Fluid Dynamics and Physics not Needed for Blood Spatter Analysis

blood spatter analysisIf you’re a fan of crime drama then you’ve almost certainly heard of Blood Spatter Analysis. It’s a technique used to determine how a crime happened. It doesn’t work. That’s very clear. The experts testifying about it generally know nothing of Fluid Dynamics or Physics and earn a certification after a forty-hour course. Yet, it’s an accepted science in almost every part of the United States. Lovely.

I just read an amazing article about how all of this came to be. Basically, one fellow invented the so-called science in his basement and was convincing in the courtroom despite having no scientifically backed evidence to back it. Now a horde of experts, almost all of whom trained with and were certified by him at his forty-hour course are testifying against one another in cases across the country. It’s not hard to find someone who will testify a blood spatter is evidence of absolute guilt while another person from the same discipline argues for complete innocence.

People’s blood is different in consistency and even different throughout the body. Weather can play an enormous role in fluid dynamics. Gravity plays a part. The setting on the air conditioner will make a difference in how blood behaves in various circumstances. There is good reason no readily repeatable experimentation on blood spatters exists. Yet, the testimony has resulted in any number of people being exonerated or convicted.

There is currently an effort by scientists with strong backgrounds in fluid dynamics and physics to try and make this actually work but the problems persist. It’s largely a field mired in confirmation bias. The result you want to get is the one you get. There just isn’t enough consistency in results to come to reliable conclusions.

There is a lot of sad in all of this. But, being the Libertarian that I am, I’m going to reserve my outrage mostly for myself. Why didn’t I realize this entire methodology is bunk? There is nothing in the article that I couldn’t have figured out simply by thinking about it for a bit. Obviously, blood splatters are going to have huge inconsistences based on wind, temperature, pressure, blood thickness, angles, and who knows what else.

Yet I ate it up on crime shows and assumed it was based on scientific principles all this time. Bad Tom! Do better.

Tom Liberman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Thanksgiving and the Cell Phone Basket

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Cyber-Security Minister Never Used a Computer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this case, we’ll see.

Tom Liberman

Mike Gundy and Kids Today Nonsense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Carlsen versus Caruana and the Slow Death of Nationalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Are the Samburu Heroes and Horrors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Angry and Intolerant this is Who We Are

Angry IntolerantA number of angry, intolerant, unreasoning, and disgusting attacks have taken place recently and everywhere I see politicians and others talking about how “This isn’t who we are.” The reality is that this is exactly who we are. We might not like looking in the mirror. We can certainly pretend we don’t want this, don’t fuel it by passing along intolerant rhetoric without regard for truth, but the reality is this nation has become increasingly angry and intolerant.

Not a day goes by without a friend of mine on social media, people who undoubtedly consider themselves to be decent, moral, and kind; saying something nasty about a person who disagrees with them on some social or political issue. Moron! Idiot! Sheep! Trying to destroy our country!

Not a day goes by when a media personality doesn’t angrily denounce and make outrageous claims about the fate of the nation if a particular person is allowed to get away with their agenda.

Not a day goes by without an angry politician vilifying someone from the opposite party for their vision of the United States.

We are angry and intolerant. That is what the people of our nation are today. Perhaps it was different in the past and maybe it will change in the future but not today. This is exactly who we are as a people. If you agree with my politics then I will support every vile thing you say, I will excuse every disgusting action you take, I will pass along any lie that supports you. If I disagree with your politics there is nothing about you worthwhile. You are out to destroy this nation and there is no lie, no misinformation, no twisting of the facts that I won’t pass along in an attempt to hurt you.

This is exactly who we are. This fact is displayed loudly by the politicians we elect, by the news shows we watch, and by our own vitriolic and unreasoning mindset available on display at the social media platform of your choice. I see it every day, over and over again. You cannot convince me with your meaningless words, spoken only after horrific tragedy, that you, that we, are not in some way enabling the violence.

The more the anger rises, the greater the chance for violence. We are angry, we are intolerant, and some people are twisting this irrationality into violent and deadly assaults.

Don’t tell me what we are not. Show me.

Tom Liberman

Expansion of Executive Power via National Security False Flags

National SecurityThe Constitution of the United States is fairly clear about separation of power between each of the branches of government. In a nutshell: The Legislative Branch makes laws, the Executive Branch enforces laws, and the Judicial Branch interprets laws. The Executive Branch is generally quite limited although, when it comes to issues of national security, these limits are often relaxed. Those limitations, or more specifically, what constitutes national security is my topic today.

Let’s examine foreign treaties to get started. The President of the United States gets to negotiate treatise with foreign powers, including trade agreements. These agreements become binding when the Senate agrees with a two-thirds majority. How these treaties can be broken is somewhat open to interpretation but, by and large, it has been only when Congress agrees to do so.

Likewise, we can take a look at the power to declare war. This is supposedly only the purview of Congress. There are other examples but let’s leave it at that for today.

This all being said; Executive Power is given a great deal of discretion when it comes to matters of national security. If the security of the nation is at risk, the courts have shown the president a great deal of deference in what can be done. This is a problem if the president decides virtually every single issue facing the nation is a matter of national security. This is a dangerous precedent to be setting for any president or any party. It is inevitable that another party or president will eventually come to power and once we’ve decided that trade with Canada, border crossings, gang violence, the price of steel, and who knows what else is a matter of national security; we cede all power to the Executive. The Constitution was written specifically to prevent this sort of behavior.

The question then becomes what defines national security? If we take a broad interpretation it means anything that might pose a threat to some citizens of the nation. A narrow view would be anything that threatens the nation as a whole. The current administration takes a broad view, possibly the widest interpretation in the history of our country. Whenever the Legislative or Judicial Branch does not accede to the wishes of this Executive, the next words we hear are National Security, usually followed by an exclamation point or three.

You can support the current Executive in this fantasy of national security concerns but I suggest to you this way of thinking is extraordinarily short-sighted. Tomorrow is a new day, a new executive. You might regret granting such power.

I have a decidedly narrow take on the idea of national security. I wish you would join me.

Tom Liberman

The Harsh Interrogation of Jamal Khashoggi is Perfectly Reasonable

jamal khashoggi harsh interrogationWhy all the faux outrage about the regrettable and accidental death of Jamal Khashoggi over a little bit of harsh interrogation? These things happen. It’s war. The safety of the nation is in the balance. We can’t tie the hands of our intelligence community, that would be putting our lives at risk. Our friends the Saudi Arabians have used harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners we sent to them in extraordinary renditions. The head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, was in charge of such a prison and accidently destroyed many tapes where such useful and humane techniques were used on evil journalists, er, I mean, terrorists.

The former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, is a vocal and active supporter of such techniques. Many of my good Christian friends have told me personally they support enhanced interrogation, in between patting themselves on the back and going to church. Our Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has rightly and with the power of the holy spirit denounced efforts to end our heroic use of harsh interrogation and black prisons. It is Pompeo who was sent to consume excellent food and pat his belly in bloated satisfaction while meeting with the architect of this supposed crime, Prince Mohammad bin Salman. I’m sure they enjoyed a good chuckle at all the phony outrage.

The United States of America is a leading proponent of harsh interrogation techniques and happily uses countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Turkey, and many others to carry out our bidding. President Trump himself has rightly suggested harsh interrogation is an excellent and useful technique. Sure, sometimes a prisoner dies, but it’s obviously well worth the risk.

In a representative republic, our politicians reflect our moral and ethical outlook. We clearly want harsh interrogation and relish in punishing those leftist journalists, er, I mean, terrorists. This will clearly send a good message to the leftists that they can’t write negative stories about our glorious leaders. If you don’t want to be subject to harsh interrogation techniques while being held against your will where you might well accidently pass away, well stop writing such articles. It’s fairly simple. Get a clue, idiots.

Why pretend to be outraged at all? Own it. Amerika!

Tom Liberman

Cut Soccer Player Sues to be Put on Team

Ladue SoccerIs it legal when a coach decides to cut a high school junior soccer player from the Varsity team and the Junior Varsity team is generally reserved for freshman and sophomores who have more years to play, leaving the soccer player without a team? The parents don’t think so and are suing the school district for age discrimination. This is all happening right here in my hometown of St. Louis, MO at a Ladue Horton Watkins High School and thus catches my attention. There is a lot going on here worth discussing.

I have a long history of playing sports and I’ve had good coaches and bad coaches. I’ve had coaches who showed favoritism and coaches who simply wanted the best players at each position. There’s no doubt in my mind the coach might have unfairly or unjustly cut the player. It’s also clear that the age of the player is absolutely a factor in not being placed on the Junior Varsity team. The coach admits as much in a letter written explaining why the player was cut in the first place. If the youngster was on the bubble, as the letter says, then it is highly likely he has the skill necessary to help the Junior Varsity team.

Here’s the problem with all of that. It’s the soccer coach’s decision and the best player isn’t always the one that helps the team the most. There are all sorts of possibilities in play. Maybe the player in question is the fourth best forward and tenth best player on the team but there is only room for the top three forwards. So, despite being clearly one of the ten best players on the team, there is no room for him at his position. This happens all the time. At the college level a player in such a situation transfers to another school. At the professional level they are traded. At a private high school, they might move to a different school but a public school, such a Ladue, they are largely bound by the district in which their family lives.

The same rule applies to Junior Varsity. A player with three more years of eligibility has more to offer to the team in the long run than one with but a single year remaining even if they don’t currently have the skills of the older player.

It could be the player just has a bad attitude in the locker room and contributes to disharmony on the team. As I said, there are plenty of good reasons why the player was cut but there are also plenty of bad ones. Maybe the coach is friends with the family of another player who was kept on the team. We just don’t know. Maybe the coach is making a bad decision. Again, there is really little way to know.

In the sports world the thing that ends up mattering is results. If the Ladue soccer team fails to succeed in the coming years the coach will eventually be fired. If the coach makes a bunch of poor personnel decisions then failure is likely.

Life is filled with injustice but the final arbiter is generally success. This is nowhere more evident than in sport. I certainly feel badly for the player in question, particularly if the coach’s decision was based on anything other than merit, a possibility I not only admit exist but readily understand happens all too frequently. That being said, such personnel decisions must be left to the coach, not the state.

Tom Liberman

Is the Vandal Bonfire burning in Effigy a Racist Attack?

Vandal BonfireVan High School in Texas conducts an annual homecoming ceremony, the Vandal Bonfire, in which a straw figure wearing the jersey number of the star player from their rival school is burned in effigy atop it. This year photos and videos of the Vandal Bonfire showed a figure wearing jersey number 8. This happens to be a black athlete from rival Brownsboro High. Outrage ensued.

A statement from the district explained the ritual has been going on since the 1940s with a brief pause after some students were injured a few years back. The tradition of the Vandal Bonfire is to have the best player from the opposing team atop it in effigy. The district statement promised in the future it would no longer have such a figure at the top of the bonfire.

It’s an interesting situation in that, if anything, the Vandal Bonfire is actually honoring the opposing player rather than denigrating him. However, burning in effigy is an act often associated with anger at the person being so represented. This combined with a racist history in this nation of lynching and burning crosses stirs strong emotions in many.

It’s my opinion the school district can do whatever it wants in this case. I don’t think the display was racist in any way although I’d like to hear the opinion of the player burned in effigy at the Vandal Bonfire. The very act of burning someone atop a bonfire does strike a nasty chord and I’m glad the district has found a way to move forward with the tradition while eliminating what is something a reasonable person might find distasteful.

Another solution might be to invite the opposing player to the event and allow him or her to set the bonfire ablaze. In many ways it seems we are intent upon finding ways to divide people when, in my opinion, we should be striving for the opposite. We have far more in common with one another than we imagine and getting people together in social settings to learn about these things is something to be encouraged.

It is clear the football players and fans for both teams have many common interests but happen to go to, or root for, different schools. If they were to get to know one another they could play the game and, when finished, possibly enjoy a lifetime of friendship they might not otherwise have enjoyed.

Tom Liberman

JR Smith, a Tattoo, and the NBA

JR Smith TattooA fascinating story involving basketball player JR Smith, his new tattoo, and the National Basketball Association is making the rounds on various news sites this morning. Smith got a tattoo on his leg depicting the company logo for an apparel company in New York called Supreme. The league has a rule against players displaying company logos on their body or shaved into their hair.

I have several problems with this rule. In the first place I think a player should be able to put whatever they want on their body and the league should have no say in the matter. I go as far as saying if an athlete wanted a swastika, a racist term, a misogynistic image, or anything else offensive on their body, that’s their business. Now, a particular team has every right not to sign such a player, that’s the team’s freedom to decide.

My second problem is the rank hypocrisy of the rule. The NBA makes an enormous amount of money through its various endorsement contracts. The Nike logo currently appears on the jerseys of the teams and all sports leagues have similar financially lucrative deals. For them to be pulling in money hand over fist and deny individual players the same right when it comes to a tattoo strikes this Libertarian as grossly biased although certainly legal. The players have all sorts of their own apparel contracts in which they support various companies and are financially remunerated for doing so. Why shouldn’t this apply their own body, the mostly uniquely individual and privately-owned thing of all?

My third issue is that the NBA has allowed several players with tattoos to play without fines for the last few years. This means they are engaged in selective enforcement of their rules. I’m not sure if it has to do with the fact the tattoo is of an apparel company as opposed to a television show but one has one’s suspicions.

In the end, the league is free to make their own rules and that’s a good thing. I just wish people and organizations would realize the freedom they enjoy to do as they please should extend to everyone else as well. JR Smith’s freedom is my freedom.

Tom Liberman

What do Unused Water Bottles in Puerto Rico say to You?

Water BottlesThere’s been an interesting image of a large number of water bottles sitting on a runway in Puerto Rico circulating throughout the news and my social media feeds. It shows tens of thousands or perhaps millions of water bottles sitting on a runway apparently unwanted and unused. What conclusions have you drawn from this event? I’m going to tell you what conclusions I originally drew and then what I found out when I investigated the issue.

Government waste of my tax dollars. Some stupid government agency either ordered way too many water bottles, didn’t arrange for transport of the bottles to needy citizens of Puerto Rico, or simply forgot about them and left them on the runway. Then I did some research. In my original guess as to what happened I thought it was one of three stupid things; surprise, it was all three.

FEMA purchased, loaded, shipped, and unloaded far too many water bottles. The water bottles on the runway were not needed. FEMA didn’t release the water bottles to the government of Puerto Rico until they had been sitting in the open, exposed to the elements, for months. FEMA didn’t make any arrangements to distribute the water. Finally, someone noticed the water and contacted FEMA, who released them to the government of Puerto Rico, who then began to distribute them but found the water was fouled by its exposure. So, there it sits. Now someone has to clean it all up, again, using tax dollars.

Yay! Government hard at work as usual. Is it any wonder the disaster relief in Puerto Rico and other places has been less than stellar in its execution? I’m not saying disaster relief is an easy thing to do. There are many moving parts and a huge amount of coordination is required. We need professionals in charge of this sort of thing, not people who raised a lot of campaign dollars and want a nice salary. People suffer because of failed government and my tax dollars are given to bottled water companies for no good purpose. At least those businesses are happy.

My final question is to you. What did you assume when you read the story about those water bottles? Something different? Don’t lie.

Tom Liberman

Battle of the Sexes for Science

Battle of the SexesI was just a boy of nine when Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs at the Astrodome in Houston on September 20, 1973 and remember the hype of Battle of the Sexes quite well. It was actually the second match for Riggs after he defeated Margaret Court earlier that year but the first Battle of the Sexes hardly had the media frenzy of the second. There have actually been a number of such events over the years with a variety of rules enforced to attempt to create an even match.

What I’d like to find out is exactly how good are the best women players of various sports in the world compared to their male counterparts. It goes without saying that Serena Williams could crush me in tennis. The only points I’d win would be her double-faults, if she had any. It likewise seems obvious Williams would not win many points against Novak Djokovic. Any attempt to handicap a match so that the obviously inferior player has a chance is of little interest to me.

I’d like to see Serena play a real match against the three hundredth ranked male player in the world. If she wins then play the two hundredth or if she loses try the four hundredth. I’d like to throw the WNBA Champion Seattle Storm against a good men’s college team and see what happens. No handicaps, no special rules, just men and women playing together and see who wins.

The reason I find this interesting is not to somehow prove male superiority to women, which is sadly why I think these sorts of matches are often proposed. It’s clear that in general men are bigger, stronger, and faster than women. Not to say there aren’t plenty of women bigger, stronger, and faster than me; just that the best male tennis player in the world through the undeniable differences in genetics is a better player than the best woman.

But how much better? Let’s say we find the level in tennis is at five hundred. That means there are four hundred and ninety-nine men in the world better than Williams and all the rest of us are worse. That’s pretty damned impressive considering the physical differences inherent in gender.

I’m certain that determining this information won’t result in anything particularly useful nor will it make the world a better place. It’s just something I’d find interesting. It also gives us a benchmark with which to compare gender differences in the future. Let’s say fifty years from now the best woman tennis player in the world can now defeat the four hundredth best male player or only the six hundredth. We can now start to make valid comparisons to players over the generations.

It also could make mixed gender leagues, or Battle of the Sexes, a common reality and that might provide excellent entertainment. Perhaps top high school boy’s teams could regular play women’s college teams. I think there might be public interest in such matches. Money to be made.

In any case, just me thinking aloud.

Tom Liberman

Does Ticketmaster Mind Scalpers Breaking Rules?

TicketmasterThere’s a fascinating story in the news involving Ticketmaster being complicit in scalpers reselling tickets. The idea is simple enough, Ticketmaster has a service called TradeDesk in which people who have tickets sell them to willing buyers. The problem is TradeDesk is largely a way for scalpers who purchase tickets on Ticketmaster to resell them at higher prices.

Why is this problem? At first glance it doesn’t seem as if Ticketmaster is doing anything wrong. They sell the tickets to whoever is first to purchase them and then are involved in the resale at a higher, or lower, price. This is obviously lucrative for Ticketmaster as they get a percentage of all sales; essentially, they are profiting twice off the same product. However, thanks to some undercover work from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it seems Ticketmaster is making it very easy for scalpers to purchase large numbers of tickets to events before the public has a chance to do the same. Ticketmaster has a rule in which no one is allowed to buy more than a small block of tickets but they essentially ignore it when scalpers bypass it.

Thus, people who want to purchase tickets to an event never really have much of a chance and are forced, if they still want to attend, to buy the higher priced tickets at TradeDesk. Sales representatives for Ticketmaster told undercover investigators they pretty much were facilitating such transactions. The company is denying the allegation and said they are looking into the practice. They claim they attempt to stop such large purchases to the best of their abilities.

This entire thing intrigues me from a Libertarian perspective. Let’s imagine Ticketmaster doesn’t have the rule about blocks of tickets. Then what we are seeing is capitalism in action. The event promoters generally set the ticket prices and if resellers are able to get a higher price, it’s likely the promoters set the original price too low. That’s their bad. The scalpers are merely capitalizing on a mistake. The risk is all with the reseller. If they misjudge and have to resell the tickets at a lower price, because there is little interest for instance, they lose money.

I totally agree Ticketmaster is not being transparent if they are, indeed, allowing scalpers to purchase large blocks of tickets with the intent of reselling in violation of Ticketmaster rules. The reality of the supposed crime is more complex. Even if Ticketmaster cracks down on large blocks of tickets being sold to a single user, I’m fairly certain the scalpers will refine the technology they use to call and order and still scarf up the majority of the tickets.

Is it fair to the average user who just wants to go to the concert or see the game at the price of the original ticket? No. That’s clear. Then again, such a viewer can simply choose not to spend the extra money for the resold ticket.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman

Let’s Not be Real

Let's Be RealA phrase I hear a lot these days is Let’s Be Real. The idea largely being that we should be perfectly honest with one another and express our feelings without reservation. At first glance, this certainly sounds like a good idea. It’s not. We are not real for even an hour of the day. We don’t tell everyone what we are thinking all the time and that’s not just a good thing, that’s the only reason society survives!

The word of the day is specious. I think it’s a good word because it tells us things that appear to have value on the surface often do not. Just because an idea sounds good doesn’t mean it can be implemented to any useful effect. In this information age we seem to be more real than we’ve ever been in life and it’s not doing us any good.

In the old days people said things like: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That’s some good advice right there. Another great old quote is: It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. But no, today we’re just keeping it real and confirming the stupidity for all to see. A pox on let’s be real!

I’d be grateful for some good old-fashioned politeness and manners when reading the news. I’m certainly not suggesting we can’t disagree with one another but how about we do so without calling anyone on the opposing side a complete moron or worse?

The reality is the world is a complex place and there are largely no single, simple solutions to some of the complex and even relatively uncomplicated problems we face. There are many factors and people hold opinions for a variety of reasons.

Being real is just an excuse to be cruel. I’m not calling you nasty names, I’m being real. I’m not a jerk, I’m just being real. The reality is you are calling someone horrible names and you are a jerk. You are doing these things no matter how much you want to excuse that reality.

Let’s be real isn’t just overrated, it’s downright dangerous. Let’s not.

Tom Liberman

Fortnite Pits Pros against Casual Players in Enormous Mismatches

Fortnite NinjaIn the widely popular video game Fortnite the best professional players pit their skills against rank amateurs some of whom are brand new to the game. Can you imagine a similar situation in any other sporting or gaming endeavor? The situation was brought to my attention by a commenter on my story about Stream Sniping in Fortnite and I think it bears some consideration.

The complaint centered around the idea casual players have no chance against incredibly skilled professionals like Ninja. Ninja and others like him make large amounts of money playing Fortnite and do it for a living. They are essentially like a top-level professional athlete in tennis, golf, or any other sport. Meanwhile they are pitted against casual players repeatedly, hour after hour, day after day. These other players have no chance to win and can grow frustrated.

I certainly understand their pain. I played sports from a young age and, like virtually everyone else, quickly came up against players with more natural athletic ability who put in more hours of practice than me. I stood no chance against them. Unlike in Fortnite, I didn’t continue to play against such competition as I grew older. They went onto higher levels than I could visit. I still played sports but against lesser competition and eventually I stopped playing competitively. A Fortnite player has little choice but to attempt to compete against the very best in the world.

Here’s the issue. The best players deserve the rewards. They work hard at their craft and have become skilled from both practice and natural ability. They deserve to win the game. They should defeat lesser players and gain the prizes. This is the very nature of competition. What is the alternative? Should we punish good players by giving them a handicap? Should we refuse to allow them to play? Do we allow the local high school baseball team to compete against the pro teams but handicap the pros by allowing them fewer players on the field? Do we force the best tennis player in the world to use a smaller racquet and compete against lesser players? The answer is, and should be, no.

This is an excellent illustration of the inherent nature of life. Some people are going to be better at things than you. Don’t be like the commenter who thinks it’s an unfair system. Work harder, get better.

Certainly, the makers of the game could create instances in which players of certain skills were forbidden. This is merely a virtual reflection of what happens in real life. Not only do lesser teams not get to play the best teams but the professional players are not allowed to enter tournaments against lesser players. I think it would be a great idea although implementation might not be easy.

Nevertheless, my point stands. Just because someone is better at something than you, doesn’t mean they should be denied the rewards of their efforts.

Tom Liberman

Have your Starbucks Coffee any way you Want

Starbucks CoffeeIs there a wrong way to order Starbucks Coffee or a bagel? That certainly seems to be the conclusion of the great democracy that is the internet. My various social media outlets have recently been filled with people ridiculing other people for exactly how much flavored sugar they want in their coffee or what sort of strange toppings they want on their bagels.

It’s more than just outrage. It seems to my degreeless psychological perspective that people manage to inflate their self-esteem because they don’t order that many pumps of Cinnamon Pumpkin Cotton Candy in their Starbucks Coffee or have the audacity to put capers on their raisin filled bagel.

I find what other people eat to be disgusting at times and my non-oyster and non-sushi loving friends certainly don’t pay me compliments when I ingest two of my favorites. Does this make me better than them or them better than me? Does it really make any difference whatsoever what someone else chooses to eat?

I remember as a young lad being somewhat disturbed when a friend mixed a bizarre combination from the soda fountain at a fast food restaurant. I remember something more important as well. Some of my other friends started to ridicule the choice my first friend made and that struck as being wrong. I wasn’t a Libertarian back then, or at least I didn’t know about the concept of being one. I’m fairly certain I didn’t fully understood why it bothered me, but it did.

Now that I’m older, and presumably wiser, I know it is makes me the lesser person when I make fun of someone, pretend I am better than someone else, simply because of the strange soda blend they choose to drink. If someone enjoys a Starbucks Coffee with a million pumps of sugar in it, then let them enjoy it. Yes, it’s not particularly healthy. Yes, it sounds vile.

It’s quite easy to ridicule other people for their choices in life. Try to refrain. Sometimes people make really dumb decisions. I’d say someone who drinks a Starbucks Coffee with an outrageous amount of sugar in it is doing themselves no favors health-wise. All that sugar doesn’t taste particularly good to me but their drink is not my problem.

To sum up, don’t be so quick to judge other people. Spend more time worrying about how you conduct your own life. Part of a being a decent human being is to stop denigrating everyone who does something differently than you.

Tom Liberman

Pluto is What Pluto is

PlutoIs Pluto a planet or a dwarf planet? This question has roiled both the scientific and public world for the last twelve years. When it was discovered way back in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh it was given the designation of planet. In 2006 the definition of what is a planet was changed and the little, relatively, world was reclassified as a dwarf planet.

I well understand the need to classify things so that we can communicate. Without definitions we have a difficult time expressing meaning to one another. In this case the reality is the only thing of importance. The designation means nothing. Pluto was discovered by humans back in 1930 but it has been galivanting about the solar system for billions of years in largely the form it is today. There is no name we can call it that will change its nature. Planet, Dwarf Planet, Kuiper Belt Object, whatever, it is the same. It is only we people who are upset about the classification and that is, to my way of thinking, somewhat telling.

Why do we care? Will it make any difference in your life? If Pluto is a planet are you better or worse? Is Pluto any different? The designation is merely so we can communicate effectively and the reality is in this case it doesn’t make any difference. The only chance of any confusion occurs if we are talking about the Disney character rather than the orbital body.

The question becomes why is it such a contention issue? Why do people have their own self-worth wrapped up in the fact that Pluto is or is not a planet? I cannot say for certain but I suspect the cause is related to our ego. We want to be right. We want to be better and smarter than the other people. We find like-minded allies and pat ourselves on the back at how smart we are because we know Pluto is one thing or another. This somehow validates our feelings about ourselves and that’s a shame.

Pluto is what Pluto is, regardless of the designation we give it. You are who you are, with no importance given to what others may call you. Nothing changes. The kind of person you choose to be is defined by other things: The way you behave towards others, the things you say about other people. Your behavior defines you. Your existence. Not the names people call you, that’s their problem.

What makes you a better or worse person has nothing to do with how others designate you. You are you and so Pluto is Pluto.

Tom Liberman