Best Intervention for Fyre Festival of Pizza

pizza-festivalA fellow named Ishmael Osekre organized a pizza tasting festival in New York City which is being compared the failed Fyre Music festival held in the Bahamas. I’m not going to get into detail on the failings of the festival, suffice it to say serving tiny slices of cold, miserable pie to a New York pizza savvy crowd is going to be a disaster. What I’d like to discuss is the best remedy to this situation? Social Media? Government?

The first avenue is that of Libertarian dreams, Social Media. Such Gotham users are in an uproar about the event. Facebook, Twitter, and more are alive with people complaining about the scam and demanding their money back. The organizers eventually promised to create a makeup date but that is doing little to appease those wronged. As one of those aforementioned Libertarians, I’m quite pleased with this turn of events.

That being said, there are realities to embrace. Osekre might well pack bags and depart, leaving everyone out not only the money they paid but also the time they spent attending the event. In addition, such visitors might well have done something else that day of greater value. Social Media can certainly shame such a fraudster. It can spread the word so that the perpetrator will have a difficult time attempting the same in the future.

However, it is still quite possible for Osekre to change names, move to another city, and attempt the scam yet again. Each time he might steal money from those who want to attend such festivals. I think Social Media makes this far more difficult, but it is still possible. This is where government enters the picture.

Alerted to the travesty by Social Media, the Attorney General of New York is investigating and considering charges. Legal remedies are something beyond the power Social Media. If Osekre collected money but did not provide the expected service, that is a crime called breach of contract. Even if the festival was created in good faith but Osekre simply underestimated the popularity, the people who paid money were still defrauded.

My question then becomes; what is government going to do about it? The courts might well find Osekre guilty of a crime and sentence him to prison. They might order him repay the festival goers. The thought of punishing Osekre with imprisonment certainly appeals to the vengeance part of my brain. The possibility of people getting their money back is certainly a reasonable outcome. I’m not convinced people will ever get their money back. The money is probably already largely spent and there is little way to recoup the losses.

It seems to me there is room for both remedies and one creates justice where the other fails, they complement one another. We live in this brave new world in which the collective has far more power than it ever has in the past. Prior to the advent of the Internet and the rise of Social Media, scam artists like Osekre could simply travel from place to place perpetuating the same crime again and again. It was up to government to stop such fraudsters.

In the past government often failed to do so. In fact, government not infrequently became complicit with the fraudsters as long as they were cut in on a share of the profits. This sort of thing still happens on a fairly regular basis. Social Media can force government to be held accountable in a way never before seen in human history with the notable exception of violent revolution. In the same way, Social Media can hold criminals such as Osekre accountable for their crimes, or at least make it far more difficult for those like him to continue on with their nefarious schemes.

To my mind, this is a wonderful synergy. Government and the people working together to implement justice. This dual defense brings us perhaps as close as we’re ever going to get to true justice. Count me in.

Tom Liberman

Hurricane Irma and Government Hysteria

hurricane-irmaHurricane Irma has run much of its destructive course and I wanted to take a moment as a Libertarian to discuss the government reaction to the approaching storm and why I think it was a ridiculous overreach.

The storm was huge, it caused massive amounts of damage as it approached the United States. A number of people on islands in the Caribbean were killed. There was and remains danger. The question becomes what is the responsibility of government in situations like this? The moment I was pushed over the Libertarian Rant Cliff was when avowed small-government Republican Governor Rick Scott declared in no uncertain terms, “You cannot survive this.” He was referring to the storm surge that could potential swamp many areas with water.

I’m quite comfortable calling that statement a hysterical lie spewed by a politician who has completely lost track of what it is he is supposed to be doing. Hurricanes are inherently unpredictable. There was a chance the surge would be relatively small, which it ended up being. Many people, of course, survived the surge. Not only was the statement completely wrong, hey we all make mistakes, but it was clearly a lie designed to frighten people into behaving the way the governor thought they should act.

This is what government has become in our nation. People in positions of power not only think they know better than us, but feel the need to frighten us with hysterical proclamations and enact draconian legislation. I’m happy to say at least the police and national guard were not marched through neighborhoods forcing people from their homes. At least the governor has that amount of decency left.

Let’s discuss what a responsible politician should have said. The storm is extremely dangerous. If you decide to remain in the area, here are some are some websites that show you how to properly protect your house. Here is a list of items you should purchase based on the size of your family. Emergency crews are going to be overwhelmed and cannot be counted on to rescue you in a timely fashion if the worst predictions come true. You are in charge of your own life, not me. You have all the information available and I trust you to make the best decision possible.

The danger of Governor Scott’s proclamation is there is certainly going to be another hurricane in the future. The fact that many people hunkered down and survived makes it clear his proclamation was fear-mongering idiocy, those people are likely to ignore warnings in the future. Those stupid politicians are always preaching disaster and it’s never as bad as they say. The reality is sometimes the worst predictions do come true. Sometimes there is horrific danger. If politicians create an environment where they are considered overreacting fools, people stop listening to them when there is real danger.

One of the main Libertarian mantras is that the job of government is not to save us from ourselves. I have no problem with the government issuing warnings, explaining the dangers that confront us, but I draw the line at hysterical nonsense like that Governor Scott spewed. You, Governor, do not know what is best for me. Even if you did, it’s not your responsibility to force or frighten me into doing what you want. I’m an adult, treat me accordingly.

Tom Liberman


Pascal’s Wager is all about Integrity

pascal's wagerI was watching my favorite Atheist Based show, Atheist Experience, when they once again took on the topic of Pascal’s Wager. For me it all comes down to integrity. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. What is Pascal’s Wager?

The idea is an interesting study of probability and decision theory. The premise is that a belief in god will bring an almost infinite reward, eternal happiness in heaven. If, on the other hand, you do not have such belief, you suffer eternal damnation. This is where the wager becomes a true bet rather than a religious argument. What is there to lose or gain in belief or lack thereof?

Let’s say you could wager a penny to win a million dollars. No matter how long the odds of the bet, you’d most likely take that gamble. It’s essentially the same thing as spending a dollar on a lottery ticket when the reward is hundreds of millions of dollars. The single dollar you spend has no real effect on your life and the reward is so enormous, it’s worth taking.

Even if you are almost certain god does not exist, the reward of believing and the punishment for not believing makes it silly to do anything else. Why not believe? You don’t have to go to church, you don’t have to express that belief to others, your life doesn’t really have to change all that much. You just have to believe to get the reward and barely give up anything at all.

Well, that is if you don’t value your integrity. For me the loss in believing is that I’m lying to myself, I’m lying to my family, I’m lying to all my friends. I don’t believe in god. I think the very idea is rather silly. I am certain there is no heaven and if it existed, I wouldn’t want to go as it is run by a misogynistic, murdering, despot.

If I decide to believe in god in order to get a reward although it is against everything my rational mind derives; I have no integrity. What won’t I do? Lying, stealing, cheating, raping, murdering are now on the table, as long as doing so likely benefits me. Why wouldn’t I kill my parents to get the money I’d inherit, particularly if I was certain to get away with it? Here is some news for you; I wouldn’t seek to murder anyone, or rape anyone, or steal from anyone; no matter how certain it was that no one would ever find out. Because doing that to other people is wrong, just as if they did it to me.

Pascal argues that believing in god doesn’t hurt me in any way. That is where he is wrong. Stating that I believe something that I do not destroys my own sense of self-worth. I would be living a lie. My integrity would be gone. If I were to do such a thing I would loathe myself for the rest of my life.

The idea behind the wager itself is worth discussing. The concept of risk-reward is something you should think about when making decisions in your own life. What have I to gain and what is there to lose? Those are questions that should be answered before making major life decisions.

In this case the potential loss is greater than the reward, at least for me. The question is valid, I hope my answer is clear.

Tom Liberman



Krysten Ritter and being a Celebrity in One Minute and Forty-Six Seconds

krysten ritter celebrityI’m a big fan of Krysten Ritter and I admit to watching more than a couple of her videos on YouTube. I stumbled across this one the other day and it reminded me why I’m fairly certain I’d make a horrible celebrity, and why Ritter is such a good one.

Fame seems like a wonderful thing when viewed from a distance and I think there are many people who enjoy the non-stop adulation. I, however, am not such a person. Introvert, socially awkward, whatever you want to call it; it’s hard for me to believe I could tolerate such incessant access to me. I would be a lousy celebrity. Much as I like to think I’m a pretty decent fellow, there is no question people intruding into my life so boldly and ceaselessly, would drive me insane.

Part and parcel of being a celebrity and all the good things that come with it; is the simple fact that you are well-known and recognized wherever you go. There will be an essentially never-ending line of people wanting your autograph. They will line up to take selfies with you until you are forced to leave. The lines will go on forever. They will scream your name and tell you to be still so they can take pictures of you.

There are compensations. I’m certainly not suggesting the life of a celebrity is misery and pain. I’m just saying that such a life comes with particular and sometimes onerous obligations. If you don’t like strangers standing next to you and taking pictures with flash after flash after flash, the life of a celebrity might not be for you.

There is an assumption here that I have enough talent to become a celebrity. That my novels have any chance at all of generating enough interest to make me desirable as a selfie mate. I have no illusions of this, but it is something that crosses my mind. If my novels were to become popular and made into movies would I have the patience of Ritter? Would I have the ability to smile and say thank you endlessly?

I think the answer is no. I think I’d have to take a path similar to that of J. D. Salinger or Emily Dickinson although that is not particularly appealing either. Perhaps I could find some sort of happy medium wherein I lived a relatively normal life and avoiding many of the trappings of celebrity. I wonder how many of the people I know would make good celebrities. Would you?

Tom Liberman

Trump: Tweet in All Caps and Drop the Stick when Challenged

president donald trumpPresident Theodore Roosevelt was fond of what he called a West African saying, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick. It largely meant policies designed around negotiation, openness, forethought, and careful proclamations but backed by a willingness to fight if the people on the other side of the table are not willing to treat you with equal respect. President Trump seems to believe in the polar opposite of this strategy. He Tweets loudly, rudely, in all caps, with brazen threats, but when presented with real opposition backs down.

There are two important aspects to Roosevelt’s political philosophy and the Speaking Softly is a critical element of success. It is this idea I would like to examine today. If you’ve ever watched an action movie, we almost universally see the humble hero trying to avoid a fight and working towards reasonable solutions while the villain uses brute force, taunts, and bullying to get her or his way. The reason for this is obvious and a diametric visualization of the difference in styles between Roosevelt and President Trump.

The problem with President Trump’s abandoning the Speak Softly part of the equation is that it largely destroys the Big Stick. When you antagonize and attack anyone that opposes you, they have several options. They can back down before your threats, they can ignore your threats and carry on with their business, or they can become belligerent back at you with their own sticks.

The Tweet in all caps strategy ensures that more and more nations and domestic opponents of President Trump are going to test the big stick. There is no doubt the United States has the biggest stick on the playground; that being said, the more you use the stick the better chance there is that it will break. You don’t want to resort to such unless it becomes absolutely necessary. President Trump relishes in threatening to use the stick. Whether he carries through with the threat or not; the stick inevitably becomes smaller and weaker.

Another problem occurs when your stick isn’t nearly as big as you think it is. President Trump doesn’t have many, if any, good options in dealing with North Korea. His bluster simply emboldens them to do things like shoot ballistic missiles over Japan. This is everything except a declaration of war. Trump promised the stick if North Korea continued firing missiles and not only did they do so, but they did it in a much more dangerous fashion, actually crossing over the territories of Japan. Imagine if Russia fired a nuclear capable ballistic missile that crossed over part of the United States!

Another problem arises from the fact that Japan, and other allies, begin to see us as impotent. Japan has the ability to become a nuclear nation with an aggressive military. The fact that they should take such steps is something they must consider seriously at this point. If we can’t be counted on to protect them, they must do it themselves. Some might argue that as a good thing but there is a history of Japan as a military state that you might want to consider.

Turkey is currently angry at us over the arming of Kurds in the attack against ISIS in Syria. Without the Incirlik Air Base our options in the region become severely limited. Russia is currently courting Turkey in hopes of strengthening relations.

I don’t want to get too far afield from the point I’m trying to make here. To summarize; the Big Stick part of the equation doesn’t work nearly as well if you are unwilling to Speak Softly. President Trump appears to be incapable of Speaking Softly. It’s all bluster and threats. This has dangerous repercussions. Either he is forced to use the Big Stick far too often or he backs down from the inevitable challenges.

In either case it cannot possibly be a foreign policy that will result in safety and security for the citizens of the United States or the world.

Tom Liberman

All Female Lord of the Flies Taking Heat

Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding wrote a book entitled Lord of the Flies which was later made into a movie and remade years later. There is a new movie in the works in which the children stranded on the island will be girls instead of boys. The script is being written by two men. Triggered!

Well, I’m not triggered. I think it’s an interesting idea. However, other people are pretty upset. The three main complaints seem to be that two men cannot possible write the script about girls, the idea the main plot of the boys degenerating from peaceful intentions to violent war wouldn’t happen with girls, they would be peaceful and nice to each other, and the story was about boys and should remain so.

I have sympathy for rage at the fact two men are writing the scripts. There is some merit to the idea men don’t have the personal experience of being a woman and therefore can’t write as good female characters as would a woman. That being said, I think there are plenty of wonderful female characters written by men. Wonder Woman comes to mind but there are many others. Would there be uproar if two women wrote a remake of Lord of the Flies with the original all boy survivors?

The second complaint is baseless. The children stranded on the island in the book and movies are all preadolescent boys. To some degree there is no real difference between boys and girls until sexual maturity. I have a number of friends and they have daughters. I’ve seen preteen and young teen girls in action. If anyone is under the insane delusion they can’t be as vicious and nasty as boys, well, you need to look a little closer. Perhaps the way they carry out their violence is subtler than a group of boys but I think that is interesting fodder for the new movie.

The third argument is likewise nonsense. There is no reason a book that originally had male characters can’t swap them for female characters.

The complaints seem to perpetuate sexist ideologies rather than dispel them. Two men can’t write a screenplay about preadolescent girls is as sexist as saying two women can’t write one about such boys. The third argument is similar to complaints about the 2016 Ghostbusters movie which had an all-female cast.

I’ve got a crazy idea. Let’s wait until the movie comes out and judge it then. Perhaps the two male writers will create a wonderful screenplay. Perhaps it will be awful. Perhaps an island populated by girls won’t end as horrifically as the original. Perhaps they will be worse.
All the judgment going on is sexist, from both sides.

And, by the way, I saw Lord of The Flies as a ten-year-old boy and remain traumatized to this day. I see no reason why ten-year-old girls shouldn’t be likewise disturbed. It’s only fair.

Tom Liberman

Handbook for Mortals Scam and the Power Young Adult Readers

handbook for mortalsThere was a fascinating incident the other day involving the Young Adult Best Seller list from the New York Times which demonstrates the good that can be done through group communication. In essence, someone scammed the New York Times and had their book, Handbook for Mortals, put atop the list. Fans of such fiction launched an investigation and, by the end of the day, the listing was removed.

The events themselves are fairly remarkable but their implications confirm my opinion about the potential of the Internet and Social Media. In this day and age see we violent extremists gathering and organizing using such tools and these sorts of things frighten people. What we seem to overlook is that far more often groups of people with a like interest gather using the same tools and bring much good to the world and great joy to individuals.

I think we need look no further than Wikipedia to see the great good that can come from such gatherings, but this incident with the New York Times Young Adult Best Seller List is further proof.

What happened is a new book, Handbook for Mortals, appeared atop the list, but no one had even heard of the book. There was no advanced publicity and there weren’t even copies of it available for sale. This inexplicable listing caught the attention of a Young Adult author named Phil Stamper who noted it in a Twitter post. From there the crowd took over.

At least two book stores reported large orders of the Handbook only after the purchaser confirmed they reported sales to the New York Times. It can be inferred the scammers purchased thousands of the books from various stores in order to get it listed. But our story of sleuthing does not end here.

Other investigators found the author of the book was a former publicity agent who was noted for pulling such scams. Yet more tracked down the Publisher, GeekNation, and found they created a new book publishing division just last month. The company was founded by a woman who has ties to minor celebrities. It turns out they are planning on making a movie based on this book, which is likely the reason for the attempt to place it atop the best seller list.

The entire convoluted scheme is interesting enough in its own way, but I find the power of the crowd to be the real story. Someone saw something suspicious, reported it on Social Media, a few hour later a large part of the scheme was unraveled, and action was taken shortly thereafter. This sort of thing was certainly possible in the past with diligent investigation, commitment, and a great deal of time. Now, with thousands of people involved in the investigation, each looking at different leads, the entire scam was discovered and dealt with in mere hours.

How about that!

Good job Young Adult authors and readers. Keep up the good work.

Tom Liberman

No Recess During Eclipse

eclipseIf you were a child and told you could not go outside during a solar eclipse because looking at the sun was dangerous; would that make you more or less likely to go outside on the sly? I think the answer to this question gives us great insight into the problems associated with a state that tries too hard to protect us from ourselves.

The Cumberland Valley School District sent a letter to parents explaining that recess will be cancelled on Monday August 21st during the full solar eclipse. I think it’s a mistake and I’m happy to tell you why. I don’t disagree that looking at the sun is dangerous. I think children should be warned not to look at the eclipse as it could damage their eyes. I understand the danger of litigation. I just think preventing children from going outside during the event is a silly way to go about protecting the children.

A far better solution would be to assemble outside with all of the students and have a telescope with appropriate lenses on it for them to use. Another solution would be to have an assembly where a live broadcast of the eclipse is shown on screen. Perhaps parents could be asked to purchase eyewear that will protect the student and send it to class with their child that day.

There are many, many solutions available to the district and they chose the one that is probably going to endanger the students the most. By telling them they can’t go outside at all, they work against human nature. Just looking at the sun during a normal day will cause blindness. Children go outside quite frequently and manage not to blind themselves. I understand the special circumstances of the eclipse will generate more interest in looking at it, I just think the solution is utterly silly.

This attempted solution mimics what government does when they try to force behavior on its citizens. Using mind altering drugs can be dangerous. Getting married is a good thing. The government rewards behavior they think is useful and punishes behavior they think is dangerous. The problem is that such actions generally create new and bigger problems than those they are trying to solve.

I don’t want to give a series of examples, starting with the War on Drugs, to show the generally negative outcome of such laws; I just want you to contemplate what happened in school when you were young and there was a solar eclipse. Were you denied recess? Were you herded into a dark room to mitigate the chances you’d blind yourself? How many kids were blinded?

It’s always important to consider the result of any rule or law you might want to enforce. If the only good it’s going to do is make people feel like they are doing something useful, then maybe you should reconsider.

Tom Liberman

Garry Kasparov Disses Jennifer Shahade

garry-kasparovI’m lucky enough to live in the Central West End where the St. Louis Chess club is currently hosting the Sinquefield Cup and recently former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov visited the studio and joined Yasser Seirawan and Jennifer Shahade. During his chat, he essentially completely ignored Shahade both in spoken words and body language.

It’s an interesting situation because I doubt Kasparov is misogynistic. The first reality we must take into account is that Seirawan is objectively a better chess player than Shahade. Therefore, when analyzing the various games, it was to be expected that Kasparov would rely more on the opinion of Seirawan.

The second thing we must take into account is that Kasparov is somewhat, or perhaps a great deal, a pompous jerk. Not to say he doesn’t deserve to think highly of himself, he was the best chess player in the world for a very long time and it can be argued he is the best to have ever played the game. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly, as the saying goes.

But, even taking all of that into account, Kasparov barely even gave indication that he knew Shahade was in the room, occasionally glancing at her with his eyes but never directly addressing her or asking her any questions. He leaned toward Seirawan the entire time he was in the studio. The mood was so obvious the camera crew focused in on the two men in a tight shot for the majority of the interview.

The obvious conclusion we can draw is that Kasparov is misogynistic, but I’ve already said I don’t think he is such. Chess is a sport that is dominated by men even today, but was even more so in the era when Kasparov was world champion. It’s most likely, although I am not certain, Kasparov never analyzed a single chess game in his long career with a woman.

Of particular note is his opinion of Judit Polgar who is largely considered the best woman chess player in history. Early in her career Kasparov was asked about her potential and gave what can only be called a misogynistic statement: She has fantastic chess talent, but she is, after all, a woman. It all comes down to the imperfections of the feminine psyche. No woman can sustain a prolonged battle. Later in life, however, after he had lost a rapid game against Polgar in 2002, Kasparov revised his opinion: The Polgars showed that there are no inherent limitations to their aptitude ….

I think it’s fair to say Kasparov maintains some dismissive attitudes towards women chess players and it came through, certainly unintentionally, during the interview.

I think the lesson here is that you don’t have to be overly sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, or any other sort of particular prejudice in order to behave like you are so. Be careful out there, people are watching!

Tom Liberman

Mercenaries in Afghanistan

mercenariesThere is an interesting proposal percolating at the White House in which the United States would withdraw our formal military operations in Afghanistan and use mercenaries as a replacement. These private contractors would support the government in its war against the Taliban. Naturally, there are a lot of strong opinions about this idea.

I’d first like to dispense with the idea of private contractors. What we’re talking about is mercenaries, plain and simple. These are people hired to participate in a conflict who have no national motivation but are simply in it for the money. We can use all the euphemisms we want in order to paint a particular picture, but reality is clear to see.

The United States has been fighting the war in Afghanistan actively since 2001. It began supposedly in response to the September 11th attacks against the United States. The war has had its ebbs and flows but by no measure is the United States winning. The Taliban controls large swathes of the country and our soldiers largely act to support the Afghanistan government rather than taking an active role in combat.

One of the major reasons officials are considering switching to a mercenary force is the cost savings proposed by doing so. It is estimated it costs about $1 million per soldier per year to continue the fight in Afghanistan. The exact costs are unclear but it’s probably safe to say we are spending in excess of $45 billion a year on the conflict. The mercenary solution would supposedly cost around a quarter of that although I’m highly skeptical.

The two arguments for such mercenaries are they will be cheaper and they will be more effective. The arguments against them generally revolve around the idea that fighters not under the discipline of the United States military command are more prone to atrocities, that they will do anything in order to further the cause of victory. I think there is merit to all of these arguments but, to be frank, it just doesn’t matter.

The United States military is largely just one big mercenary force at this point. We don’t fight wars to keep our nation safe, we do so in order enrich the coffers of whatever contractor produces military equipment. Said contractor then pays for vacations, dinners, tickets to events, and various other luxuries our leaders enjoy.

We don’t fight wars to defend the nation but we create them in order to further what President Dwight Eisenhower called the Military-industrial complex. We don’t have soldiers in hundreds of far-flung bases in the interests of national security, we do so to pour taxpayer dollars into the coffers of allies who in return offer their political support.

There is a very good reason we’ve been fighting this pointless and losing war for the last sixteen years. There is good reason we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, money. The Founding Fathers would not only have balked at the idea of this endless war but they would have fomented revolution of the people to put an end to it. Our soldiers are being sacrificed in both mind and body in the pursuit of money.

This push for a mercenary force is simply a tacit acknowledgement of what we already know. The United States military is nothing more than a hired gun, used by nations around the world to do their dirty work. Every soldier who volunteers for our military should do so with the understanding they are being used by the government to do the work of a mercenary at a cut-rate salary. They are being sacrificed to put money on the table of those who provide the equipment used by the soldiers.

It’s not about winning the war in Afghanistan. It’s probably never been about winning the war in Afghanistan. It’s about politics, money, and ego. To my way of thinking, there is little difference in using my tax dollars to pay soldiers wearing the uniform of the United States and paying the salaries of mercenaries.

The business is war, and it’s booming.

Tom Liberman

Josh Rosen Disses Alabama Misleading Headline

josh-rosenThe Headline Screams: UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen: Raise the SAT Requirement at Alabama and See what kind of team they have.

It seems like if you use a direct quote from someone it can’t possibly be a misleading headline but that’s exactly what happened in this case. What Rosen was talking about is the terrible incongruity between being a college football player and being a student. In the majority if the article he talks about how spending last season injured was a hugely eye opening experience. He was able to spend more time taking classes than he would normally be allowed to do. He learned that many of the requirements of his economic major are not even available at the times his normally limited schedule allow.

He used the Alabama quote not to deride Alabama but to simply illustrate that it’s impossible for many of the best young football players in the nation to also excel at academics. What he said, and I think he said it effectively, is that no Division I college football team is made up of athletes who are stellar students. That if we want to limit college athletes to the best students, the quality of football will suffer.

He was saying that the job of being a college athlete largely precludes being a strong student. Both are jobs and you can’t work hard at one without the second suffering. The primary job of young college football players is to play, not to study. Their schedules are designed to make it extremely difficult to accomplish both.

Perhaps he should have used UCLA as an example rather than Alabama but I have no problem with his basic point and I hate to see him getting trashed because of a Misleading Headline.

Tom Liberman

Donald De La Haye cannot Monetize YouTube and Play College Football

donald de la hayeI’m a Libertarian and my hate for the National Collegiate Athletic Association is as great as my dislike for any government agency. The case of Donald De La Haye reinforces that opinion. De La Haye has a YouTube channel which earns him money. The NCAA told him he is not allowed to do that unless none of his videos involves his athletic endeavors, which are essentially a significant part of everything he does.

De La Haye’s channel had over fifty-thousand followers before the controversy and more now. YouTube has a legal agreement with members that pays them money depending upon a number of factors including how many people watch the videos.

It’s important to understand that in addition to being good at YouTube, De La Haye is also good enough at football to have received an athletic scholarship from the University of Central Florida. This means he doesn’t have to pay tuition, room, and board while attending the University in exchange for playing football for the Knights.

In essence, De La Haye was told to either give up your YouTube channel or your scholarship. He chose the scholarship. I think it’s a wonderful decision but I’m saddened he was forced to make it.

Now, some of you will be confused as to why the NCAA does not allow its student athletes to have jobs. The idea is that in the past, star athletes were given essentially fake jobs and paid a good salary as an incentive to attend a particular school. Rather than spend the time and effort required to ferret out those doing wrong, the NCAA decided to punish every student-athlete by preventing them from getting a job. This rule predominantly hurt athletes from economically disadvantaged families because they need extra money for things like purchasing dinner for a romantic interest or having a night out with friends.

Basically, throwing the baby out with the bathwater as the expression goes. The NCAA recently agreed to allow exceptions to the rule which is why De La Haye was permitted to appeal and was given the supposed choice to continue his YouTube channel as long as he didn’t talk about his athletic endeavors. This was, of course, no choice at all. His entire life is largely wrapped around his athletic prowess. What the NCAA was asking was essentially impossible. How could he make any honest video about his life without mentioning football? But even that’s not the problem. Why shouldn’t he make money talking about football? What right does the NCAA have to prevent anyone from making a living?

The NCAA prevents athletes from selling their own signature to willing buyers but sells them itself in the form of silent auctions. The NCAA doesn’t put the names of the players on the backs of the jersey so the organization doesn’t have to give any money they get from sales to the athletes. I find the entire thing disgusting.

If a young man builds a career for himself we should be encouraging him. Sure, part of the reason he is popular on YouTube is because he is a good football player, but why shouldn’t he be able to profit off of that? Such profit is directly in line with the capitalistic ideals of our country.

Let the kid play. Let the kid make some money.

Tom Liberman

Biblical Morality Attacked in Jordan

moralityMany people are cheering the government of Jordan for removing a clause in their legal code by which a rapist is exonerated of their crime if they marry the victim. I, on the other hand, find this attack on biblical morality an affront to religious freedom.

The bible is quite clear on this subject. Deuteronomy 22:28-29: If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution is quite clear about Religious Freedom. The government shall pass no law that infringes on my right to practice religion freely. In the Bible, it is stated quite clearly that if I choose to rape a woman who is not engaged or married, my punishment is that I must pay fifty bucks to her father and marry her. That seems like plenty of punishment to me. I mean, maybe I just wanted to rape her because she was wearing really hot clothes and showing a bit of ankle. A man has his needs. Now I’ve got to marry the ho and I’m not even allowed to divorce her!

Before this affront to my religious freedom I would have applauded Jordan for applying biblical morality to their legal code and only wish the United States, whose own legal code is clearly and completely based on the bible, do the same. I mean, if I want to beat my slaves and they don’t die within a day or two, that’s totally my right. If I kill a dude who has the nerve to say God Damn It and thus violate the Third Commandment, I’m merely following biblical morality. It’s clear to me punishment for such a crime should be death, I mean, it’s third on the list of commandments and therefore of greater concern than murder.

Jordan has caved to the pressure of secularists who somehow think that men can come up with morality that is more just than that provided by an all-knowing, all-powerful God. If God says a rapist must marry the victim then that’s the way it should be, not to mention the $50 bucks!

Now, I know some namby-pamby, cry-babies are going to say, hey, what about the woman who was raped? Maybe she doesn’t want to marry her rapist. Give me a break, she’s soiled property now. Nobody is going to marry that ho after I raped her. I’m far and away the best options she’s got. I’m doing her a favor.

I don’t understand how people can possibly imagine the word of god has less weight than any legal remedy created by men. I mean, it is men who create the legal code. Women exist merely to glorify me and tell me how great I am. That’s what a wife should be doing, serving her man, by that I mean the fellow she is lucky enough to marry after he rapes her.

Secularists can suck it! Don’t cave my Jordanian brothers! Reinstate the Rape Clause because that’s what God says.

Tom Liberman

My Problem with the Multiverse or Why Infinity Does not Equal All Encompassing

multiverseI’m quite confused by why people seem to think that infinite equals all-encompassing. This seems to me to be one of the core ideas in the concept of the multiverse. This is to say, if there are an infinite number of universes, then all things must be represented in them somewhere or another.

Let me preface my article with the simple fact that I am not a theoretical physicist. My understanding of the Multiverse, or at least the postulations of such, might be mistaken. I’m going to continue on with my thoughts here as if my understanding is correct. If that’s not the case, I’m hopeful someone will explain it to me more clearly.

I’ll further mention one of the main purposes of this discussion is to further my ideas of atheism, rather than a fundamental understanding of the universe.

My understanding of the Multiverse is that it is infinite. That there are an infinite number of universes within the multiverse and therefore in one of them I am dating Jennifer Aniston. Now, this is certainly a pleasant thought, but I don’t think it is true. My main problem is the supposition that infinite must mean all-encompassing. If there are infinite universes, then all things must be represented in them.

Where this correlates with my atheism is when I hear this argument from those who believe in an omnipotent and omniscient god. If there is a multiverse then there is the possibility of such a god. If such a possibility exists, then it must exist because of the infinity issue.

The entire idea that infinity equals all-encompassing seems to me to be quite easily falsified. If I have an infinite list of even numbers, nowhere on it is an odd number. Nor can any delightful bowls of Ben & Jerry Cherry Garcia ice cream be found on said list, sadly. Infinite clearly is not all-encompassing. Therefore, it stands to logical reason that while the Multiverse might well be infinite, that does not mean any particular thing can be found within it. In none of the universes am I dating Aniston, again sadly.

It’s clear to me there are many things that do not exist in the universe. The last digit of Pi for example. The last digit at all. An integer that calculates exactly the square root of any prime number. There are almost certainly far more things not in the multiverse than are in it. Is there a pink unicorn named Edwina? Are any of the characters from my novels a real person in any of those universes? Of course not, although perhaps we can’t prove it logically as we can with mathematics. It’s mere common sense.

That’s pretty much it. Infinite doesn’t equal all-encompassing. As I stated earlier, perhaps I’m misunderstanding the ideas presented about the multiverse. I’d happily love to learn more.

Tom Liberman

Time to Kill the Recess Appointment

Recess appointmentThe President of the United States is granted the power to fill vacancies that occur when the Senate is not in session. This is called a Recess Appointment. It’s clauses like this one: Article II, Section 2, Clause 3; that remind me why it’s so important that the Constitution has a mechanism by which it can be changed.

The Constitution orders the Senate to provide advice and consent for certain appointments. The reason the Recess Appointment clause exists in the first place is simply because, early in the history of our country, the Senate took recesses of anywhere from six to nine months out of each year. If a vacancy occurred in this period, a position might go unfilled for a considerable time.

The situation is quite different today. At most, the Senate takes a two-month vacation and usually not even that long. Any vacancy can now be filled fairly quickly. In addition, advances in communication and the speed of travel means the Senate can reconvene for an emergency session with less than a couple of days’ notice.

Unfortunately, what has happened in recent times is that various presidents waited until the Senate went on recess in order to make an appointment they felt might not pass successfully through that body. In the current situation, the sitting President is speculated to be considering the idea of creating a vacancy during a recess simply in order to fill it without advice and consent of the Senate. Both of these behaviors are clearly perversions of the original purpose of the power.

If this is allowed, it seems to me the Senate can then by bypassed completely. The President can appoint someone pleasing to the Senate, wait until just before the recess, fire that person, and then bring on whomever they desire without a confirmation. This can be continued on for the entirety of the term.

That’s why it’s time to remove that particular clause from the Constitution. Times have changed and the Recess Appointment is no longer necessary or needed. Amending the Constitution is a thing not to be taken lightly and it requires either a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives or a two-thirds majority of votes by the states. Yet, the power to do so is there and it is there for good reason.

The Recess Appointment clause is being abused and it must go. It’s really as simple as that.

There is one other solution. I don’t think we’ll see it, but there is some possibility the President of the United States could treat the Constitution with the respect it most certainly deserves. The President of the United States could stop looking for ways to pervert the Constitution and simply abide by its clear intent. Only use the Recess Appointment when an important vacancy comes up naturally; usually death or serious illness.

Tom Liberman

Phelps versus the Shark – Simulated that is

phelps vs sharkTo call people disappointed by the Michael Phelps versus Great White Shark race is a little bit of a misnomer. They aren’t disappointed, they feel cheated, and well they should. Phelps did not actually swim against a real shark but instead a simulation. What’s the result of all of this? Everyone loses.

I’ll start by saying I didn’t actually watch the event myself but I did see some of the promotional material. The first question I asked myself was: How’s that gonna happen? I mean, you can’t have them next to each other in the pool and getting a wild animal like a shark to toe the line and start at the right moment is going to be near impossible. There’s got to be some kind of trick, I said. It can’t be real.

Sure, many people could have figured out there were going to be some shenanigans but that doesn’t mean the event shouldn’t have been more clearly promoted. In addition, the show went on for quite a while, almost an hour, before the actual race. This means people used their valuable time waiting for something that never actually happened. To my way of thinking, this borders on and possibly crosses into the criminal realm of fraud.

What’s an hour of your time worth? Do you suppose people gathered friends to watch the event at various parties? That fans of Michael Phelps were intrigued enough to plan their Sunday around the show? I can even imagine some marine biologists were intrigued by the idea and wondered how on earth they were going to get the shark to run through a prepared course. I know I was thinking about how they might have treats, read raw and bloody flesh, at the end of the pool to entice the animal.

I was intrigued by the advertising campaign. I wouldn’t have spent as much time thinking about the race if I was not at least partially captivated. I certainly didn’t suffer damages. I’m also not advocating any lawsuits, although they might be justified.

The Discovery Channel clearly made it appear as if Phelps would be racing a live shark. He did not. I think those who expected to see Phelps race a live shark are certainly losers in all of this. The show attracted far more viewers than it would have if the event had been advertised truthfully. That seems to indicate the Discovery Channel won. They got advertisers to pay for the event based on expected watchers.

The reality is more difficult to parse. Certainly, any event the Discovery Channel promotes from here out on out is going to receive far more scrutiny. The network will not be able to point to ratings from this event as a price point for future such races. Advertisers will be wary and rightly so.

Will the public remember this fiasco when next Discovery Channel next tries to host such a race? I’m of the opinion they will. This hype was so overdone and the actual event so underwhelming that people will remain skeptical of the channel for many years to come. I think, despite the undoubtedly high ratings it garnered, the network is also going to end up losing.

If only they had managed to deliver a satisfying experience. Then we’d all be winners. Instead, just the opposite.

This brings me to my final Libertarian point. If the Discovery Channel had strived to make an excellent experience, we all would have been enriched. The network, the viewers, and the advertisers. More such events would even now be in the planning stages. Now, because they provided a cynical product, we all lose.

Tom Liberman

Moral Panic and the Blue Whale Challenge

blue whale challengeTeens committing suicide playing Blue Whale Challenge scream the headlines. Tenuous and often fraudulent links to people who committed suicide while supposedly playing the game immediately follow. Moral Panic sets in.

Basically, there isn’t much evidence young people are committing suicide because they were instructed to do so as part of the Blue Whale Challenge. The game supposedly involves a series of dares that occur over fifty days with the last challenge being to self-film the player’s own suicide.

First off, I’m highly skeptical this is real. It has all the hallmarks of a hoax and the Safer Internet Centre, a European Agency, seems to think so. Secondly, I’m not sure encouraging someone to kill themselves is a crime. I wrote about this in conjunction with the Michelle Carter case so I won’t go on endlessly here. Providing material assistance to someone who is going to commit suicide is probably criminal. Knowing someone is attempting to commit suicide and not reporting it might be a crime. Encouraging someone to kill his or her self is despicable; but I think not criminal.

Then there is the idea of a Moral Panic. This is basically when society learns of some danger and begins to enact laws and regulations to prevent harm from coming to its citizens. The problem is the danger never really existed at all, or was happening to such a small percentage of people that the methods enacted to prevent it actually cause more harm than the original issue.

I argue the entire War on Drugs is a Moral Panic. Drug use causes for less damage than the interdiction methods introduced to reduce drug addiction problems. We’d be far better off today if never began the War on Drugs, thus when I see something like the Blue Whale Challenge I become concerned. In the United States people are already proposing laws similar to those enacted in Russia where the Moral Panic is already in full swing.

In Russia, there are now laws against a website that promotes suicide and laws against encouraging a minor to commit suicide. Several people have thus far been imprisoned. I know what you’re thinking, good. Those are bad things. We should have laws against them. The problem is the impact of those laws.

If I want to promote suicide why should the government prevent me from doing so? I understand telling someone to kill themselves is nasty and reprehensible. I get why people want laws to prevent shameful behavior. I get children can be vulnerable to manipulation and sometimes need special protections not in place for adults. I just don’t think it should be the government’s responsibility to monitor this sort of thing. We can’t legislate morality and the more we try, the more problems we cause.

I can’t tell you all the problems these sorts of laws might cause down the road, but I’m convinced they will create more difficulties than they actually solve. These laws won’t stop people from playing the Blue Whale Challenge or being administrators, if anyone actually is playing. They will just push the situation further underground.

Some people will commit suicide. Some people will encourage others to do so because they are failed humans. We can be better friends to those in need. We can spend our time helping people, rather than hurting them. We can see people who are in danger and act to help them. That’s our job, not the government’s.

We cannot and should not rely on the government to be our moral saviors. If we do so, we risk them dictating moral policy, and that is a dangerous path indeed.

Tom Liberman

Benningfield offers to Sterilize Free for Reduced Sentence

Judge Sam BenningfieldThere’s an interesting situation going on in Tennessee where Judge Sam Benningfield is offering reduced sentences for criminals who partake of freely provided birth control. Vasectomy for men and Nexplanon for women. For men, this largely means permanent sterilization and for women the device lasts for about four years. Naturally, there is an uproar.

I think Judge Benningfield has it partially right. I don’t think we should be offering free birth control to convicted criminals, we should be offering it to everyone! What would the world be like if no woman became pregnant with an unwanted child, if no father impregnated a woman when he didn’t want to have a child? The answer is quite clear; much, much better.

I think the benefits of such procedures, performed free of charge for the asking, cut through political divides on all sides. Hey, conservatives, that’s it; no more abortions. Or at least only in quite rare circumstances. Birth rates among illegal immigrants and generally the poorer segments of society drop dramatically. Hey, liberals, child abuse reduced dramatically, orphanages emptied, crime rates plummet, the poorest segment of society has a much better chance to improve their circumstances.

When every child is a wanted child we eliminate any number of societal problems. The population of the world will stabilize at a quite sustainable level. I’m of the opinion we should temporarily sterilize everyone as soon as they reach puberty. Then, later, if anyone wants to have a baby, reverse the procedure at no cost. That’s probably too extreme for most of people out there but I think the changes it would bring to the world would be dramatic and wonderful.

Another thing I find particularly interesting are those railing against Judge Benningfield and those supporting his decision. Those who find it distasteful are generally for freely available birth control. Those who think the judge is right are almost universally against free birth control. Judge Benningfield is offering free birth control to a segment of the population. The problem is largely the carrot offered, reduced jail time. Thus, people are presumably getting sterilized who actually want children. I argue most of the people lining up for the procedure have no desire for a child and the only thing that kept them from doing it themselves is the cost of the operation.

What I’d really like people to examine is your own feelings on the ideas of freely available birth control and the situation in Tennessee. Why do you support one or the other? Why do you oppose the ideas?

Let me know!

Tom Liberman

LPGA the Dress Code versus Sex Sells

dress code lpgaThere was an interesting turn of events when the Ladies Professional Golf Association passed new dress code rules for players on the tour. The codes basically attempt to eliminate clothes that are a bit too sexy.

It largely prohibits the display of too much leg, too much bosom, or too much shoulder. Let me first say the LPGA has every right set their own dress code. If they want to ban short skirts, plunging necklines, racerback shirts, joggers, and leggings; that’s their business.

That being said, the hypocrisy is rather rank. The LPGA has long promoted attractive players going as far as extending invitations into tournaments to particularly good-looking golfers who were not eligible by their playing ability alone. The modern version of this strategy is Paige Spiranac but it dates back as far as Jan Stephenson and probably beyond.

It’s also clear that women wear far skimpier outfits while running in track meets, playing beach volleyball, and we see plenty of panty-clad bums on some of the finest women’s tennis players in the world as they race around the court.

I’ll be up front, I’m a man who admires the fit form of female athletes. I’ve always been attracted to women with athletic figures. I don’t mind seeing a fine pair of shoulders, the sinews of a pair of strong legs in motion, or the firm upper arms of a woman who has seen the inside of a weight room. The fact that tight fitting clothes go along with better athletic performance is a happy coincidence as far as this fan is concerned. Boobs, I’m in the pro column.

The point here is that the majority of people enjoy looking at a fit athlete with a strong body. Sports Illustrated devotes an entire issue to naked athletes and another to women in, or partially in, swimsuits. That’s marketing. If more people watch LPGA events that will lure in more advertisers, which in turn means larger prizes for the participants.

That’s what bothers me about this new dress code. The LPGA has long attempted to market the better-looking golfers on their tour. Now they are upset some of the players are apparently doing the marketing themselves. Hey, it’s fine if you look sexy the way we like to make you look sexy, but don’t look hot the way you want. Not on our watch.

Again, it’s the LPGA’s decision to make. Rules are rules. But at least this observer finds them to be hypocritical in the extreme.

Tom Liberman

The Solar Wall and President Trump

solar wallPresident Trump made building a wall between Mexico and the United States a big part of his campaign although actually funding it has proved difficult. He recently suggested putting solar panels on the wall. A solar wall as it were, so that it could pay for itself. That’s the thought process I’d like to examine. Yes, the thought process.

What’s the first thing you think about when using solar panels? For me, what comes immediately to mind is the idea they have to face the sun. Unfortunately, by far the greatest surface area of a wall is going to be facing away from the sun. A wall, by its nature, is up and down with a narrow top. Now, it’s certainly possible to make a wall of a greater thickness so solar panels can sit on top of it, but that’s going to dramatically increase the amount of material required for the wall, which of course, adds cost.

There is also the possibility of attaching angled panels to this solar wall but that would seem to largely defeat the purpose of a wall, to keep people from being able to cross over it. If there is a big, angled roof to the thing, it would seem that scaling it would be made significantly easier.

Anyway, let’s imagine there is some way to attach the panels to the solar wall without greatly increasing the cost of the base material of the wall while not inhibiting its stated goal of preventing people from crossing over from Mexico.

How do we get the generated power from the power source to the people who need the energy? That’s an enormous problem with all power plants. You have to be able to transfer the energy to users. This is done through infrastructure. Traditional power plants are built in a single location so all power lines can emanate from them. With a solar wall, this is not possible. Basically, your power generation is occurring over a huge area. So, in addition to the panels the entire infrastructure must be created to take that power and distribute it. The cost of this is something I’ll leave to your imagination.

And this is what I’m talking about. These are thoughts that I’m almost certain didn’t even begin to occur to President Trump. He doesn’t think things through. That’s not a quality I admire in anyone. Let alone the President of the United States.

Honestly, this is what I imagine. “You know, President Trump, we’re having a terrible time getting financing from Congress to build that wall. You know what would be cool? Solar panels on it!”

Trump, “That’s a great idea, hey, when’s lunch?”

Then at the next opportunity Trump touts the solar wall as a fully realized possibility without having given a moment’s thought to the practicality of building the thing. I’m serious here, when you heard Trump talking about the solar wall what was your first thought? Mine was, interesting idea, but how is that going to happen? Yet I watch people cheering madly an idea that it seems to me is obviously impractical if not impossible, and certainly not cost effective.

I suppose this is the world in which we find ourselves. Sigh.

Tom Liberman