NFL Referees Allowed in Vegas but why were they Banned?

Raiders_Stadium_artist_renderingThe National Football League owners just voted to allow the Oakland Raiders and owner Mark Davis to move the team to Las Vegas. I’m not surprised. There is more money to be made in Las Vegas than in Oakland in the same way there was more money to be had in Los Angeles than St. Louis.

I’m not here as a snowflake St. Louis Rams fan to condemn the greed of the NFL owners. What I want to talk about is the rule preventing league officials from entering the city of Las Vegas during the season. That’s right, prior to the move of the Raiders, league officials were not even allowed to visit Las Vegas during the season unless their regular job required it. Even then there were restrictions. Obviously this rule will have to change.

The reason for the rule was the league wanted to prevent referees from being influenced by gamblers. Well, that’s what they claim. That’s what I want to talk about. The league knows full well that gambling doesn’t happen only in Las Vegas. They know gamblers look to influence referees in every sport and in every league regardless of physical location. If they know this, why the ban?

The answer is simple and one that strikes to the very heart of problems we have in the United States and around the world. The ban of officials visiting Las Vegas gives the league the appearance of being concerned about gambling and of taking measures to prevent corruption of referees when, naturally, it does neither of those things. The league doesn’t care that the ban is stupid and useless. They care that it makes them look good. It makes it look like they are doing something about the problem. And that’s dangerous. That’s what I oppose.

I think the league has good reason to worry about gamblers corrupting their officials. I think all sports leagues have good reason to worry. The NBA certainly knows all about it. I strongly suspect any number of games in all sports, in all leagues, have been tainted by officials on the take from gamblers. Or in debt to gamblers. Or something along those lines.

I have no proof that it happens and yet I have absolutely no doubt it does. Gambling is not limited to the NFL or even professional sports leagues. Large amounts of money is wagered on high school football. Referees have enormous influence over games. They certainly give gamblers the best chance to influence outcomes. This fact has not slipped past the notice of such organizations.

I’m also not suggesting sports leagues don’t use other tactics to defeat gamblers. What I am saying is that employing useless measures to counter real threats simply for the illusion of safety is foolish. The illusion is safety is far more perilous than understanding you are in a dangerous situation. The reason being, if you understand you are in danger you take precautions. If you think you are safe, you do not.

The league is giving fans the illusion the game isn’t corrupt and therefore the fans are not necessarily looking for corruption. This means corruption can more easily occur. Now, in this case it’s gambling and some money but the same principle applies to pat-downs at the airport.

I say dispense with useless precautions designed simply to create an illusion of safety. When I see such rules in place I become concerned the people who made such rules perhaps do not understand the real threat. They might even be lulled into the same sense of complacency they hoped to foist off onto others.

We should be more concerned with passing laws that do good than passing laws that falsely make us look like we’re doing good. And if you don’t think that has correlation to what’s happening in Washington D.C., statehouses, and your local municipalities, well, you’ve been fooled.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Are Vitamins Worth Purchasing?

vitamins-supplementsThe Annals of Internal Medicine recently posted an editorial pretty much blasting the use of multivitamins and supplements. I originally came across the study in an article from Business Insider and the comment section was pretty universal in condemnation of the story.

I’ve long felt that supplements and vitamins were a waste of money and almost universally placebos but the recent studies and this article seems to affirm my opinions. Wikipedia also confirms this idea.

It is important to note that the studies do not address what are called micronutrient deficiencies. Those who suffer from such deficiencies benefit greatly from vitamins and supplements. The editorial specifically excludes them from the study and is talking only about otherwise healthy people who spend considerable money on vitamins and supplements.

And I do mean considerable. The vitamin and supplement industry generates over $28 billion in sales annually and that amount continues to rise each year. I think it’s important to understand that the vast majority of people spending money on multivitamins and supplements are simply spending money on a product that does them no good whatsoever and, in some cases, actually causes harm.

In addition, many of these supplements and vitamins are produced in foreign countries with China making up the lion’s share.

As you may or may not know, I’m a Libertarian. If people choose to purchase vitamins and supplements that’s their business. I’m merely suggesting that you stop. Spend your money elsewhere. Perhaps a food service that brings you healthy meals each day. I’m a big believer in capitalism as a driving force of making the world a better place. It is to the benefit of all of us to have a healthier population. More work is done, less healthcare is necessary, etc. If people transfer part of the expenditures from something that is not helping their health to something that is helping their health, I benefit. We all benefit.

I know quite a few people who take vitamins and supplements and I suspect I’m going to take some heat for my stance on this issue. That’s all right. I’m tough.

Take a look at the studies and decide for yourself.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Closing Liquor Stores in Whiteclay to Solve Alcoholism

Badlands_in_South_DakotaI just read a terrible story about a little town in Nebraska that serves one purpose. It supplies alcohol to Native Americans living just across the border in South Dakota at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Whiteclay has a population of 14 and four liquor stores and the stores sell about 13,000 cans of beer a day. These sales result in a contribution of nearly half a million dollars to the state coffers of Nebraska. This does not include revenue from the thousands of DUI tickets given to drivers leaving the town.

At least some of the beer is sold to bootleggers who take it directly onto the reservation and sell it there at an inflated price. This because alcohol is illegal to sell on the reservation.

Pine Ridge is, by any reasonable judgment, a heartbreaking tragedy. Unemployment is around 80%. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is rampant. Almost half the residents live in poverty. The people have the shortest life expectancy in the western hemisphere.

Many people want to close the liquor stores in Whiteclay to alleviate some of the terrible problems on the reservation.

And thus I am triggered. I could spend time talking about how adults must be allowed to make their own decisions. I could talk about how the residents of the reservation will just drive to the next town to get liquor if Whiteclay is shut down. I might point out the obvious fact that bootleggers will simply bring in increased amounts of alcohol and increase their prices.

Instead I simply explain the root of the problem. Alcohol sales are illegal on the reservation. This was done to combat alcoholism among Native Americans. It has not only failed to solve the problem but created a host of ancillary issues. Drunk driving, public intoxication in Whiteclay, criminal activity in the form of bootleggers, the eyesore of Whiteclay itself.

All of these problems go away if liquor sales are allowed on the reservation. Not only that but the stores would employ people. They would generate profits and tax revenue for the Native Americans to use to help alcoholics.

The problem that won’t go away is alcoholism among residents. That’s true. I freely admit it. That is a bigger task beyond the scope of my article today. It is a task worth taking on. People’s lives are at stake. But not for me, not today at least.

My point today is simple. A law was passed in order to prevent the residents of Pine Ridge from having easy access to alcohol. It has failed utterly and created a host of other problems. A lesson to be learned.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Chevy Chase, Community, Hate, and Success

community_paintball_explosionI was browsing through some of the glorious paintball clips of the television show Community on YouTube when I came across this video. It reminded me one of the show’s stars, Chevy Chase, hated being on the show and most of the cast and creator were not particular fond of him.

If Chase hated being on the show and most of the people he worked with didn’t like him, how was the show so hysterically funny? How was Chase so good? How did the other actors create comedy gold in scenes with him? How did the show runner produce hilarious episodes one after the other?

In team sports there is something called chemistry. This is how the players and coaches interact with one another. It is universally considered a benefit when everyone gets along. When the culture of the team is good. But perhaps the reality is different. At least that’s what I’m thinking. Maybe liking each other isn’t all that important to success. Maybe working with talented people you hate can be and is far more of an indicator of success than so-called team chemistry.

As an extreme example; it’s pretty clear no matter how much the other players on the St. Louis Cardinals might like me as a person, I would be an anchor on the team, what with me striking out nine out of ten plate appearance (ok, 99 out of 100).

Is it pleasant to be around those we like? To spend time in the company of those we enjoy? Yes. Why, yes, it is. I enjoy life more when I’m surrounded by people whose company I enjoy. The question becomes, is it an element of success? It seems like it should be an obvious answer. If the team, be it sports or business, likes one another they should be happier and thus more willing to perform excellently. Yet, is it?

Does happiness engender success? These are the question managers must ask themselves while building their teams. Is this new person we’re adding going to improve the culture? Is this new person we’re adding going to improve our chances of succeeding at the project?

Who is more important? Douchebag super-talent or sweet person average talent?

Obviously we’d love both, but what I’m asking is which takes priority. You want the job done. You are the manager. What’s your choice? The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that success is more related to talent than chemistry. Much more. What do you think?

The poll question is a bit black and white and I understand there are nuances.

If you were building a team which would you place in higher esteem?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Girl Scout Cookies and where the Money Goes

girl-scout-cookiesGirl Scouts sell lots of cookies. Lots of them. I refuse to purchase for the same reason I don’t buy candy from a kid standing at the corner. I don’t by coupon books from the children of my friends. I’m not convinced it is a good use of my money, frankly, I’m convinced it’s a bad way to help. I suspect I’m going to take some heat for this post but it’s been on my mind for years.

Here is the problem. Much of the money I’m giving to help out the children of my friends goes to someone beside those children. The vast majority of the money goes somewhere else. In the case of the Girl Scouts, the troop itself receives about 13% of the sale. A box of cookies costs $4.00. You’d double the amount you’re giving to the girls if you simply gave the young entrepreneur $1.00.

Some 21% of the sale goes to the baker. The rest goes to the local council. They spend this money largely on salary although it’s difficult to find how much goes to the community, certainly some of it.

Here is what I think is important. I don’t hate Girl Scouts. I don’t hate the Girl Scout Council. I’m saying the method of donating to their cause is somewhat dubious.

This website lists lots of charities and their guidelines for what makes an organization credible or not. They have not rated the Girl Scouts but their general guidelines is that more than 66% of the donated money should go directly to the cause. For those without a math inclination: 66% > 12.5%.

I’m not telling you to stop buying Girl Scout Cookies. I’m telling you, if the reason you are buying them is to help out the daughters of friends, perhaps you should find another way to give. When they come by with their tally sheets, simply give them $1.00 per box that you would normally purchase.

We like to do good. We like to help others. Sometimes that gets taken advantage of by people who don’t even realize they are doing so. The Girl Scouts are filling the wallets of other people. They are doing the work. They are essentially a labor source being exploited by a business.

Therefore I don’t purchase. You may feel differently.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Nick Saban Rants about Summer Camps but it’s Really all about being a Libertarian

Nick-SabanI just read an interesting story at ESPN about how Nick Saban gave a press conference in which he is quite angry. The main rant seems to involve assumptions about his offensive plans for the upcoming season but later he gets to a topic that touches this Libertarian’s heartstrings. Rules created to prevent some perceived wrong that end up hurting far more people than they help.

At issue is my favorite target, the NCAA. College football teams like Alabama hold summer camps for young players. This allows said teams to gain personal relationships with players that often translate to scholarships at a later date. The NCAA just passed a rule that prevents high school coaches from helping at such camps.

Here’s why the rule was made. Coaches like Saban, and more particularly Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, held these camps and paid these high school coaches to help. The high school coaches have strong influence over their players. The hope being that said coach will recommend to their star players they take scholarship offers from Alabama and Michigan.

This example strikes directly to the heart of my problem with such rules. Yes, this system does curry favor from high school coaches to particular colleges. The question we must always ask is: What is the result of the proposed rule, law, or regulation. That is what Saban is talking about when he says:

And we pass some rule that everybody has to live with, or some law, where the consequences mess up a lot of other things. We do it all the time. We’re doing it right now. The NCAA is doing it. We’re going to change the way we have summer camps. We can’t have high school coaches working summer camps. I mean, it’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever seen. It is what it is and whatever they do, they do.

In this case the high school coaches are still generally going to be favorable to local colleges because of ongoing relationships so the rule itself really doesn’t solve the problem.

Now the coaches won’t be able to bring their players to the camp so some third party is going to do it. Perhaps a family member, an agent, a want-to-be agent, a friend with dollar signs in their eyes, whatever. That issue isn’t solved, just shifted to a new source. In addition someone is going to have to coach those camps. They are happening regardless of the new rule. That someone is likely going to be less qualified than the coach, this hurts the young players. The coach loses as well because teaching at these camps gives them invaluable experience.

Perhaps this seems like a nothing issue to most people but it is a microcosm of Washington D.C., your statehouse, your municipality.

We pass laws with the best of intentions but end up hurting not only the very people such rules are intended to protect, but a host of other people as well.

Nick Saban in his rant is not just talking about these camps. He’s talking about the political world we endure today. And he’s right.

He’s absolutely right.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Lots of Hate for Julia Stephenson on Being Too Beautiful to be Faithful

julia-stephensonIn case you’re not fully aware, the Internet is filled with people willing to express their opinion. In the case of Julia Stephenson that opinion is almost universally negative. Stephenson wrote an article for the Daily Mail in which she lamented her physical attractiveness led to unfaithfulness and the end of her marriage.

As you can well imagine, the comments generally lashed out at her for not being particularly attractive and for laying the blame of her failed marriage on her beauty rather than the choices she made.

I decided I’d read her original article and get a feel for what she wrote. Not surprisingly the headline summations don’t really tell the real story. Yes, Stephenson blames her blossoming and the attentions of handsome men for the end of her marriage but she also accepts responsibility for it.

What’s interesting to me is the complete lack of objective reality that most of those commenting display. Someone who is good-looking is absolutely going to have more temptations to be unfaithful than someone who is less attractive and those temptations will be with people, well, more tempting.

I’d recommend reading Stephenson’s original article all the way through for it is not nearly as shallow or delusional as the headlines suggest. However, what I’d like to address is something called the Moralistic Fallacy. This fallacy is behind much of the criticism of Stephenson.

The idea is:

It is wrong to leave your spouse because someone else more attractive is suddenly available. Therefore it does not happen.

The only reason Stephenson left her husband is because she chose to do so. Her blossoming, gaining confidence, and having men of a social station and appearance that never before looked at her giving her attention had no bearing on her choice to end her marriage and engage in a series of short-term relationships.

This is simply people pretending that reality does not exist because reality is unpleasant. Certainly Stephenson chose to end her relationship and bears the responsibility for doing so, which she admits in her article. But it is clear that when suddenly presented with opportunities not available earlier, we all face difficult temptations. Certainly some resist, many do not.

I’m saying it’s absolute nonsense to pretend that changing circumstances do not influence behavior.

Stephenson left her husband for several reasons. One of which is that she had new opportunities available to her that she did not when she married him. It is not the only reason, of course. But it is certainly one of them and to pretend otherwise is to engage in a Moralistic Fallacy.

Are the Commenters Engaged in a Moralistic Fallacy

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Eminent Domain and the Border Wall

eminent_domainThe Border Wall. It’s a fairly big news story. President Trump would like to spend some billions of dollars to build a wall between Mexico and the United States in order to prevent illegal aliens from crossing over. Much of this land is not owned by the government and they would therefore have to purchase it.

It’s quite likely that many of the people who own this land aren’t going to want to sell. The solution is something called Eminent Domain.

In essence, The Federal Government and State Government has the right to simply purchase the land for a fair market price if they deem such Taking arises from a situation of extreme necessity or of public utility. I would think the government is arguing that building the wall is of public utility in this case and therefore they can simply take the land even from unwilling owners.

This, naturally, strikes at the core of my Libertarian ideology. I think cases of Eminent Domain must be severely limited and this particular extension when the argument for public utility is rather debatable does not qualify. There are any number of arguments both for and against a border wall but I don’t want to get into that debate. I simply point out the matter is far from clear, and therefore it cannot be argued with certainty that the border wall is for public utility.

If the government would like to make an offer the land owners can’t refuse, more power to them. Otherwise I think this one has to end up in the courts and that will take years and millions of taxpayer dollars.

Now a quick story about a situation here in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. We have a north and south running highway called 170. It was designed to connect two basically east and west highways, 55 and 70. People refused to sell the land required. The government eventually built part of the highway, but the southern section remains unfinished to this day. This is a moderately significant issue when trying to get from the northern half of the city to the southern. It affects me in a negative way on a regular basis.

And yet this is a good thing. It is the course the people of the city took and the state shouldn’t have the ability to take land if the seller is unwilling, barring the rules laid out by Eminent Domain.

Another quick story about the government using Eminent Domain. Keystone Pipeline. The only way to build it was by acquiring land through the use of Eminent Domain, in Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota.

I’m not completely opposed to Eminent Domain because there are situations where all the land for something of clear public utility is purchased except one parcel, and the person is holding out for some exorbitant amount. Even then I’m somewhat skeptical. Eminent Domain is often used by the state to steal land, generally for profit. We should all be wary.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Anita Krajnc and Giving Water to Pigs

anita-krajnc-water-pigsThere’s an interesting case about to be adjudicated in Ontario, Canada in which a woman named Anita Krajnc poured water into a truck full of pigs heading to slaughter from Fearmans Pork. She is only charged with a misdemeanor charge of mischief and the case is not exactly earth shattering but it demonstrates a fundamental problem, as I see it, with our general society these days.

What we have is two groups who seem to be, at a cursory glance, at complete and total opposite ends of a spectrum. Krajnc belongs to a group called Toronto Pig Save and Fearmans Pork makes a living off raising and slaughtering pigs.

I don’t think I need to go into details as to why these two groups are facing off in court. Nor do I want to spend time talking about the merits of the case against Krajnc. I won’t extoll on the virtues of the cause nor talk about the value of bringing the pigs to slaughter or even of a free market and supply side economics. All of those things are worth discussing but not by me and not today.

What do I want to talk about? Good question.

What I want to talk about is how people on opposite sides of the spectrum all too often, and as a first response, resort to antagonistic behavior when there is actually common ground upon which they could join.

Common ground? Between Pig Save activists and Fearmans Pork? Yes, indeed. There is far more common ground on a lot of issues than people realize.

Krajnc would like to give the pigs some water while they are in the truck heading to slaughter. That’s a nice sentiment to be honest. Animals heading to slaughter are sometimes not properly cared for near the end of their life because to feed and water them at such a late stage is an expense. It’s cheaper not to do so.

What Krajnc did was climb on the truck and pour water from a bottle onto the pigs. The truck driver and pig owners were naturally worried that something more nefarious is going on and want to protect their property.

A better choice from my perspective would be Toronto Pig Save simply asking Fearmans Pork if they could pay for the expense of giving the pigs one last drink of water before heading to slaughter. When Fearmans Pork found out what Krajnc was up to they could have offered some sort of system by which she was allowed to water the pigs more effectively.

Would this have solved the issue from Toronto Pig Save’s perspective? No, naturally not. They don’t want pigs going to slaughter at all, but at least they could have given the animals some water before the inevitable. Can Fearmans Pork simply have such activists arrested for such behavior? Yes, of course, and they did. But couldn’t they also have suggested a system by which the pigs did get a last drink of water at the expense of Toronto Pig Save?

No solution is going to make everyone happy but it seems to me that we can get more accomplished if we work together, even with those who are apparently on the opposite side of an issue.

What if abortion foes and supporters worked together, spent their time and money, on preventing unwanted pregnancies? What if Animal Activists and Factory Farm owners worked together to improve the life and health of the animals?

How much time, passion, and money is spent on activities that don’t do anything to make the problem better, but simply caress the egos of the parties on both sides. “We’ll put those animal nutcases in prison!” “We’ll show the world the horror of factory farms!”

The comment sections of every story are filled with people who live in this black and white world. My way or no way at all.

I’ll end my post in the same way President Trump often does. However, unlike him; I don’t mean it as in pathetic. I mean it as so much wasted energy, effort, time, and money.

Sad.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

 

Why Should the Government Mandate Cursive Writing in Schools?

cursive-writingThe answer is simple. They shouldn’t. Yet it’s a trend that just added Alabama and Mississippi and which already includes fourteen states. Fourteen states think the government should mandate spending time to learn something that is largely useless in modern society. There is little need of cursive writing but for some reason legislators and, judging by the comment section, lots and lots of regular folks, approve of these laws.

Those who support such measures make any number of claims including the ideas that it helps students think through ideas, helps creativity, it helps train the mind, and helps grammar. The reality is different and I think important to understand. The people who support such laws were taught cursive writing in school. They don’t want students today taught things differently because they are threatened by and scared of this new world in which we live.

There is very little need for cursive writing anymore and soon there will be none. We use computers, tablets, phones, and other devices to type our messages, this is self-evident. There is no need for me to argue this point. Cursive has less relevance in the modern world with each passing day. It will not return as a useful means of communication. The purpose of teaching cursive writing was to allow people to write down their thoughts more quickly than block printing but with the legibility of that style. That’s why cursive writing was taught, because it was an incredibly useful skill for people to know. We did not teach it to encourage creativity, to train minds, to help thinking, or to help grammar. We can teach those things in other ways.

Cursive was taught because it was useful to know. That is the most important thing and the basic reason it was taught. It’s not important to know anymore so we shouldn’t be teaching it. We should spend time teaching other things.

I’m not opposed to teaching grammar. I’m not opposed to teaching students creativity. I’m not opposed to teaching students how to think through an idea. I’m not opposed to teaching students to use logical thought processes. I am, however; totally and irrevocably opposed to teaching cursive in school.

The people who argue for this seem to universally lament the fact that students today are unprepared for life and that somehow spending many hours teaching them a useless skill will help this problem. Let me be clear, the people who claim young people are stupid and unable to handle the modern world are wrong. Young people today face a very different world and very different challenges than I did and they are well-equipped to handle such a life. College students, high-school students, and young adults are often intelligent, smart, capable, and largely better educated than their parents.

This insistence on cursive writing is almost solely based on fear that kids today are learning things that adults don’t know or understand. People feel safe in forcing  kids to learn the things we learned, it gives a comforting sense of continuity. It’s a bad idea.

This fear drives much in our lives. This fear holds us back. This fear will hold back millions of kids in Alabama, Mississippi and twelve other states.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Jeff Sessions Believes Violence Follows Marijuana Sales Because of Unpaid Debt

war-on-drugs“You can’t sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that.”

That is the quote from the Attorney General of the United States in regards to marijuana legalization. What else is there to say? How stupid is he? Or does he just think those who support him are stupid?

Is it possible he doesn’t realize that in states where marijuana is legal that you can sue for debt and thus violence is completely unnecessary? Is it possible that he doesn’t realize the vast majority of violence surrounding the drug trade is caused by interdiction?

Police officers die. Innocents die. Drug dealers die. Drug users die. The violence is almost completely centered on the enforcement of drug laws. If drugs were legal there would not be anywhere near the violence. Do we see violence around prescription drug debt? No? Gosh, a shocker there.

Of course if drugs were legal the police forces of the United States wouldn’t have nearly as much to do. Nearly as much to spend on neat equipment. Not nearly as many citizens to bully and attack. Of course, on the plus side, they would also be much safer. They could focus their energies on non-drug crime and helping the citizens of their communities rather than financing their entire department off the misery of said citizens.

If drugs were legal the prisons would lose most of their inhabitants. That’s a good thing? Right? Well good for everyone except the prison system which enriches itself on putting citizens in jail.

What would the DEA do if drugs were legal? Well, just about nothing. How much money would that save? But we don’t want that, we want to employ people.

I’ve ranted enough. I can’t take any more.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

In some Countries a Speeding Ticket for a Sports Star is a Big Deal

moana-hopeI’m fairly certain that most of my readers are aware that I love sports. I fell in love with Australian Rules football a few years back when it was broadcast on ESPN3. I still follow the sport and something happened this weekend that makes me think. Two players in the game, one a man and one a woman, were caught speeding.

If you say big deal then it’s likely you are much like me and completely inured to sports stars behaving badly here in the United States. In Australia it’s a big story. Both players are facing serious trouble and potential suspensions. The teams are issuing strong words about expecting better from their players, how they take road safety quite seriously.

There is all sorts of chatter on the Collingwood Facebook page about the incident.

It’s not easy to compare a country with a smaller population like Australia to a large one like the United States where we have far more sports stars in a wider variety of sports. The reaction in Australia to the incident, which would probably not even rise to the level of an actual news story in the United States, does raise an interesting question.

Do Australians hold athletes to a higher standard than we do here in the United States?

If so, why?

I certainly think the population of the two nations has something to do with it but perhaps there are cultural differences to account for as well. In Australia police are given wide latitude in interdictions on traffic violations. In Australia the police can stop you while driving at any time for no reason and check for intoxication or pretty much anything else, they have no Fourth Amendment restrictions.

Is this good? Bad? Does it effect how things like speeding are viewed by the general populace?

I’m not really sure I have any world altering conclusion here but I do find the entire thing quite interesting.

I’m a big fan of the Fourth Amendment. I think allow government officials to stop people for no reason is an extremely bad idea. I’m also not a huge fan of vilifying people for relatively minor transgressions. Who among us hasn’t driven faster than the speed limit?

What do you think? Is the culture for sports stars too forgiving in the United States? Too harsh in Australia? Somewhere in between?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

I’ll Use Our Second Amendment Rights to Defend our First Amendment Rights

Constitution of United StatesCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I want to be as clear as possible about the First Amendment.

The freedom of media to report as they will without fear of retribution from the government is vital to the survival of this great nation and of This Great Experiment. The media must be allowed to tell the story; the true story, the false story, the agenda driven story twisted with nuance, or the apolitical story. It is necessary. It is my freedom.

If you are under the impression those telling stories you don’t like must be arrested, repressed, intimidated, fined, sued, or otherwise cowed from doing their job; know that I will defend them. If necessary I’ll use another right guaranteed to me to do so.

I will accept the consequences of those action.

Just so you know where I stand if you want to discuss Freedom of the Press in my presence.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Before you Laugh at Kyrie Irving and Flat Earth Examine What you Believe without Evidence

kyrie-irvingWho was it that said something about casting stones?

There’s an article all over the news today about a basketball player named Kyrie Irving who believes the earth is flat. The comment section is filled with scorn. The same commenters who generally flood stories with absolute belief in many things without any supporting evidence.

President Obama banned the pledge of allegiance.

President Trump vacationed with Vladimir Putin before the election.

90% of the Ninth Circuit Court Decisions are Overturned by the Supreme Court.

Richard Gere and the Gerbil.

All these things are nonsense and yet the very people calling Kyrie Irving all sorts of names believe stories exactly like those I listed above. Do you? I’d guess the answer is probably yes. You believe something that is completely false. There are reasons for this.

Perhaps the story matches up with your political or personal beliefs and you’d like it to be true so you don’t investigate or willfully ignore any evidence suggesting the story is false.

Perhaps the story was told to you by someone you trust, so you didn’t bother to investigate because of that trust.

Perhaps you are stupid.

Perhaps you’re not stupid but you never learned Critical Thinking skills.

All these things are possible and I would venture to say there is no one who has not fallen into the trap at one point or another. Kyrie Irving believes the Earth is flat. He’s wrong but I’m not going to convince him, you’re not going to convince him, no amount of evidence is going to convince him. He’s going to have to decide for himself to investigate the topic, look at the all the evidence, and come to a conclusion that ignores his preconceived notions. Easy, you say? Then you do it. Do it in every aspect of your life. Do it for every political story you read.

In my Libertarian Group of supposed Free Thinkers there are scam artists everywhere. Some make promises about freedom and life in South America while stealing money from members, and yet they are supported almost endlessly. Some rave and rant about problems that simply don’t exist. There is no shortage of those who believe in defiance of evidence. I would say anyone who denies Evolution is such a person and that includes a healthy percentage of my friends.

Before you start throwing stones at Irving, take a look in the mirror.

And, of course, try to apply Critical Thinking skills to all aspects of your life.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

 

Censored for Sex, Marry, Kill on the Washington Post

censoredI have been censored! My rights stripped from me like so many pasties from an exotic dancer.

I demand satisfaction. I demand action. I demand a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, mmm, delicious peanut butter cups. Wait, distracted, sorry, I’ve been wronged I tell you, wronged!

Congress I need your help. Congressman Jason Chaffetz an investigation must be ordered. This is big, huge, enormous.

There is a story about some teachers who were playing Fuck-Marry-Kill while imbibing drinks at a local restaurant. For those who are unaware of this delightful pastime I will explain the rules. Three people or things are listed. You must choose with what or whom you will have sex, which you will marry, and which you will kill. Someone videotaped the teachers playing the game. Their co-workers were mentioned. They said unflattering things about students although apparently refrained from mentioning them in connection with the game.

The video was posted on Facebook. One of the co-workers who ended up in the kill category complained. Parents complained that their precious little students were being taught by people horrible enough to play this game. To dare say an unflattering thing about one of the children. They were horrified. The school district has fired one of the players and the other have been reprimanded which is apparently not enough for the enraged internet.

And now I have suffered a grievous blow. My comment was censored, banished, removed, annihilated, destroyed, put into a secret CIA prison somewhere in Africa. I find myself in a barren wasteland without a single Like (I use my Facebook account to make comments because I have nothing to hide, well, there was that thing in college with the blender, three live chickens, and some mini-cans of orange juice but that’s all just rumor). No likes!!! It hurts. It hurts.

My comment, you ask? I wanted to play the game with

A) The person who taped the conversation.

B) The co-worker who complained.

C) The parent who wants them all fired.

Now we will never know and I must live the rest my life in barren desert of Likeless shame. Unless, you, dear, brave reader, will play the game with me now?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Removing Competition the Immigration Way

senator-tom-cottonSenators Tom Cotton and David Perdue don’t like competition. Spin it how you will but this Libertarian will not stand silent. They are wrong and somebody needs to tell them. I think I’m the guy!

The situation is relatively simple. With the election of Donald Trump a wave of Protectionist policies have swept through Congress. Cotton and Perdue want to limit the number of immigrants coming into this country annually from one million to half that. Why?

In their words: Cotton said his goal was to stop competition that lowers wages for workers without high school or college degrees. “Unless we reverse this trend, we are going to create a near-permanent underclass for whom the American dream is always just out of reach,”

Because reducing competition always makes things better, right, Senators? That’s the American way or at least the modern American way. Reduce competition by making laws that benefit one group over another.

They aren’t even apologizing for it. Making up some wild story to excuse it. Nope, we want to eliminate competition so United States citizens who can’t hold down a decent job have a better chance to do so. And the comments section is filled with cheers. Yay! Let’s keep those dirty foreigners from stealing our jobs.

Perhaps they wouldn’t take your jobs if you were willing to work harder but I guess that’s a mantra from bygone days. Yes, the jobs that immigrants do suck and don’t pay a lot. They are hard. I wouldn’t want to do it so instead I work in IT making a nice salary doing things that are not back-breaking. Maybe rather than complaining that someone is stealing your job you should better yourself? Get an education. Work harder. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps as we used to say around here.

Nope. Gone. See ya. How ’bout we get rid of the competition. That’s the sure-fire path to success, ain’t it, Senators Cotton and Perdue? Let’s Make America Great Again by getting rid of the people who do the job best. That’ll work.

It’s a bit disheartening to be a Libertarian these days. But I’m not giving up!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Breezewood PA Clashes with the Objectivist Idea of Self-Interest

breezewood-paSelf-Interest. That’s the mantra of this Objectivist. When I act in my own self-interest I help those around me. Now I read about the interstate near a place called Breezewood, Pennsylvania and it brings the philosophy into question.

Let me explain. Breezewood is a community that exists largely because there is a connecting road missing. Highway I-70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike almost intersect at Breezewood … but they don’t. The reason they don’t is because travelers who want to get from one interstate to the other can’t do so without exiting one, driving through town amidst an almost constant traffic jam, and arriving at the other.

Without this little traffic jam the city would probably not exist. People would simply transit from one highway to the other without stopping. Some would stop for gas or a bite to eat certainly, but most would go merrily on their way. There is plenty of blame to go around.

Government regulation prevented tax dollars from building the interchange because one road was a toll road and the other was not. That regulation was removed eventually but the loop through Breezewood was already built by then. The Congressman from that district prevented any construction for years.

It’s clear millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of driving could easily be eliminated and yet it doesn’t get done because the people who live there don’t want it done. It’s in their interest not to have the interchange.

Where does that leave this objectivist? The people of Breezeway are doing exactly what my philosophy says they should do. Act in their own self-interest. In doing so they are inconveniencing many, many more people. They are wasting time and money. They are causing unnecessary pollution. What they are doing clearly helps those immediately around them but hurts the vast majority of people who travel that part of the country.

I’m all for the people of Breezewood doing what they think is in their best interest but where are the politicians from Pennsylvania and the United States? It’s in their interest to build that interchange and save a lot of people a lot of hassle. Yes, jobs will be lost in Breezewood. People will suffer. That’s the nature of the world.

The problem here isn’t objective self-interest, it’s the lack thereof. Far more people suffer because the people of Breezewood are acting in their interest. The solution. The people of Pennsylvania and the surrounding states need to elect officials who will solve the problem. They are the one’s not acting in their own self-interest.

It’s not always easy to be self-interested. The people of Breezewood live together, vote together, have a common issue. Those who need the interchange do not. It is more difficult for them to act in unison. I admit it.

We live in an age where people can share information and causes at the click of a button. With the right leader and a strong voice that interchange would be built. I still believe in self-interested objectivism but it’s not always easy.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Isolation and Assumption or Hamilton v. Trump

alexander-hamiltonShortly after the United States became an independent nation a fellow named Alexander Hamilton was put in charge of the treasury. The debt accrued from the Revolutionary War was a large issue and Hamilton wrote something called The First Report on the Public Credit that promoted the plan of Assumption.

Yipee, Tom, you might say. What does that have to do with President Trump and the modern world?

The idea is rather complex and sort of anti-common sense. Hamilton believed that if the Federal Government assumed all the debt from the various states, Assumption, those states would link their financial well-being to that of the central government. That is, if the union failed, the debt would fall back on the states. If the states had a financial stake in the union they would do their best to promote it and serve it.

This is a powerful idea against isolationism. If we are financially tied to other nations, they have a vested interest in seeing that we succeed, for then they succeed.

President Trump seems to be pursuing an America First agenda. The proposed tariffs would make it more expensive for other countries to do business in the United States. At that point they are given a choice. Pay the price or go elsewhere. Certainly some will pay the price in order to stay here but some will leave. As more and more decide it’s not worth the effort of staying they become independent of the United States. They have no reason to want us to succeed.

If we stop funding the United Nations it will suffer, most certainly. But the remaining member nations will soon realize they can do without that money. It won’t be as lavish. There won’t be as much waste. It won’t be as powerful. But we also will have little say in its operations. When we disengage we lose influence.

When we tell a nation they can’t do business with us without paying a price then eventually they stop doing business with us. We pay a price for influence. It’s money.

I’m not telling you that America First is a bad policy. I’m just telling you it will diminish our influence in the world. Other nations will learn they can do just fine without us.

If China decides they want to become world’s financial capital, something that could very well happen, it will mean an extraordinary shift in the balance of power in the world.

By allowing yourself to be tied to other people, other states, other nations; you make them work for your success. Their success is bound to yours and vice versa.

I just want to be very clear here. While I’m all for economic engagement with other nations I’m not for forcing regime change on those that don’t fall in line. I think we can do far more good in this world by linking people to each other financially than any soldier or covert operative working on regime change could ever accomplish.

I speak of nations and states in this article but ultimately I’m talking about individuals. When a person I play chess with in Iran wants to continue playing chess online with me, he or she doesn’t want me to die. Because it’s in his or her interest to continue the enjoyable chess games.

So it is with nations, states, and most importantly; individuals.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

The Libertarian Chewing Gum Conundrum

Chewing-Gum-RemovalToday I blog about chewing gum. Yep, chewing gum. It all started when I read about President Trump’s press secretary’s chewing habits. My natural curiosity led me to discover a lot of interesting things about chewing gum.

Eventually I got to the section at Wikipedia about how discarded chewing gum is a big nuisance. I don’t have to tell anyone who has stepped in the mess and had to remove it. Or anyone who touched the disgusting blob under a table. Or any who has to clean it up. I think I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t find discarded chewing gum to be disgusting and a nuisance. At my upscale gym I occasionally see a piece in the urinal and I literally want to find the person who did it and punch them in the mouth.

Someone has to clean that, you dick. It takes time and effort to clean up and that means it takes money.

Many schools ban it for this reason alone and one country, Singapore, has banned it completely. Their public spaces and sidewalks must be a joy although I’ve never experienced them myself.

This all brings me to the conundrum. I’m a Libertarian. If people want to chew gum, more power to them. If they want to swallow it, go right ahead. But, by golly, I don’t want it under the table I’m sitting at while having dinner. I don’t want part of the price of my dinner being to have someone clean up the chewing gum from the table. I don’t want my tax dollars going to cleaning expenses.

To prevent people from disposing of their chewing gum improperly means ridiculous laws. It means law enforcement officers training their keen eyes on rude gum chewers who do not dispose in an acceptable way. It means fining people, potentially arresting them, for disposing of gum under a table. That’s not exactly up my Libertarian alley.

If we don’t have laws to keep people from sticking it under the table then some, asshole, people are going to continue right along doing it. What to do?

Certainly teach children how rude is this behavior. Certainly shame anyone you witness doing it. But laws? Regulations? Even just a small fine rankles my ideology. I don’t like the idea of police handing out tickets for such actions.

Make them clean it themselves? That again requires vigilant officers on patrol and I’m not sure I approve.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Libertarian. Especially if you’ve got gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Pre-Industrial to Industrial to Information

Industrial-revolutionI’ve seen quite a bit of debate both in person and online about the idea of Protectionism and why we either need to avoid it or embrace it. I find that people who believe one side of the argument seem to be largely immune to attempts to convince them otherwise. As you might imagine much of this debate is fueled by the current political climate in the United States.

President Trump is a strong protectionist. He believes that we must protect our workers from foreign depredation. On the other hand we have Libertarians like myself who believe in Free Trade. What I’d like to do today is not argue with you but ask you to argue my point. Perhaps no one will take me up on it, my blog viewership is somewhat short of the millions. However, perhaps a few people who believe in the Protectionist mantra will be willing to step forward.

So here we go.

Imagine that is not 2017 but in fact it is 1760. Before even the United States existed as a free nation.

Our economy is based almost completely on Pre-Industrial economics. Agriculture is the primary form of employment and wealth generation, as it has been for tens of thousands of years. People are born, live, and die all within fifty miles of a single location. On the horizon is a frightening thing. The Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution will destroy virtually every single job that exists today. I am a precursor of the Luddites. I believe this new way of doing things will destroy my family and my life. I will no longer be able to work, to make money. Tell me why I should embrace textile manufacturing, metallurgy, steam power, machine tools, chemicals, cement (my job is a brick layer), gas lighting, glass making, paper machines, automated agriculture, mining, canals, roads, railways.

These things will destroy my family. My children will work in a factory instead of providing subsistence farming at home. I don’t know the skills required to live in this coming world.

I will suffer. I will not have a job. You, the government, must protect me and my job from this new way of doing things. I don’t know how to write code, I mean fix a steam engine. Explain to me how it could possible be to my benefit, to my nation’s benefit, to the world’s benefit to move from pre-industrial to industrial. Why should we not fight this?

Go!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray