No Planning means no Military Parade

Military ParadeThere’s an interesting story in the news about plans, or lack thereof, for a military parade in Washington D.C. The parade was on but then it was off again. I wasn’t that interested in the story until I read the sequence of events that led to President Trump announcing the parade was cancelled, not that I think it is permanently cancelled, the president is a man of mercurial whim and anything can change. That being said, I think this incident gives us some insight into the nature of his administration. Lack of planning.

Trump wanted to have a military parade ever since he saw the Bastille Day celebration in France back in July of 2017 and has been credibly reported as saying he wanted something similar in Washington D.C. He’s been talking about this idea with various members of the Armed Services and others for over a year now. Apparently, his insistence finally started some action but this is what I want to discuss.

If you speak with the women and men charged with planning any sort of a parade, even a kindergarten march through the school, they will explain to you the necessity of making plans. Lots can go wrong in such events and a military parade through downtown Washington D.C. is something that I hope anyone, regardless of political affiliation realizes, is a complex affair. There is much organization and coordination between various groups required.

City officials were notified on August 8, 2018 to be aware planning for a parade was under way and they would be involved. The letter from Homeland Security listed one detail and that one being vague, it would happen on or around November 10, 2018. The announcement the parade was cancelled because of cost came on Aug 17, 2018. That’s eleven entire days. Which is hardly enough time to make a proper estimate, but it gets much worse.

The city didn’t receive any other information about the parade until Aug 14, 2018. Even then officials were not told how long the parade would last, how many people were involved, what route was planned, what military equipment was involved, or apparently much of anything. They were then asked to estimate the cost to the city!

It’s hard for me to put into words how idiotic is this request. How can anyone make an approximation without at least some information? The data given to them made it impossible to make an estimate. City officials then threw out a number, a mistake if you ask me, of $21.6 million. I’m guessing they looked at expenses for other such events with extra pay for police, fire, and emergency services, cleanup costs, etc. Still, they should have just told the White House they had no idea and needed more information before any sort of an estimate could be offered.

The Pentagon has apparently long resisted this parade and someone began throwing out numbers with one being $92 million. General Mattis, who would supposedly be in a position to know about the plans, in an overt admission said that no one had any idea how much the parade would cost and any estimates should be discounted. Mattis at least had the courage to admit no one planned a damn thing and it was impossible to guess the cost. Maybe he hoped no one would comment on the incredibly stupidity of the entire organizational failure. Wrong. General Mattis, you bear some responsibility for this nonsense.

The worst part about all of this is that it seems like standard operating procedure for this administration. If you support it, please take note of how lack of planning is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. From tariffs, to immigration, to travel bans, the entire administration simply fires on the whim of the president. Maybe you like that, maybe you support that, but don’t come complaining to me when things go horribly awry. Without plans, as even the most ardent support of the president knows in their heart, chances are things will spiral into disaster.

Tom Liberman

Punishing by Playing Antonio Callaway and Hue Jackson

Antonio CallawayThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about a Cleveland Browns player named Antonio Callaway and his coach, Hue Jackson. Callaway was stopped for a traffic violation and marijuana was found in his car. Jackson decided that Callaway’s punishment should be to play almost every offensive snap in the preseason game against the New York Giants. Many people are questioning this method of punishment.

I won’t keep you in suspense as to my opinion on the subject, it’s Jackson’s team to run as he sees fit. If he thinks it’s an appropriate punishment then it’s his call to make. That won’t stop me from suggesting it seems like a very bad idea from a misguided coach.

Callaway ended up playing 57 of the 63 offensive plays Cleveland ran in the game and was exhausted and asking to be removed at several points. He was refused. This seems to me to put Callaway in physical danger. A player who is tired is not running plays properly which is clearly demonstrated in this age of specialization. Players are rotated in and out at a far greater rate than in previous decades.

It also seems very unusual to punish a rookie player by giving him more repetition at his position. There are certainly other wideouts on the Browns hoping to make the team and each of them was denied chances to impress because Callaway stayed in the game.

All this is certainly true but my original assessment stands. It’s Jackson’s team to run as he sees fit. What’s important to consider is if his methods are working. His record as head coach of the Browns is an astonishing 1-29 over the course of two seasons. He accumulated an 8-8 record in one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders before he was fired there.

Perhaps his methods are wise and will be part of a turnaround for the Browns and they will become a playoff team. Perhaps this punishment is indicative of a coach flailing away for solutions, a coach who doesn’t know what he is doing or why and his abysmal record will continue.

We just don’t know but we’ll certainly find out. I think Jackson was wrong in his methods and so do some other people. It’s quite possible I’ll be incorrect in this judgment, because that’s all it is, an opinion based on the evidence.

I won’t be personally insulted if the Browns start winning games and Jackson turns out to be an excellent head coach. I won’t defend my position to the death. I’ll shrug my shoulders and say I judged the evidence that was available to me and came to a conclusion which turned out to be wrong. Best of luck.

Tom Liberman

Are Super Nerds Ruining Baseball?

Jayson Werth Super NerdsFormer Major League Baseball Jayson Werth claims baseball is being ruined by hard-core statisticians he calls Super Nerds. The basic idea behind Werth’s claim is that advanced statistical analysis, Sabermetrics, have changed the way the game is played with home runs becoming more valuable and thus increasing strike outs. Certainly, it’s more complicated than this quick explanation but what I’d like to examine is the general idea that statistical analysis is causing harm to the game of baseball.

Sabermetrics came to the forefront of baseball decision making when Billy Beane incorporated the ideas of Paul DePodesta into the day to day operations of the Oakland Athletics. The movie Moneyball was based on these events. The Athletics were very successful with these techniques and soon the Boston Red Sox incorporated them and won the World Series. Not long after this most teams embraced the ideas of the so-called Super Nerds.

The idea is that men and women with advanced understanding of statistics make better baseball decisions than the people who have played the game for their entire lives. It’s no wonder people like Werth and Goose Gossage have come out with scathing comments about the change in baseball and the generation of largely Ivy League educated men who brought about those new methods.

The proof is in the pudding. The methods employed by the Super Nerds work. Sport is a result orientated business and if ideas are failing they are generally discarded. That doesn’t really address the claims Werth is making. He isn’t saying the Super Nerds are making bad decisions that hurt teams, he’s saying they are making the game boring, something no one wants to watch.

I suspect he’s making that claim because attendance is down this year by about 6% although major weather factors early in the season account for much of this. Over the last twenty years attendance statistics are relatively flat with about as many people, 72-73 million, attending games each season. It’s neither up or down. This seems to put Werth’s statements to question.

I strongly suspect great athletes like Werth feel their territory is being usurped by statistically minded men and women with advanced degrees and no experience with the game of baseball. I can understand that attitude. It seems fairly normal to resent newcomers telling you how to do your job.

The evidence suggests the new methods are superior in producing winning teams and have not had any effect on attendance as a whole.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that nothing stays the same. If baseball has changed to focus more on home runs, that will alter the underlying statistical base and a new metric will eventually be adopted to counter the trend.

The lesson, if there is one, is that change is inevitable, like it or not.

Tom Liberman

Cienega High and Senior Grad Trips Stealing Big

Senior Grad TripsThere’s an interesting story in the news about a travel company called Senior Grad Trips and various high schools including Cienega High in Tucson, Arizona. Basically, a company called Senior Grad Trips organizes high school senior trips to a variety of locations. They take the money and then apparently don’t deliver the trips. I don’t know all the details so I’m going to have to do some speculating but the basic idea is that stealing big is easy if you’ve got good legal advice.

The line from the story that really resonates with me comes from the mother of the one of the students from Cienega who had her money stolen, I could go to a grocery store and shoplift, and I would be put in jail that night. This man stole, and it’s taken more than a year for someone to say, ‘We’ll do something.’ What does it take for someone to care? Ronda Dillon made the comment after spending the last year trying to recoup the money her daughter and friends spent for the trip. So far to no avail.

Here’s what I’m guessing is the issue. Senior Grad Trips created their company with fraud in mind. The owners wanted to take money from various students, then use the profits on a party life. They had the contracts written with that in mind. They engaged in advertising designed to deceive. They covered their legal bases and there is little recourse against thieves of this nature. That’s why no one has been able to do anything as of yet.

Dillon is correct when she claims if she did some minor shoplifting she’d be charged and fined almost immediately. Our law enforcement agents are almost universally focused on petty crime while those who steal on a grander scale simply get away with it, smiling and nodding to our legal system all the while.

Deceptive contracts are the norm, not something unusual. Every contract you sign is designed with the idea of legally getting away with as much as possible. From your phone to your television viewing. Does anyone even dispute this?

Laws have been passed in recent years making it easier for a business to declare bankruptcy while individuals find it much more difficult. I wouldn’t be at all surprised, should there be an eventual resolution to this issue, if the students never get their money back and the owners of the Senior Grad Trips simply go on about their way, probably starting up some new scam.

That’s where we are. Practicing to deceive is not even fraud any more. It’s just a perfectly legal way to steal your money.

Tom Liberman

Ajit Pai Thinks he Didn’t Lie about Cyber Attack

Ajit PaiIn the IT world there’s been a heated and interesting debate going on for over a year about a denial of service attack Ajit Pai claimed happened to the FCC after his Net Neutrality announcement. The veracity of the attack has long been doubted and now Pai finally admits the truth but he is, of course, innocent of all wrongdoing.

I wrote an article detailing the entire episode which you can read to learn more about the actual events but what I’d like to focus on today is the smug expression of joy that Pai utters in assuring us he did nothing wrong. I’m pleased that this report debunks the conspiracy theory that my office or I had any knowledge that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and was allowing that inaccurate information to be disseminated for political purposes.

I suppose there is some chance Pai is an abject moron and wasn’t suspicious about the claim of an attack and therefore passed along the information in all honesty but I find that all but impossible to believe. Pai is an intelligent man whose parents are both doctors. He got an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Chicago. There is no possible way he is moronic enough to have believed the lies told to him by the former Chief Information Officer of the FCC. Certainly, he wanted to believe those lies because they made his own announcement regarding the ending of Net Neutrality apparently less controversial.

Those lies served his purpose quite well but there is no way he didn’t at the very least recognize the statements he was making were highly improbable. What a person of integrity does under such circumstances is wait before publicly repeating the lies. A person with character interviews other people and makes a determined effort to find the truth rather than immediately disseminating the information for political gain.

Pai is not any of those things. He is a self-serving punk who is now patting himself on the back because technically he didn’t lie. He repeated things that were almost certainly lies without making any effort to find the truth. If I do him the disservice of believing the statement he didn’t suspect something was wrong, then I’ll apologize for calling him a lying punk, he’s just a complete and utter moron. But, I’m fairly certain that’s not the case.

It’s this kind of delusional thinking that is destroying our country. Well, technically I didn’t know it was a lie therefore I’m in the clear. Please, don’t inform me of any important facts because then I’ll know the truth and I’m so much happier simply not knowing anything because it gives me plausible deniability. What a leader! Isn’t this the kind of person you want in charge?

Tom Liberman

Thule Air Force Base Meteor Misleading Headline

Meteor Strike Misleading HeadlineA Misleading Headline would suggest to you that the United States Air Force is covering up an enormous meteor strike that hit near the Thule Air Force base in Greenland. It’s true a meteor did explode some twenty-seven miles above the earth with a force of 2.1 kilotons. It’s also true the Air Force is not reporting about the incident. That may seem like some sort of cover up but you have to take several factors in to account.

First, the Air Force isn’t the one that reports meteor strikes, that’s the job of NASA and their Fireball and Bolide Report. That report includes this particular strike. The data indicates it was no different than dozens of other such events that occur yearly. So unremarkable was the strike that no one even bothered to write a story about it until it was reported by an Australian Astronomy organization.

Then Fox News got a hold of the article and began splashing the headline across its front page. Suddenly it was a huge story. It’s not.

Tom Liberman

How a Decent Person Reacts when they Accidentally Share Fake News

Fake NewsFake News is an important part of our lives now and it can be difficult to spot at times. I read a lot of stories and my Fake News detector is always at a pretty high state of alert so when someone I’m friends with on Social Media posts something suspicious I’m usually right on it. I attempt to verify the story and, if it turns out to be Fake News, alert my friend. It is the reaction thereafter that is the focus of my post today.

I’d like to begin by talking about how pervasive Fake News is becoming. I see false stories almost every single day going from complete fabrication to subtly nuanced exaggerations to simple omissions of vital information. Some of the fake stories are laughable bad and easy to spot while others are cleverly disguised and designed to pull at the political or social ideology of the reader. It is not always easy to spot Fake News and just because you post something that you thought was good and useful information but actually turns out to be false doesn’t make you a bad person.

That being said, when it is pointed out to you the article you shared is, in fact, Fake News, your reaction says a lot about your ethical standing as a person. This came home to me just the other day when a young woman who is the daughter of a friend posted a story and I immediately leapt to my normal level of jerk-hood and told her the story was both false and racist. Her reply? I’m so sorry. Story deleted. The end.

What a great reaction. I’ve told other, older and supposedly wiser and more moral people, her or his story was false and gotten a universally different reaction. Mostly I’m told, well, it may be false but the underlying ideology matches with my point of view and it is still good information to know so I’m going to keep it up. I’ve been told by people who absolutely consider themselves good and moral they don’t care it is Fake News, it matches their political beliefs and go screw yourself Tom. In all caps no less.

I’ve been completely ignored. I’ve been told I’m the immoral person. I’ve been attacked claiming the news is completely true even when I point out the obvious flaws. Deny, deny, deny. I did nothing wrong. I didn’t write the story, I just passed it along. I’m not responsible. I hate Fake News. I’m a good person. It’s not my fault, it’s the other person. I’m decent. I love my kids. I go to church. I don’t hate foreigners. Endless excuse making and lies, mainly lies to themselves.

To my friend’s daughter, well done. I’m very proud of you. We can all be fooled but it’s our actions afterward that show our character.

Tom Liberman

Vaginal Rejuvenation, Chipotle Gift Cards, Ginger-less Ginger Ale, and Critical Thinking

Critical ThinkingA plethora of news stories in recent days reminded me why I’m of the opinion that the solutions to many of the problems we face today lies in teaching Critical Thinking skills from an early age. Solutions will never come from government warnings and the illusion we are safe because of such intervention does more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at the trio of stories that caught my attention. The Food and Drug Administration is now attempting to shut down various Vaginal Rejuvenation clinics whose services have no known efficacy and, if improperly performed, can cause harm. Many people have been fooled by a fake $100 gift card for Chipotle. Finally, a woman is suing Canada Dry because there is no ginger in their Ginger Ale despite advertisements that suggest there might be such.

What do all these things have in common? The people who are harmed lack Critical Thinking skills. In the first case, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been vociferously lambasting Vaginal Rejuvenation as a scam for over ten years. Anyone who goes in for treatment of their body without doing at least a cursory investigation of the procedure about to happen is clearly not engaged in Critical Thinking.

At least some of the people who fell for the Chipotle scam gave away personal information to the scammers in order to get a free $100. Probably the motto of the Critical Thinking movement should be: Nihil est in vita liber. Nothing is Free in Life. If you thought Chipotle was going to let you purchase $100 worth of food for simply passing along a web link you are clearly lacking in Critical Thinking skills.

In the case of the ginger less Ginger Ale, the ingredients are on the bottle. Certainly, the advertising is designed to fool but if you want to make sure you get your daily dose of ginger, then it is imperative for you to look at ingredients.

All three of these problems require no government intervention. Certainly, if a medical procedure is botched there should be ramifications and the legal system can be invoked, but that would be for doing damage, not for you getting a stupid procedure that doesn’t work when there was readily available information to that effect.

We may look at the people fooled in all three cases and happily pat ourselves on the back for being too smart to avoid it but the reality is more sinister. As more and more people exhibit an inability to engage in Critical Thinking, the fabric of our society becomes unwound. Those of us capable of making good decisions are increasingly harmed by those who cannot. When a certain percentage of people in a society can no longer think critically, the society will most certainly be crushed.

More and more people entertain ludicrous conspiracy theories and act in ways that can potentially harm us all. This is dangerous for me and that’s the person I care about the most. I don’t really care that a bunch of idiots are harming themselves, that’s the way the world works. I care they are harming me.

How do we solve this problem? There is no way to account for everyone’s gullibility and stupidity. Some people will be foolish no matter how much we warn them. However, if we start teaching Critical Thinking skills at every step of the schooling process I’m of the opinion we will do far more good than any number of government regulations designed to protect us.

Nihil est in vita liber.

Tom Liberman

Terrell Owens and the Football Hall of Fame

Terrell OwensTerrell Owens was recently elected into the National Football League Hall of Fame and, in an unprecedented move, has decided to skip the induction ceremony where he would normally give a speech. He is the first living NFL player to do so. The best thing about this story is the reaction of Hall of Fame President, David Baker. That’s what I’d like to discuss.

First a little background information. Owens is clearly worthy of selection with statistics that stand up with the best wide receivers in the history of the game. He had a cantankerous relationship with the press during his career, some undoubtedly his own fault, and it is those writers who vote on candidates to the hall. They did not choose Owens in his first or second year of eligibility and that is what rankles him. He is of the opinion they did not respect him during his career and then used their position and their dislike to delay what was certainly a deserved honor.

People can, and certainly are, taking Owens to task for his pettiness in refusing to attend the ceremony. Many people don’t like Owens and are not shy about making nasty comments. Others support him and his decision and they do not hesitate to make their opinion of the various writers involved known.

But it is what Mr. Baker is saying and doing that tickles this Libertarian’s fancy: He’s got a mind of his own, he’s a grown man and we need to respect his right to make that decision. Baker goes on to say: If he doesn’t come to the enshrinement, he’s welcome here every day for the rest of his life. Our job is to honor the heroes of the game.

Mr. Baker, if you are not already a Libertarian I hereby formally extend an invitation to our little group. His attitude is, to some degree, the embodiment of what I think it means to be a Libertarian. Every person has a right to make their own decisions, even if these are childish, petty, and ultimately self-destructive. This stands in stark contrast to what I see everywhere in the United States these days. In almost every article I read it seems people from the President of the United States on down think they know best what others should do and that laws, rules, social pressure, and who knows what else should be brought to bear to make everyone else stand in line.

This is wrong. When it is choice between personal liberty and an action that does not directly harm others, we should almost universally choose freedom. No one is being harmed by the fact Owens will not be attending the Hall of Fame ceremony. We should respect his decision even if we disagree with it. Certainly, we can suggest another course, we can ask why he is doing so, we can point out the potential problems, but in the end, it is his life to lead, not yours.

Mr. Baker might have sought to punish Owens by refusing to put his banner up at the ceremony, not having images of Owens at the stadium, cutting video of him in television promotions, and who knows what other method of coercion. A lesser person might well have done all those things. Mr. Baker chose otherwise.

Well done, Mr. Baker. Well done, indeed.

Tom Liberman

The Interesting Origins of a Witch Hunt

Witch HuntThe idea of a Witch Hunt is much in the news lately and I realized I didn’t really understand the origin of the practice. Off I go to find out more. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about the modern usage in regards to politics but the ancient usage wherein people were accused, tried, found guilty, and murdered by the hundreds of thousands for doing something they could not possibly have done. If you aren’t fascinated by that, well, stop reading.

Witch Hunts date back throughout recorded history and likely beyond with the Code of Hammurabi being the first written instance of legal remedies. The code commands throwing the person who has had a spell cast upon them into the river. If they don’t drown, the person accused of casting the spell should be killed.

The impetus for a Witch Hunt, which we see widely across the globe in a variety of cultures, seems to be straight-forward enough. If misfortune befalls someone we look for a reason behind this occurrence. It is largely the same when fortune favors someone. We humans are pattern finders extraordinaire. We see shapes in clouds and rock formations. We look for cause and effect in virtually all aspects of our lives and this serves us exceedingly well for the most part.

Sadly, pattern recognition also leads us to see associations that don’t exist. If I lived in the middle ages it’s quite likely I would imagine that exceptionally crazy, er, passionate, girl at the gym to whom I am attracted to like a moth to the flame but who is currently in a relationship with some other poor sap was under some sort of spell. After all, how could she be remotely interested in someone besides me?

If I lived in Ancient Babylon I would throw myself into the river, first taking a few swimming lessons and taking a trial run or two, and, having survived, would have her current beau put to the fire while I took his house and hopefully her love. Win!

Interestingly enough, in ancient Greek there were no Witch Hunts but the Romans were not so logically inclined and persecuted and murdered those thought to cast evil incantations or spells. This was curtailed, believe it or not, by the introduction of Christianity. The Old Testament has the famous Exodus passage thou shall not suffer a witch to live but early Christians frowned upon witchcraft as it was considered blasphemous to suggest people could cast spells. Let nobody presume to kill a foreign serving maid or female servant as a witch, for it is not possible, nor ought to be believed by Christian minds.

By the late middle ages this sensible approach was abandoned when witchcraft was determined to be a result of Satanic Worship. Those people who worshipped the devil were, in fact, capable of casting evil spells. After this various European communities went through periods where the Witch Hunt was common and at least tens of thousands of people were put to death.

By the 18th century such murders were dying out in the western world although are still taking in certain places in Africa, South-Central Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Saudi Arabia. People are still executed in all of these places.

The lesson to be learned from all of this? To me it’s fairly obvious. Just because something happens that doesn’t have an obvious explanation is no indicator of a supernatural cause. As an Atheist, I’m willing to go further. There are as many people of casting malevolent magical spells in this world as there are gods. That is to say, none.

Tom Liberman

Papa John Schnatter Assumes Colonel Sanders was a Racist

Colonel SandersAn interesting story making the rounds these days involves the founder of the Papa John’s Pizza chain, John Schnatter, who assumes Colonel Sanders was a racist. This assumption appears to me to be based solely on the fact that the restaurant chain Sanders founded, Kentucky Fried Chicken, is from the south and that Colonel Sanders was therefore clearly a racist who must have often used racially charged language.

From everything that I can find about Colonel Sanders he was a plain-spoken fellow who didn’t hesitate to criticize and had little good to say about the changes that took place at Kentucky Fried Chicken after he left. While owner he was known to push food onto the floor in surprise visits to chains if it didn’t meet his standards.

Yet I can find nothing indicating he was a racist or ever used derogatory language to describe minorities. That’s what I find so interesting in all of this. Schnatter seems to be under the impression every white man from the south is a racist. He figured, well, Colonel Sanders is from Kentucky, by the way he’s from Indiana, and he was a white man, so he probably said terrible things and got away with it. I find that to be a disgusting insult to not only Sanders but to fine and decent people all over the south.

Yes, there are racists in the south and in the north as well. The assumption itself sheds light onto the character of Schnatter and also brings to mind a deeper issue we have in this country as a whole. People from the rural areas often assume people from urban areas are ill-mannered and irreligious. People from urban areas often think people from rural areas are uneducated and overly religious. People from southern states think people from northern states hate them and vice versa. People who are Democrats think Republicans are stupid and vice versa. None of these assumptions are true.

People are individuals which is, to some degree, the heart of Libertarian beliefs. I cannot and will not assume anyone is anything until I have seen them speak, read the words they have written, or spoken to them. A person’s geographic location does not define her or him.

It seems to me more and more people are unwilling to make the effort to understand other individuals and, because it is simple and easy, lump them into some negative category so they can dismiss them.

There are huge numbers of wonderful people all over this world and artificial divides created by those who profit from our hate keep us apart from one another. These assumption about each other prevent us from finding friends with whom to share our lives. All these assumptions are a terrible shame.

Screw you Schnatter and screw your assumptions.

Tom Liberman

Bacon Sandwich Misleading Headline

bacon sandwich finePlane passenger who wanted bacon sandwich fined $300 reads the headline from Fox News but the reality is somewhat different. Ronald James refused to buy lunch for his daughter while at the airport hoping the airline would feed her for free. The didn’t.

He refused to accept the answer given to him and insisted on speaking to the captain of the flight. When refused he harassed and physically menaced flight attendants for a good portion of the flight. These are not allegations at this point, James pleaded guilty and has been fined.

Tom Liberman

Is it Wrong to Point out Mike Matheny is a Handsome Man?

Mike MathenyI noticed an interesting trend on the Facebook posts of some of my women friends in the aftermath of the firing of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Many of the women commented on what a good-looking fellow is Matheny and that they’d miss him for that aspect at least. Male friends immediately responded that if men made such a comment about an attractive woman coach or manager they’d be subject to attack from Social Justice Warriors.

It’s an interesting point because it’s true. Men who make such comments about attractive female athletes are often attacked as misogynistic. The conclusion that men seem to be drawing from this truth is, on the other hand, completely incorrect. They should be able to make such observations and so should women.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the attractiveness of another person and women have every right to make such observations, as do men about good-looking women. Our looks are simply a trait, like any other.

Certainly, Matheny’s record as a manager and ability to lead the team is a far more important factor in his being fired than his relative attractiveness. The issue is we can’t get angry at someone for pointing out what they perceive to be the truth. We can certainly suggest his appearance shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not he keeps his job although the women posting made no such claims. What we should not do is pretend he isn’t viewed as attractive by women.

I wrote an article about a golfer named Paige Spiranac and how she used her looks to get an invitation to a golf tournament for which she would otherwise not be qualified. That’s all well and good. A person should use all their assets in an attempt to succeed in their chosen profession and life as a whole. There is nothing wrong with noting such things.

It’s important to make decisions based on pertinent factors. For Matheny, his looks have little impact on his managerial abilities. For a model, her or his strategic baseball knowledge is of little consequence to success. The person doing the hiring and firing is the one who makes these decisions and if they decide poorly, they too will suffer the consequences.

If one of my female friends were in charge of the Cardinals and hired Matheny because of his appearance rather than his skills as a manager, she would eventually lose her job as well. That being said, what’s wrong with pointing out a physical feature that doesn’t necessarily correlate to job performance? To my way of thinking, nothing.

A final point as to Matheny himself. He suffered numerous concussions during his career as a catcher and his mannerisms have always struck me as somewhat dulled. I hope he is consulting medical professionals and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Tom Liberman

How Coke Became Religious Symbology in San Cristóbal de las Casas

San Cristóbal de las CasasI just read an interesting article about how San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico is plagued by diabetes largely related to the consumption of about half a gallon a day of Coca-Cola by residents of the community. The article is interesting in a number of ways but the thing that struck me was the inclusion of Coke paraphernalia in religious ceremonies.

Coke has a large factory in the region that was established fifty years ago and has been producing the sugary beverage ever since. Because the plant is essentially next door, the price of the soda in the region is quite affordable; the result being the enormous average consumption of residents. This combined with changing weather patterns, limiting rainfall in the area, has meant soda is actually cheaper than water for many of the residents.

What’s fascinating is the fact many people in the region believe, after two generations of exposure to the soda, that it has healing properties. They use Coke bottles in religious ceremonies and the so-called “traditional” healers in the region use the soda to treat a variety of ailments. This demonstrates, with little room for argument, how quickly humans can incorporate idiocy into their religion of choice. To be clear, I’m an Atheist. I think all religion is nonsense and I find this series of event exposes many of the natural roots behind religious belief as a whole.

The idea is relatively simple. We human monkey beasts are really good at spotting patterns but sadly we also see patterns where they don’t actually exist. If a child is sick, drinks some coke, and then gets better; we see a causal relationship where one does not exist. If a dog eats a particular treat from china and immediately becomes very sick; we see a pattern. If a child begins to show autistic symptoms after receiving a vaccination we see a connection. The connection, the pattern, is not real. The treat didn’t make the dog sick and the vaccination didn’t harm the child. No amount of double-blind studies can convince us otherwise. We saw the two things happen in succession and we are convinced.

When something becomes as prevalent in society as Coke has in San Cristóbal de las Casas there will inevitably be coincidental incidents between the product and events in the region. People see these as related to one another and quickly seize upon supernatural explanations. Thus, we see Coke and religion heavily intermixed in the region.

We do not see Coke being worshipped in other places in the world because there is no logical reason to do so. Religion is largely a product of seeing patterns where they do not exist. We lean against a tree and soon our child recovers from an illness. A ha! The tree must have supernatural properties that healed the child. We beseech an invisible, undetectable god to solve a problem for us and the problem is sometimes solved. A ha!

To me, the worship of Coke in San Cristóbal de las Casas is no different than the worship of a man on a cross. I’m sure many find the latter far more palatable than the former, from a religious perspective at least. I don’t.

Tom Liberman

Stormy Daniels and Selective Enforcement of the Law

stormy danielsStormy Daniels was recently arrested when patrons at the strip club she was dancing at touched her in a non-sexual way. This is apparently against the law in Columbus, OH. Daniels is in the midst of a lawsuit against President Trump in regards to sexual relations between the two. The arrest is an egregious example of selective enforcement the likes of which is destroying the relationship between the police and the citizens they supposedly serve.

The idea is simple enough. The state or local government passes a law and law enforcement agents are tasked with enforcing it. We have a number of problems in this case.

The first of which is the law goes against almost everything for which a Libertarian stands. If two consenting adults want to touch one another then the government shouldn’t be involved in any way. I understand laws against lewd behavior in public but the location of this offense, a strip club, is specific enough that no one who goes there is going to see anything they don’t want to see. Certainly, they can leave if they do.

The second problem is perfectly clear, Daniels was not the only stripper touched in a non-sexual way during the course of the evening. It is obvious dancers and patrons touch one another in non-sexual, and likely sexual ways, every single night at Sirens. Police went to this strip club on a night where Daniels was guest dancing with a very specific target in mind. They were going to arrest Daniels for doing exactly the same thing that happens at that club every night, a fact law enforcement agents happily ignore. I’d be shocked if a few such agents haven’t done a little non-sexual touching of their own while out of uniform.

This blatant hypocrisy is undermining the entire community with not only law enforcement agents but the government itself. The law is stupid, this is true, but the selective enforcement of said law is dangerous. This selective enforcement is why arrests of minorities for minor traffic violations and drug transgressions are much higher than arrests for white people even while statistics show quite clearly there is no such discrepancy in those that commit such crimes.

This is a police force intent on attacking, I do not use that word lightly, targets of their ire and using the law to punish those they don’t like. The Constitution of the United States spends a great many words attempting to ensure this sort of behavior doesn’t occur. The Founding Fathers were subject to such selective enforcement by English agents of the law. They well-understood the dangers it presents and eventually rose up and violently ended such enforcement.

This targeting of someone at odds with the President of the United States is particularly disturbing. Could anyone who speaks out against their local Congressperson be so beset? If you vote against the Senator that wins might you be arrested for some minor legal violation while those who supported the Senator do it with impunity?

This is not as big a stretch as you might imagine. Once it becomes evident to politicians they can use the courts and law enforcement agents to imprison their political enemies the path is clear. Sadly, they don’t see the inevitable conclusion to this trail, they merely realize the immediate gain.

Dictators, even ones who espouse democratic ideals, often find themselves at the wrong end of an angry mob. Mayor Ginther, now you know.

Tom Liberman

Del Potro and the not so Bad Life of being Not the Best

Juan Martin del PotroI was watching the Rafael Nadal versus Juan Martin del Potro tennis match in the Wimbledon Quarterfinals when it occurred to be just how good is del Potro, this despite the fact he is not the best. I started to consider the life of the people who are exceptionally good at their chosen profession but are not the best. It’s not so bad.

Del Potro has never been ranked higher than fourth in the world of professional tennis. He won the 2009 U.S. Open but that is his only victory in what are considered the Major events of tennis. He has defeated all the best players in the world from time to time but has a losing record against the three men considered the finest of his generation: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal (listed in alphabetic order to avoid anyone chastising me).

Del Potro is better at tennis than I will be at anything in my life. He is better at tennis than the vast majority of people will be at anything they attempt. He works harder at his craft than I have ever worked at anything in my life. He works harder than most people. For all his efforts he is not even a consideration when ranking the best tennis players of all-time or even of this generation.

Despite not being able to attain the pinnacle of his profession he has managed to earn over $21 million in prize money and certainly a substantial amount in endorsements.

What separates del Potro from those who are considered the greatest? It’s impossible to say. His mental toughness, not quite enough accuracy, his physical conditioning, his strength? There are no answers here. The difference between del Potro and those considered the greatest is so small as to be undetectable, but it is there nonetheless. This means he will never be spoken of in the same terms as those others. This is reality.

Throughout the history of sport people like del Potro have always existed. Players of such tremendous skill and ability that bench warmers like myself can never truly understand exactly how good they are at their chosen profession. Even if they are not the best.

This is where I delve into philosophy. Is that so bad for del Potro? Maybe not being under the same microscope the greatest must face is in some sense its own reward. He has achieved great and wonderful things for which he should be immensely proud.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best. I want to be the best writer in the world. It’s virtually certain I will never be so. That’s ok, I’m of the opinion the attempt is of vital importance to happiness. Success is wonderful. Failure is painful. Happiness is the goal.

I’m willing to guess in many, if not all, ways del Potro is just as happy as the other, better, tennis players. Good for him. In the end no one keeps score. You’re dead. How much did you enjoy yourself whilst alive?

Tom Liberman

Why Hate Crimes and Unmasking Antifa Legislation Show Political Hypocrisy

antifaThere is a new piece of legislation making its way through Congress that proposes an extra fifteen-year penalty for people who commit a crime while wearing a mask, Antifa. There is already similar such legislation in many states and the federal government for people who commit a crime motivated by hate. Who opposes and supports such legislation shows us the bankruptcy of the ethical philosophy of both Democrats and Republicans.

The gist of the problem is that government is trying to give extra penalties to people who commit similar crimes for different motivations or because they are wearing a mask. So now we have three classes of assault. If you assault someone you have committed a crime and are punished. However, if you do the same and are motivated by hate, you get an extra penalty. If you do the same and are wearing a mask, essentially Antifa, you get an extra penalty. The crime is the assault; not the motivation behind it or the clothes you wear while committing it.

Largely, Republicans are opposed to hate crime legislation because there is no need for it. Assault is a crime in itself. There is no need to add the person’s motivation to it. Democrats are, generally, for this legislation because people who commit such crimes deserve longer punishment and hopefully that will deter them.

Largely, Democrats are opposed to Unmasking legislation because there is no need for it. Assault is a crime in itself. There is no need to add the person’s choice of clothing to it. Republicans are, generally, for this legislation because people who commit such crimes deserve longer punishment and hopefully that will deter them.

I’m confident you can see the tremendous hypocrisy in this situation and I won’t spend any more time on that. What I will talk about is the enormous danger the government presents to all of us when it attempts to legislate such matters. What the government is attempting, in both cases, is to legislate against groups they see as aligned against their interests. In one instance it is Democrats against white supremacists and in the other it is Republicans against Antifa.

In both cases such legislation doesn’t reduce the risk of violence but increases both it and the danger of armed revolution. If enough people feel the government is willing to make up laws in order to put them in jail, they will simply attempt to create a new government. We see this path throughout history. In the United States we have the ability to vote in a new government and have largely avoided violent attempts at revolt.

Our government seems increasingly willing to imprison those they see as political enemies. This course of action is expressly forbidden in the Constitution of the United States. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Amendments all attempt to prevent the government from enacting such legislation. They do so not only to protect the people but to save the nation from the inevitable violent revolt that such imprisonments eventually engender.

A politician must not take sides in political debate. She or he must simply present arguments and persuade people to vote accordingly. Anything else tempts disaster.

Don’t be a hypocrite, be a Libertarian.

Tom Liberman

I was Much the Same Myself

Much the sameWhile watching a clip from the classic Robert Redford film Jeremiah Johnson a bit of a throwaway line caught my attention; I was much the same myself. Johnson is trying to decide on a name for the young boy he took off the hands of a crazed woman who had seen most of her family murdered. The boy is not in a talkative mood as they ride along. Johnson gives him the name Caleb as it is one Johnson has much admired. The boy does not respond. Rather than pursuing the discussion, or chastising the lad, Johnson utters the line in question.

It’s a good line. I’m of the opinion it has a lot of relevance in today’s world. It seems people have always enjoyed being critical of one another but with advances in communication and the advent of social media such has risen to new heights. Much of the criticism involves telling other people how they should think or conduct their lives. This is what I was much the same myself addresses.

Johnson recognizes that, as a child, he wasn’t particularly talkative and when Caleb exhibits a similar attitude, Johnson accepts it without criticism. It is very easy to criticize people making what we deem as similar mistakes to those we made ourselves as children. I think the actions that tend to draw the most outrage are often those things we see in ourselves. The traits we dislike about ourselves and see in others.

Most often I see it in adults, like myself, in criticizing the way younger people are going about their business. Kids today. We were kids once but that is a fact apparently lost upon most of the critical curmudgeons of the world. Even as adults we do unwise things on a fairly frequent basis, but when someone else does something stupid, we are eager to point out their foolishness.

Perhaps it is a way to pretend that we are better than the other person. I wouldn’t do something so foolish, I wouldn’t think that, I wouldn’t act that way, I’d never take a picture like that, I’d never blah blah blah blah blah. The truth is, yes, we would and yes, we probably have at one point or another.

The next time you are considering chastising someone for their behavior or opinion, think about that line. I was much the same myself. Try it out. You might be pleased with the result.

Tom Liberman

A Study of Tariffs and Laws and the Tomato

tomatoWith all the talk of tariffs in the news these days, I’ve been doing a bit of research and came across an interesting Supreme Court case related to the Tariff of 1883 and the humble tomato. Our friend the tomato is almost universally referenced as a vegetable in common parlance, this despite the fact that it is undeniably a fruit in botanical definition. This became an issue when the two food categories were treated differently in said tariff legislation.

If you were a seller of produce back in 1883 and sold tomatoes the tariff became an enormous issue. You see, fruits were exempted from tariffs while vegetables were not. The government, being the government, decided to include as many things in its revenue scheme as possible and that included tomatoes.

A fellow named John Nix founded a company called John Nix & Co. which became the largest sellers of produce in New York. They shipped produce from Virginia, Florida, and Bermuda to the city. Naturally, Nix didn’t want to pay extra tariffs on tomatoes. This is one of the problems with such tariffs. They raise revenue, certainly, but that revenue is taken indirectly from tax payers. While Nix’s company certainly has to pay the tariff directly to the government, they recoup this loss by raising the price on their produce. Thus, any tariff is really just an indirect tax. That is beside the point.

The point here is that the case went all the way to the Supreme Court in Nix v. Hedden, Edward L. Hedden being the Collector of the Port of New York. Hedden collected that money and Nix wanted it back. From a botanical perspective, the tomato is undeniably a fruit and therefore clearly exempt from the vegetable tariff.

The Supreme Court decided, unanimously and against nature, the tomato is not a fruit, it is a vegetable. The argument being that it is commonly thought of as thus. It is eaten as dinner rather than dessert. Therefore, Nix had to pay the tariff.

Is there a moral anywhere to be found in all of this? I’m not sure. The government instituted a tariff that was vague in reference using simply the words fruits and vegetables in non-taxonomic terms. The Supreme Court decide what Congress was really trying to do was put a tariff on tomatoes even they are clearly fruit and thus changed the legal definition in regards to tariffs, although they had not the power to change the scientifically determined definition, for which we can all be thankful.

It does give us some insight into who is the one paying for these tariffs and why manufacturers and wholesalers tend to fight them to the bitter end.

And, of course, my summation. Even if the Supreme Court made Nix pay the tariff because the tomato is commonly thought of as a fruit, this does not change the nature of the tomato. It clearly fits the established definition of a fruit, like it or not. Me, I’ll go with science over government.

Tom Liberman

Of Physical and Metaphysical or an Examination of God, Love, and Tables

metaphysicalAs an Atheist I think about the nature of god as described in various religions and by those who are true believers. One of the issues that comes up is the nature of god as both physical and metaphysical or otherwise described as natural and supernatural. There are things in this world we can detect and there are things we cannot. There are things that exist in a physical way and things that are merely constructs of the human mind.

I’m going to start with the obvious, a table at my side. It is a physical reality in this world. We can see a table, we can set things upon it and see they stay where they were placed. We can measure the length of the table, we can weigh the table, we can chip off a piece and put it into a spectroscope and make many physical determinations as to its base nature. A table is made up of particles that can be detected in a variety of ways.

Now to the less obvious. Love is a word we use to describe a sensation we get from chemical and biological reactions in our body to various stimuli the world provides. We cannot detect it with scientific instruments nor measure it in any way other than description. Numbers are likewise human constructs which have only a metaphysical presence in this world. This is not to say that love and numbers are not extraordinarily useful in this world in which we live. Both allow us to communicate and understand one another. Both allow human society to function at levels it could not without them. They exist but as human constructs, not as physical entities.

If all humans were to be eradicated there would be no more love or numbers. It is the argument about the tree falling in the forest if no one is there to hear it. In the physical world the tree exists and the sound waves created from its falling and impacting on the surrounding terrain can be detected, even if there is no one there to make such measurements. If no one is there to express love or talk about numbers, they simply don’t exist. They are not available to be measured. The table still exists even if there is no one to see it. It is there in a way love and numbers are not.

The problem with a deity is that it is largely agreed we cannot detect it any way. This is a more modern attribute assigned to an all-powerful entity but is a natural outgrowth in our scientific ability to understand the nature of things. The greater our capability to see the hidden the more god must hide, simply because such an entity is a construct of human minds. It is equivalent to love and numbers. Useful, certainly, but not physically real.

A deity can no more inspire people to write a book than the number zero can inspire Stephen Hawking to write a paper on black holes. The number zero comes from humans, not the reverse and the same applies to god. Both are metaphysical.

Those things that do no physically exist are simply constructs of the human mind. Sherlock Holmes certainly has an existence but it is not physical. We can talk about Sherlock Holmes in the same way we can talk about god and people know to whom we reference. Communication is impossible without these constructs.

We cannot, or at least in my opinion should not, assign physical characteristics to things constructed by the human mind. Those things come from us, they don’t have an existence outside those we’ve assigned to them. They cannot take action upon the physical world. We cannot rest a cup of coffee on god’s shoulder nor can we put a glass of water upon love or an infinitely long list of numbers.

That which we construct in our minds as non-physical cannot interact in the physical world. This seems self-evident to me. The number zero cannot feed me physically.

God can, and most certainly does, exist in the minds of many people. People have done and continue to do many things based upon that metaphysical construct. This is unimportant.

God is not physically real and can have no influence upon this universe, this galaxy, this solar system, this planet, or me. Any such influence is undertaken by people who assign attributes to such a deity and modify their own behavior accordingly.

Tom Liberman