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

Brexit Vote is the Origin of the Problem

Brexit Vote

The Brexit Vote is the main culprit in the convulsive process that has largely paralyzed the United Kingdom for the last three years. There are a lot of things that can be said about the issue but from this Libertarian’s perspective the entire problem comes down to a single cause. They let people vote.

It’s important to understand that we live in a Representative Democracy and not a Direct Democracy. We elect politicians who decide policy. After a period of time new elections take place and we can replace anyone whose decisions we don’t like. In a Direct Democracy the people vote for policy decisions much in the way they did with the Brexit Vote.

We only need to see the results of that Brexit Vote to understand why having the people make political decisions is a bad idea. Not that leaving the European Union was a bad idea or a good idea, but the politicians weren’t committed one way or the other. The vote lead to exactly where we are today.

Would you have the people vote for any decision in your life? Would you have the people vote for important moments in your life? The answer is obviously no. If we take a poll of people across your region, what restaurant would be deemed the best? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Cracker Barrel, it’s just not really all that good. If I’m taking a sexy, dark-haired girl with a wicked sense of humor, impressive intellect, disdainful attitude, and a barrel full of crazy to a nice dinner, well, Cracker Barrel isn’t going to be my choice. No offense.

This problem is not only associated with the Brexit Vote but with referendums across the United States and a general lack of will in politicians. It’s the impetus to the War Powers Act which I wrote about not long ago. It’s related to the Emergency Powers Act. Our politicians lack the will to make difficult decisions and therefore they pass the decision on either to the people or to the Executive. Both choices are bad. One gives the important decision-making power to the average person and the other invests one person with far too much power.

We elect people to make decisions; from local School Boards to the United States Congress and all the places in between. Those elected officials need to make decisions and then face the voters later based on their choices.

Anything else leads to a mess. The evidence of the Brexit Vote is clear.

Tom Liberman

The Real Value of Technology to Users

Real Value of Technology

I just followed what I imagined was a clickbait link and ended up on a fascinating article describing a difficult economic question about what is the real value of technology to its users. The problem is that nations around the world base their economic policy on things like Gross Domestic Product and Productivity Gains. Yet, we have no way to add things like using Social Media to the numbers.

The article describes recent techniques championed by MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson. Brynjolfsson is trying to quantify how much using search engines, social media, e-mail, GPS, and other technologies add in real value to not only your life but the economic health of the nation and world. These techniques are being used by the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, in an effort to more accurately determine the health of the economy and make better decision about its immediate and long-term future.

It’s my opinion these efforts are long overdue and need to be applied to any number of traditional economic indicators which are becoming less useful in the modern era. I wrote an article about the end of money and another about unemployment not long ago that consider this same idea. Things like inflation and unemployment have long been used to determine the health of the economy but I think the numbers generated by metrics today are slipping further and further from reality.

As our numbers begin to fail there rises the likelihood those determining economic decisions on a worldwide basis will be making bad choices based on poor data.

If you think there is no real value of technology then I quote the last lines of the article: How should we value the luxury of never needing to ask for directions or the peace and tranquility afforded by speedy resolution of those contentious arguments over the trivia of the moment?

I have no great insights today. I’m glad to see the people in charge are looking into such things and I’m hopeful they’ll make important gains in understanding the real value of technology.

Tom Liberman

Students on Phones are Bad or are they?

Students on Phones

Educational systems in the United States and all over the world are roiling with the constant reality of students on phones. From grammar school to college teachers, parents, administrators, and even law-makers are wrestling with the problem. It seems to me that the knee jerk reaction to students on phones is to take the phones away. I disagree.

The basic idea is students on phones are a distracting element taking away from the learning process and therefore the trend must be countered. Certainly, it can be argued cell phones are a useful tool in school for a number of reasons but the reality is students do get distracted while on their phone. It is within the purview of administrators and teachers to make rules about students on phone in their schools and classrooms. Being on a phone is not a constitutionally protected right so the state has the right to pass laws as well, that doesn’t mean it’s a proper thing for them to do.

It’s my opinion that each teacher should be allowed to make the rules in her or his classroom. Teachers are closest to the situation and can make the best determinations. Not to say all teachers are fair and equitable in their decision-making process. I’ve written about unfair teachers before so I’m under no illusion in that regard.

Now I’ll get to the point of this article. Were it my classroom, I would have no restrictions on students on phones. Believe me when I tell you I paid little or no attention to my teachers back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we didn’t have cell phones. You can’t make a student pay attention if she or he does not want to do so.

The final arbiter of learning is test results. Should we punish students who don’t seem to be paying attention but get high scores while rewarding students who seem to be listening to every word but get lower scores? That’s the fundamental question that goes far beyond the schoolyard and into our everyday life. We must value results more than perceived effort.

It’s true that students will be distracted by phones and miss out on lesson content but you cannot convince me the same student would have paid attention without a phone in her or his hand. That’s the reality of the world. The onus is on the teacher to make the lesson interesting and engaging for the student. I’m not living in a fantasy world in that regard either. I know some students won’t pay attention no matter how hard the teacher works.

We cannot control how people learn or even if they learn at all. We must trust the individual to do the most with their own life despite our inclination to the contrary.

Tom Liberman

Hidden Immorality of Medical Costs

Hidden Immorality

I just read an interesting article that illustrates the hidden immorality associated with medical costs in this country. In Alabama primarily but other states as well, the sheriff’s office is required to pay for medical expenses of inmates. The cost is so prohibitive the sheriffs simply release the inmates, often dragging the hand of an incoherent prisoner over a release form, before sending her or him off to the hospital.

Do the sheriffs in question know this is an immoral action? Of course they do, but what other choice is there? If an inmate suffers from a serious illness the cost of care could be more than the entire department’s yearly budget. That’s the reality of high medical costs in this country. The problem spreads its vile tentacles into so many aspects of our lives it’s difficult to truly comprehend the horror it creates, not only for patients, for their families, but also for the people who are trying to care for them, including the sheriffs.

I absolutely guarantee you sheriffs don’t want take prisoners who look like they are getting ill, drive them to the edge of town, and dump them on the street. The reality is painful but true. Why is this happening? Because so many poor people don’t have insurance. Why don’t people have insurance? Because medical care can be an enormous expense and insurance companies don’t want people who have illnesses on their plans.

The trickle up effect is that sheriffs, counties, states, and the federal government are stuck with enormous bills they cannot easily pay, just as are patients. The result is that people are not getting treatment because it costs too much and that creates vast suffering, a hidden immorality of high medical expenses.

Do you think a law enforcement officer goes home and tells her or his friends and family about how wonderful it was to help a nearly unconscious inmate scrawl their signature on a release form so the county could save money? I don’t. I think the officers hate themselves for having to do it because the act is unethical on its face. Yet it is happening over and over again. That’s the hidden immorality that our nation is facing.

I’ve written about the underlying problem, an aging and unhealthy population, before so I won’t go into details here. There are certainly no easy solutions but I think it’s important to understand how medical costs create a hidden immorality far beyond the people who get sick.

Tom Liberman

Colonial Injustice and the Border Wall

Colonial Injustice

I just read an interesting article about how President Trump is diverting a large amount of money from various military projects in Guam in order to build the Border Wall and how it illustrates Colonial Injustice.

In the article the spokesperson for Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian expresses the following sentiment: Our organization is conflicted about the means in which the pause was achieved because these are two instances of colonial injustice, one impacting the other. Let me explain.

The United States is in the process of moving about 5,000 Marines from the island of Okinawa in Japan to Guam. The reason they are doing this is because the Marines and everything required to support them is causing a great deal of congestion on the island. The cost of the move is over $8 billion dollars which includes building all sorts of support infrastructure on Guam including a well, a live-fire training range, and a munitions storage facility.

How is all of this related to Colonial Injustice? It’s a bit complex but basically there are people both in Japan and Guam who have no desire to host a large group of Marines along with their attendant requirements. Now, to be fair, there are also people from those nations who eagerly embrace the U.S. Military presence because of the tax dollars that come with it. That enormous amount of money buys us foreign support but also creates a great deal of resentment.

Imagine the government of France decided to put a huge military base in St. Louis, Missouri. There would be those who would welcome the influx of money but others who would not appreciate the presence of a foreign power’s military arm on their land. The soldiers so housed would certainly commit some crimes as has happened in Okinawa and Guam.

This is part and parcel of Colonial Injustice. We use our money to house our military in foreign lands against the will of some of the people of those nations. We essentially bribe our way into their country.

Some of the people in Guam, the group aforementioned specifically, is unhappy their nation is being further occupied by U.S. troops and their land is being taken for the facilities to house and train the Marines. Again, to be fair, the government of Guam is more than happy to take our money and not everyone is opposed to the expansion. Still, I think it’s reasonable to call how we base our soldiers all over the world against the wishes of at least some of the people of those nations Colonial Injustice.

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian doesn’t want the United States in Guam and they are happy the money for the project is being diverted and delaying the move. They delay means the Marines will reside on Okinawa for longer than was planned. Thus, the conflict of emotions for the group because they empathize with the people of Japan who don’t want the Marines there anymore.

The United States has become a colonial power committing injustices in foreign lands on a scale almost beyond imagination. This engenders a great deal of resentment in the populations of those countries but serves us by extending our military capabilities.

I’m not saying there are easy answers here, but I absolutely think we have far too many foreign bases and, in the long run, the activities associated with being a colonial power do not serve our interests.

Tom Liberman

The Wealth Gap between Poor and Rich in Athletics

Wealth Gap High School Football

The wealth gap in our nation is something that a lot of people are interested in and a new dynamic, in the form of athletics, brings an interesting perspective to the debate. Essentially, wealthy schools are absolutely crushing poor schools in high school football across the country. I just read an interesting article illustrating how the various states are trying to handle the situation.

There are a number of factors driving the phenomenon including better coaching, better nutrition, better practice facilities, better weight rooms, and the fact sometimes the best athletes from poor districts have to hold down jobs rather than play sports. What cannot be argued is the math behind the wealth gap problem. Teams from poor districts lose consistently to teams from rich districts, so much so that Minnesota, Oregon, and Colorado have change the rules for scheduling matchups. More states are contemplating doing the same.

In the past it was relatively simple. The level of football was determined by the number of students in the high school. Schools with large student populations played against other schools with a similar number of students.

Here in my home town of St. Louis that plan was thoroughly upended by desegregation and private schools. The best athletes from poor districts were transferred to financially stable districts or given scholarships by private schools; destroying the balance that once existed. That’s not what’s going on here.

What’s happening is something that we should take note of as an overall trend. Kids from wealthy districts or kids with wealthy parents are gaining an advantage so steep it is becoming almost impossible to overcome. We’ve seen simple bribery in the College Admission Scandal which I wrote about before but this is something else again.

The reality of the problem is demonstrated in the final score of high school football game. It becomes impossible to deny this wealth gap issue when rich high schools absolutely crush poor high schools in a consistent and statistically irrefutable way. Count the wins. Look at the scores.

Solutions are difficult to say the least but it’s important to be willing to acknowledge the wealth gap in this country exists and is problematic. Just allowing the poor high schools to drop down in division, which is largely the various states’ solution, is not addressing the real problem. High school football is telling us something. Are we listening?

Tom Liberman

How to Stop the Miami Dolphins from Playing to Lose

Playing to Lose

The Miami Dolphins are playing to lose and a lot of people don’t like it. The Dolphins have all but tacitly admitted they can’t make the playoffs this season and traded away their best players hoping to finish in last place and get good draft choices. This is not the first time we’ve observed such behavior and its been at least somewhat successful in the past.

The Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia 76ers have all employed the playing to lose strategy with varying degrees of success over the last decade. Many argue there is little that can be done to stop such behavior despite the obvious negatives associated with it. Mainly the players lose years out of very short careers and the fans have to sit through seasons of inept play with the hopes of victory at some undefined future point which sometimes never comes.

The way to change this behavior is simply to understand why it is being implemented in the first place. Teams try to lose because they will get better draft choices. The way sports leagues work in Canada and United States, but nowhere else in the world, is through drafts in which players are enslaved, that is say drafted, by a single employer and cannot negotiate with any other team. The worst teams draft first and the best teams draft last. I wrote about why the system is a Libertarian Hell already, please take a look at that article to understand the immorality of the system. Today I’m going to talk about how abolishing it also eliminates playing to lose.

Well, honestly, I don’t really have to do much explaining. If all players joining the professional ranks for the first time are allowed to shop their services to whatever team is willing to meet their price, there is no playing to lose. With a salary cap imposed by the various leagues it is up to each team to give the best contract to the player who will help her or his team the most. It’s done this way in college and across the world, so don’t fill my comments with suggestions on how it won’t work.

The best running back would certainly be incentivized to sign with a team that is in need of a running back and vice versa. This is the way it works for every other person first entering the work force and for all other businesses in the world.

Don’t like teams playing to lose? The solution is simple and ethically right. Win and win.

Tom Liberman

Fair Pay to Play Exposes NCAA Hypocrisy

Fair Pay to Play

There is a fairly big news story involving the Fair Pay to Play bill just passed by the California Legislature. I think there’s a great deal of confusion about the bill which the NCAA and Tim Tebow so virulently oppose. Let me explain it in simple terms. The Fair Pay to Play bill does not force colleges to pay athletes, it simply allows said athletes to sell their autographs, images, and likenesses. That’s it. All the hubbub Tebow and the NCAA are wailing about is simply athletes being allowed to sell their autographs and images.

Let me be even more clear. Right now, those athletes are forbidden from selling their own autograph! They cannot sell a picture of themselves but the NCAA does it all the time. Autographed memorabilia are auctioned off by the schools and the NCAA all the time. The school administrators, coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, and everyone else associated with the games profit off the name, images, and likeness of the players. Everyone except the players themselves.

The NCAA disgusts me and long has done so. I’ve written about this before. Now I’ll add Tebow to the list of people who profit off college football while insisting the players get nothing. I’m not sure how much more hypocritical it can get. How people can justify not allowing anyone to sell their autograph and image is beyond my comprehension. Nothing is more personal. Nothing is a greater natural right. My image is mine to do with as I wish as is yours.

You don’t have to be a die-hard Libertarian like myself to respect the individual’s right to sell her or his own autograph. No one else is prohibited from doing so except so-called amateur athletes. Not only is the bill not unconstitutional, as the NCAA and Tebow claim, it is the rules that prohibit it that are unconstitutional. How the NCAA has gotten away with this for so long is an indictment of our judicial branch and an assault on freedom. How is it that a law needs to be passed to allow people to sell their own autograph? That’s the real question.

Unconstitutional? Unconstitutional? You’re unconstitutional! You’re unconstitutional. The whole trial is unconstitutional. That sick, crazy, and depraved NCAA is stealing from those athletes and they’d like to keep doing it!

Tom Liberman