Illegal to Shovel Snow?

Boy Shoveling SnowThere’s an interesting little story in the news related to the blizzard that sort of wasn’t on the Eastern Seaboard this week. A couple of young men decided to go door-to-door soliciting their snow shoveling services. The problem is that they were doing it in a community that had passed an ordinance banning door-to-door solicitation.

The comment section of the story and apparently Social Media is filled with diatribes about how awful it was that these young entrepreneurs were defeated by the big and cruel government. I have some sympathy for those who are angry in that the ordinance in question wasn’t really designed to prevent young men selling snow-shoveling services but rather con-artist types from peddling their wares. However, I don’t have a lot.

The city in question, Bound Brook, N.J. has elected representatives who are tasked with passing various rules and regulations to make the city run more smoothly. Frankly, I don’t like it when people come pounding on my door here in U. City, MO and I wouldn’t mind at all if the city passed an ordinance banning the practice. The fact that after I refused snow-shoveling services once and the would-be entrepreneurs went into my garage and stole my snow shovel might make me a little bit of an angry old man on this one.

We live in the information age. If I need snow shoveling service then I can find it quickly and easily on the internet. I don’t want or need anyone at my doorstep. If the boys wanted to provide the service they could have emailed locals easily enough or created a quick website. If they had planned long enough they could have had fliers up before the storm hit. They could have told neighbors and friends of their plans. I’m just saying there were plenty of choices besides going door-to-door which was an illegal activity in their town.

The city council might amend the ordinance to allow for leaf raking and snow shoveling solicitation in the future although I’m certain those businesses have long since been taken over by professional services that hire young men like Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf to do the work.

The days of lemonade stands and young men shoveling snow are all but gone, that’s reality. And stay away from my door!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Josh Gordon’s Alcohol Suspension – Big Brother?

Josh GordonThere’s a fairly major sports story being reported all over the internet right now and it raises some interesting Libertarian questions for me. A football player named Josh Gordon is being suspended for one full season because he tested positive for … alcohol.

At first glance it would seem a severe punishment but there are some circumstances that make it more reasonable. The question it brings to my mind is that perhaps we as a society are too interested in the private lives of people and in the long run it does us no good. Let me detail the situation completely.

Gordon went to Baylor to play college football and received his first suspension when police found he and a teammate asleep at a Taco Bell with marijuana in their car. A year later Gordon tested positive for marijuana and was kicked off the team. He then sat out a year and became eligible for the NFL draft where the Cleveland Browns selected him in the second round.

He had an excellent rookie season and a spectacular second season making the NFL all-star game, the Pro Bowl. He was widely considered one of the best young wide receivers in the league. During that off-season he was arrested for driving while impaired and suspended for ten games during the 2014 season. When he returned he played well although had some internal discipline issues with the Browns. Because of the DWI arrest he became subject to an NFL policy where they are allowed to test him for alcohol in his bloodstream. If he is found to have such he then becomes a second time offender by the rules and is suspended for the season. That is what just transpired.

The rules were clear and Gordon apparently drank when he knew doing so would make him subject to severe penalties. That’s his responsibility and his mistake. I don’t exonerate or excuse him. What troubles me as a Libertarian is the policy itself. I can understand an escalation of penalties for criminal activities or methods taken to gain a competitive advantage on the field of play. The entire NFL anti-drug policy started out as a way to test for Performance Enhancing Drugs but it now reeks of Big Brother.

Why would Gordon be banned from ever drinking? How does that serve the NFL? I understand he had a DWI and if he did it again I would absolutely agree with the suspension. But drinking is not drinking while driving.

I find it to be a microcosm of what is going on in the United States. A person’s entire life is somehow open for review. Anyone who tells a joke that doesn’t come across as it was intended is vilified. While our government is busy finding a plethora of things to make illegal it seems we ourselves are finding new ways to judge one another negatively. We rule people out for jobs not based on their talent and ability but simply because they said or did something that some people find offensive.

It’s my opinion that we should be judged on our actual performance. If someone is a racist but makes hiring and firing decisions solely on performance then their racism is not my business. If someone is a drunk but does their work in superior fashion then their drinking choices are their decisions. If someone is gay, an atheist, an evangelical Christian, a Muslim, spends their free time watching porn, eats only fast food, drives a gas guzzler, drives a Prius, plays with dolls, or anything else legal that doesn’t effect their performance then I need to mind my own business.

Do I have to be friends with a racist? No. That’s my decision to make.

I understand the counterpoint. If a person is a racist I don’t want him working for me. If a person drinks I don’t want her working for me because my values are different. It’s my business and my rules.

I certainly think the NFL has the right to make their work policies and enforce them.

I’m just asking if all this judging is making us better or not? Are we eliminating highly qualified people from jobs because of things that are completely irrelevant to their performance? I’m of the opinion that we are and it’s not healthy. I can see how people will disagree.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

School Lunch Reprimand from Teacher

school lunch reprimandThere’s an interesting story from the field of education making the rounds this morning and I think it’s pretty instructive in a couple of ways.

What happened is that a teacher at an elementary school in Kirksville in my home state of Missouri sent home a note asking parents to pack a better lunch for their child. According to the information given to the teacher the child’s lunch consisted of four chocolate bars, marshmallows, crackers, and a pickle.

The parent wrote a rather nasty reply that described the lunch contents in a more favorable light which included meat and cheese and an absence of crackers as the contents. An administrator apologized for the note and made it clear that it would not happen again.

The comment section seems pretty heavily in favor of the parent and suggest that the teacher overstepped his or her bounds (no information was given on the teacher in question). I largely disagree although I’m not completely on the side of the teacher. I think the note should have taken a gentler tone and first confirmed that the lunch was as described and then perhaps included information and links to studies on the importance of eating a healthy lunch as it pertained to performing well in school. That being said, I think the note as a concept was absolutely appropriate for someone with Libertarian beliefs.

I’m reminded of one of the early scenes of Atlas Shrugged when the train is in danger of running late and the man responsible for making sure it won’t happen refuses to accept the responsibility and eventually Dagny Tagger is forced to step in and make the decision.

In this case the lunch as reported to the teacher was clearly substandard. The teacher, being someone of conscience, someone of personal responsibility, decided to take on the matter personally. This teacher clearly takes an interest in his or her children and wants them to succeed. The teacher did absolutely the right thing in writing the note. As I said, the note should have tried to confirm the lunch contents and been gentler in tone, but it is the hallmark calling card of someone who cares, who is willing to make a decision, and most importantly, willing to take action.

The father should have written back explaining that the lunch was not as described and THANKED the teacher for caring, for taking the time to worry about his child. He should have told the administration that they had a great teacher and he was proud his child was in that class.

The result? The teacher shamed. Any other teacher who sees a problem with a student will now be reluctant and probably unwilling to take any sort of independent action. Teachers will have to check with ten layers of administration before sending a note home to a parent.

The losers? Children everywhere.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Invoiced for Skipping Kids Birthday Party – Alex Nash

Invoice to childs partyThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about a young child who missed a birthday at which his parents confirmed he was attending. The parents of the birthday child then sent an itemized invoice for $24.13 to the Nash’s.

The “experts” are weighing in and I find that I’m not completely in agreement with them. Most sentiment seems to be going towards the parent who was charged for her non-attending child although certainly not all.

It took a while but the email exchanges from the parents are now available, in the story I’ve linked, giving me a better idea of who is blame, mostly.

Young Alex Nash confirmed with his friend that he would be at the party. The party giver confirmed with all attending children’s parents because she needed an exact figure to pay for the ski resort and lunch for each child. Alex, or his parents, decided that he would attend a family function instead and did not show up for the event. Alex’s parents did not call or inform anyone of this decision and claim it was because they had no contact information. Phone numbers were listed on the invitation.

In the exchange of emails Alex’s mother, Tanya, claims later that she didn’t hear Julie (the birthday boy’s mom) trying to stop her at school to talk about the matter but drove off because she had to get her daughter to an after school activity. At one point Tanya claims to not even know what party it was that Alex was supposed to attend. Tanya’s boyfriend apparently went to Julie’s house and told her that she wouldn’t get any money from them. Tanya also tries to argue that it costs more to enter small claims court than the amount supposedly owed.

According to Julie this is not the first such event that Alex has missed.

After reading the various facts of the case I admit that I’m on the invoicing mom’s (Julie) side of this equation. She tried to personally talk with the other party, who drove away claiming not to hear the shouts, before putting together the invoice and sending it Tanya. If you commit to an event which is essentially RSVP you need to go. If you don’t you are costing the other party money. Julie had to lay out money for a child that did not attend. She is not asking for money from the other parents who children did attend. It was her treat for her son’s birthday party.

I even understand the idea of the invoice although it seems impersonal at first glance. It’s actually trying to show the exact amount and how it was incurred rather than just coming up with a figure. After the running away incident I’d have been tempted to do the same.

I’m reminded of a friend’s wedding which I could not attend and I sent an RSVP with attendees of zero. Why? Because someone, probably my mother, taught me properly at some point in life. There are good reasons for RSVP invitations and good manners would have prevented all of this. Manners, they count. Still, I say fork over the money.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

162 – 2 Basketball Game Suspension for Coach – What does it Mean?

162-0 scoreI’m a sports fan and I’ve written about lopsided victories in sporting events before. There’s a new one in the news and this one resulted in the coach of the winning team being given a two game suspension by school administrators.

What I want to talk about today is not the nature of a lopsided loss and the responsibility of the coach of the dominant team. If you want my opinion on that please read my other post on the subject. What I want to talk about today is the general tone in the comments section. There is a sizable percent of people who find the suspension of the coach to be an example of the downfall of the United States. They argue that the point of a game is to win and if your opponent can’t stop you from scoring you shouldn’t stop scoring.

They point to this idea as why the United States is growing weaker in the world. That the proper attitude is to attempt to crush your opponent and that in the good old days of our country no one would have blinked at such a humiliation. They would have told the opposition to get better.

I have some sympathy for this idea in that if you lose a game your reaction should be to attempt to get better. You should work harder and learn from the defeat. However, I completely disagree with the idea that in years past such behavior would have been cheered on and that destroying an obviously inferior opponent was proof of your strength.

It’s my opinion that such behavior is actually proof of your weakness.

I think that previous generations knew that strength came not from humiliating those weaker than you. Strength came from not humiliating them. That a good coach, a strong coach, knows immediately that his team is superior and gives younger players a chance to play. Such a coach does what she or he can to limit the damage and embarrassment. Perhaps this means waiting until the shot clock runs out. Forcing the players to pass a certain number of times before shooting. Putting players in unfamiliar positions. I think there was a time in this country where we were secure enough in ourselves that we didn’t need to prove it with ostentatious displays.

There was a time when winning wasn’t everything. When sportsmanship ruled. We still applaud sportsmanship when we see it. Contrary to what Charlie Sheen and most of the United States seems to think anymore, life shouldn’t be measured in wins and losses. I think truly strong people understand that and in generations past a life was not so judged. Integrity, honor, courage, kindness, generosity. These were words we used to measure a life. Not some sort of count of wins or of money accumulated.

Those days appear to be gone. Now the more massive the victory and the more we destroy and humiliate our opponent the better we somehow feel about ourselves. It’s not my job to worry about the other guy seems to be the message. If you’re looking for a reason our country is becoming weaker, then look no further than our vainglory.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to win. It’s great to win the game, to give your best effort, to defeat a worthy opponent. I’m just saying there is no strength or glory in defeating those who cannot compete against you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Malarkey – The Boy Who Didn’t Go To Heaven – Along with Everyone Else

alex-malarkeyThere’s an interesting story in the news today about a young man whose story was made into a book. He was in a coma for a couple of months and when he came out of it he made up a story about going to heaven.

This comes as a huge surprise to me. Obviously not because he made up the story, I knew that all along, but because he admitted to making up the story. That’s a real shocker. Once someone commits to a massive lie, as did Alex Malarkey, it’s unusual to see them admit to it. Usually, like say Vice President Cheney and the weapons of mass destruction evidence, they won’t back down regardless of the evidence proving their story was a lie.

At first I was ready to applaud Alex for his admission but as I read the article it became clear to me that perhaps his motivation was not simply coming forward with the truth. It seems clear he is angry that the book publisher, author (his father), and others are making a lot of money off of his name and this rankled his sense of fairness. Lying for the last six years apparently not so much. Fooling millions of people with his lie didn’t bother him as much as the fact that someone else, his father the author, was making money off of his name. Once his parents divorced and mom wasn’t getting her share of the profits, suddenly it was a lie.

Good for Alex for coming forward, I suppose, but I’m not all that impressed. He is still using religion in his quest to get what he wants. He makes an excuse for himself by saying that only the bible is accurate (nonsense, of course) and that all men lie. Perhaps we all do lie about some things, particularly to ourselves, but all of us don’t lie about what we experienced in a coma. Some of us have more character than that. I’m willing to give Alex a small break because he was a young boy when he told the original lie but his coming out now, six years later, and apparently with the soul motivation of his lack of remuneration for the book doesn’t garner my sympathy.

The most ridiculous quote from the now suddenly honest Alex is: They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible. Hey Alex, the bible was written by men.

Alex’s message largely seems to be driven from his mother who admits that she knows what it is like to be pulled in. By this she means she willingly participated in the scam because she thought it was going to make her a lot of money. When she finally realized it wasn’t she suddenly gained a conscience.

The whole thing is despicable. From beginning to end. I have no kind things to say about Alex, his mother, the book publisher, the book author, or anyone involved in this money grubbing scam. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from Alex and his amazing conversion in the future, although this time he and his mother will be sure to get the contracts right so they reap the profits.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

I hope so too, Movie Monday – Vision Quest

Shute Vision QuestI happened upon a movie I saw long ago and realized it has more to say to me now then when I was a foolish young college student. Not to say I didn’t love the movie then, I did.

Vision Quest is a movie about a young man on a mission. It was filmed in Spokane, Washington in 1983 which was just down the road from where I was attending college at the University of Idaho from 1982 to 1985. So people were pretty hyped up about it. I was a cynical and unhappy person back in those days and I wanted to dislike the movie because all my friends loved it. Even then I came out of the theater realizing it was a good movie, now I realize it is a great movie.

It tells the story of an accomplished young wrestler named Louden Swain, played by Matthew Modine, who wants to wrestle against the reigning state champion from a lower weight class. An already legendary wrestler named Brian Shute. Modine’s character must make-weight to wrestle in the lower class but this is not the driving force of the movie. During the course of the movie he falls in love with a young woman, played by Linda Fiorentino, who is staying with he and his father as she makes her way to San Francisco.

There are a couple of things in this movie that make it a Libertarian story. In the beginning of the film when Modine states his intention to drop a weight class and wrestle against Shute they do not gloss over the fact that this means he must displace the current wrestler at that weight class. This wrestler is played by Michael Schoeffling as Kuch. Here we have the first fantastic message of the movie. Louden defeats Kuch but Kuch does not go off into a corner and weep. He does not plan and plot against Louden. He helps his friend in the quest. He realizes he was defeated and goes about his business like a man. That’s a fantastic message. A message which doesn’t focus on revenge but simply doing the best you can despite any setbacks life throws your way.

The movie, based on a book by Terry Davis, slowly and beautifully shows us that it is Louden’s attempt that makes him a winner. He sees something that will be very difficult and takes the steps necessary to succeed. Will he succeed? Will he fail. In the book we don’t find out because it ends just as the match begins but the movie, of course, had to give us closure. I prefer the book’s ending. It is the journey, the Vision Quest, that makes us better. Not winning or losing.

The greatest and most important point in the movie, from my perspective at least, is when Louden and Kuch go to visit Shute as he is working out. Louden shouts out to Shute who looks up and they engage in a short but astoundingly powerful conversation. Shute asks Louden if he will make weight, thus enabling the match between the two. Louden says he hopes so. Shute replies, “I hope so too.”

That right there is everything I try to convey in all my blogs, in all my novels. “I hope so too.” In most movies Shute would be portrayed as the bad guy. We’d see him hitting his girlfriend or bullying a smaller kid. Not in this movie. In this movie Shute, the bad guy, is looking forward to the tough challenge as much as is Louden. Why? Because he also knows that to be strong you must test yourself against others who are strong. Man, what a scene! That’s the kind of writing I strive to achieve.

That’s a motto to carry forward in life. Welcome the challenges and strive to win but don’t be despondent in defeat. You will live to fight another day, another battle, and you will be the stronger for it. This message that victory is everything corrupts. It is a bad message, a wrong message. Fight hard, fight fair, do your best and you’ll be a winner, even in defeat.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Rich Ross aims to Fix Discovery Channel

Discovery Rich RossThere is an absolutely fascinating event taking place in the world of entertainment in that the new president of the Discovery Channel, Rich Ross, plans to take the network in a different direction.

The Discovery Channel has recently aired episodes which are geared towards the sensational and play fast and loose with reality. These episodes have generated some of the largest audiences the Discovery Channel has ever recorded. You see, my loyal readers, sensational nonsense is much more popular than boring reality. Of this there is no doubt but it is this very fact that makes Ross’s decision so incredibly interesting to me.

I’ve written on numerous occasions about the perception that the media is destroying our country when in reality it is the viewing habits of the denizens of our country that drives the media. Idiotic Megladon nonsense gets better ratings than shows about the natural beauty of North America. Not by a little, by a lot.

Ratings are what drives the amount a network can charge advertisers for sponsorship of a show. The reason being that if more people are watching a show then the advertisement reaches … more people! It doesn’t take a degree in Aerospace Engineering … er … I mean Rocket Science to figure out people like it sensational, they like it dumbed down, they like it mostly naked, and they like it with a bit of the naughty stuff.

So here we have it. Mr. Ross is looking you right in the eye United States of America citizens. He’s saying we’re going to give you some reality because we think you are ready for it. You complained vociferously about our nonsense shows and therefore, despite their great ratings, we’re going to pull them off the air and give you what you claim you want to see, not what our market research and reams of evidence tells us you really want to see.

I stand here ready to watch more of the Discovery Channel. I’m on your side Mr. Ross. I wish you the best of luck in your attempt. I desperately wish people would click on Science Articles in their various media outlets rather than stories about the Kardashians. I’d love it if people decided to read balanced and factual stories about the Keystone Pipeline rather than reading political motivated rhetorical lunacy. That being said, I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen.

I’ll be very interested to see the overall ratings for the Discovery Channel this time next year. I’ll be happily surprised if they are trending upward.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Stan Kroenke and the St. Louis Rams

Stan-KroenkeAnyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows I’m from St. Louis, a huge sports fan, and holder of Rams season tickets. The big story around here the last few weeks involves the owner of the Rams being part of a group that is building a new football stadium in Los Angeles.

It’s no secret that the NFL would like to have a team in the largest market in the United States. It’s also no secret that Stan Kroenke is unhappy with the stadium here in St. Louis and is in the middle of negotiations to build a new one. He wants the city to provide much of the money while the city would prefer he funded the effort.

The implicit threat is that if Kroenke doesn’t get his way he will move the Rams to Los Angeles. There’s nothing new going on here. Mr. Kroenke has been playing this game with the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri since he purchased controlling interest in the team back in 2010.

What I want to talk about today is a recent news story that’s been making the rounds. Since the announcement of the stadium plan in L.A. there has been a lot of hand-wringing here in St. Louis. State and city leaders joined the fray when they announced to the press that Mr. Kroenke wasn’t returning their calls and they were taking their case directly to the NFL.

Let me preface my comments by saying I’m a huge Rams fan. I love the team and think they are on their way back to the elite in the NFL. Maybe I’m delusional but I want the team to stay in St. Louis so I can cheer them onto to their next Super Bowl victory. I am rooting for the community leaders and Mr. Kroenke to work out a plan. That being said ….

Boo hoo, Mr. Governor, Mr. House Majority Leader, Mr. Mayor. When you encouraged Mr. Kroenke to purchase majority ownership of the Rams you invited a tough businessman to the table. When you’ve got a man like Mr. Kroenke opposite you it’s time to put on your big-boy pants. I’m of the opinion that Mr. Kroenke would like to keep the team here in Missouri. It’s his home state. His family is from here and many of his friends. Mr. Kroenke doesn’t let that change his game face.

What’s the biggest card in the deck for those who want to pressure Mr. Kroenke to stay? Hey, Stan, there ain’t no stadium in L.A. so your threats to move don’t scare me. Well, boys, Mr. Kroenke comes to play.

He’s not returning your calls? Then stop calling him.

Going behind his back to the NFL to plead with them not only doesn’t make you look strong but I also think it’s a stupid play. The NFL cares a lot more about keeping Mr. Kroenke happy, he’s the second or third wealthiest owner in the league, than it does about any Missouri politicians or a fan like me. I doubt seriously Mr. Kroenke would have gone ahead with this L.A. stadium plan if he didn’t have solid backing from the other owners about bringing a team to L.A. whether it be the Rams or someone else.

What Mr. Kroenke did was take away a chip from his opponents and potentially make a lucrative deal to lease the new stadium to whatever team moves there even if he gets the stadium he wants in St. Louis. Tough, good, business. I’ll tell you this, I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the negotiation table from Mr. Kroenke. And if I found myself in that position I’d certainly be making my plans with great care. Not whining about how he won’t answer the phone.

You want the team to stay in St. Louis. Hammer something out. Don’t give away the farm, because Mr. Kroenke won’t respect that either. There’s money to be made by everyone when it comes to the NFL. No doubt there’s more money in L.A. than St. Louis but L.A. has failed to support a team before. There are dangers in the move. There is stiff competition from the City by the Bay, Alameda County, and down Route 1.

Don’t whine, don’t run to the press, don’t look to the NFL to save you. Figure out a plan that can work for the city, the state, and for Mr. Kroenke. Give his executive assistant a call and invite him to a dinner next Thursday at Tony’s. Call ahead and make sure Vince is there to make Bananas Foster table-side for dessert. A round of Booker’s bourbon, with a splash of water of course, might not hurt negotiations either.

Go Rams!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

 

Je Suis Charlie

charlie-hebdo-magazine-shootingI think almost all of us have read about the despicable attack in Paris against those who work for a French magazine called Charlie Hebdo. A bunch of religious nut-jobs decided they could further their cause by killing some people who posted cartoons of their prophet.

I’m not going to waste time denouncing these murderous scum. There are plenty of people already doing that. What I want to do today is try to explain, rationally and calmly, why such actions harm their cause greatly.

The thinking of the terrorist is that if they frighten people they can get them to do what they want. It’s a behavior that works in certain instances and thus those who promulgate its use are encouraged. The long term reality is far different. The embracing of terror as a weapon to achieve political gain is destroying the entire Muslim religion and laying waste to hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of young lives. While twelve innocent Frenchmen and women were killed, there is no doubt that the actions will result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent young Muslims.

Not just from retribution attacks but simply from the setback in relationship between nations. Countless young Muslim boys will look to this as an achievement and spend their own lives in the fruitless and eventually deadly pursuit of similar activity.

Young Arab men are dying everywhere in this world. Killing each other and trying to kill others. It’s a terrible waste of their lives.

This attack also inestimably set back any attempt to get people to respect Muslims, the Islamic world, or Arabic people in general.

If the terrorists hoped to have the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo splattered over every blog, every newspaper, every media outlet, papered onto every mosque in every western country, and generally shoved down the throats of Muslims everywhere, well, their actions were well-thought out.

If the murdering terrorists wanted to make enemies of rational people the world over then they have succeeded.

If they wanted Arabs who are trying to live in peace in Western countries to be beaten, ridiculed, or even killed by those seeking revenge, well, then their actions were certainly well-planned and carried out.

If, on the other hand, they hoped to gain respect from other people then they have failed. If the goal is to have people respect your prophet then the solution isn’t to murder those who don’t. That only generates hate. The result of the actions of these murderous scum will be felt by peace-loving Muslims all over the Western world. And not in a good way. If their goal was to gain respect, admiration, and acceptance of their religion … they have failed and failed tragically with horrific consequences for so many, mostly for those whom they think they represent.

So terribly sad. Twelve people dead and the exact opposite of the goal of the killers achieved. Everything they hoped to gain by their attack is destroyed instead. Stupidity. Useless rage.

The Muslim world better get their act together soon because enough attacks like this are eventually going to result in such terror and horror a million times over and not against cartoonists. Wake up Muslim world. Save yourself before it’s too late.

Je Suis Charlie
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Parental Responsibility in Murderous Children – Thomas Gilbert

tommy gilbertThe last few days have brought us a tragic story in that a man named Tommy Gilbert murdered his father. I’ve been keeping up with the sad story somewhat peripherally but I read a new article on the subject this evening and I was particularly struck by the comments sections.

The story is one we’ve seen before. 30 year old Tommy Gilbert largely seemed to live off of his father. Tommy graduated from Princeton with a degree in economics so the fact that he didn’t have a job and relied on an allowance from his father seems to have been more a matter of choice than lack of ability. Reading the comments it seems many people think that just anyone can get such a degree but that’s just not true. Perhaps he was given favored status because of his father’s wealth and alumni status but he still earned the degree. With his father’s name behind him it seems impossible that he could not have made some sort of reasonable living.

What I find interesting are the assumptions largely being bandied about in the comments section. The main assumption is that because Tommy had a weekly allowance and his apartment paid for by his father he was spoiled and the parents are to blame for such an entitled child. This latest article seems to indicate that Tommy’s relationship with his father was anything but good. He wasn’t spoiled by his father but apparently constantly ridiculed. Nothing he did was good enough according to at least what Tommy thought if not reality.

This would indicate a parent who is doing relatively the opposite of those assumptions. Tommy was getting a small allowance, $400 a week, and his apartment paid. While $1,600 a month and rent seems like a lot to many people it’s frankly almost minuscule to what many super-wealthy parents bestow upon their children. I would not call it an amount that allowed Tommy to live whatever party life he desired. This sounds like parents who were trying to force their son to get to work without completely cutting him off. I think it’s easy to judge but what parent out there doesn’t want to help their child?

I think the problems that Tommy had were of his own making. He had many advantages in life and failed to use them properly. That’s on him, not his father.

No big rant here today. I just think those that want to lay blame on Thomas are misjudging the situation. Even if Thomas was giving hundreds of thousands to his son it is still Tommy’s job to make his own way in the world.

Was Tommy spoiled and entitled? Unloved and never supported? Not easy to say for certain but I’ll tell you one thing. He’s a murderer and the only person he needs to blame for that is looking him in the mirror.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Kobe Bryant Doesn’t Like the AAU and Corporate Profiteering

kobe-aauThere is an interesting sports story making its way through the various news outlets and it brought something to my attention of which I was unaware. All-time NBA superstar Kobe Bryant recently made some comments about the way young U.S. basketball players are being coached and prepared for the future. He didn’t pull any punches. He also talked about treating the young players like “cash cows”.

He suggested that the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) Basketball arm was largely encouraging young players to perform highlight reel plays rather than learn fundamental basketball skills. That this leads to a lack of basic skills in players all the way up the chain to the NBA. When Kobe talks about the AAU he is also speaking of some leagues you have likely never heard of called EYBL, Adidas Uprising, and the UAA. He lamented that players coming from Europe have better team skills than young U.S. players and this was going to have a long term negative effect.

What I want to talk about today is his “cash cow” comment. It ties back to what he was saying about the lack of fundamental skill but also goes very strongly towards my Libertarian ideology. You have to understand what is EYBL, Adidas Uprising, the UAA, and the new model of the AAU based upon the existence of these other leagues.

Let’s jump back into our time machine to examine youth sports fifty years ago. There was little in the way of traveling teams and the vast majority of players learned their skills from local coaches with a few making select AAU teams. That world no longer exists. EYBL is a Nike organized youth league. Uprising is Adidas and UAA is Under Armour. The main purpose of these leagues is to make money, not develop overall player skills. These corporate leagues do focus on highlight reel plays although there are certainly good coaches in their ranks who work on fundamentals. The players in the leagues travel all over the country to sold-out stadiums to play in All-Star games and one regional “Championship” after the next. The parents of these players shell out big bucks to play in the league. These leagues quickly sucked up all the talented players leaving the AAU to follow the business model or die.

Agents associate themselves with the brightest young talents and their parents. Corporate sponsors make friends with the players who will journey on to college and potentially the NBA with an eye towards the bottom line for Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. They are, for all practical purposes, professional development leagues making money and channeling players towards their agency and products.

What Kobe Bryant says is absolutely true. The players are focusing on big plays to the detriment of their fundamental skills and corporate sponsorship is making big bucks while the players provide the entertainment. Certainly the top level players are gaining keen competitive advantages by playing against the most talented young athletes from other parts of the country that they would never otherwise have competed against. This does serve them well when they transition to high school, college, and potentially NBA careers. So they are profiting to some degree.

Is this corporate takeover of youth athletics a bad thing? A good thing? I think there are arguments to be made both ways.

People are paying to see these young athletes play. Parents are willingly forking over big chunks of cash to allow their children to play even if their dreams of eventual professional stardom and return for their investments are unlikely to be realized. The kids are traveling the country playing a sport they love.

On the other hand the kids are being used to generate large sums of money while getting very little, and no actual payment, in return. This runs counter to my capitalistic ideology. Those who do the work should be getting a share of their profits, as do those who run the league. Parents are being manipulated by promises of eventual college scholarships and huge paydays in the professional leagues. Only a small percentage of these promises are met.

We see this same corporate takeover with Marching Bands, Cheer Competitions, and a variety of other youth pastimes. Things that used to be for kids are now for adults and focus largely on profits. Various companies create artificial “championships” in which parents pay for uniforms, travel, tickets, and sundry other items which all generate profit for the corporations.

I’m not against making money. I think if kids want to participate in these leagues, if parents want to shell out money to have their kids play, and if spectators want to watch then that’s fine.

What Kobe doesn’t like and where I agree with him is that the kids seem to be getting the least from all of it. I don’t think corporate leagues are going away simply because of the profit involved. I do think the kids doing the work should be compensated just as you are paid for working at your job. The kids doing the work should be treated as employees, not cash cows. They should be paid either directly or in some deferred manner. After all, we are not communists.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Friday after Holiday Law

Should be lawA friend of mine made the following post, in jest, on her Facebook page this morning and it’s got me thinking.

I think it should be a law that if a holiday falls on a Thursday you just get Friday off too. I’m just saying ….

Not surprisingly the comment has accumulated quite a few Likes although it’s still early in the morning. I’d imagine everyone who sees it will grin and agree. I’m certain that my friend isn’t actually calling for government intervention in the Thursday holiday situation but there is truth in humor. What the comment got me thinking about was the role of government and its legal arm in our lives.

We do have legally assigned holidays. If you work for a government agency there are certain days that you must give workers off. There are certainly optional religious holidays and cultural holidays where most employers give their employees the day off; these being Independence Day, Christmas Day, and the like.

I’m taking today off. I took last Friday off as well. I have accumulated enough vacation hours to manage to do so. I am logged in at work in case there is some sort of emergency but basically I’m going to sit at home and work and laze about the house. That’s certainly my right with my vacation days. I was aware of the Thursday holidays this year and planned accordingly. Could not my friend have done the same? Do we need to rely on government intervention to take a day off?

Again, I realize my friend’s comment was largely a joke but I do think there is some misguided mentality to the thought process of someone who would make such a joke. If you want to take the day off then make plans to do so. Talk to your employer. Make sure you can take the day off. Schedule your vacation days so that it is available to you. If your employer refuses to give you the day off then consider looking for a new job. That’s one of the reasons employers give optional paid holidays like Christmas and New Year’s off. If they forced their employees to work those days they would soon have no employees.

I work in the IT world and our technicians don’t get days like today off because there might be a client with an emergency. Normally it’s pretty slow because so many businesses are closed but it is important to have someone available in case of disaster.

I’m not making any big rant or complaint about some injustice today. I’d just like to say take a moment to think about how you can accomplish what you want without having to ask for government intervention. I think when the government gets involved legally in issues, even for the most well-meaning reasons, things often do not end up the way we originally envisioned.

Have a great day and a good luck with the coming year!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition