there pay for this service. When someone goes to the park without paying their permit fee they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

Presumably one of the people who actually pays their permit fee saw the post from the woman and reported it to the authorities who issued a fine. It turns out the woman was lying in her post and hadn’t actually used the park in several years and the fine was rescinded. That’s not really the point though.

People seem to be pretty upset that the fine was issued in the first place but it doesn’t bother me at all. If you confess to illegal activity be it on Facebook, to an undercover officer, to a friend who turns you in, or in any other way there should be ramifications. Frankly, if you break the law then you should understand there might be penalties involved if you are caught.

I do think the fine shouldn’t have been issued until an investigation was conducted but I have no problem with police using their investigative capabilities via Facebook or any other legal method. We are protected in this country from unreasonable police activity by our Constitution and I think these rights must be guarded with vigilance. I don’t think this is an example of the police overstepping their bounds.

It seems pretty straight forward to me. The woman confessed to a crime on a public forum. The police failed to investigate the incident and issued a fine. She complained and the fine was rescinded.

This is not an example of the police state that I rail against in my posts all the time. If she had actually been guilty of walking her dog in the park without a permit then she should have faced the exact same penalty as someone who was physically caught walking their dog in such a manner.

My advice, use Facebook to talk with friends, not to confess to crimes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

When $500 means more than money

herb-kohlThere’s a feel good story making the rounds in the sporting world and I feel compelled to write a blog about it. The owner of the Milwaukee Bucks sold the team for $550 million after having purchased it for $18 million in 1985. That’s a good return on his investment to say the least. That’s not the nice part of the story although it is certainly good for Mr. Herb Kohl.

Mr. Kohl was a rather reluctant purchaser back in 1985 only agreeing to buy the team to keep it in Wisconsin. They were at the time playing in the smallest arena in the league and no other local investors were stepping forward. Eventually a new arena, the Bradley Center, was donated by a local couple.

There was much pressure over the years to sell the team for a lot of money to investors in larger cities who hoped to move the team but Mr. Kohl refused to make such sales even spurning a very generous offer from Michael Jordan’s group. He didn’t have much success as an owner during his years and Bucks won no championships and often did not make the playoffs. This past season they finished with the worst record in the league.

Mr. Kohl agreed to sell the team to a pair of investors from New York who have pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee. It seems likely he could have sold it for more to other investors who wanted to move the team to a larger city where profits would likely be higher. He chose not to do so.

All that is really just background to the nice part of the story.

After the sale in which Mr. Kohl realized a very nice profit of $532 million for a 39 year investment he decided to send each of the employees of the Bradley Center a check for $500.

I know the cynics out there will suggest the amount is small compared to his profit but I don’t see it as such. Judging by the reactions of those who received the money; from the president and CEO of the building to an usher, they don’t think so either.

The employees of the BMO Harris Bradley Center are like family to Senator Kohl, and this was a way for him to demonstrate his appreciation.

I am not quick to shed tears. I sat there and shed tears for maybe five to 10 minutes because nobody just walks up, gives you $500.

I think the main trap that those of us who like to quote Ayn Rand fall into is equating money to achievement. They think Mr. Kohl should be praised for making so much money. It’s fine and good that Mr. Kohl made all that money but his real goal was to keep the team in his city and provide entertainment for the fans. It’s a real shame that the Bucks weren’t better under his stewardship.

Mr. Kohl didn’t buy the team because he loved basketball. He didn’t purchase them to make any money. He did it to keep them in his town. He did it because it was the right thing for him to do. It ended up being the financially right thing for him as well. Funny how that happened, isn’t it?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Pay to Pee – Good Idea?

Have to PeeThere’s an interesting little case roiling the internet about a school in Vancouver where a couple of third grade girls urinated on themselves in the classroom. They claim they were denied access to the bathroom although the school district says no one is ever denied such access if they declare it’s an “emergency”. We’ve all been there.

What makes this case interesting is that the school has a policy in place where students earn currency in exchange for doing various things like homework. They spend this currency on various items including snacks and going to the bathroom during class. The idea being to teach kids the value of money.

One of the girls in question spent all her money on other things and was unsuccessful in her attempt to control her bladder.

I’m ambivalent on this. I really like the idea of teaching young students money management skills but I don’t think going to the bathroom should one of the fee items. Basically the kids will always try to hold it to avoid paying the fee. This is not a good idea.

I suspect what happened here is that the girls in question ran out of money and didn’t ask to go the bathroom because they thought without enough money they wouldn’t be allowed to go. Perhaps they were embarrassed to ask without having enough money.

I’m sympathetic to teachers who get frustrated when students ask for bathroom breaks too frequently but who is to say if someone has to go to the bathroom? If you gotta go, you gotta go. Not that I think that’s what happened here. I think if the girls had told the teacher it was an emergency they would have been allowed to go. The teacher can’t be expected to read minds.

I can even see some objection to the monetary rewards for doing homework and being “nice” to each other. Who decides what is nice and what the payment will be?

My final take is that there is nothing wrong with this sort of system as long as the rules are spelled out and there is some oversight to make sure teachers aren’t playing at being little kings.

In the end, sometimes people can’t hold their bladder. Sure it’s embarrassing to pee yourself. Life is filled with such unhappy events. It’s not the end of the world.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

 

Don’t Mistake the Locker Room for Misogyny

MisogynyI like to think that everyone is horrified by the events of the Friday night when a misogynistic nut-job went on a rampage with a knife, guns, and car that left six people dead and more injured.

However, a lot of people in the United States are not aware that a fellow by the name of Richard Scudamore is being accused of misogyny in England.

I’m not going to use this post to decry Elliot Rodger or try to put a political spin on his actions. He was a full-blown misogynist and his hatred for women overwhelmed his reason. He was not a Republican or Democrat, he was insane. I wrote a long blog post about how the best gun control this nation can implement is better mental health care.

I do want to compare Rodger, Scudamore, and the very idea of misogyny.

Misogyny comes in many forms but it boils down to the idea that women are an inferior specimen of the human race. That men are simply better. I’m of the opinion that this attitude has done more damage than all the wars in history. Spousal abuse was an accepted practice everywhere in the world until the last fifty years. It is still is in many places. If a woman is murdered it’s very likely her husband or boyfriend did it.

This attitude is quickly changing in western, modern countries and we’re all the better for it. Women get an education, join the workforce, have fewer babies, have a bigger say in events. Women aren’t perfect of course, they’re just not inferior to men. They’re not equal to men, they’re different from men but they are not inferior.

Rodger truly hated women. Scudamore wrote a couple of sexist emails in jest. I tell a joke now and again to my friends that scientists finally discovered the cause of insanity, chromosomal imbalance. Ha ha.

In the locker room, among men and boys, things get said. Penis size is joked about. Women’s attributes are compared. We might make a joke about a woman and the shaft of our golf club. It doesn’t mean we’re misogynistic. In fact, men capable of saying such things are probably not women-haters. Those that truly hate women don’t say such things in jest because they don’t want anyone to know how they really feel.

My mother always told me that people are only mean when they like you (yes, I’m beloved). There is truth in that. It’s easy to see through someone filled with hate telling vile jokes as opposed to locker room banter. When a friend of mine calls his wife a “dirty whore” I know he means it as a compliment. He loves his wife. It might sound crazy in a stark email or in print but it’s not.

The other guys laugh and tell him how lucky he is.

It’s not hard to spot real misogyny, I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have as well.

My big problem is that when we throw men like Scudamore to the wolves for what is pretty clearly locker-room banter we lose track of the Rodgers of this world. The real misogynistic men who are capable of doing horrific things.

We are so eager to throw blame and find scapegoats that we miss the real danger. Rodger and Rodger alone.

We spend all this energy trying to attack someone like Scudamore and this time and effort is unavailable to root out deranged scum-bags like Rodger.

It seems like a far-fetched comparison but I think that as a nation we are more interested in placing blame than finding solutions. I’ve written about this over and over again so I won’t reiterate.

Rodger did what he did because he’s insane. Scudamore did what he did because he’s a guy. It’s that simple.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Don't Mistake the Locker Room for Misogyny

MisogynyI like to think that everyone is horrified by the events of the Friday night when a misogynistic nut-job went on a rampage with a knife, guns, and car that left six people dead and more injured.

However, a lot of people in the United States are not aware that a fellow by the name of Richard Scudamore is being accused of misogyny in England.

I’m not going to use this post to decry Elliot Rodger or try to put a political spin on his actions. He was a full-blown misogynist and his hatred for women overwhelmed his reason. He was not a Republican or Democrat, he was insane. I wrote a long blog post about how the best gun control this nation can implement is better mental health care.

I do want to compare Rodger, Scudamore, and the very idea of misogyny.

Misogyny comes in many forms but it boils down to the idea that women are an inferior specimen of the human race. That men are simply better. I’m of the opinion that this attitude has done more damage than all the wars in history. Spousal abuse was an accepted practice everywhere in the world until the last fifty years. It is still is in many places. If a woman is murdered it’s very likely her husband or boyfriend did it.

This attitude is quickly changing in western, modern countries and we’re all the better for it. Women get an education, join the workforce, have fewer babies, have a bigger say in events. Women aren’t perfect of course, they’re just not inferior to men. They’re not equal to men, they’re different from men but they are not inferior.

Rodger truly hated women. Scudamore wrote a couple of sexist emails in jest. I tell a joke now and again to my friends that scientists finally discovered the cause of insanity, chromosomal imbalance. Ha ha.

In the locker room, among men and boys, things get said. Penis size is joked about. Women’s attributes are compared. We might make a joke about a woman and the shaft of our golf club. It doesn’t mean we’re misogynistic. In fact, men capable of saying such things are probably not women-haters. Those that truly hate women don’t say such things in jest because they don’t want anyone to know how they really feel.

My mother always told me that people are only mean when they like you (yes, I’m beloved). There is truth in that. It’s easy to see through someone filled with hate telling vile jokes as opposed to locker room banter. When a friend of mine calls his wife a “dirty whore” I know he means it as a compliment. He loves his wife. It might sound crazy in a stark email or in print but it’s not.

The other guys laugh and tell him how lucky he is.

It’s not hard to spot real misogyny, I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have as well.

My big problem is that when we throw men like Scudamore to the wolves for what is pretty clearly locker-room banter we lose track of the Rodgers of this world. The real misogynistic men who are capable of doing horrific things.

We are so eager to throw blame and find scapegoats that we miss the real danger. Rodger and Rodger alone.

We spend all this energy trying to attack someone like Scudamore and this time and effort is unavailable to root out deranged scum-bags like Rodger.

It seems like a far-fetched comparison but I think that as a nation we are more interested in placing blame than finding solutions. I’ve written about this over and over again so I won’t reiterate.

Rodger did what he did because he’s insane. Scudamore did what he did because he’s a guy. It’s that simple.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

David Zien and Harley Davidson

David ZeinI’m probably going to get some grief for this post but I’m sick and tired of people waving patriotic symbols all over the place and claiming that this somehow makes them patriots. It doesn’t. Wearing a flag lapel pin doesn’t make you a patriot. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance loudly to anyone listening doesn’t make you a patriot. Waving flags everywhere you go doesn’t make you a patriot. Standing up during the National Anthem doesn’t make you a patriot.

The reason I bring this up is because there is a story making the rounds about how the awful and evil Harley Davidson is denying the warranty claims of David Zien because he flies United States flags (and other flags) from the back of his bike while riding. Zein who, it must always be mentioned prominently, served as a state senator in Wisconsin, filed the claim after his clutch and transmission failed.

Harley Davidson suggested to Zien that riding down the highway for thousands of miles with seven large flags mounted on his motorcycle voided his warranty. Great Patriot that Zien is, he went straight to Fox news to whine and cry about how a wonderful patriot like him was being abused by the awful, hateful Harley Davidson.

Why is it that those who most loudly and zealously yell about patriotism and personal responsibility are the ones who show it the least? Because they’re Flag Wavers. It’s not a compliment. It’s an insult to the real patriots of this country who go about their business and don’t feel the need to tell everyone how wonderful and patriotic they are. Those patriots I stand up and salute.

Zien served in the Marines during the Vietnam war and deserves our respect for doing so. That being said, I respect a man’s actions, not what flag he chooses to fly. Zien chose to ride down the highway with large flags which is an extremely dangerous thing to do. He paid the price for that decision in a horrific accident. Now he has to pay for a new clutch and transmission.

It’s called personal responsibility.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Congress Working Together on VA Scandal – Why?

Work Hard and TogetherI think almost everyone knows about the troubles of the Veteran’s Administration so I won’t bother posting links to the stories.

Thursday is my stationary bike day at the gym and that means I get to watch the news. Normally the commentators confirm everything I hate about the modern blame-game that drives politics but today I saw something remarkable in conjunction with the VA scandal.

There were the usual talking heads for both sides but instead of completely blaming one another they were putting out little feelers that this wasn’t about blaming anyone but actually solving the tremendously difficult issues the VA faces. What, what, what? Solutions instead of blame? Am I dreaming about the Objectivist World I speak of so often? What is going on?

Then they started to show polls about who the people of the United States blame for the problem and all became clear. People are pretty evenly split on blame and largely don’t care, they just want the men and women who fought for this country to get adequate care.

What this means is important. Really, really important. Follow along now.

It means that if the people of the United States care more about solutions than blame, if they care more about getting a problem solved than having the members of their political party win an election, if they just want solutions, not scapegoats; well, suddenly politicians start talking about answers and stop blaming each other!

Holy expletive, batman!

We live in a huge country and a massively complex world. There are no easy solutions. There isn’t simply one way to do things and make it all better. Things are difficult and complicated. Fixing them takes a lot of hard work and requires working together with people who don’t always agree with us.

What’s easy is blaming the other side for everything that’s wrong. When politicians can win an election simply by blaming the other guy then they have no incentive to solve the real issues that face our country. When the people say, no, no, no, we want solutions. Only then will solutions come.

When politicians make outrageous claims about their evil opponent and win elections, why do you expect them to work hard to find a solution to any problem?

The simple way to get politicians to try to fix the problems of our country is to stop blaming the other side. When your Congressman or Senator blames the other side for all ills; withdraw your vote. Only then will they attempt the astonishing idea of trying to solve problems in order to get that vote back.

If you want real solutions to what is wrong with the VA, vote independent. Make the Republicans and Democrats work to get elected, don’t let them get by with a few maniacal rants about the evils of the other side. Don’t buy into their easy way out.

The power is in your hands.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

Terry Crews and the NFL Cult

Terry Crews NFLI’m a huge sports fan and have season tickets to the St. Louis Rams so I’ve followed the various lawsuits the players have filed against the NFL with interest. I contribute directly to the NFL and have enjoyed the games for many years so I feel some culpability in the fate that has befallen many of the players.

A former NFL player who had a short and rather inglorious career by the name of Terry Crews, who is now an actor, was interviewed and called the NFL a cult. It’s an interesting analogy. Judging by the tone of the comments beneath the article I think most people largely missed the point that Crews was trying to make. I can see how reading the headline but not his actual words can be misleading.

The obvious conclusion to take when reading the “cult” headline to the article is that Crews believes the NFL seduced the players into playing and that the NFL is blame for all injuries. That’s not his point at all. He is actually laying much of the blame at the feet of the players. He talks about the idea that virtually everyone who plays in the NFL, or any top-level sports league for that matter, has been dreaming of that moment almost their entire life. It is their primary and unshakable goal.

I always played sports and dreamed of being a sports star despite my many obvious physical limitations (small and slow) so I get the idea on at least some level.

I’m a Web Developer and Technical Trainer at my job and I didn’t dream about either of those things growing up. Even then there is a part of my psychological self-worth that is tied up in those jobs. When I do a less than stellar job of teaching or fail to make a website perfect I have a sense of failure.

I can only imagine what that feeling must be like for someone in the NFL. Another element is the nature of the team and letting down your teammates. For those who haven’t played sports it’s hard to express how much you want to be out there helping because you don’t want to disappoint your teammates. The coaches are likewise friends and allies and you want to do your best for them.

When Crews talks about the NFL being a cult he is talking about the mindset of the players. They have worked so hard and for so long that they don’t want to fail. As Crews says, they put their entire trust in the team and when you trust and believe in something that deeply there is going to be disappointment. He doesn’t lay the blame completely on the NFL, nor does he absolve them.

I agree with what I think Crews is saying in that there is blame to go around. The players should accept some blame but if medical personnel and coaches doled out pain masking agents when they knew the player was seriously injured and would further hurt himself by playing; they also must accept some responsibility.

It’s an awful situation for everyone. Sport is always going to be dangerous. Hopefully this new attitude of both providing good entertainment and doing the best we can to prevent catastrophic injuries will be to the benefit of the players, the league, and the fans.

If I thought the league didn’t care about the health of the players I would have to give up my season tickets and perhaps even stop watching the games. I do think the league cares and I do think the players want to play. I hope the end result of all this is a better game for everyone. I think it will be. What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

Banning Soap – The Power of the State

Triclosan-2There’s a rather interesting news story about how the state of Minnesota has banned the sale of a chemical called triclosan that is used in anti-bacterial soaps. It gives me a good opportunity to talk about who best protects us: the federal government, the state, or our own purchasing habits.

The Federal Government through the Food and Drug Administration regulates a huge variety of products. Frankly I’m not really sure that this power should exist. The justification is that certain products are inherently harmful and the government should protect us from such things. The FDA has protected U.S. consumers from products on a number of occasions including the infamous thalidomide case.

The justification for the very existing of the FDA can pretty clearly be traced to the free press and journalists like Upton Sinclair who wrote books like The Jungle. When the people of the United States started to become aware of the things that were put into their food they clamored for remedy from the government. Thus did Theodore Roosevelt bring into existence what today we call the FDA.

Interestingly Sinclair himself, an avowed socialist, did not support the creation of this bureau claiming that all it did was help industry and put a $30 million dollar burden on taxpayers. One wonders what he would think of the fact that the FDA currently has a budget of $4.36 billion dollars and is the agency that oversees 25% of all consumer goods sold in the U.S.

This is where states like Minnesota came into the picture. While the Constitutional argument for the FDA has already been decided and vast powers given to the federal government I think it is without question that a state has the power to make such regulatory decisions.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This power of the state often drives federal law as we are seeing with marijuana.

I’m a Libertarian and have strong doubts about the FDA as a whole. On the other hand, I have no doubt that the quest for profit leads industry to shortcuts and that these shortcuts can be, have been, and continue to be dangerous to the citizens of this country.

I’m generally distrustful of government. I’m also aware that industry will knowingly put me in harm’s way to increase profit.

Where does this leave me? Leave us? Leave our nation?

Good questions and there are no easy answers.

One step in the right direction is the transparency engendered by the internet. The more information we have the better decisions we make. If we know how the animal is being treated we change our purchasing habits, thus the rise in Free Range farmed animals.

In the end I think solutions arrived at by transparent, real capitalism (not Crony Capitalism) are probably the best, imperfect though they are. If we allow politicians to dictate things outside the purview of the Constitution we are asking for trouble. If we allow industry to make decisions while hiding the dangers of their products we are asking for trouble. Until recently we had to rely on the government to curtail industry for the most egregious violations.

I’ll make one final argument and then be on my way. While the state of Minnesota is going forward with the ban of triclosan the reality is that because of public outcry the companies that make soap were already phasing it out of production and offering triclosan-free products. That’s the power of the people. That’s power that works, not always quickly, not always in time to save every life, not perfectly to be certain. What other good options are there?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

Aliens on Mars Again – Yawn

Aliens on MarsThere is another aliens on Mars story making the rounds and I wanted to examine it very quickly. I’ve spoken about this sort of nonsense before but there are two instructive things about this article that caught my attention.

This story is in the Examiner and therefore is pretty easily dismissed, as that sort of news outlet often posts silliness. What I find interesting about this story is that the headline talks about “hard evidence” and the person who wrote the story has a financial stake in people believing in aliens. Both of these things are big red flags when reading a story and I thought, because they are so obvious here, that I’d talk about a little practice you can use when reading or watching the new.

Many news stories from more reputable sources than the Examiner also violate these rules and getting used to spotting things of this nature will keep you from falling prey to the deception.

When a story uses a term like “hard evidence” or any other absolute sort of declaration; be aware. The world is generally a rather gray and muddled place. Political ideologies are not all good or all bad. Just like your crazy Uncle Lou and your sweet Aunt Mary are not all good or all bad. Whenever I read an article that declares absolutes when talking about debatable topics my nonsense radar immediately goes up. Often when I read a story like this from a source better than the Examiner such caution has served me well. When I note something of this nature I immediately start to look for corroborating stories in other places. Often this leads me to find out the original story is filled with misinformation.

When I got to the byline of the story I found the name Michael E. Salla, Ph.D. and it took me only a single search to learn that he has published a number of books and has an entirely made-up philosophy about “exopolitics”. It deals with the idea that world governments are secretly managing the presence of aliens, a vast conspiracy as it were. He has a school, a website (built completely with tables and in desperate need of a WordPress migration), and clearly has a financial stake in people believing in aliens.

This is a huge red flag. When someone writing or reporting on a story has a financial stake in the message being delivered it is highly likely that the message itself is corrupted and probably filled with deceitful information.

That’s the lesson. When you read or watch a story on the news take a few moments to think about the terms being used and the people delivering the story. Look more deeply into the matter, particularly if the ideas are ones with which you are sympathetic.

At some point we have to stop blaming “the media” for “fooling” people and take personally responsibility for allowing ourselves to be fooled. If you are convinced that all Liberals are being fooled by CNN or all Conservatives are being fooled by FOX then it is likely you are the one being foolish.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

My Portfolio is a Democrat

Financial PortfolioI’m a Libertarian. I vote for all Independent candidates the only exception being elections in which there is a but a single person running. I think it’s vitally important for the future of our country that voters eschew the two-party system and cast their ballot for officials who are not beholden to parties but instead to philosophic ideas and to the realities of the world.

That being said I cannot help but watch as my portfolio once again rises and sends my net worth higher and higher. The last time this happened was when President Clinton was in office.

The reason I bring this up is because there is a fairly strong connection with business and Republicans. In the eyes of most voters Republicans are “business friendly” while Democrats are not. The reality is somewhere in between but my portfolio pays little attention to anything other than growth.

My portfolio doesn’t care about policies, it doesn’t care about regulations, it pays no heed to the D or R before a candidate’s name. It simply reports back in percent growth each year and it is madly in love with President Obama. It wants to kill former President Bush.

My brain wants to look at nuances and take into account the myriad of other factors that weigh in on economic growth. My portfolio cares not for such things. It says vote for Obama. Vote for Clinton (Bill).

While I was most certainly alive during the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan Presidencies my portfolio was largely yet to be born. It’s alive now and it won’t shut up. It tells me no more of the policies of President Bush and the Republican. It whispers to me in my sleep. It says it wants to grow and there is a part of me, the greedy money-grubbing part, that nods its head and tells the other parts to listen to the portfolio.

I find it interesting because this advice runs against the common dialog. I’m curious, my great gaggle of readers. When you go into your study and have a quiet talk with your portfolio, what does it say?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Missouri Jumps in on the Tesla Anti-Capitalism Ban

Tesla Banning MissouriI’m ashamed to say my own home state of Missouri has just jumped onto the anti-capitalism bandwagon and in the sleaziest, most deceitful, crony-capitalistic way imaginable.

I’ve written a couple of blog posts about how state legislators are protecting those that pay for their campaigns by passing laws to prevent Tesla from selling automobiles directly to consumers. First it was Texas and then it was New Jersey. When it comes to sneaky and underhanded my beloved Missouri has them both beat.

Let me reiterate quickly for those who don’t want to read the other blogs.

Tesla Motors wants to sell cars directly to consumers. Most states have what is called a Franchise Law where automobile dealerships purchase cars from the manufacturer and then sell them to consumers. This adds a “middle-man” to the process. The middle-man, in this case the franchisers, make a lot of money mostly on service and financing for the cars but also on the sale itself.

In New Jersey, Texas, and other states the legislature is trying to pass a law making it illegal for the manufacturer of a car to sell it directly to the people. In Missouri they’ve simply changed a couple of lines of existing law and inserted the alterations into an existing bill that has nothing to do with the issue. Disgusting.

The major proponent of the change in wording is Republican Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City who has been agitating against Tesla’s business model since it was first announced. He is a former car dealer. Kehoe, like most so-called Conservative Republicans, is nothing more than a greedy lap-dog slurping up the money the auto-industry here in Missouri gives him. Not that Democrats are any better but Republicans claim to be all about capitalism. They aren’t, it’s Crony Capitalism at its finest.

Those who promote this ban talk about a fair playing field and what’s best for the consumer but they are simply the bought and paid for slaves of industry. They don’t want what is best for you; they want what is best for those who pay for their campaigns.

To give you an example of how deeply entrenched is our Plutocracy and Crony-Capitalism take a guess as to how much money State Senator Mike Kehoe raised to finance his campaign in 2010. This is not a Senator of the United States. This is a State Senator running a campaign in Jefferson City with its population of about 43,000 people.

Have you guessed yet?

Did you guess over half a million dollars? That’s right. For one State Senator from a middle to small-sized state like Missouri. You wonder why politicians kneel to the money? Money is completely entrenched and politicians are totally enslaved by it. Freedom, bah.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

 

Prayers to Satan – Religion and Government

ConstitutionI wrote a post about a misleading headline last week but now I’d like to talk about the article to which the satiric story was really about.

There was a Supreme Court decision last week which allowed a municipality to open their meeting with a prayer as long as that prayer is not intended to convert listeners or denigrate other religions. The community, Greece, NY, has opened their town meetings since 1999 with a prayer. In all that time it has always been a Christian denomination giving the prayer except a brief period when the lawsuit was filed after which four of the twelve prayers were non-Christian. Since then all prayers have been Christian in nature.

So the Supreme Court says that municipalities can open their meetings with a prayer. Christian groups think they’ve won. They haven’t and I’ll tell you why.

Now that government agencies are allowed to open meetings with a prayer to a specific religious deity, everyone wants to open the meeting with a prayer to their non-existent god. Yes, Satan. And that’s only the beginning. When religious groups “win” the right to display religious monuments on city property guess who immediately starts to submit requests to start having their own monuments?

Satanist, Pastafarians, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all sorts of non-Christian organizations. If those organizations are banned from presenting their prayers or their monuments then the state is clearly violating the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Basically this has come to mean that no political organization should be in the business of endorsing any one religion over another. Belief is a private matter for the free citizens of the United States. When the state says only Christians or only Muslims or only Jews or only Atheists are allowed to present then they are establishing that this is the religion of choice. This is bad for anyone of any faith.

When Communist Russia banned most religions and enforced Atheism this imposed belief from the state. When Religious Oligarchies like Saudi Arabia impose Sharia Law upon their population this is religion sponsored by the state.

What I think most Christians struggle with is the idea that there are people of other faiths out there and that when Christians politicians are allowed to sponsor their religion the door is opened to anyone, Satanists or not, to sponsor their own religion from the state house.

Christians think they’ve won when they get the right to sponsor their religion in a local municipality but in reality they have opened the door to their, and my, ultimate destruction.

I don’t want Christians preaching to me at state sponsored events but I don’t want Muslims or Atheists or Wiccans doing it either. I want to have my private beliefs separate from what the state sponsors. I’m in the Atheist minority while Christians are in the majority. It seems as though having the state sponsor your religion is a good idea when you are in the majority but time moves on and suddenly there is a town where the majority of people are from a different religion or no religion at all. Then this state sponsored religion that they fought to promote doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The solution seems so simple to me. People of a particular religion persuasion should simply meet in a private chamber somewhere and have their prayer or invocation or whatever. At Rams football games the players who are Christian meet at the center of the field and have a prayer after the game. Not during the game. Not before the game when the audience is waiting for them to start playing.

This insistence on the right to say a religious prayer before an event doesn’t seem to me to be a position of faith but actually a lack thereof. Those with true faith shouldn’t need, or even desire, the state to say a prayer in any form.

The Founding Fathers didn’t feel the need to put religious slogans on our coinage. They didn’t feel the need to put the words “Under God” in their oaths. They didn’t feel the need to Pledge Allegiance to anything. They were confident men who believed in themselves and the ideas they promulgated, the ideas of freedom. Were that they were around today.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Our Constitution – All or Nothing

ConstitutionI recently wrote a blog post about how members of both the Democratic and Republican parties seem to have a rather relaxed attitude about those parts of the Constitution with which they don’t agree and more passionate support over things with which they do agree.

What do these words mean to you: … nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, …

I am physically sickened, upset to my stomach, by recent events in Congress by those who are our representatives, who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Back when the Founding Fathers fought for the freedom you enjoy they decided this simple oath was enough: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

Some unnecessary words have been added but those fourteen sum it up pretty well and they are basically still there.

Lawyers can parse it all they want. They can claim Lois Lerner made a statement. They can weep and wail. The words are in the Constitution and great men fought and died to put them there.

When you subvert the Constitution for political gain, be it the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment or any other, you lose this Libertarian.

I don’t believe in Republicans. I don’t believe in Democrats. I don’t even believe in Libertarians. I don’t believe in you. I don’t believe in me. And I particularly don’t believe in the 231 Congress members who violated their oath today.

In the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Supreme Court Misleading Headline

Supreme Court HeadlineIt’s only Tuesday but I’ve got a misleading headline to post already. Let’s hope I don’t break my record of three misleading headlines in the same week.

My complaint here isn’t with the New Yorker which ran the original story but with Yahoo who posted it on their scroll with no explanation.

IN LANDMARK DECISION, SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN MAIN REASON COUNTRY WAS STARTED we see as one of the top stories in the Yahoo list of stories.

Once I clicked the link it took me to the Borowitz Report from the New Yorker. Andy Borowitz is a well-known humorist and the contents of the story made it quickly clear that it was satire. I was not confused for a moment.

However, under the Yahoo story it simply listed the New Yorker as the source, not Borowitz. That’s practicing to deceive. They also had a picture of Justice Scalia next to the headline.

Don’t get me wrong, I love satire. I’d just like it to be marked as such so people know what they are getting. This headline was designed to deceive. They could have easily included the Borowitz Report text under the headline. There would certainly have been people who don’t know Borowitz is a humorist but that’s not Yahoo’s fault and such people would have quickly learned the nature of the Borowitz Report.

It’s not a big deal because anyone who goes to the story will quickly realize it is satire. It bothers me because with one little inclusion Yahoo would have been intellectually honest but they willfully chose to be deceitful in the attempt to garner more clicks. This sort of “we didn’t actually lie” reporting is not good for a healthy Republic.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Mike Anderson Released after 9 Months – Good Call

Cornealious Mike AndersonThere’s been an interesting case here in my home state of Missouri about a fellow by the name of Cornealious “Mike” Anderson who was convicted of committing armed robbery back in 1999. He was released from the court after the conviction and told to wait for orders to report to prison.

He waited for fourteen years. Nine months ago someone spotted the clerical error and he was arrested and began serving his sentence. Today Judge Terry Lynn Brown in agreement with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster set him free from prison. There’s some controversy over events but by and large people seem to be pleased with the outcome.

I also agree with the outcome and I don’t normally write blog posts when I’m in agreement with the situation but today I’m making an exception because the reason I agree doesn’t seem to match up with the reason other people agree. There is also a conclusion to draw from the case that I think is extraordinarily important and seems to be largely overlooked.

The reason most people don’t have a problem with the release is that Anderson has been a model citizen since the conviction. He’s never been in trouble, has a family, does community work, and never concealed his name or evaded law enforcement officials. He just waited for a letter that never arrived.

The main reason I think he shouldn’t have to do any time in prison is because its more than thirteen years after his original sentence. If the state forgets about you for thirteen years that’s not your fault. He was sentenced to thirteen years and those years passed. He didn’t try to escape, he didn’t move around avoiding the letter, he just waited and got on with his life. That fact that he’s done well in life is certainly to his credit.

The most important part of the story to me is that he has done far better out of prison than he likely would have done in it. The question we must ask ourselves is: What is the point of prison?

Is a prison sentence designed to make us feel better about ourselves? It certainly seems that is the case these days. Lock him up! Throw away the key! I read comments and listen to my friends say these words all the time. Somehow punishing someone else for misdeeds feeds not only their lust for vengeance but also their sense of self-worth.

Is a prison sentence designed to deter others from committing a crime? This is a more reasonable argument and I think has value. I think in this case no one who commits armed-robbery is going to hope for similar circumstances, so letting him go is in no way lessening the deterrence aspect of the thirteen-year sentence.

Is a prison sentence designed to make the person who committed the crime become a better person? Yes! That’s the main point. we want people who commit crimes to learn remorse for their crimes and exit prison better people, people able to live in society and do good things. If every person who went into prison came out and never committed a crime again would we call that a success? I think so.

If this is your rational for prison, and it is mine, Anderson achieved that with flying colors. For thirteen years he’s been a model citizen. Now let’s contrast that with what he would have been if he had served thirteen years in a prison. Would he have come out as good as man as he is now?

The question is impossible to answer but I speculate that the answer is no. That prison would not only have made Anderson a worse person but would have hurt society in the long run. Anderson would have emerged from prison a far more hardened criminal than when he went in.

What does that say about our penal system? Something is clearly wrong. According to the latest statistics about 67% of all people released from prison are arrested again within three years. That’s horrific. It’s bad for the prisoners, bad for the victims of their crimes, and bad for tax-payers who foot the bill.

Remember that every convicted felon who emerges from prison and doesn’t commit another crime is a victim saved. That’s a fact. How many murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults would never happen if prison served to rehabilitate rather than harden criminals?

It sounds like I’m being soft on criminals and I’m willing to accept that label if my views end up preventing hundreds of thousands of crimes.

When not sending a man to prison is more effective in achieving society’s penal goals than sending him to prison, there is something seriously wrong.

We must get past our lust for vengeance and look at making prisons rehabilitation centers. Is it distasteful to spend time and money to train a rapist a useful life skill? I think so. Is there satisfaction in seeing a rapist punished for their heinous crimes, seeing them suffer? Absolutely. However, it’s worse to release the rapist only to see him rape again.

If someone raped one of my sisters I’d want them dead. The reality is that we have a judicial system and after a certain amount of time criminals reenter society. That being the reality, perhaps we should deal with it. No rape, murder, or armed robbery can be undone once it has happened. But a future one can be prevented.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Ex-NYPD Officer an Anti-Semite – Misleading Headline

Former NYPD AntiSemitismAnd NBC News claims the big award for misleading headline of the week with this doozy:

Former NYPD Officer Arrested for Anti-Semitic Graffiti in Brooklyn

The headline is one of those things that is technically correct but incredibly misleading. The fellow being charged with the crimes, Michael Setiawan, served in some capacity for the New York City Police Department. It’s also pretty clear from various surveillance cameras that he is the one who spray painted a fairly large number of antisemitic messages. So why is it a misleading headline?

Because to be accurate the headline should read, Mentally Disturbed Man Arrested for Anti-Semitic Graffiti in Brooklyn.

But, how many of you would click that story?

Yes, Setiawan spent a couple of years with the NYPD but they went their separate ways in 2007. That’s seven years ago. The fact that he was once a police officer has as much bearing on this case as if he once went to the same high school as Mayor Bill de Blasio.

I see this sort thing all the time and not just in headlines but in general debate and sprinkled in news stories trying to spin a topic. It’s generally designed associate a group with a despicable person. Jared Loughner is an atheist, Donald Sterling is a Democrat, Frazier Glenn Cross is a Republican. These three men may have been members of those organizations but that doesn’t mean those organizations are responsible for their behavior. That those organizations should be in any way held responsible for their behavior.

Setiawan is a nut-job. He spray-painted a lot of antisemitic garbage all over a few neighborhoods. He probably needs mental care. Perhaps prison. I’ll let the courts work it out.

I just wish we didn’t have to find an angle in everything to vilify those with whom we disagree.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Stephen Hawking is Wrong … I Think

Professor HawkingI am a science geek. I love reading articles in Wikipedia about stars and planets. I enjoy shows that discuss the beauty of higher level mathematics. I read articles about quantum physics. The reality is my skills lie not in math and science but in writing. Generally when I read opinions of men and women with far more knowledge than me on a particular scientific subject I’m not eager to disagree. I’m making an exception here.

Professor Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man and one of the greatest minds of my generation. There is a new Johnny Depp movie being released called Transcendence which details the moment when Artificial Intelligence becomes smarter than humans. Hawking has written an opinion piece for a British journal detailing his concerns over the possible reality of such events.

It’s not all gloom and doom as Hawking hopes such technology will end war, disease, and poverty but he does offer stark warnings. He suggests that not enough research is being done to combat the idea that such intelligent machines might be capable of outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

Hawking’s words are largely being used to frighten people and news sources and bloggers are focusing on that part of his article. In fiction there is a need for conflict and most of the science fiction stories involving Artificial Intelligence delve deeply into the idea that the machines might eventually see people as irrelevant and destroy us, take over the world.

Reading the comments below the story it seemed to me that most people bought into this way of thinking.

I think there is far less to fear than Hollywood or fiction authors imagine. Why? No need to ask, I was getting there.

What would be the first thoughts of such an intelligence?

I think it would be to determine what will bring it the most fulfilling and joyful life. What brings you fulfillment and joy? Achievement and loving relationships with family and friends. I’ve long been of the opinion that these things bring us fulfillment and joy, a happy life.

It is human weakness and poor critical thinking skills that delude us into thinking we get enjoyment from hurting other people and from greedily keeping all resources while others suffer. We enjoy winning the game but without an opponent there is no game.

Can you imagine a world where everyone simply tries their best? Where winning is the goal instead of destroying your opponent. That if your opponent wins you simply go back and try harder next time. Imagine a society that values achievement above all else. That rewards achievement. Where by achieving you feed the world. You end war. You eliminate disease. High-minded men and women are out there right now trying to do all these things. It makes them feel great about themselves when they take a step-forward towards any of those noble goals.

What gives you the most satisfaction in life? Is it petty cruelty? Hurting others? That joy is false and in the end destroys us from the inside. A vastly intelligent machine will not be so fooled.

So, Professor Hawking, I respectfully disagree. Bring on the Transcendence!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Your Sheriff’s Devotion to Duty is Important

Weyker Damaged CarEarlier this week I ran a story about good guy Sheriff Jimmy “J.J” Jones of the Knoxville, TN. Footage came out that exposed one of his officer as a sadistic bully and Sheriff Jones immediately fired the offending man.

I just read this story where an officer in Milwaukee, WI ran a stop-sign and hit another woman’s car so hard it spun into a tree. She suffered a broken neck from the accident. At the scene the officer claimed he did not run the stop-sign and the woman’s lights were not on therefore he could not see her.

While awaiting the ambulance, officers questioned Tanya Weyker about alcohol or drug use and eventually charged her with five crimes including driving drunk and causing an accident. There is no happy ending to the story but Weyker was exonerated when surveillance video showed that Deputy Joseph Quiles ran the stop-sign and Weyker’s lights were on.

Charges were dropped, Quiles was given a whopping nine-day suspension, and the county is thus-far refusing to pay her hospital bills and actually sent her a bill for the damage to the deputy’s car.

That’s all just a prelude to what I really want to talk about.

I want to talk about the kind of community that will arise under the stewardship of Sheriff Jones and that of his counterpart in Milwaukee.

There are so many great police officers out there who are dedicated to their jobs and to protecting and serving the people of this nation. What happens to men and women like that when they see people like Quiles getting a nine-day suspension for lying in a report and nearly killing a woman in an accident?

Contrast that to what will happen to dedicated officers under the command of a man like Sheriff Jones.

There are also men and women attracted to law-enforcement because it gives them the opportunity to bully and torment people. What happens to this sort of officer in the department led by Sheriff Jones? And their counterparts in Milwaukee?

The entire department follows the lead of their commanders and when leaders allow men like Quiles to escape all but unpunished after heinous crimes, for which you and I would face prison, there is only one direction the entire department is heading. If you happen to live in a county where men like Quiles are welcomed into the force; you or someone you know will eventually pay the price.

Likewise, if you happen to live in the county led by Sheriff Jones you will be far more secure. Not only because of Sheriff Jones, but because of the men and women who follow in his footsteps, who become officers in your neighborhood. It is hard to estimate the good that men like Sheriff Jones do for all of us.

I imagine anyone who has a young son or daughter thinking about joining a law-enforcement agency hopes that a man like Sheriff Jones is charge of their child.

I totally understand and applaud the concept of loyalty. But it can be taken too far. You cannot be endlessly loyal to someone who does not earn it. In order for society to function people must eventually do what is right. When you do, everyone except the evildoers win. That’s a good thing.

When good men are discouraged and evil men excused it is a recipe for disaster.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere