The State can Take your $42,000 Land Rover for a Minor Infraction but Why does It?

$42,000 Land RoverThe Supreme Court is very likely to rule that Indiana violated the Eight Amendment for excessive fines when it took Tyson Limb’s $42,000 Land Rover because he sold a small quantity of illegal drugs to an undercover law enforcement officer. I could talk about the War on Drugs, I could talk about seizures, I could talk about Incorporation, but instead I want to focus on how and why individuals in the state of Indiana, and in many other places, have simply lost their human decency.

What happened to us that we are willing to essentially steal another person’s property for the violation of a law? The attorney for the state of Indiana argues the Eighth Amendment doesn’t apply to states and if Indiana wanted to take your Land Rover for failing to obey the speed limit, they can do so. Let’s say the lawyer is right. Let’s say the protections built into the Constitution were not bolstered by the Fourteenth Amendment; which has largely been used to give said rights to the people against states and not just the federal government.

Imagine the state could take your car for speeding or foreclose on your house for having grass growing slightly too tall. If you were the law enforcement officer, if you were the prosecuting attorney, if you were the judge; would you do that to someone else? Just because you had the power to hurt another person, would you use that power?

Do you say, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime?” Have you lost your humanity and compassion so completely that you’re willing, eager, and downright gleeful when you get to take someone else’s property? When you get to enrich yourself based on the misfortune of someone else do you jump for joy, do so, and blame them all the while?

Because that’s where we are. Law enforcement officers, local politicians, local prosecutors, and local judges happily do this every single day while the people that vote for and otherwise support them not only allow it, but cheer it on.

How can any decent person argue taking the Land Rover acceptable? It’s legal, I don’t deny that. We can pass any law we want. If enough people want to change the Constitution of the United States to reinstate slavery or to make women property, it can be done. No vile and disgusting law is beyond our power to enact.

I’m asking you to look in the mirror and ask yourself why you allow this to happen. What happened to Tyson Limb is happening to other people every single day. Why don’t you care?

Tom Liberman

Thanksgiving and the Cell Phone Basket

Cell Phone BasketShould people use a Cell Phone Basket during their Thanksgiving Celebration this year? I’m seeing a trend toward this sort of thinking on my various social media platforms. The idea is simple enough, people are talking on their cell phones rather than participating in conversation with those present at the table. The idea of collecting phones using a cell phone basket goes beyond Thanksgiving but the family friendly holiday is certainly a focal point for the concept. Is it a good idea?

I think the majority of people will think it is. I disagree. It’s a concept that strikes directly at the heart of freedom. Some people abuse freedom and in order to stop them from doing so, the do-gooders of the world punish everyone. They are essentially saying: I don’t like it when you talk on your cell phone during dinner. I don’t talk on my cell phone during dinner. I’m going to force you to behave in a way that I think is appropriate. This is not just a problem at the dinner table but among the mainstream thinking of both major political parties. We think we know what is best for you, we think we know how you should behave, and we have no compunction about passing laws and putting pressure on you to conform to our way of thinking.

This mode of thinking is largely associated with Liberalism but I find that so-called Conservatives are just as, or even more, likely to try and force others to conform to their way of thinking. More and more, people think nothing of forcing through coercion, social pressure, or even legal maneuvering to conform to what they think is an appropriate standard.

Your standard is not my standard nor is mine yours. If you want to talk on the cell phone during Thanksgiving dinner, I think you are rude but I have no business forcing you to stop. If I don’t like it, the choices available to me are to leave the table or, should I be the host, not invite you in the future. As a host I think there is nothing wrong with suggesting people keep cell phone use to a minimum but I think it’s absolutely wrong to either force or pressure people to put them in a cell phone basket.

The world we live in today is filled with things very much analogous to a cell phone basket. How I position my body during patriotic songs, who I marry, what chemicals I ingest, what firearm I am allowed to own, if I should or shouldn’t visit the White House, if I talk on my phone during Thanksgiving. It’s just not your business. You certainly don’t have to be my friend. You don’t have to invite me to your events. You can ignore me. You can dislike me. You can even hate me. Don’t try to shame me. Don’t try to coerce me. Don’t try to force me. Ask me politely if you must. Be assured, I’ll do you the same courtesy.

Tom Liberman

Cyber-Security Minister Never Used a Computer

Cyber-SecurityThere’s an absolutely fascinating story hitting the news about the Cyber-Security minister recently appointed in Japan. Yoshitaka Sakurada was unable to answer relatively simple computer related questions, eventually said he had never used a computer in his life, and went on to say he didn’t think it would be an issue.

Is he right? Is he delusional? Must the minister of Cyber-Security have intimate knowledge of computers? Must any manager have a strong understanding of the job her or his workers are performing?

At first glance it would seem a manager is in the best position to succeed if she or he has firm knowledge of the work being done, but management philosophy doesn’t necessarily support this idea. It is generally considered a good idea to promote an excellent worker into a management position over a project with which she or he is unfamiliar. The idea being that if the manager is overly hands-on it is detrimental to the project. The job of a manager is to get the most out of people, not do the actual work.

It’s quite possible Sakurada will be an excellent Cyber-Security Minister. His specialty might be in managing people and that’s good enough. It’s also possible that his lack of knowledge over the division he is managing might prove a liability in the minds of those working under him. He might end up being a terrible minister. The point is, we don’t know. That’s what performance-based evaluation is all about.

The person who promoted Sakurada to Cyber-Security minister needs to accept responsibility for the outcome of this move. That’s the way it should be. We can certainly say a person appears to be unqualified for a position. We can argue that a recent trade involving our favorite sports team was misguided. We can criticize or praise any such decision, that’s well and good. But we can’t know the outcome until we see the results.

What is vitally important is to assess the results with critical thinking skills. The person who appointed Sakurada wants him to succeed and we see, all too often, excuse after excuse, spin after spin, justification after justification, to explain why failure is actually success. That’s the real problem. Not the hiring of Sakurada or anyone else for that matter.

It is important to make the hire for good reasons rather than political expediency. That being said, it’s also important to withhold judgment until a body of evidence is presented. Good hires turn out bad and bad hires turn out well.

The best strategy is to hire the person you think best qualified and if they are unable to handle the job, accept responsibility and move on. The worst strategy is to hire someone not particularly qualified and make every excuse in the book to keep them in the position. Sadly, when it comes to politics, we often see the latter.

In this case, we’ll see.

Tom Liberman

Mike Gundy and Kids Today Nonsense

TMike Gundyhe head coach of the Oklahoma State football team, Mike Gundy, is not happy the young football players under his charge are allowed to transfer from his school to another without his permission. Gundy made his displeasure known by claiming, among other nonsense, that kids today don’t have the toughness to stick with difficult things.

Hey, I can just do what I want and I don’t have to really be tough and fight through it.’ You see that with young people because it’s an option they’re given. We weren’t given that option when we were growing up. We were told what to do, we did it the right way, or you go figure it out on your own.

This is not the first time I’ve heard an older person wax poetically about their youth. How they all paid attention to their elders, how they all knew right from wrong, how all kids today are spoiled and soft. How it was my way or the highway world. It turns my stomach every time I hear it. First off, Gundy is a liar. He knows darn well he, and lots of young people he knew, did not always do what they were told or do things the right way. That coaches often cut them slack. It’s utter crap and everyone knows it. You know it, I know it, and Gundy knows it.

Young football players work harder and longer at their craft than kids did when Gundy was at school. The National Championship team of thirty years ago would be blown off the field by a good team today. The players are stronger, faster, and most importantly, far more educated in their craft. I say this not as a knock against former players, who were great kids also, but they didn’t have access to the training resources available today.

Young players today spend countless hours studying film. When you explain to a football player why this technique in this situation is better and then show them on film, you get better players than if you just say, do it this way. Not only do the kids work harder but having an understanding of why they are doing something makes them better players and better humans. Kids today have lots of stick to it, just as much as kids from bygone years.

As for the underlying reason for Gundy’s moronic statements; the fact a football player can’t simply decide to go to another school without the permission of the first school is antithetical to all my Libertarian thoughts. Coaches can, and frequently do, transfer schools without permission in chase of higher paychecks. The young football players just want a chance to play. Most transfers occur because the player in question is not getting playing time in his or her current situation.

Can you switch jobs without getting your current employer’s permission? Answer me that and then explain what about your personal life philosophy wants to take that freedom away from others.

Kids today, they’re great. Adults with bad memories and a chip on their shoulder, not so much.

Tom Liberman

Carlsen versus Caruana and the Slow Death of Nationalism

nationalismThe death of nationalism is on display for the next few weeks at the World Chess Championship being held in London at the College in Holburn between reigning champion Magnus Carlsen from Norway and challenger Fabiano Caruana from the United States, by way of Italy. In past eras I, and most other people from the United States, would certainly be rooting for Caruana because of his nationality. In today’s world, the nation someone is from is becoming less and less important, thanks to globalization brought by the internet.

Let’s put this in perspective. The last time someone from the United States played for the World Chess Championship was in 1972 when Bobby Fischer challenged Boris Spassky. The pride of the United States was at stake and nationalism was running rampant. Everyone I knew was rooting for Fischer, this despite the readily apparent evidence that he was a complete and total jerk. Spassky, on the other hand, was a man to be admired for many reasons.

Nationalism is a big topic these days but many young people just don’t pay attention to that sort of thing anymore. They know Carlsen because of his internet presence. They are fans of his because of this. His nation of origin is still of some importance to a number of people but that bias is slowly fading.

Certainly, many people in the United States are hoping Caruana wins just as many in Norway are rooting for Carlsen to retain his crown. However, because we’ve gotten to know the two through their internet presence, the circumstance of their birth is of diminished importance. We will continue to see this trend until there are no more nations at all, just people doing things they enjoy with others who enjoy the same thing, chess for example.

I happen to live in the fashionable Central West End of St. Louis where the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is located. I’ve actually run into Caruana on several occasions while out and about. He seems quite a decent sort. Many people are cheering him on because of his genial nature. Others prefer Carlsen for the fighting spirit he has exhibited throughout his entire chess career. He is prudent but goes for the win rather than taking the easy draw. Carlsen has set a precedent many of the upcoming chess players eagerly follow which makes chess a better sport.

Nationalism isn’t going away tomorrow or next week but it’s going away. That frightens a particular group of people who identify their self with the country in which they happen to live. That’s a shame. The good news is; more and more people don’t really care where you were born or live, just that you play a style of chess they enjoy watching.

As for me? I won’t be disappointed if Caruana wins but I’d like to see Carlsen continue on as champion for as long as possible. He’s been a tremendous standard bearer for the new era of the game. Carlsen’s time will come eventually, maybe even in the next couple of weeks.

Tom Liberman

Are the Samburu Heroes and Horrors?

SamburuAn animal rights activist friend of mine recently shared a Facebook post about the Samburu tribe’s conservation efforts in Northern Kenya, particularly in regards to Samburu National Reserve. If you were to read just this article you might think the Samburu people as astonishing heroes. Should, however, you read the Wikipedia article about their tribal practices in regards to young girls and women you would almost certainly come to the opposite opinion. Which is true?

This question dramatically illustrates the divide facing the people of the United States and those of the western style republics around the world. I’m here to tell you that Samburu are both heroes and horrors. I need not choose, nor do you.

I’m certain if my friend knew of the practices of Female Genital Mutilation and Child Rape associated with the Samburu she would never have shared the article about their wonderful efforts in conservation. Yet both the horrific practices and the heroic conservation efforts are part of the same package. As things currently stand, you do not have one without the other.

There is nothing wrong with my friend’s lauding of Samburu and their efforts protect the animals that share their little part of the world. They have done good and wonderful things. There is also nothing wrong with the many who lambaste them for their vile practices in regards to young girls.

Likewise, we should applaud a politician who does something that works and lambaste her or him when he or she does something wrong. This is, sadly, not the world in which we live. It seems we are becoming increasingly uncaring of actual deeds and the cause and effect of hateful words. We care more about who is delivering the message than the words themselves. We make any excuse to exonerate someone we support and find any sliver of blame to eviscerate those we oppose.

The Samburu are not completely vile nor wholly exemplary. They are a bit of both. We might weigh one against the other and come up with some sort of final balance but why not laud the good and oppose the bad? At the height of election season, I see ads claiming the wonder and glory of one side and the degenerate evil of the other.

Consider voting for the most decent human in the election. That would be the one who treats their opponent with dignity and respect, for isn’t that the way they would care for the nation?

I would, you might say to me with a sad shake of your head, but there aren’t any. I’m sad to agree. Do try to remember, there are more than two political parties.

Tom Liberman