When Religion is Just an Excuse – Monifa F. Sterling

Monifa-SterlingI happened upon a story about a young Marine who was given a bad conduct discharge when she refused an order. The order involved three pieces of paper she put on her monitor, computer, and inbox.

The papers had the words, no weapon formed against me shall prosper on them. This is a rather obscure biblical quote that is basically about prevailing against those who accuse you of wrongdoing.

In this case Cpl. Monifa F. Sterling was in a long-running dispute with other Marines and was facing several charges of disobeying orders. These included not taking her post when ordered. Here is the entire case for those who want to read. I’ll summarize.

Sterling injured her back. A medical report suggested that officers might exempt her from wearing “C” uniforms which could prove uncomfortable and also recommended she be exempt from standing watch or performing guard duty because of a “stress reaction”. Her superior officer decided that Sterling should wear her “Charlies”. Sterling refused. Officers spoke with the medic and then again ordered Sterling to put on her Charlies. Sterling refused multiple times.

Sterling was later assigned to distribute vehicle passes to family members of returning deployed service members a duty which would require her to stand for about three and a half hours. Sterling refused claiming the orders from the medic, a “chit”, overruled those of the officer. Then a major repeated the order to perform the duty. Sterling again refused.

She then placed the three pieces of paper around her desk. Her commanding officer ordered them removed. She refused. The officer removed them. Sterling put them back. She didn’t go up the chain of command, she didn’t file a grievance, she just put them back.

Now she is claiming that this was her favorite bible verse, the three pieces of paper represent the Trinity, and that by having them removed she is unable to freely practice her religions.

Bad language warning. Do not read the next line if you are easily offended.

Bullshit, Sterling. Utter bullshit.

The quotes were not religious, they were about her struggles with her superior officers and her unwillingness to follow orders.

Even if the quotes were actually about her religion, taking them down in no way prevents her from exercising said religion. No one is preventing her from going to church, praying, wearing a cross, or any other normal display of religion. I’m fairly certain that no religious person I know, and I know some deeply religious people, would think that their religion was compromised because they couldn’t tack up a couple of obscure biblical quotes on their desk at work.

Finally, she willfully disobeyed orders. You have to read the opinion fully to get it but Sterling’s chit suggesting she not perform guard duty was related to migraine medication that might make her dizzy. The medicine was to be taken at night so not to keep her from performing her duties. She decided to take it in the morning because she was later going to attend church where she thought she might get a migraine. Did you follow that convoluted argument?

Sterling sounds like the absolute worst kind of entitled child imaginable. No wonder her commanding officer wasn’t cutting her any slack.

What makes me even angrier is that 43 Congressmen are backing her suit. 43! And Christian organizations are backing her as well.

Those 43 Congressman and those Christian organizations most likely all wave American flags like mad and claim they support the military. It’s clear to me that they only support the military when it aligns with their interests. Take note, Marines.

I never served myself but appreciate those who do. I end this post with a heartfelt Semper Fi. Not for you, Sterling, you wouldn’t understand.

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

Why am I Offended by Stupidity?

critical-thinkingDuring a break my co-worker showed me a hilarious YouTube site called Bad Lip Reading which is exactly what you would expect it to be. With the political season upon us we watched a few videos of the various debates which, most naturally, led to a discussion about people who insist upon opinions that are demonstrable false.

My co-worker mentioned that it was ridiculous to be offended by someone else’s false statement, by their insistence upon stupidity. Why would someone else being stupid offend me? It has no effect on me, it is no reflection of my own intelligence, it harms me not, and yet it bothers me. I often find myself unable to restrain myself in attempting to dissuade people from illogical and obviously wrong positions.

Why? I ask, why does it bother me so.

It is the mere existence of such illogical thought?

Is allowing stupidity to pass without saying something a reflection upon my own intelligence?

The majority of my blog posts are engendered by someone taking a position I find absurd. Such stupidity inspires me. It raises me up and the words flow, sometimes rather too caustically than the situation warrants.

The fact that I am bothered, yes offended, by stupidity is undeniable, as is my co-worker’s assertion that it is just as stupid for me feel so.

I’ve been thinking on the subject since that conversation. I had a good workout which often clears my mind. I watched an episode of the excellent although a bit sappy National Parks Exploration series on Hulu which is good entertainment for pondering difficult questions. I’ve written the above words rather slowly, pausing to think again on why I am so bothered by stupidity, by wrongness in others.

Is it my nature? Is it an inexorable feature of my genetic makeup (thanks, mom)? Was it my older sister’s insistence on pointing out most painfully my every mistake? A combination of these things?

I’m still pondering.

I don’t know. I just don’t know why it bothers me so.

But I do know one thing and of this I’m certain. My hatred of wrongness, my love of logic and critical thinking, despite all the problems in the course of my life these traits have brought upon me, and these troubles are not inconsiderable, it has served me well.

I insist on truth arrived at by precise and logical examination. I am not happy when such is not in evidence. Perhaps I could be happier if I did not so demand, perhaps my life would have been easier, perhaps I would have more friends, more loves, I cannot say for what is, is. What is not, is not.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, not that I could.

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

Online Gambling Arrests and the Victimless Crime

Blind-justiceA twenty month investigation by Federal Agents and New York State law enforcement has resulted in the arrests of seventeen people across three states for running an online gambling ring. Don’t we all feel safe now?

The argument against this sort of behavior being criminal resides around what is commonly referenced as a Victimless Crime.

The idea is an action has been made criminal despite the fact the person committing the supposed crime and the people with whom they commit it are willingly involved in the activity. That they would not call the police. The most common crimes referenced in this way are taking drugs, gambling, and prostitution where all parties are willingly engaged in the activity rather than being coerced.

Libertarians largely believe such things should not be illegal and, while I agree, I do want to explore the idea that victimless doesn’t mean people aren’t hurt. Also the idea that doing the same thing might be both legal and illegal depending on circumstance.

First to the idea that there are no victims. There are. When a person gambles all their money away other people associated with that person, generally family, are hurt. A habitual drug user harms themselves and, by extension, those they love. There are victims, this is undeniable. However, people hurt themselves and their families in all sorts of legal ways so the fact someone is hurt by an activity doesn’t mean it should be made illegal.

Likewise circumstance plays a role in whether an action is a crime. Getting drunk is not a crime but flying a plane in that condition might well be so. Firing a gun at a shooting range is perfectly legal but doing the exact same thing on a crowded street is a crime. In both of these cases a person is behaving in such a way as to endanger other, innocent people.

It seems clear that we can distinguish between these things. All drinking is not illegal, all sex is not illegal, and all gambling is not illegal. We’ve made crimes of these things under particular circumstances. Drinking and driving, selling sexual favors, online gambling.

So should online gambling be illegal? That’s the question.

I don’t see it as something communities or the government should regulate. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that a community can make whatever rules they want if they don’t fall afoul of the Constitution. I’m just saying I don’t see why gambling is illegal in this case.

While we are arresting online gamblers how many equally illegal card games take place with law enforcement personnel, judges, politicians, and lawyers? Why is one group prosecuted and the other not? How many powerful people get away with traffic violations that would get the rest of us a ticket? The laws we have today give us the illusion of blind justice but the reality is far different.

I’m also curious how much money was spent on that twenty month investigation, how many hours of time used by dedicated officers that could have been spent fighting real crime?

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

U.S. Government Murders Phedras de Blondel

phedras-de-blondelA prize Show Jumping horse was recently killed, dismembered, and it’s meat taken from a rural farm in Florida and it’s the United States Government’s fault.

This will my third blog on this topic. I wrote in May of 2013 about why horses were essentially being tortured. I followed up with a blog in June of 2013 about how this came to be.

This new story about Phedras de Blondel again shows how governing beyond the Constitution causes many unintended consequences. That horse is dead today because of the United States government. That’s the long and short of it.

What happened is that Senators and Representatives of the United States government allowed themselves to be swayed largely by T. Boone Pickens who apparently loves horses and is bothered that other people like to eat them. People in the United States are largely against slaughtering horses for consumption although other nations largely do not have such misgivings on the subject. Congress attempted to pass laws banning the slaughter of horses but failed to get them signed into law.

Thus failing they resorted to other methods. They included no funding for USDA inspection of horse slaughtering facilities. By law all such facilities must be inspected. No money for inspections means they can’t legally sell the meat. The existing packing plants immediately offered to pay the USDA themselves for such inspections but the courts ruled this illegal.

Naturally the export of horses for slaughter to Mexico and Canada increased dramatically and, of course, the fact that there are many more horses nobody wants leads to abuse. This includes up to 50,000 horses who are currently living in pens in the western states in what can only be called a horrific existence.

Yes, most people don’t eat horses in the United States but clearly some people do. A group of people killed Phedras de Blondel for his meat. Meat but for the government’s actions they could have easily purchased instead.

There’s a lesson in here for those that want to listen.

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

Lessons from Royals v. Blue Jays

incredible-catchAs most of my dedicated readers will know, I’m in a period of mourning over the defeat of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs this year. In an attempt to forget my sorrow for a short time, I walked to a local pub to imbibe a Beefeater and Tonic, enjoy the company of some intelligent and attractive women, and watch the sixth game of the Kansas City Royal v. Toronto Blue Jays playoffs.

And what a game it was.

As I watched scintillating defense, prodigious hitting, superb pitching, daring base running, and essentially, sport at its finest, I found myself imagining a world in which merit was always rewarded. A world where the people who gained promotion were those whose performance earned it. A world where elected officials were those most dedicated to their nation and only wanted the best for it.

There may be no crying in baseball but more importantly there is little room for incompetence. I do no pretend that sport is a perfect meritocracy. There will always be aging veterans and high priced rookies who are given more opportunities than they probably deserve. That being said, there is a limit to failure in sport. A pitcher who can’t get a batter out will soon be dismissed whereas a politician who fails to make the country a better place might well continue on eternally in a gerrymandered district.

At this time only 90 of the 435 House of Representative districts in the United States are considered competitive.

What do we get in the absence of competition? The answer is obvious. Mediocrity and worse, incompetence. People on both sides of the political divide agree that competition is good. The Royals and Blue Jays prove as much. Yet both side gerrymander their districts into noncompetitive elections in order to “win”. And therein lies the problem.

If the Royals promoted players not because of their skill, dedication, hard work, and determination but upon who management wanted to succeed, the Royals would finish in last place every year. Sport is a hard crucible. You do not succeed with incompetence in sport and your failure is quickly and painfully manifested. Fans demand change and they demand it right now.

Politics? Not so much.

And we wonder what’s wrong with this country.

Vote not for the candidate who is from your party but for the candidate who is best qualified to run this country.

Vote well or your nation will finish in last place.

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

Anti-GMO Crazies Succumb to Anti-Vaxx Madness

conspiracy_nutsI have a number of friends on Facebook who are all-aboard the anti-GMO movement despite my best efforts to dissuade them. I spoke about the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms here but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

What I’ve noticed in the last few months is an interesting transition in the tenor of posts from anti-GMO Facebook sites. At first they were filled with ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims about various GMO dangers with links to studies that had no scientific basis. As time passed I noticed another other group latching on to the anti-GMO movement and posting comments. The anti-Vaxxers.

Then I began to see a trickle of posts from the anti-GMO sites that were actually about vaccinations. They followed pretty much the same script as the original anti-GMO posts. Lots of misinformation, an almost absolute vacancy of facts, and much fear-mongering.

As time has gone on the anti-Vaxx group seems to have completely taken over the anti-GMO Facebook sites. Virtually every post I see from a source such as GMO Dangers is not about GMOs at all but about vaccinations. The comments are filled with people railing against vaccinations and those who oppose GMOs are almost completely absent except for those who belong to both groups.

I would say that every anti-GMO person with whom I’m personally acquainted is a strong believer in vaccinations. They despise the anti-vaccination group and believe, rightly, they are proposing a dangerous policies.

I can only assume my friends who once supported the various anti-GMO posts have fled to higher ground. I am curious, though. Are you an anti-GMO person? If so what do you think about anti-vaccination people taking over your cause? Does it make you question your opinion that such as they are metaphorically with you?

What does it say about the conspiracy mindset?

Let me know in the comments, I’m interested in your opinions!

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

Kasparov and the Problem with Moral Codes

Kasparov-banned-fideThere’s an interesting story in the world of chess that I think illustrates one of the problems with so called Ethical Codes.

Former chess champion Gary Kasparov has been forbidden to hold office in the chess federation, FIDE, for two years because of an accusation of attempted bribery during his recent campaign to become president of that organization.

Ethical Codes are created by organizations as a way to prevent behavior that they considered unethical. If an employee violates this code they are subject to punishment up to and including termination. The modern use of such codes in business is often related to justifying punishment rather than preventing unwanted behavior.

I’m not completely opposed to such codes. I think an organization has every right to create their own rules. I recently wrote about how the U.S. Soccer Federation should prevent Hope Solo from participating in the Olympics because of her troubling off-field activities. Likewise I spoke about the NFL’s sanctioning of Ray Rice for similar transgressions.

The problem in this case is that the FIDE is absolutely and totally corrupt. It is run by a man who routinely uses bribery to implement policy. To have such an organization stipulate ethical violations against a member for doing exactly what they themselves do is a rather tough pill to swallow.

When a code is applied unfairly it’s not really a code at all. It’s just a cudgel used to keep those who disagree in line and punish enemies.

What is to be done?

I’m opposed to removing such codes because I think any organization has the right to create their own rules. I’m also against a higher agency coming in and dictating how an organization applies it codes because this just means corruption moves up to that higher agency. The problem is not solved at all, despite the illusion of improvement, and in many ways made worse because the higher the agency the more people it has control over.

The only real solution is for members of the organization to see through the facade and elect better representatives or form their own group.

It’s not easy to convince those currently in power that misapplication of rules in a way that benefits them is, in the long run, bad for them. It is. If one person can misapply rules to gain advantages then soon enough someone will come to power who is not your ally and will use the same methods against you. It is far better to apply rules fairly and evenly and allow the best to succeed within the confines of your structure.

While that philosophy is comforting, the pragmatist in me realizes that reality is not. Kasparov is banned. The FIDE is corrupt. No solution appears imminent. Those in power and those who support them seem perfectly happy with the arrangement as it is. They have enormous bankrolls and there is no shortage of people willing to do anything for money. The Libertarian ideal is but a dream.

What can I do about it? I’ll write another book and hope the leaders at FIDE read it, understand it, and apply the principles of freedom to their organization. What else can I do?

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

Why are Strippers a Problem at Louisville?

louisville-strippersThere’s an ongoing story involving strippers and prostitution at the University of Louisville in which the evidence strongly suggests an assistant coach paid for women to dance naked and perform sex acts with basketball recruits and players.

At this point no criminal charges in the incidents have been filed and there is some doubt as if a crime has been committed. The head coach of the basketball team, Rick Pitino, has emphatically declared that he knew nothing of the parties at Billy Minardi Hall.

There are a couple of issues on point here for me.

The first question I ask is why anyone is in any trouble at all? From reading the various accounts of the incidents the recruits, the assistant coach who paid for the parties, and the women were all adults and engaged in the various activities without coercion.

My second issue is Pitino’s denial of any knowledge of the events. I argue that if someone wants to pay consenting adults to dance and potentially have sex with them then that’s a private contract between those individuals. However, I despise the “I didn’t know about it” argument. If you didn’t know about it, you should have known about it. You’re the head coach! What goes on during your watch is ultimately your responsibility.

If it were not for the NCAA I don’t think there would be any problem with the events as they apparently occurred. Certainly the NCAA can have whatever rules they want for their organization as long as they don’t run afoul of the Constitution. Therein lies my third issue, my favorite whipping boy, the NCAA.

Why do they have these rules?

The argument is that without restrictions preventing schools from offering favors to recruits, the richest schools would offer the biggest rewards. I’ve got news for you, NCAA. They already do. They build enormous stadiums, weight rooms, luxurious dormitories, lush cafeterias, fancy game-day uniforms, and other benefits in order to lure the athletes. Television exposure is a powerful incentive to a student who hopes to go onto a professional career and even just a kid who wants to be seen. Rules to prevent a coach from buying a bagel with spread on it are trying to close the barn door when there isn’t even a barn door to close. It’s wide open.

So a school has sex parties to entice recruits. I have no more problem with that than I do with a school housing them in special dormitories. It’s a salacious story and people like that, but let’s look at the root of the issue. The schools are making money from the games and want the best players. The players are workers, like it or not, and just like you and me, should be compensated for their work. They get a scholarship, true, but they have a right to any compensation their employer wants to give them. Is your salary capped by an organization? Do you make exactly the same as all the other workers?

Unfair playing field for wealthy schools? Life is an unfair playing field, get over it.

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

He Kept Us Safe – Cry of the Tyrant

he-kept-us-safePresidential candidate Donald Trump stated the factual information that President George W. Bush was the sitting president when the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and other locations occurred. This has spawned hue and cry from Republican politicians including Bush’s brother, John Ellis (JEB) Bush who tweeted the image I’ve included in this post.

The gist of the argument is simple enough, He kept us safe.

The problems I have with this statement are many and deeply felt. I’ll start with a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that I think well sums up my opinion.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

My first shuddering reaction to that tweet is the simple fact that Jeb Bush apparently thinks the primary job of the President of the United States is to keep us safe. The idea sounds reasonable but it’s not. If your main job is to keep anything safe, the best way to do this is to take away that thing’s freedom. Keep it locked behind impenetrable walls and away from the dangers of the world. One, of course, should not be foolish and do dangerous things for no reason but safety and freedom are to a large degree antitheses of one another. That Jeb Bush thinks of this first in defending his brother is troublesome.

My next reaction is the simple fact that it cannot be established as an accurate assessment. There is no way to know if the lives lost in President Bush’s administration were equal to, less than, or more than would have been lost under another leader. Were lives lost? Certainly. Many soldiers died and many more were horribly maimed in wars that, if anything, made us less safe, emboldened our enemies and created new foes.

The third thing I think about is that it’s just more of the same fear-mongering that our established politicians use to ensure our votes. Vote for me or you’re in danger! Enemies everywhere! I’ll keep you safe, just give me more of your freedom, that’s all I ask! No thanks, I’ll brave freedom, danger and all.

Finally I think of the Tyrant. Such as they come to power by binding us with fear and we willingly, nay eagerly, give them our freedom. Fear is their stick and the promise of safety their carrot.

When I think about the United States and what has happened to us, it makes me wonder if we ought to think about changing the final line of the Star-Spangled Banner.

What do you think, Jeb?

O’er the land of the dependent, and the home of the fearful?

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

It’s Difficult to be Gracious in Defeat when it’s the Cubs

cardinals-cubs-rivalryIt’s rarely easy to be a passionate sports fan. Your team will lose, no matter how successful they are, far more often than they will emerge victorious. My beloved St. Louis Cardinals have not won the World Series since 2006 despite making the playoffs five times in the ensuing nine years. That’s five years of losing the last game of the season and being eliminated from the playoffs.

This year we lost to our long downtrodden rival the Chicago Cubs. Circumstances were not in our favor this year as the Cubs were playing arguably the best baseball in the league near the end of the season while injuries slowed down my Redbirds. Hopes were raised briefly by a Game 1 win but the Cubs went on to defeat us in the next three hard-fought but losing efforts.

There is that moment when the final out is made and disappointment can bubble into rage at the victors and I cannot imagine anyone who has not felt as much over the years.

That being said I think it is becoming more important than ever to be gracious in defeat because as our political climate becomes more infantile in its paroxysm of fear and hate; sports fans, players, coaches, management, and ownership groups are becoming better and truer role-models for how to act in life.

Does not a Cubs fan love baseball as do I? Does not a Cubs fan understand defeat and disappointment and perhaps far better than I? Does a Cubs fan not revel in the joy of victory as do I? Are we not but twins caste to different islands by the circumstance of our birth? Do we not have far more in common than in differences?

By nodding my head and putting out my hand in congratulations to their hard-earned and deserved victory do I not make the world a better place? Do I not set an example for my fellow Cardinals fans and also those who bleed Cubbie blue?

It hurts, that I do not deny. I steel my jaw knowing that next season awaits and the Cardinals shall soon fly again.

Well done Cubbies but we’ll get you next year, just you wait and see.

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

The ADE 651 Fraudulent Bomb Detector

ade-651-bomb-detectorThere’s a story that’s been around for years but if you live in the United States of America, like me, you’ve probably never heard it. It’s about a piece of equipment called the ADE 651 which Iraqi police and security forces spent about $80 million dollars purchasing. It’s design purpose is to detect bombs from a distance.

It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It’s never worked for anyone who tested it.

The FBI called its predecessor a fraud in 1999 and the U.S. Army declared it useless in 2009. Yet your tax dollars were still spent on it. The story made big news in England where the manufacturer was sentenced to ten years in prison. The owner paid Iraqis, and other, government officials bribes in order to purchase millions of dollars worth of the useless bomb detectors.

Fraud is a crime to begin with but when you give security forces in a bomb strewn country a device to detect explosives that doesn’t work, it means security forces wave their useless bomb detectors instead of searching for bombs. The result is predictable and vile.

I don’t put all the blame on the manufacturer of this useless thing. Iraqi government officials were bribed and put their own people in danger. Devising tests for such a device is, obviously, ridiculously easy. The fact that the thing didn’t work was not difficult to figure out and yet here we are tens of millions of our tax dollars later. Here we are who knows how many lives lost or ruined later. Here we are.

While such devices aren’t sold in the United States the concept is used all the time. Phony cancer cures, psychic readings, and any other number of scams are aimed at vulnerable and frightened people.

Is there an unethical depth to which someone, somewhere will not sink? It seems not.

What bothers me the most about this story is that this is the first I’ve heard about it. I follow the news pretty closely looking for stories to write about. James Randi exposed it back in 2008, there were apparently a few stories about it in U.S. media but why wasn’t this big news? You tell me.

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

Free Association vs Free Assocation

free-association-free-associationI just became aware the Supreme Court recently decided an absolutely fascinating case, Christian Fellowship v. Leo P. Martinez et al.

The decision is a rather long read and I admit freely that I haven’t perused the entire thing as of yet. Also, my complete lack of legal training makes those documents tough for me anyway. I’ll try to summarize but anyone who has a better handle on the situation please feel free to clarify.

The University of California Hastings College of Law has a rule about student organizations it is willing to recognize. Such organizations are granted certain privileges at the college including meeting rooms. The rule is that they must accept anyone who applies, even someone whose stated views seem to be at odds with the group.

The group in question is the Christian Fellowship at Hastings. They forbid anyone who engages in premarital sex, among other things, from becoming a member. This was a clear violation of Hastings rule that to be recognized they must be willing to accept anyone who wants to join. The case went to the Supreme Court.

What I find insanely interesting about the case is that it is largely an argument about Free Association. The college wants to associate only with student groups who allow anyone to join and say they can exclude those who don’t. The Fellowship wants to associate with only people they want and feel free to exclude those who do meet their standards!

Both sides are essentially arguing the same point!

If you say the college must allow everyone regardless of their rules, it seems to me you can only say the Fellowship must allow everyone as well! If the college can exclude based on a rule then shouldn’t the Fellowship likewise be able to exclude?

Kaboom!

What do you do with that one?

As I said, the ruling goes on for pages and pages but talk about a tough one!

There are times I’m glad I’m not a Supreme Court Justice!

I honestly don’t know what to think. Talk about the Kobayashi Maru!

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

Truth or Compassion?

truth-or-liesThis weekend my step-mother missed a step resulting in a badly and gruesomely broken leg. As she lay there writhing in agony she said, “I think I my have broken my leg”.

I responded, “No, you broke your leg.”

Not exactly Mr. Compassion and Kindness. The incident is a window into me to some degree but it brought to my mind a question. Is it better to be brutally honest or skirt around honesty with compassion? I recall another incident while visiting the great state of Alaska where my young niece, perhaps ten or eleven at the time, and me were staying in a cabin and she asked me what would happen if a bear came in the windows. The Denali guides had given us a lesson on what to do if a bear attacks earlier in the day. I responded, “It would kill us.”

Tess was not particularly happy with my response, as might be expected.

Are we better off hearing the awful truth at all times or is it better to soften the blow occasionally?

In the case of my step-mother it was quite clear her leg was broken, she knew it as well as did I. One couldn’t come to any other conclusion. It was going to require an ambulance, a stay in the hospital, and likely surgery. There was nothing to do about it so perhaps I could have said something a little softer, perhaps, “It does look that way but you never know”. Would that have been a better answer at the time? I think it’s the answer a lot of people who actually have a heart might give, but my black and little used blood pumping organ doesn’t seem capable of such.

Likewise with my niece I could have easily said something like, “I’ll protect you.” It would have been true to some degree as I would have tried to protect her but the reality makes almost no difference as a bear was not going to break into the cabin in any case. Giving a softer answer would have reassured her and probably allowed her a more restful evening.

I’m not really asking if my answers were wrong or right in both cases but examining a more philosophic question. When the truth is unhelpful and won’t change anything is it better to lie a little bit?

I seem to find it almost impossible to lie in situations like that. I’m sure it has to do with my social awkwardness and likely autistic spectrum nature but it makes me wonder if I might have more friends if I was a little less direct, a bit less literal.

Oh well, as Popeye was want to say, “I ams what I ams.”

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

Farmers’ Market as Example of Anarchy

farmers marketI recently got into a somewhat cantankerous although not particularly angry or heated debate at my Libertarian website about why I was a Libertarian rather than an Anarchist. One of those who disagreed with me brought up the example of a Farmers’ Market as a working anarchy.

I thought it was an excellent example of exactly what happens in a anarchic system. I’m fairly certain I will get more disagreement from my anarchy promoting friends. Let me explain my position and you can tell me what you think.

I live in the suburbs of a fairly large metropolis, St. Louis, and I’ve seen any number of Farmers’ Markets spring up around me. There was originally one in my home community of University City and also a fairly large one in a downtown neighborhood called Soulard. Since then I’ve seen others pop up in other suburbs nearby. Each time I’ve witnessed the exact same transition from small farmers cooperative into undercover, secret major produce outlet market.

What happens is a group of local farmers get together to start a market in a metropolitan area to get their produce directly to their consumers. It immediately becomes popular with the locals of that community. Major suppliers take note and begin to buy up the booth space with disguise names; because of their deeper pockets they are able to outbid the local farmers. Soon all the local farmers are driven from the market leaving only the major produce players.

Let’s contrast this with the places I’ve seen small farmers have the most success. At my local chain grocery store! The small farmer sells to the major chain that puts the local, seasonal, produce in a bin up front and resells it for a profit, but still at a lower rate than their non-local produce. Everyone wins. The small farmer has an excellent and reliable outlet for their seasonal produce, the chain makes a nice profit, and the customers get produce at a reasonable price without having to drive a long distance.

This is exactly why I’m not an Anarchist. Anarchy cannot sustain itself, at least at this time. What happens to virtually all anarchistic situations is they attract people who take over the system to their own benefit. In a Farmers’ Market this inevitably is the major produce suppliers. In a political “market” this is the despot.

What works is a combination of limited government working with small but largely free people. Libertarianism!

To me the choice is not between government and no government but between reasonable government and dictatorial insanity. There is no stable anarchy and the Farmers’ Market seems to be evidence to that point, not against it.

What do you think?

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

What to do with a Fraud like Shemitah?

shemitah-idiocyI belong to a Libertarian website where a healthy gathering of free thinkers get to express their thoughts. Recently a fellow named Jeff Berwick has been writing any number of blogs about a thing called Shemitah.

The posts are largely a series of dire predictions about economic collapse and World War III as they relate to a little observed Jewish holiday.

Those that promulgate the stories are scam artists hoping to scare gullible people and extract money from them. I’m not going to waste time talking about how stupid are the scams or how vile are those using fear to steal from people. What I want to talk about is the need for my Libertarian website to continue to allow them to be posted.

The posts are filled with half-truths, exaggerations, and outright lies. Yet the powers that be allow the author to continue to post despite a criminal track record. Why? Because we’re Libertarians. We’re Anarchists. We’re Free Thinkers.

There must be room in such a group for such sleazy scam artists. There must be room for vile racists. There must be room for even those who promote a large and powerful central authority. We embrace opposition, we don’t quash it. It is not the nature of free thinkers to refuse ideas, even the incredibly stupid and intentionally misleading.

It is my decision on whether or not to believe the nonsense posted by Berwick. I’m free to post comments on his idiotic blogs, and rest assured, I do. But I’m not free to order his lunacy removed from the site.

I trust my fellow Free Thinkers not to be fooled by his idiocy. In some ways I welcome his moronic posts because it reminds the Anarchists of our group that just because something is stupid doesn’t mean people won’t do it. That’s why I’m a Libertarian, not an Anarchist. Ha, I say. Look at Shemitah and tell me people won’t do stupid and self-destructive things.

I’m for limited government, not no government because of people like Berwick. Idiots who will kill me and take my money even though in the end they will lose. He’s an idiot and morons do stupid things. Unfortunately, sometimes the non-morons are hurt be these actions.

So I smile when I see yet another Shemitah post. Post away, moron. In a group of Free Thinkers you represent no threat at all, just a reminder.

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

Do not take Stelara if …

stelaraI do most of my television watching on the computer using Hulu, ESPN3, and other outlets. Lately I’ve seen a commercial for a drug called Stelara quite frequently. There is something in that commercial that hit me right in my Libertarian breadbasket.

A few years back the federal government regulated advertisement for pharmaceuticals. One of the rules is that any such advertisement must list major side effects and contraindication of the drug in question.

In the rundown of side effects for Stelara, which includes death by the way, we get the following.

Do not take Stelara if you are allergic to Stelara.

What more do you need to know that the entire process is an exercise is silliness? The reason behind the rule about advertising is so people won’t take a drug that harms them. This relies on the idea that people won’t take a drug if they know it has harmful side effects or they won’t take it under certain conditions like after drinking. That idea is utter nonsense. People are idiots. If they are willing to take a drug whose side effect is death, what’s the point of any warning?

People will talk with their doctor and either make an informed or uninformed decision about taking medication. Stupid people will make bad choices more often than smart people, that’s reality. No amount of warning in a commercial is going to prevent stupid people from doing something stupid. Likewise, an intelligent person who cares about his or her health and what he or she put into his or her body is not going to trust a commercial, but will consult with their doctor prior to making such a decision.

It’s a rule designed to make us feel better about helping people when we’re not actually helping them at all. Do you think anyone bent on taking the medication is deterred by the warnings? Of course not.

Do not take Stelara if you are allergic to Stelara? You have to be kidding me.

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

Rep. Kevin McCarthy Tells Truth – Faces Hell’s Fury

benghazi-hearingIf anyone possibly needed a more damning indictment of politics in the United States of America you couldn’t find a better example than the reaction to Representative Kevin McCarthy’s statement that the current Benghazi Probe was about tarnishing the image of Hillary Clinton.

The statement itself is rather remarkable but the reaction from the Republican Party is predictably nauseating.

I’ll sum it up quickly for those who aren’t following the story.

There have been several investigations into what happened when four U.S. citizens were killed during an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Clinton was Secretary of State at the time of the attack and there was thought that her inaction during the attacks was ultimately responsible and that her office lied about events leading up to the attacks. All completed investigation largely found no evidence of wrongdoing from Clinton or the administration.

McCarthy made a statement indicating that the current investigation had succeeded in its purpose of damaging the reputation of Clinton.

I would like to say it’s the reaction to that statement that bothers me but I cannot do so with any honesty. The reaction is completely and totally expected.

Republicans are largely calling on McCarthy to apologize for making the statement and reiterating their opinion that the current investigation has nothing to do with tarnishing Clinton’s reputation but is simply aimed at getting to the truth of what happened. Republicans are furious at McCarthy for telling the truth and insisting that he go back to lying. They want him to apologize to the families of those killed in Benghazi because if the investigation is about tarnishing Clinton, it is about politics and spits on the memories of those who died.

What more do you want as proof as to the dysfunctionality of our government? Of the willingness, eagerness, slavering devotion to lie, lie, lie, and lie again?

The investigation is about politics! It does spit on the memories of those who died! Everyone knows this. Everyone. Yet the lie must be maintained.

In our Republican and Democrat led government the truth is to be avoided at all costs. The truth is the enemy. Winning the election is of far greater priority than good governing.

What more evidence do you need that something is horribly amiss?

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

Legally Prevented from Holding a Job – Leonard Fournette

Leonard-FournetteI regularly rail against the NCAA and their exploitation of athletes, er pardon me, student-athletes, for financial gain but today I move up the chain to the NFL which has a rule preventing a fellow named Leonard Fournette from getting a job.

It works like this. The National Football League refuses to allow any player who has used less than three years of college football eligibility to enter the NFL draft or join a team. Technically Fournette could simply play one game of college football, sit out the remainder of that year, two more years, and then be drafted. Many people are urging him to simply sit out the remainder of his college eligibility and then get drafted. It is fairly certain he would be one of the top picks in the draft which comes with it a salary of approximately $15 million over four years.

If he continues to play he doesn’t increase his potential salary, as he is already at the apex, but he does risk reducing the compensation either through poor play or catastrophic injury.

Every other student in the college, including those on various scholarships, can leave at any time for a professional career. There are no restrictions on any of them. None.

There are any number of reasons for the rule as it exists. The NCAA makes huge amounts of money on the athletes, er pardon me, student-athletes and serves as a free farm system for the NFL. The current rule ensures the NCAA that its best players must stay and perform for the price of an education that is a fraction of the salary Fournette would get if he left.

There are also many arguments as to why the rule is “good for the student-athletes”. One reasonable argument suggests that they might be tempted to leave school before they are ready for the NFL and thus not get the financial remuneration they expected. Another argument suggests that they are being “paid” for their services via the scholarship. I’m sure other people can come up with more arguments but I find them all lacking.

The bottom line is simple for this Libertarian. Fournette has a talent. He should be able to sell that to anyone who wants to bid on it at any time. He should be able to leave school today and join an NFL team that wants to pay him. Any restrictions to his freedom is a restriction to my freedom.

I’ll take it even further. I find the entire draft system as used by sports teams to be repugnant. Restricting a person to negotiating with one company because they “drafted” you? Ridiculous.

Further yet? Sure. The rookie compensation formula is clearly illegal. It removes the ability of the player to negotiate fair compensation for their services. The player is simply “slotted” into a particular salary based upon where they were drafted.

There are reasons for the draft and the slotting system. There are reasons for the NFL to restrict players from leaving the NCAA. I hear all those reasons. I acknowledge them. I understand they are helpful in many ways. Without them organizing a professional sports league is difficult. Yet, they are wrong. They should all be abolished. Free market, fair compensation.

Any legal and mentally competent adult, athlete or no, should be able to pursue the career of their choice at the time of their choice.

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