Was Golfer Ryan Palmer Wrong to Cause a Long Wait?

Ryan Palmer and the Long Wait

There’s an interesting story this week in the golfing world related to a long wait at the end of the 2020 Sony Open. Ryan Palmer hit a shot that looked like it went out of bounds; rather than playing a provisional ball, he chose to go look for his original and then, when it couldn’t be found, went back and played a second shot. This while the tournament leaders had a long wait of forty minutes on the final hole.

Normally when a player hits a shot like Palmer’s they will play a provisional ball so that, if the original can’t be found, they can immediately go to that one and continue play. Palmer chose not to do this which caused the long wait because he had to go back, setup and hit another shot, then finish the hole. The controversy is bigger because the two players waiting behind him were the leaders and such a long wait can, obviously, disrupt your round. In fact, one of the players hit a poor shot and wound up losing the tournament.

Palmer heard some angry opinions about his decision but remains, at the time I’m writing this article, unapologetic. He has stated that he’d do it the same way again in the future.

Let’s first get rid of the notion that I, or anyone else, knows better what Palmer should have done than he himself. It was his decision to make and he made it. Hitting a provisional ball in that situation is completely optional and he was not required to do so.

That being said, let’s talk about what a reasonable person might have done and if it’s permissible to criticize Palmer.

The entire purpose of hitting a provisional ball is to alleviate the wait of competitors behind you. It’s the polite thing to do. This was the final hole of a tournament and Palmer was well-aware the two players behind him were vying for the tournament lead. At the time he made his decision he was still in contention himself although the penalty he incurred from his wayward stroke dropped him down the leaderboard.

There is no doubt in my mind that a polite golfer would have taken the provisional ball. That even in the heat of the moment a golfer who neglected to do so would offer up a mea culpa and apologize to the golfers affected by the decision.

Palmer is choosing to be impolite. He chose to ignore the possibility of the lost ball and potentially inconvenience the players behind him. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people saying exactly that. Just as it is Palmer’s right to be unapologetic.

People are allowed to be rude and they don’t have to apologize but you get to, going forward, treat them appropriately based on that knowledge, that’s your decision. The other competitors on the PGA tour can deal with Palmer in any way they want, Patrick Reed is learning that lesson, or not learning it, even as we speak.

Tom Liberman

The Problem with Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

The phrase Mission Accomplished is irrevocably tied to President George W. Bush in association with his victory speech in May of 2003 in regards to combat operations in Iraq but I think it can easily be applied to the recent assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The idea being because the shooting war with Iran didn’t escalate, the worst is over.

I see people of the two main political sides of the fence sighing with relief or declaring mission accomplished. Neither reaction is warranted. I was opposed to the War in Iraq from the beginning. I stand firmly behind the idea the United States would be safer, the world would be better, and our political divide would be less if Saddam Hussein were still alive and in power. I know that I have the benefit of hindsight but I said it then and I’ll repeat it now.

The problem is that this assassination will have consequences down the road. Upon hearing the news, I immediately imagined that Iraq might demand we remove our military presence in their country. My mind does not distinguish between a car bomb blowing up a U.S. dignitary and a missile doing the same to an Iranian. We have just legitimized any such action as being reasonable. Other countries that house U.S. troops are certainly pondering the idea that we might launch assassination from those bases, they might be considering expelling our presence.

Certainly, our reaction to Iran firing missiles at our bases in Iraq, or lack thereof, was partially predicated on the idea that the nations where we have military assets might have refused to allow us to strike back from those location.

Just as after mission accomplished in Iraq, I imagined a prolonged occupation of the country along with geopolitical turmoil, I imagine long term negative consequences to these actions. The faces I see lauding this mission accomplished are familiar to me, they were the same ones cheering before. The voices are the same as before. Perhaps they lack the imagination to understand this was no solution and almost certainly created more problems than it solved. Perhaps they have the ability but enjoy the warm-fuzzy feeling they get by ignoring it as compared to the horrible sinking pit that I feel in my stomach.

Way back in 1953 we overthrew the duly elected government of Iran and installed a brutal dictator in its place. I’m sure people were cheering the wisdom of President Eisenhower then. Today we favor Saudi Arabia and vilify Iran as people cheer on and on, but the long-term reality of those actions has yet to fully play out.

Despite all my imagination I did not envision an Arabic Caliphate in the form of ISIS or the terror it continues to perpetuate. What horrors will this latest action unleash? I don’t know. I am quite certain it isn’t mission accomplished; it never is.

Avoid foreign entanglements.

Tom Liberman

Helen Sharman says Aliens Definitely Exist

aliens definitely exist

There’s a clickbait headline making the rounds this morning in regards to statements made by Helen Sharman and the idea that aliens definitely exist. Sharman traveled into space back in 1991 and the fact that she is making the statement would seem to lend it credence. To some degree it’s a misleading headline in that Sharman is not saying she knows aliens definitely exist, that the government has been hiding it, and she has evidence from her trip to Mir.

What Sharman is saying is the likelihood aliens definitely exist is extremely high. That there are so many stars, so many planets, that the chemistry of the earth is so similar to those places, the odds of life not being anywhere else in the universe is exceedingly small. She even goes so far as to speculate that perhaps aliens are already on earth but we cannot detect them.

Sharman is almost completely correct in everything she says. The number of planets and the physical makeup of life which corresponds directly to the most abundant elements in the universe, make it extremely likely that life does exist elsewhere. I think it’s very likely we are less than decades away from finding such life on the various moons of the solar system and even on planets like Mars or Venus.

Where Sharman goes wrong, and where she defies the scientific method, is when she states aliens definitely exist. We have no evidence of such. Certainly, it seems very likely that aliens exist. I argue that it’s all but impossible alien life does not exist. The universe is simply far too vast for there not to be aliens. There was life, there is life, there will be life. However, I have absolutely no definitive evidence to indicate there is life, nor does anyone else.

I do not think that Sharman is trying to start or validate nonsensical alien theories. I think her statements are made with honest intent. The reason this is a story at all is because she is an astronaut, well, technically a cosmonaut as she was aboard the Russian space station Mir. This fact make it seem as if she is saying something she is not, the human mind leaps to conclusions that are not actually articulated.

What many people unfortunately think when they read the headline, and even the story itself, is that Sharman is confirming some nefarious plot in which she met aliens while a cosmonaut and is now spilling the secrets. This is not the case and it was not her intent in making the statement, or so I believe at least.

What she is saying is that, to her, it seems impossible there is not life somewhere in this vast universe. That such life might be on earth right now. I don’t disagree but I also will not say aliens definitely exist for the simple reason that I have no direct evidence of that existence. Until I do, I’ll temper my statements.

In any case, I think the story is an excellent illustration of how we often read more into a statement than is actually there. We want words to mean one thing even when they don’t and we convince ourselves otherwise. Try to avoid this trap.

Tom Liberman

Scarves and My Life of Privilege

My Life of Privilege

An incident the other night brought the reality of my life of privilege into clarity and it involved a lost scarf. I don’t have a life of privilege because I’m very wealthy or particularly personable with many friends, it is largely based on my innocuous appearance and relatively polite manners.

If you were creating a dictionary with the term innocuous in it you might be well-served to put my picture on the entry. I’m not particularly large or imposing, I’m white, my features are regular and I’m decent looking without being overly handsome or particularly striking. I’m just a normal looking fellow and I try to treat strangers politely with a smile and a kind word, I save my dark side for family and friends, just ask them.

In any case, on with the story. I was out drinking with a friend and we met a nice young lady. Over the course of the evening she left her scarf at one of the places we visited that night. I happen to live in the neighborhood in question and offered to pick it up the next morning. I walked over to the establishment and politely asked if anyone had turned in a scarf. The woman behind the counter insisted that I describe the scarf and said she couldn’t hand it over without such a description. I was startled by this encounter, the reason being, normally when I ask for something politely, people assume I’m telling the truth and comply.

I think it’s an exaggeration to suggest if I politely asked to borrow the sidearm of a law enforcement officer, she or he would hand it over, perhaps admonishing me to be careful with it, but it is not much of an overstatement. I’m quite used to walking into places and asking for a little special treatment without any difficulty whatsoever. Can I have some fruit on the side even though it’s not on the menu? Can you plug in my phone for a bit? My ride is on the way, can I just leave the hospital after my procedure and wait for them outside by myself?

Who knows how many times my life of privilege has aided me without me noticing. When someone actually challenges me, it’s startling. What, do you think I wander into places and steal scarves from the lost and found? Do people do that? They probably do, what do I know, I have a life of privilege.

While I recognize that my appearance has more than a little to do with my life of privilege, I do credit my polite manners with at least some of it, so, pat on the back.

Tom Liberman

Nicole Franklin Running Over a Mexican Girl

Running over a Mexican girl

Nicole Franklin is accused of running over a Mexican girl who was walking on the sidewalk. Franklin is now being charged with attempted murder. Franklin admitted to doing so because she thought the victim was of Mexican nationality. A number of groups want to charge Franklin with a Hate Crime in addition to attempted murder but Polk County Attorney John Sarcone is resisting such efforts. Good for him I say.

I wrote about my objection to hate crimes not long ago but this gives me an opportunity to reexamine the situation. What Sarcone says is very instructive in this regard. A hate crime charge enhances other charges, such as arson and assault, but doesn’t apply to attempted murder. The gist is the idea we should punish people extra for crimes based on the criminal’s motivation.

Sarcone argues that attempted murder is a heinous crime and the charge stands alone. That enhancing that charge is useless. I agree with Sarcone in regards to attempted murder but I disagree in regards to arson or assault. Both of those crimes also should stand alone. Running over a Mexican girl is plenty of reason to put someone in jail. We don’t need to know what was Franklin’s motivation in order to charge her appropriately. Is running over a Mexican girl more of a crime because Franklin hated Mexicans? I hardly think so. What if Franklin ran her over because she was wearing a dress purchased at Walmart and Franklin was once fired from a Walmart?

This illustrates the problem with the very idea of a hate crime. It gives our government, and their law enforcement arm, a way to punish particular members of our society differently depending on their mindset. Everyone who intentionally drives their vehicle onto a sidewalk and attempts to run over a Mexican girl, or anyone else for that matter, is equally guilty. The police must not be allowed to take our thoughts into account, even if we admit to them.

Is Franklin a vile human being? Certainly. Did she allow political rhetoric to destroy her own life and almost murder an innocent? Yes, and yes again. Are there others out there like Franklin? Absolutely. The question is if we serve society by giving Franklin a bigger penalty because of her hatred of Mexicans. There I must answer a resounding no. We actually harm society.

If authorities can charge Franklin with a more serious crime because she hates a group of people, we are giving the government a power they should not, must not have.

Let’s imagine the government decides it has a vested interest in putting Anarchists in jail. They can now charge someone with a more serious crime, say jaywalking while an Anarchist, than they can any other jaywalker. Anarchist hate laws, Anarchist commit crimes more heinously than others. This allows the government to favor one group over another simply because of their mindset or the organization to which they belong.

This is a road, pardon the pun, that leads to very bad places and I understand such, I hope you do as well. Charge Franklin with attempted murder for running over a Mexican girl, that is what she did, and that is what she should be charged with doing. Nothing more or less.

Tom Liberman

Pete Buttigieg and the Wine Cave Kerfuffle

Wine Cave

There’s an interesting political story making the rounds about a wine cave fund-raiser attended by presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. An opponent of his in the Democratic Primary, Elizabeth Warren, described an event he attended as being held in a wine cave and hosted by a billionaire; these being bad things in Warren’s mind.

It can be argued, and I have, that groups should not be able to contribute to a campaign but we will never be able to stop individuals from giving as much as they desire.

Actor Jane Lynch, a Buttigieg supporter, commented that billionaires have as much right to say who gets to be president as waitresses and plumbers. Lynch received a great deal of criticism for this comment although so has Warren for hers. The wine cave comment is interesting on its face and both sides have legitimate points, that’s what I’d like to discuss.

What Warren says is undeniably true. Wealthy people hold fund-raisers, sometimes in a wine cave and sometimes not, which political candidates attend. The goal being, not surprisingly, raising funds. Warren portrays this as a bad thing, that billionaires have an oversized influence on who wins an election. It is undeniable that billionaires help raise money and contribute huge amounts to campaigns. This being true, it doesn’t make a bit of difference when it comes to casting my ballot. I vote for whom I want to, regardless of how much money they raise or whom a billionaire happens to supports.

However, it is also certain that many potential candidates are eliminated from the election in part because they can’t raise enough funds. I argue the inability to raise funds is more a product of being an uninspiring candidate than anything else but there is truth to the accusation. A candidate who doesn’t attract wealthy backers is in serious jeopardy of being unable to finance a campaign.

Warren is correct that billionaires influence campaigns far more than waitresses or plumbers when it comes to fund-raising. Lynch is right in suggesting that each person can vote a single time and a plumber’s vote counts for exactly the same as a billionaire’s vote.

What’s most important about this issue is that each side is right in their own way. If Warren doesn’t want to attend billionaire, wine cave fundraising events she should not. If Buttigieg and other candidates want to do so, they should. What we as voters must decide is if it bothers us. For some the answer will be yes and for others no.

Wealthy people have always had an outsized influence on political elections and political policy. The biggest problem is not that wealthy people have a say, it’s what those wealthy people are saying. Are they interested in a better United States of America today or do they want a better bottom line at the expense of tomorrow?

Wealthy and charismatic individuals will always have a bigger say in the outcome of elections. You may not like it, but it’s reality.

Tom Liberman

Zoo Regulations and the USDA

Zoo Regulations

Most of you may not realize it but the United States Department of Agriculture is in charge of enforcing zoo regulations and citations on over 10,000 zoos, circuses, breeders, and research facilities. They are now in charge of, for some reason, inspecting and citing for violations of zoo regulations the aforementioned 10,000 locations. Zoos obviously have nothing to do with agriculture and yet, here we are.

The reason I know about this is because, as a Libertarian, I tend to have friends on both ends of the political spectrum and some of them are quite passionate. One of my animal activist friends posted a horrific story about an Animal Park in Virginia. To say what was happening to the animals would shock and dismay any decent human being, no matter their political affiliation, is an understatement.

The article focused on the fact that the USDA gave the park a clean inspection just the day before local authorities accompanied by veterinarians and zoologists found the all too human negligence. The problem, according to the article, is that the USDA used to perform comprehensive inspections and issue citations regularly. This has been curtailed under the Trump Administration and led to the problems.

What the article also mentions, but glosses quickly over, is that the animal park in question was cited frequently by the USDA under previous administrations but it is clear, despite these admonishments, the place was still a disgusting and vile animal torture chamber. Basically, they paid the fine, and went on their merry, torturous way regardless of any zoo regulations.

My home state of Missouri is well-known for our many, and oft poorly run, puppy-mills this despite all the zoo regulations in effect. Not a month goes by without one of my local friends posting an article about some horror or the other perpetrated by the owners of such facilities.

What it took to actually address the issue was local government along with expert and caring individuals like my friend, coming in and performing an inspection. The place is now closed and the proprietors face numerous criminal charges. The federal government just looks to these zoos, circuses, breeders and research labs as revenue generators and zoo regulations are the way to collect.

I’m all for treating animals ethically but I’m certain when we trust the Federal Government to do it, we simply apply a placebo to the problem. The animal horrors continue unabated.

I understand the need for government oversight and without the aid of local law enforcement, people like my friend would be unable to effectively prevent the owners of such establishment from continuing their nefarious activities. It is when the two work together, at as local a level as possible, that real change can be affected.

Let’s imagine local government allows animal loving law enforcement officers to inspect all such facilities with camera wielding animal experts and the videos are posted far and wide? Would we not see far better results than a simple citation from the USDA? Would we also not create an alliance between two groups that normally see each other as the enemy? That’s a win in my book.

When we give power to Federal Government to address a wrong, they generally fail to do much. They simply charge the offenders money and come back the next year, hand out, for more.

Tom Liberman

Tariffs on Cheap Chinese Mattresses

Cheap Chinese Mattresses

In the last few years a product called Bed-in-a-Box has roiled the United States mattress making markets and allowed for the shipping of cheap Chinese mattresses. Prior to the Bed-in-a-Box model is wasn’t particularly cost effective to ship cheap Chinese mattresses to the United States and therefore companies here largely didn’t have to deal with such competition. Now they do and they’re doing something about, petitioning the government to save them.

The Federal Government is now claiming Chinese manufacturers are Dumping cheap Chinese mattresses on the United States and Commerce Department is going to institute tariffs of over 1000% on them. Dumping is an Anti-Trust issue and actually under the purview of the United States government so they do have an argument in this case. The Commerce Department claims the Chinese are dumping their mattresses at an unreasonably low level in order to drive out competition and create a monopoly from which they will eventually raise prices and lower quality.

There are very few instances of Dumping actually doing those things. Now, it is clear when a competitor comes in with equally high-quality product at a much lower price, the established businesses will suffer. The mattress firms petitioning the Commerce Department admit the cheap Chinese mattresses are of equal quality to their own so that’s not an issue. People are getting a product they want at a price they like, that’s good for consumers and I’m sure there are plenty of people sleeping on those mattresses every night and happily so.

The question becomes if the price is intentionally low in order to drive out competition and an eventual increase in price and lowering of quality is planned. I think we need look no further than Walmart to find the answer to this question. China has been inundating the U.S. market with cheap products for decades and, while they certainly have gained a stranglehold on many markets, they haven’t increased prices once they were established, they have kept prices low. This because manufacturing in China is cheaper for a variety of economic reasons that I won’t get into today.

There is nothing wrong with good prices. That’s a good thing for consumers. It’s obviously bad for the manufacturers of mattresses in the United States but that’s what healthy competition is all about, it’s the nature of capitalism. In this case, it can be, and has been, argued that the problem isn’t solely the cheap Chinese mattresses but Bed-in-a-Box competition from other U.S. firms as well. That the Commerce Department is intentionally raising prices for consumers simply to keep an industry afloat that could not otherwise compete.

Welcome to capitalism in the United States. Like higher prices and worse? Keep voting for such.

Tom Liberman

Give the Gift of Peloton

Peloton Commercial

As most of you probably know, there’s a Peloton commercial roiling the world and when there’s an opportunity to tell everyone they’re wrong, well, I’ll be there. You’re all wrong! Let’s take a look at the ad from my point of view.

The thirty second commercial shows a husband giving his wife a Peloton for Christmas. She soon begins a workout regime on the bike both complaining about the early mornings and the harshness of the instructor while clearly enjoying the exercise she gets as well. At the end of the commercial she tells her husband that she didn’t know how much the bike would change her life.

The complaints are largely centered around the idea that her husband gave her the bike presumably because he thought she needed to lose weight. That the man is forcing his wife to lose weight against her will in order to conform with his unreasonable standards of beauty, that she is bowing to his abusive behavior.

We can make as many speculations about his motives and her desires as we want. Maybe she wanted to lose weight and had complained to him about her size. Perhaps she wanted to gain fitness and strength. Maybe his motivation was exactly as the detractors are suggesting, all these things are possible but largely irrelevant.

The bottom line is that she got on the bike, rode, and apparently gained something from it. Perhaps it was simply to please her husband. Maybe it was to be an example of strength and fitness to her daughter who is seen cheering her mother on several times in the advertisement. Again, we don’t really know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that she wanted to ride and is happy with the results, that she thinks her life has changed for the better because of riding.

We must take her word for it. I cannot lead her life for her nor should I try. That’s the problem with everyone criticizing this ad and also with many who support it by making unprovable claims about the good intentions of the husband. Neither of their lives are ours to lead. They are adults. They make decisions about their lives.

He chose to buy the Peloton for her, we don’t know why but we must respect his decision to do so. It’s not a crime to buy someone a Peloton. She chose to ride the Peloton and we must respect her decision to do so, it’s not illegal to want to ride a Peloton.

It’s this attitude that we know better how other people should lead their lives that infuriates me. She chose to ride and that’s good enough for me, why isn’t it good enough for you?

Tom Liberman

Congress Tries to Save Minor League Baseball

Minor League Baseball

A bi-partisan group of legislators from the United States Congress is angry that Major League Baseball is losing money on their Minor League System and wants to eliminate 42 teams. The reason members of Congress are mad is because the teams headed for oblivion are in their districts. So what? You might say if you have Libertarian leanings. What can Congress do? Plenty, and that’s the problem.

Congress has the ability to make or break a business by passing legislation and that is not what the Founding Fathers wanted and it is not a power Congress should have. What can they do? They might refuse to grant visas to international players, they might change broadcasting rights to not allow teams to have exclusive home territorial rights, they could even repeal Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption. This is the power that Congress wields when we grant its members far more authority than they should have.

First off, I’ve railed against the antitrust exemption before, but it’s important to understand by allowing Congress to “help” baseball in the past, major league executives are de facto telling Congress they can hurt them in the future.

When Congress establishes a system which fast tracks talented athletes through the system while gifted computer analysists are held up, we are agreeing that Congress members can help one industry and hurt another. We then don’t get to be angry when Congress members changes their minds.

This is the root problem with granting government too much power in the first place. We generally give them such authority to right a wrong and often have the best intentions in mind. However, eventually someone comes into office who doesn’t agree with prior legislation but now they have been given the power to use that cudgel in any way they see fit. We cheered when they used it to help us but, oops, now they are going to hold it over our heads unless we do as they want. This is legislative tyranny, this is not freedom.

Baseball should be allowed to run their minor league baseball teams, largely, in any way they desire. If those minor league baseball teams are unprofitable, then so be it. It’s their call whether to keep them, it cannot be the job of government. And yet it apparently is. That’s how far we’ve slipped in this country. Our elected officials believe they should have the authority to tell Major League Baseball executives how to run their farm system.

It boggles the mind.

Tom Liberman

Cattle Ranchers Fight Plant Alternatives with Legislation

Cattle Ranchers Fight Meat Free

I just read an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal which highlights how the cattle ranchers are reacting to the threat of plant-based meat alternatives. The threat is real and the ranchers have every reason to be worried. One part of their fight illustrates what is wrong with our supposedly capitalistic financial system. The cattle ranchers have enlisted the help of federal, state, and local governments.

Competition is good. The fact that we now have plant-based alternatives to beef means there is a healthy competitive market. This is good for consumers. If cattle ranchers want our business, they have to improve their product and their prices. Sadly, that’s largely not the course they are taking.

Right here in my home state of Missouri a law was recently passed by legislators that prevents any plant-based product from having the word meat on its product packaging. Basically, you can’t have a product using the words “meat-like”, “meat flavored”, or “meaty”. This is not capitalism. It’s an attempt to use political machinations to stifle a competitor and it’s all too common in this country. It’s destroying capitalism.

The other thing the cattle ranchers are doing is sponsoring so-called studies that disparage their competitors by making largely unsupported claims about the healthiness of the product. This is also a threat to true capitalism. Meanwhile, the plant-based meat producers are being forced to hire their own team of lobbyists and studies to fight these political and underhanded tactics. Both sides are having their lobbyists buy expensive trips and who knows what else for legislators in order to woo them into passing or not passing legislation that will help or harm their industry. Doesn’t anyone else see a problem with this?

We look to politicians to legislate our competitors out of business and that is hurting this country although, unsurprisingly, our politicians are happy to take gifts and cash from business owners who crawl to the politicians and piteously beg for favors.

You have a competitor? Make a better product. Market it better. Work harder. That’s capitalism.

Tom Liberman

National Park Rangers Working on Border Patrol

National Park Rangers

There’s an interesting story making the rounds about how National Park Rangers will be moving from their normal jobs to that of patrolling the border with Mexico. The reason this is being done, and has been done since last year, is because President Trump needs more money to build a Border Wall and is saving money by using employees from another department rather than hiring new Border Patrol Agents. I’m mad about this but my reasons are somewhat different than those being presented by those against this shift.

There are any number of Democrats opposed to this plan. For the most part their argument is the resources being used, that is to say National Park Rangers, are not trained to be Border Patrol agents. They are ill-equipped to do the job. In addition, National Park Rangers taken away from their normal job leads to understaffing.

Both of these things are largely true; however, the underlying problem and the disrespect both parties show for the Constitution of the United States is what bother me. I pay taxes. A lot of people pay taxes. We vote for representatives to determine how to best spend those dollars. There are going to be disputes among our elected officials as to how to spend the money and certainly I’m not going to agree with many of the decisions that are made, that being said, those decisions should be final.

When you take National Park Rangers away from their job patrolling the parks you are spending money in ways that Congress has not authorized. It’s my opinion, which I’ve written about elsewhere, that taxes should go to appropriate agencies. A gasoline tax should be spent on road and bridge infrastructure. An airline tax should be spent on our federally funded air travel industry. When we shuffle money around like this there is no longer any accountability.

Imagine you were getting married and I gave you $100 gift card to purchase a wedding present. You then sold the card to someone else for $90 and took the cash to go on a bender. I’d be angry and rightfully so. We had a contract and you reneged on it. I could take you to court and attempt to get my money back. So too should I be able to sue the government for spending my money on things not authorized by Congress.

The government has become so accustomed to moving money from one account to the other without any care of how it was actually meant to be spent that those in charge take it for granted they can do so.

In my home state of Missouri; money people spend on Lottery Tickets is supposed to go into the Education fund. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that’s not what happens. Politicians budget no or little money for education and use lottery proceeds to fill in the gap. They are taking our tax dollars, which were largely paid via Property Taxes under the Education line item on our state tax bill, and spending it on whatever they want.

Congress authorized a particular amount of money for the National Parks Service and another amount for Border Patrol. It must be illegal to simply swap money from one endeavor to the other. It cannot be anything other than that.

If you cannot get Congress members to appropriate the money you want, then you need to go back and convince them differently, not simply steal from Parks to pay Border.

Tom Liberman

Meghan McCain and Who is Talking

Meghan McCain

Meghan McCain recently gave an interview lamenting the fact that because she and fellow hosts on The View are women, their conversations and arguments are treated differently than if the same heated discussions were debated by men. McCain is absolutely right but the problem goes far beyond her assertion. Let me explain.

There is no doubt when McCain and Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg or other hosts get into a heated argument it is described as a cat-fight or they are being shrill with one another. There is an inherent sexism in the way she and her co-hosts are viewed. This is an enormous problem in the country and in the world. I don’t want to minimize her point but it’s the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Viewers of the show also dismiss one woman or the other because of their perceived political affiliation.

Many people dismiss gay men who speak in a high-pitched voice. Many people dismiss those who speak with a southern accent. Right here in my beloved home state of Missouri we dismiss people because of they way they pronounce it: Missouree or Missourah. If you say it one way, you’re just some city slicker who doesn’t understand rural issues and if the other then you’re a country bumpkin.

You can repeat a quote and attribute it to one president and get cheers but then explain it was actually a president from a different party and be showered with boos.

I don’t want to single you out but it is abundantly clear actions you consider egregious from a politician affiliated with your party would be excused if that person belonged to the other party. You can pretend the Emperor isn’t naked but the reality is completely the opposite. You know for a fact the horrors you accuse one person of committing, you would absolutely ignore if they were from the other party. Don’t even bother trying to lie to me, go ahead and lie to yourself if it makes you feel better.

There is a huge problem when the most attention is paid to who is saying something and not what is being said. McCain is a woman; this is true but irrelevant. When she gets into a debate with Goldberg or one of her co-hosts; listen to what they are both saying. Evaluate the words and concepts, not the person or the political ideology.

I’m reminded of a quote from a despicable fellow by the name of Martin Shkreli: “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government,” he said after being grilled by Congress about a massive increase in drug prices. When a fellow is right, he’s right, no matter what I think of him personally.

Tom Liberman

Is Art Defined by the Constraints of the Medium?

Art Defined by Tic Tac Toe

During board game night a discussion broke out about how is art defined? While we delivered in the Wasteland Express the software developer opined that his job was artistic but that of an engineer was not. This being true because the medium in which the engineer worked was more greatly constrained.

Needless to say, strong opinions were hurled. I find the question of how is Art Defined to be an interesting question but the moral of the story, and the point of this blog, is more about how to we come to a consensus on a question that, by its nature, has no easy answer.

At issue; at least for the fellow trying to define software development as art, is how to we determine if an endeavor is so constrained that it can no longer be considered art. When confronted by thorny issues of this nature I think the best strategy is to simplify the question as best as is possible. It’s always going to be difficult, if not impossible, to determine what constitutes a line in the sand as far as constraints and be able to get to the bottom of Art Defined.

I started, on the drive home after having been thoroughly thrashed in the Wasteland yet again because I have too much fun making deliveries and taking on raiders and forget about the Victory Conditions, but that’s my issue and I’ve completely lost the train of thought on this sentence, best start again. As I was driving home, I thought about how most people who play chess at a moderately high level consider a well-played combination to be artistic. Certainly, chess has more constraints than engineering. If a game of chess can be artistic then we must conclude that a particular engineering design can be as well.

That being said, I must simplify further. How about checkers, I said to myself while waiting at a red light. Darn those red lights. No, even better, Tic Tac Toe. If we are going to simplify, let’s go all the way. Can Tic Tac Toe be artistic? No, I said to myself. End of story! Wait, I argued with myself, don’t be so hasty, Tom. Really? I replied. Yep, I answered. Let me give you an example.

In Game One the O player makes three moves and wins the game because the X player doesn’t make a blocking move. In Game Two the O player makes moves so as to block player X and set up a situation where she or he has two paths to victory and cannot be blocked. Is not Game Two more artistic than Game One?

We’ll, I said aloud to myself as the couple in the car one over looked at me like I was crazy. Did I mention I was waving my arms and hands to illustrate the moves on the Tic Tac Toe board? Well, you may have a point, I said nodding to the superior knowledge of me.

No, problem, I replied in an attempt at modesty. You would have come to the same conclusion if given enough time. Thanks, I said, although I suspect I was being a little condescending to myself.

In any case, if we decide that one Tic Tac Toe game can be more artistic than another, we are admitting the game can be artistic, although perhaps less so than a chess game, but artistic nevertheless. If this is true, it seems impossible to conclude anything other than all human endeavors possess the possibility of being artistic, regardless of how constrained they might be. There is the potential for art in all things.

This being the case, which I think I’ve proved to myself beyond a reasonable doubt, I think all engineers can now rest easy knowing they are capable of artistic designs. Now that I’ve resolved Art Defined, let’s tackle a bigger problem. How can I possible win a game of Wasteland Express if I don’t pay any attention to the Victory Conditions … a mystery that may never be solved.

Tom Liberman

Hidden Likes as a Way to Promote Creativity on Instagram

Hidden Likes Instagram

There’s an interesting story roiling the world of Social Media these days in that a photo posting website called Instagram is going to implement Hidden Likes in an attempt to encourage creativity, at least that is the thinking. Basically, in any Social Media platform people post something and other people Like it. With Hidden Likes, only the original poster will be able to see the number of Likes a particular missive gathers.

The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, is implementing the Hidden Likes strategy for a number of reasons. One of those is the following thought: if people are not posting things in attempt to garner Likes they might post more creative and interesting ideas rather than going for the sensational.

The first thing we must dismiss is the idea that Likes do not have an influence on what is posted. If the Hidden Likes update goes into effect it will certainly change what people post to some degree. I post fairly regularly and can tell you, first hand, there is a pleasure in getting more Likes and knowing that others are aware of the popularity of my original post. I often attempt to word my blogs in a way to generate attention. Now, that being said, I generally write about ideas and events that impassion me.

The number of Likes a post generates certainly indicates its popularity in the same way the number of sales of a product shows if there is market for that item. If posts of a certain style generate likes and other people see those likes, then those individuals certainly start making posts in a similar vein.

When a network has opinion shows where in the hosts express outrage and populist ideas it gets far better rating than a pure news channel. That’s the reality of this world. We look for the approval of others and imitate those who are successful in getting such praise. Likes are essentially ratings for all to see.

While Hidden Likes make it more difficult to determine which post gets the most attention, people will find a way to circumvent the new system. The competition to get the most Likes will continue.

Now, all that being said, the CEO of Instagram can implement any policy he wants. It’s his business model and perhaps this update will generate more Likes for the company which is expressed in the number of users on the platform. Perhaps it will drive people over to a competitor’s social media site. Perhaps it will increase creativity, there is no way to know for certain.

My final conclusion? I don’t really have one. It’s an interesting look into the Social Media platform and the power of Likes. You might want to ridicule them but they have power, that much I know.

One thing is sure, it’s generating publicity for Instagram, as seen in my post here. Perhaps that was the plan all along.

Tom Liberman

Evander Kane Gambling Debt Illustrative

Evander Kane Gambling

A news story just broke about a hockey played named Evander Kane and the fact he apparently owes the Cosmopolitan casino in Las Vegas half a million dollars in unpaid markers. He reportedly ran up the debt when his team, the San Jose Sharks, were playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the NHL playoffs in April.

I’m sure there will be many people lamenting the fact that Las Vegas, a center for gambling, now has professional sports teams when for many years the various leagues actively prevented such from happening. They will talk about the situation Kane finds himself in as a dire warning as to why athletes should not be traveling to Las Vegas on a regular basis. We will soon have a Las Vegas NFL team and it’s likely an NBA team and MLB team will eventually join them.

The idea being that athletes who end up owing large amounts of money to gambling houses are potentially corruptible. Kane might be tempted to pay off the Cosmopolitan by playing a bad game on a night when the casino had a lot of money bet on his team to win.

To me, the situation quite starkly illustrates exactly the opposite. The difference is the Cosmopolitan has a legal recourse to get Kane to repay the money. That’s the entire point of the lawsuit they’ve filed. Illegal gambling operations have no such leverage and must look for other ways to get the money back. That’s essentially the entire argument against making things like gambling illegal in the first place.

Kane would have found an outlet to place his wagers even without being in Las Vegas. I readily admit being in the location makes it easier, but athletes have been going into gambling debt long before there was an NHL team based in Las Vegas. You can’t prevent someone from gambling, so the best way to stop an athlete from becoming beholden to criminal gambling enterprises is to allow them to gamble legally. Then the casino can sue her or him for the money rather than extort it some other way.

People certainly seem to think making immoral activities illegal is a good idea but generally such laws create a far worse situation than the actual unethical actions. People are going to gamble anyway, that’s reality. The fact Kane can legally be pursued for the money the casino claims he owes makes sports safer.

Tom Liberman

Arkham Horror Card Game Losing to Win

Losing to Win

I’ve been playing through the Arkham Horror Card Game and, along with my stalwart companion, reached the scenario called Undimensioned and Unseen. The game mechanics of that particular session contain a setup rule that gives me the opportunity to wax poetic about the concept of Losing to Win.

The premise of Losing to Win is if you do badly in a particular situation you are, to some degree, rewarded by getting a better chance to win in the future. We see this scenario most vividly in North American sport league’s drafts and I wrote extensively about my objection to them another time. The ideology is those who are not doing well need some extra help in order to succeed.

In this case, Undimensioned and Unseen is preceded by a scenario entitled Blood on the Altar. In that session you are tasked with saving various people from sacrifice to the Elder Gods. The number of victims who survive has a direct impact on the number of Brood of Yog-Sothoth that appear in the subsequent scenario.

Daisy Walker, played by Andrew, and Zoey Samaras, played by yours truly, had both skill and the luck of the dice on our side when we vanquished Blood on the Altar with only a single person sacrificed to the Elder Gods. Hooray, we thought. Then we read the setup scenario to Undimensioned and Unseen which told us the people saved in Blood on the Altar was inversely proportional to the number of Brood of Yog-Sothoth in play. We had to fight the greatest number of enemies, five, whereas teams that watched horrified as all the kidnap victims were killed only had to fight two of the enemies. Luck was not on our side this time and we were soundly crushed after killing three of the Brood.

Had we done nothing in the previous scenario, we would have easily won this scenario. Should we play again, we will undoubtedly pursue such a strategy, why wouldn’t we? That is the problem with rewarding failure and punishing success. You encourage Losing to Win.

The issue in real life is quite a bit more complex than a card game. If a person has terrible setbacks in life, do we reward her or him with food and shelter she or he would not otherwise be able to afford? Do we allow a company that utterly fails to declare bankruptcy and not pay their obligations? These are not easy questions to answer and I’m not going to attempt to do so today, but I am aware the issue is complicated and has many nuances.

Still, I think my basic premise is sound. We should reward success. We often need not punish failure as it is painful enough on its own. In this manner we avoid Losing to Win scenarios like Undimensioned and Unseen. And thus, the victims are not sacrificed, which, except for a few peckish Outer Gods, is a good thing!

Tom Liberman

Why did Katie Hill Resign?

Katie Hill

There’s been a fascinating story in the news about United States Representative Katie Hill who resigned from her position after having sexual relations with a campaign aide, having lurid photos of her published in various news outlets, and being accused of having relations with a member of her staff. Why did she resign? Why is this even a story? Who actually cares? These are the things I hope to examine today.

Of all the things that Hill did, or has been accused of doing, the only one that presents a legal problem is engaging in consensual sexual relations with a staffer. In 2018 Congress enacted rules against doing so, this largely in response to the #MeToo movement in which generally women were coerced into sexual relations with their, often male, elected officials or faced retribution for refusing to do so.

The second issue involved the fact that the male aide she had sex with was twenty-two years old. Some people have a problem with that. The final problem is the lurid pictures of Hill that appeared in various outlets, generally from those of an opposing political philosophy. Some think Hill showed bad judgement in taking the pictures.

As a Libertarian I don’t have a problem with anything Hill did and I have a problem with anyone who does, although that is certainly their right. If Hill wants to have sexual relations with a staffer then she should do so, as should anyone who works with anyone else. I understand that someone in a supervisory position can coerce an underling with various threats and I understand why members of Congress passed such rules. That being said, I think consenting adults should have as much sex in as many positions as possible. It’s no one else’s business.

If someone behaves in an illegal way; firing the underling for cutting off the relationship, blackmailing someone into having sex, that should be pursued with due diligence. The problem isn’t people having consensual sex, it’s that the legal establishment has long ignored those who were coerced or lost their jobs because they refused such advances. The rules preventing such behavior are clearly being selectively applied, every member of Congress, male and female, is aware of other members having consensual relationships with staffers and does nothing because everyone is happy as rabbits, as well they should be.

As for Hill having sex with a man ten years her junior. Good for both of them! I wrote an article about a woman having sex with an eighteen-year-old friend of her daughter some years back and my opinion has not changed. We have decided, for whatever reason, eighteen is the age of consent. Perhaps we find a fifty-year-old man dating an eighteen-year-old woman distasteful but that’s their business, not mine, and not yours.

Finally, as to the naked photos, I have a very strong opinion on that. If Hill or anyone else wants to take lurid pictures of themselves that is their business. The despicable people in this are those who chose to publish the pictures without Hill’s consent. Their behavior is both criminal and immoral from where I’m sitting. Posting lurid pictures of another person without getting permission first? Sick, disgusting. Doing so for political gain? I’d honestly like to put a bullet in the head of whoever made that decision but I’ll restrain myself because I know doing so is illegal.

Hill should not have resigned, she did, as far as I’m concerned, nothing wrong.

Tom Liberman

The Difficulty of Opioid Testing in Professional Sports

Opioid Testing

The recent death of Los Angeles Angles pitcher Tyler Skaggs from an overdose has led many people to call for Opioid Testing in Major League Baseball and professional sports in general. Most people seem to think Opioid Testing is a great idea. It’s my opinion those of such an opinion neglect to acknowledge the reality of professional sports and that’s what I’d like to discuss today.

The reason we sports fans get to marvel in the astounding performances of professional athletes across the athletic spectrum is because of pain management techniques including a large amount of opioid use. I well understand we’d like to believe athletes are able to put on these amazing shows night after night without the aid of pain management techniques but such is self-delusion. Top-level athletes push their bodies to the limit day after day and started doing so at a young age. They are beat up.

The way trainers get the athletes back on the field is through pain management and opioids are a big part of it. This is not something limited to professional athletes. I played baseball as a ten-year-old and I wasn’t given opioids but I got injured even then. By the time an athlete reaches high school their bodies have already been subject to enormous stresses. Team doctors give them opioids so they can get on the field and entertain us, me, the sports fan. That’s reality.

This being true, how exactly is a plan to implement opioid testing in professional sports ever going to work? If many, potentially the majority, of players are taking opioids then it becomes impossible to implement a program to test for them. There is no test that can tell the difference between heroin purchased illegally from Oxycodone prescribed by a team doctor.

It is entirely possible Skaggs got addicted to opioids because trainers started giving them to him when he first suffered significant pain from pitching and that might have been at a very young age. I have no knowledge of such a thing but it’s not difficult to imagine quite a number of professional athletes have been taking prescription opioids for a long time.

This is the price they pay to entertain us, me. So, before I get on my high horse and start calling for Opioid Testing, perhaps I should examine my role in all of this, my responsibility in their pain, addiction, and even death. Pain that will follow them throughout their lives.

I understand it is their choice to play sports, it is their choice to follow the advice of team physicians and take opioids to begin with, to potentially become addicted. I do not absolve them from responsibility but I refuse to shriek from a pretentious moral high ground.

Let’s be adults and face the reality of the situation.

Tom Liberman

Too Old to Trick or Treat Laws

Trick or Treat

There’s a viral story making the rounds about Chesapeake, Virginia and their ordinance against anyone over the age of 14 going out to Trick or Treat over Halloween. The city council passed the law which carries with it a fine of $250. People are outraged. I’ve written before how it’s within the purview of any local government to pass any law it wants. My problem with this law is that it creates criminals where there are none.

Most people think the government shouldn’t be out there checking on the age of children who are out on a Trick or Treat mission. I agree although, as I’ve written, it is certainly not a right granted by the Constitution of the United States and thus local municipalities can write laws banning the practice to people over a certain age.

The problem comes from why the law was written in the first place. In reading the article you find that way back in 1968 there were several Halloween pranks that went too far, including older children throwing firecrackers into the candy sacks of little Trick or Treaters. The ordinance was passed so that police could arrest those engaging in destructive behavior on Halloween.

The problem, for this Libertarian, is that engaging in mayhem is already against the law. Most municipalities have extensive rules and regulation on such things. If the law enforcement agents witnessed something like that happening, they already had plenty of legal backing for an arrest.

The good news is that the police in Chesapeake have engaged in incredible restraint in regards to this law. They have cited no one since it came into existence way back in 1970. I’m often critical of law enforcement officers here on this blog and I want to take time out to salute the fine women and men of Chesapeake who have shown wonderful judgement in refusing to enforce this stupid law. If only all police officers had such good sense.

The problem is the officers are allowing people to break the law every Halloween. I guarantee there are plenty of children over the legal age out there engaging in Trick or Treat candy collecting. This is where we get selective enforcement of the law and where police officers often run into charges of racism and other misbehavior.

The point is the law itself is stupid. It makes criminals of anyone over the age of 14 who wants to Trick or Treat. There are plenty of incredibly stupid laws on the books but, sadly, police don’t always ignore such ordinances.

If the city council of Chesapeake wants to prevent mayhem on Halloween, they need merely enforce existing laws preventing such. They do not need to create new laws and new criminals. This leads to far more trouble than the law was intended to stop.

Tom Liberman