Stormy Daniels Brings down the Vice Unit in Columbus

stormy daniels

Back in July of 2018 a woman with the stage name of Stormy Daniels was arrested for non-sexual touching in a strip club in Columbus, Ohio. I wrote an article at the time expressing my Libertarian outrage at the event and now the entire vice unit that ran the operation has been disbanded because of a series of events that sadly do not boggle the mind; frankly, it’s the sort of behavior I expect out of law enforcement agents these days, and that’s a tragic thing.

You can read about the incident with Stormy Daniels that caused the vice unit to come under scrutiny in my original blog so I won’t reiterate it here. The tragedy currently unfolding sadly reinforces my opinion of the continuing downfall of law enforcement to an agency of oppression.

Officer Andrew K. Mitchell is under indictment for any number of abuses he allegedly committed during his thirty-year career as an officer. He is accused of forcing women in custody to provide sexual services in exchange for release. Two other members of the former unit are under investigation for similar activities. The entire unit blatantly disregarded the prosecutor’s office that warned them specifically against the sort of behavior they engaged in during the arrest of Stormy Daniels.

Mitchell also apparently owns properties in which he extorted tenants for sex in exchange for a discount on their rent. In addition, he killed a woman in August 2018 in which he and a fellow officer claimed she attacked them.

This is police enforcement in the era of the War on Drugs. It’s the police versus the community rather than the police with the community. There was a time this wasn’t the case and I’m sure there are plenty of officers out there who don’t behave this way. The reality is tragic for communities and law enforcement.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If we ended the War on Drugs, removed moronic laws from the books, and essentially allowed adults to do as they pleased within reason, the relationship between law enforcement and we the people would begin to be repaired. There is also good news in that more and more law enforcement agencies are recognizing the rift that exists and taking concrete steps to improve the situation.

Right here in my hometown of St. Louis, MO the police and local communities are engaged in a terrific program in which officers play chess with young students.

I recognize that my statements in these blogs can be misconstrued as anti-law enforcement. Nothing could be further from my intent. What I want is for law enforcement officers to be seen as a force of good in the communities they serve, not the enemy. Also, for such officers to view the citizens as people to befriend and protect, not as cash meat bags to be used and discarded.

The fact the vice squad is being dismantled is a good thing and the role Stormy Daniels had in it is to be applauded. It’s just a sad statement of fact that it took such a high-profile incident to expose the vile underbelly that has been consuming law enforcement for the last thirty plus years.

Reality often hurts but it is better to expose a painful truth than allow a lie to grow and fester.

Tom Liberman

Lakers Superfan Happy to See Team Lose Misleading Headline

Lakers Superfan Misleading Headline

I just read a fascinating article about a fellow named Jimmy Goldstein who is identified as a Lakers Superfan in a Misleading Headline about the Los Angeles Lakers missing the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. The problem is that Goldstein is not a Lakers fan at all, although he loves NBA basketball, claiming to spend nearly half a million dollars a year traveling around the country to see various games.

The implication of the Misleading Headline is that Goldstein wants to see the Lakers miss the playoffs perhaps because he doesn’t like the current coach, because he thinks LeBron James was not a good acquisition, or is unhappy with the direction ownership is taking the team. At least that’s what I thought when I was baited into clicking on the article and perusing it.

It turns out Goldstein, who has had courtside season tickets to the Lakers since 1962, doesn’t like the team and enjoys watching them lose. He hasn’t had much to be cheerful about since the Lakers moved to the City of Angels all those years ago as they’ve been arguably the most successful franchise in the league. So, he’s enjoying the current losing streak immensely and pointedly says that: Lakers fans deserve it.

Now, I certainly question Goldstein going to all those games if he doesn’t like the Lakers. Even if they were a horrible team it seems like an odd way to spend your time. I certainly wouldn’t want to watch games at Wrigley Field for the rest of my life whilst rooting against the Cubs, even if they lost most of the time, a practice I hope they resume again soon. Still, he’s a big NBA fan who lives in Los Angeles and so attends the games. That’s his business. Odd as it seems to me.

In the end, the Misleading Headline should not have called Goldstein a Lakers superfan.

Tom Liberman

Hot Tea Cancer Misleading Headline

Hot Tea

Does drinking hot tea cause esophageal cancer? That’s what my Misleading Headline of the week certainly seems to suggest. Once you spend the time to read the article a different reality emerges.

Putting something scalding hot in your throat, regardless of its composition, causes irritation with in turn leads to an increased risk of cancer. Certainly it’s more common to burn your throat with a liquid than a solid and lots of people drink tea hot therefore it’s a likely culprit, but it’s not the tea causing the problem.

In order to burn your throat with hot items they have to be quite hot, so hot that such tea is rarely drunk in most places in the world. In a few cultures the tea or coffee is kept in a samovar which is continuously heated and it is in these places the studies took places.

Most people wait for their tea, or coffee, or hot toddy, to cool enough where they aren’t burning their throat. Don’t always believe the headline and keep coming back for more Misleading Headlines!

Tom Liberman

Jack the Ripper and Our Love of Closure

 Jack the Ripper

I see headlines all over the news about how Jack the Ripper has finally been conclusively identified. I heard radio talk show hosts talking about how wonderful it was that we finally knew Jack the Ripper identity. I was immediately skeptical but I would guess the majority of people were not so. I just read a wonderfully written article from Ars Technica indicating my skepticism was well-founded. Exceptionally good work, Jennifer Ouellette!

In any case, I leave it to you to read the article yourself and come to a conclusion. I don’t really want to talk about the guilt or innocence of Aaron Kosminski but instead the seemingly inherent human desire for closure. People want closure and, to a large degree, don’t really seem to care if it comes at the expense of critical thinking. Judging by what I’ve heard and read in media articles most people are thrilled to know that a conclusive result has been determined in the Jack the Ripper murders. Spoiler if you didn’t read the article, the case is far from closed.

Why do people care? The murders happened a hundred and thirty years ago. Solving the murders isn’t going to help or hurt anyone in any way. The descendants of victims are not going have their lives changed in any way. The descendants of the supposed murderer, who was a prime suspect to begin with, are not going to be arrested or punished. Yet, it’s clear to me, people are absolutely giddy with the idea that Jack the Ripper has been identified. Despite such knowledge having no practical effect.

I think the underlying cause is the satisfaction we get at a job well done, whether it is solving a murder or mowing the grass just right. Humans enjoy accomplishment and the identification of Jack the Ripper is just that. Not directly for me, not directly for anyone reading the article, but indirectly, very indirectly for people as a group. The case remains in the public conscious all these years later and there is a satisfaction derived from solving it.

I understand why people are happy with the news but I warn you to be aware of this human tendency and take it into account. Yes, you would be happy to know that Jack the Ripper has been identified but take into account you want this outcome. Be skeptical of people who understand human nature, in this case the people who released this supposedly conclusive proof. They are taking advantage of your desire to see something come to completion. The evidence is terrible and result is largely unsupportable. You’ve been duped.

In conclusion, be skeptical and do your research, particularly when it comes to something you want to believe.

Tom Liberman

Why the Government should not Ground 737 MAX Planes

737 MAX
Boeing 737-MAX8-200 K66201

The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of President Trump, has grounded Boeing 737 MAX airplanes because of two accidents over the last five months involving such planes. There is not yet evidence to suggest the crashes are related to one another or a problem with the plane but the public perception is that there is such a correlation. My question today is if the government should mandate airlines stop flying the planes?

Most of Europe, China, Canada, Panama and some other countries had already mandated various airlines stop flying the planes while other nations largely left the decision up to the companies. The first question you might ask yourself is how the United States federal government has the power to dictate to a private company which planes to fly. I discussed much of their reasoning in a blog back in May of 2017. I won’t go into details but if you want to learn more please peruse that article.

Certainly, people are afraid. Southwest Airline is the largest user of the 737 MAX planes with 34 of them and they are offering customers a chance to change flights to a different plane free of charge. This is an example of capitalism, without government interference, in action. If enough people refuse to fly on the 737 MAX planes it is fairly obvious that Southwest and other airlines would stop using them until some sort of safety check was in place.

It is clear the 737 MAX planes have flown many times without incident since they began service in May of 2017. However, two accidents within half a year does bring into question the plane’s general safety. This brings us to the topic at hand. It is better for the government to mandate the stoppage or to let each airline make the decision independently of oversight?

No one was calling for the plane to be grounded before the second accident so neither of those tragedies would have been prevented by a grounding. After the second accident the airlines were largely offering people a chance to fly on different planes so the net result of the grounding is relatively small and I suspect if enough people changed flights the airlines would have grounded the planes on their own. The practical difference is fairly small although I’m sure that would come as no comfort to the families of victims if there is a third crash.

I absolutely prefer letting each airline make their own decision about the 737 MAX. The reason is there is potential for government malfeasance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that politicians, all the way up to and including the president, might have a grudge against one company or another and use this power to influence profits. This is Crony Capitalism at its worst.

I recognize this is a special circumstance to some degree but I’m largely against the government interfering in business decisions and that goes for this situation as well. I don’t think this grounding makes anyone safer and it further cements the idea that government has and should use this sort of power. That is a danger in itself.

Tom Liberman

Outlawing Fornication in Utah

Fornication

Legislators of Utah recently repealed a law that made having sex outside of marriage a crime, fornication. Interestingly, when the United States was founded no such laws existed but eventually sixteen states added them to the books. Punishment was rarely imposed and the Supreme Court largely made them unenforceable. Still, I wanted to examine the idea behind them and the danger they represent.

It’s pretty much summed up by the words of one of the Utah legislators against the repeal. Basically, Representative Kevin Stratton says that what is legal is below what is moral, and fornication is immoral. Far below, in his own words. I would guess there are people across the country who feel this same way, I would guess largely religious people. What Stratton is saying is that it’s true we cannot legally enforce the moral codes as laid about by various religious texts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Thus, he voted, along with 31 other members of the Utah House, against the repeal.

This is the sort of thinking that has long held sway in both major parties. I think I know what is best for you and, when I have a majority position, I’m going to force you to do it against threat of criminal prosecution. In this case it’s certainly Republican based but I can offer examples of Democrats doing the same thing whether it be vaping or drinking sugary soda. Either way, it’s simply you telling someone else how to lead their life.

We must be cautious about how many things we make against the law or we will essentially turn our entire population in criminal. Oh, too late, we’ve already done it. There are so many traffic and drug laws I would guess that hardly a day goes by without everyone committing a crime of one nature or another. Here in my home state of Missouri, it’s illegal to use the wrong side of a crosswalk while crossing a street.

Imagine if the Supreme Court had decided it was perfectly acceptable to prosecute people for fornication. How many of you would be in jail? How many of you would have lost your freedom for having the audacity to believe you were actually free? Every time a law like this makes it onto the books, we put law enforcement officers in a position to selectively enforce their laws and that inevitably leads to inequity against whatever group is perceived to be the enemy. This is a danger to us all, because, eventually, someone who doesn’t like the way we conduct our lives is going to have the majority.

At some point a person is going to be in a position of power who doesn’t like something that you do and try to make it illegal. This is where the Constitution of the United States and its final arbiter, the Supreme Court, comes into play. They can strike down any law they believe violates the Constitution. Hooray!

We have limits expressed by the Constitution that people of both political parties really like and others that they hate. I find the Second and Fourth Amendments illustrate this nicely and I have a blog addressing that issue if you want to read it.

The point here is that Utah has, until the Governor signs the new legislation, a law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is unenforceable both legally and pragmatically. Yet, some people want it still on the books. If that doesn’t make you appreciate the Constitution, all of it, then we are not of like minds.

Tom Liberman

Philadelphia Bans Cashless Stores and Why It is Silly

Cashless Stores

The idea of Cashless stores has been around for a while now but with Amazon set to open a series of Amazon Go outlets around the country it’s getting more news. The city of Philadelphia has now passed a law making in mandatory for most retail stores to accept cash. Cashless stores are also banned in the state of Massachusetts with similar bans being considered in New York and New Jersey. Why is all this happening and will the legislative efforts solve the issues or make them worse?

The reason retail outlets want to go cashless is because they can streamline their operations. They don’t need cashiers to make change, count cash, or risk being robbed while delivering bags of money to the bank. A quick swipe and you’re out of the store.

The reason politicians want to ban it is because such cashless stores inordinately affect the poor. People from lower income classes don’t always have credit cards or debit cards or smart phones. This means that if every grocery store in a particular region had become a cashless store, those people would not be able to purchase groceries.

It’s important to understand that both of these arguments are absolutely true. If retail outlets streamline their processes that translates to savings for consumers. If poor people are unable to purchase basic necessities that means suffering for them. We like lower prices but we don’t like suffering. The deciding factor then becomes if the proposed legislation is going to alleviate the problem it purports to solve.

Retail outlets want your money. They want rich people’s money and they want poor people’s money. There are a good number of poor people in this country and if grocery outlets shut them out then the company itself will certainly suffer. This is something the business fully understands, better than any politician I’d guess. They know the numbers. Because of this knowledge, retailers like Amazon now offer lower cost membership to low-income families enabling them to make purchase. I’d guess any grocery store in a low-income area would immediately make provisions to the do the same, they don’t want to lose out on all that business.

If a business is able to offer lower prices through modern business models, and we need look no further than Amazon and Walmart to see this, then people save money, everyone who purchases anything saves money. This includes poor people who will, if they want to purchase something at a cashless store, have to pay some amount for a debit card or a membership.

It’s my opinion in the end the poor person is going to save money by entering into the new business model, but I don’t see it as worse than a break-even proposition. That being the case, the legislation is putting an undue burden on the business, it is politicians sticking their noses in and creating laws that don’t help anyone.

The point of a law is help enforce a just system. When it the law does not do so, it shouldn’t be there at all.

Tom Liberman

Taking Offense is for Mockery and not Mimicry

Taking Offense

I’ve noticed a general trend in this world in Taking Offense all too quickly and with little, if any, provocation. The most egregious examples of this, to my mind at least, are people who mistake mimicry as a reason to be offended rather than as a form of flattery.

Let’s dispense with the partisan politics right away, devotees of both parties are equally offended by remarks made by people from the opposite party in equivalent amounts. The so-called snowflakes exist on the left, right and, sad to say, here in Libertarian Land as well.

It’s been said that taking offense is something you do to yourself, rather than others doing it to you; however, I will not pretend words can’t be vicious and painful. It is sometimes perfectly appropriate to be offended when someone says or does something particularly distasteful. What I’d like to address is the difference between mimicry and mockery.

Mimicry is a thing that seems to engender a great deal of taking offense when it should not. If a person of one culture wears the clothes of second culture or the hairstyle associated with another culture, or enjoys the music of yet another culture this is not offense worthy, it is mimicry. A white girl who wears a kimono to prom is not engaged in offensive behavior. An Asian boy in dreadlocks is not engaged in offensive behavior. A black girl listening to Ozzy Osbourn is doing so because she enjoys it, not because she is stealing anyone’s culture.

In this globalized world of ours we see this sort of mimicry in every walk of life. A trend catches on in Japan and soon enough teenagers the world over are imitating it. Some interesting historical style from Africa looks good and again, people from all over the world are soon wearing clothes attuned to that look. A phrase from Russia catches the fancy of people and soon enough people the world over, imitating thick Russian accents, are saying it everywhere. This is mimicry and it is flattery, not mockery.

Mockery is easy enough to spot as well. A person talking with the accent of a particular region of the United States and saying moronic and stereotypical things is an example of mocking and taking offense is reasonable. Painting your face black and making comments that portray black people in a bad light is mocking. Painting your face black and going to a Halloween party as Oprah Winfrey is mimicry and flattery. I realize this last one is going to trigger some people in this world of ours but that’s the way it goes.

If I’m not free to dress up as Lou Brock, one of my childhood heroes, because painting my face dark is reminiscent of people who dressed in blackface to mock and denigrate black people, then I can never honor Brock, no matter how honorable my intentions. No one can honor, through mimicry, someone of a different race or gender. I understand there is nuance but it seems generally obvious to see the difference between mockery and mimicry.

If we pretend to be unable to recognize the difference between the two and simply ban behavior, then we are not making the world a better place, we are making it worse.

Tom Liberman