The Real Value of Technology to Users

Real Value of Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Students on Phones are Bad or are they?

Students on Phones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Hidden Immorality of Medical Costs

Hidden Immorality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Colonial Injustice and the Border Wall

Colonial Injustice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

The Wealth Gap between Poor and Rich in Athletics

Wealth Gap High School Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

How to Stop the Miami Dolphins from Playing to Lose

Playing to Lose

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Fair Pay to Play Exposes NCAA Hypocrisy

Fair Pay to Play

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Did the Cleveland Browns Ban the Wrong Fan?

Browns Ban

In the first weekend of the NFL season the Cleveland Browns were demolished by the Tennessee Titans by a score of 43-13 and a fan dumped beer on one of the Titans players during the blowout. They looked into the incident and the Browns ban was announced. Now it appears they may have identified the wrong person and are backtracking on the Browns ban. I find their most recent reply to be lacking in an interesting way. I’ll get into that in a moment but first the incident in question.

There are videos and images of the beer pour and the offending fan is being universally panned. From these pieces of evidence, the Browns thought they had identified the culprit. They called him and informed him that he was banned from the stadium. The fan who was called, Eric Smith, told a Browns executive that he was not at the game but was DJing a public event. The executive insisted they had matched a tattoo although in images of the incident the offending fan appears not to have a tattoo. Both men are bearded to the Brown’s credit.

Here’s where it gets fairly interesting for me. It’s quite possible that Smith owned a ticket in the vicinity of the alleged beer dumping and his beard and general appearance led the team to think they had the right person and implement the Browns ban. That’s all well and good although perhaps they should have been more careful before making the call to Smith. Mistakes do happen. It’s the latest reply from the Browns public relations staff that bothers me. I’ll include it here.

Our investigation of the fan incident on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium remains ongoing. While we are continuing to gather information and have been in contact with multiple people as part of that process, we have not explicitly identified the individual involved or taken any formal action of punishment at this time. We will have no further comment until the investigation is complete.

This is the sort of mealy-mouthed half-truth I abhor. Perhaps the Browns didn’t official name the fan nor officially implement the ban but the pragmatic reality is the fan has been identified and was told of the banning. Why couldn’t the Browns issue a simple explanation? We thought we had the right person but, in our haste, may have made a mistake. We are continuing the investigation. How difficult is that?

We all make mistakes but it is our reluctance to admit them that leads to far more problems than anything else. We need look no further than the current political climate where a simple mistake in regards to what state would be hit by a hurricane has led us down a path of lies, denials, half-truths, and partisan insanity.

Tom Liberman

Government Plans to Ban Vaping Flavors and People are Overjoyed

Vaping Flavors

The latest assault on freedom is the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to ban Vaping Flavors. That’s right, the government wants to tell adults they are not allowed to use flavored tobacco products. Everyone is overjoyed because it will save the children. Sigh, it’s hard to be a small government Libertarian in this day and age.

I mean, seriously. The federal government of the United States has grown so bloated, so enamored of its own vile power that officials think it’s perfectly acceptable to ban Vaping Flavors. Flavors! The people of this nation have become completely complicit in our own enslavement. We are so frightened, so unwilling to stand up for our rights that we willingly vote in totalitarian fascists who won’t let us smoke mint flavored tobacco, and pat themselves on the back for the wonderful good they are doing in saving us from ourselves.

The First Lady is horrified by teenage vaping and the administration wants to put an end to it. Let me quote President Trump: People are going to watch what we’re saying and parents are going to be a lot tougher with respect to their children. Parse that, if you dare. It’s important to understand that by teenage vaping they are talking about people eighteen and nineteen. They’ve already outlawed most tobacco products for people under eighteen.

What Trump is saying is that the Federal Government knows better what is right for your children, and for you, than you do yourself. That once the Federal Government leads the way in banning Vaping Flavors the people will immediately see the error of their ways and stop allowing their children to do it. This doesn’t even take into account that every adult who enjoys vaping mint flavored tobacco will instantly become a criminal.

If you want to vape a tasty flavor you will be a criminal. You will have to go to some black-market purveyor of Bubble Gum Flavored Tobacco Vape and, in a dark alley watching out for gun toting law enforcement officers, slip money to a shady operator who shipped in the dangerous product from the mint producing nations of the world where there is still some freedom.

I’m flat out disgusted by our politicians and by the voters who put them into office. I’m baffled as to how this is happening. We will soon no longer be free to enjoy flavored tobacco. How can the people of this country look themselves in the mirror? Have we no understanding of freedom left?

Tom Liberman

Sherry Tina Uwanawich and the Million Dollar Curse

Sherry Tina Uwanawich Curse

There’s an interesting story in the news about a woman named Sherry Tina Uwanawich because the courts ruled she defrauded a family of $1.6 million by claiming they were under a curse. Uwanawich was ordered by the court to repay the money and sentenced to more than thee years in prison. The argument of the government is that there was no curse and the money was fraudulently obtained.

So, why am I writing about this incident? Uwanawich took advantage of a gullible family and stole their money, she deserves what she gets, right? Well, in the same way you think curses aren’t real, I think religious salvation isn’t real. How much money is given to churches for fake salvation? I’m sure many of my friends and readers are certain that religious salvation is real but so too the family Uwanawich exploited was certain curses were real.

There are many people across the globe who believe in curses. There are many people across the globe who think it’s not a globe at all and give money to Flat Earth organizations. There are many people across the globe who believe all sorts of nonsensical things. The point here is that if Uwanawich is guilty of fraud, so too are many other organizations.

Can we prove curses aren’t real? Can we prove god isn’t real? Can we prove there isn’t a teapot orbiting the sun midway between Mars and the Earth? Perhaps Uwanawich actually saved the family from a terrible curse and their $1.6 million was well spent. The amount certainly pales in comparison to the amount of money various churches collect from their devotees. People pay money to those who take advantage of their nonsensical beliefs all the time and yet, for the most part, we don’t find it criminal. What’s different about this case?

Don’t get me wrong, what Uwanawich did to that family was reprehensible, but do the family members not bear much of the responsibility? They certainly handed over the money eagerly and willingly and presumable avoided the dread consequences of the curse.

In that far distant future in which Atheists come to power should they have the ability to put your local religious leader in jail for defrauding you? It’s a question needing an answer and I’ll happily tell you what I think. No. Religious beliefs, whether curses or salvation, should be out of the purview of the courts. Believe what you want and suffer the consequences, financial or otherwise, that’s your business.

Tom Liberman

What to do about Useful Money from Bad People

Useful Money from Bad People

A rather despicable fellow named Jeffrey Epstein donated large amounts of useful money to any number of philanthropic causes and these gifts are now causing problems for those who received them. People are returning useful money and resigning from their positions, or being asked to do so. What I’d like to examine is the nature of philanthropic money in general.

Many of the people who donate to causes are not the greatest people in the world. Certainly, Epstein is viler than most but the question remains the same. As an example, let’s imagine you are the financial officer of a charitable organization and you have strong views on religion. Perhaps you are an Atheist or perhaps you are a Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, Jew, or Hindu. You are offered a large amount of useful money from someone who has a completely different belief system than you. Do you take that money knowing it will contribute to doing what you perceive to be good? What if the person has a criminal record? What if they are giving the money in order to improve their reputation because of some misdeeds in the past?

While my question is hypothetical the reality exists to the tune of billions of dollars in charitable donations. The events surrounding Epstein are forcing the financial operators of these organizations to ask themselves this very question. Should I refuse the donation because of the nature of the person who is giving it? Does the money, and the good that is done with it, override my concerns about the source? The money given by such a person intermingles with the money given by many better people and helps us fulfill our mission. Should I deny a child from Make a Wish their wish because I don’t like the person who is giving the money? Doesn’t that just hurt the child?

This is no idle question, if organizations turn down money from disreputable or unaligned donors, they will have less money to complete their mission. Those who would benefit instead go without. There are no easy answers here but I will not shirk from a conclusion simply because the question is complex and difficult.

I’ll happily tell you what I would do were I in charge of such a charity. Not that my decision is proper for anyone else, it is right for me and me alone.

I’d take the money from any source, even if Epstein were alive today in order to give it. I’d also be completely honest about my distaste for such a horrible person. I’d highlight the donation in my monthly and annual literature. I’d speak loudly to the stakeholders in the charity about why I took the money. About how the vile criminal Epstein was attempting to restore his reputation through the donation and that I wanted nothing to do with him other than cashing the check. I’d consider re-donating a goodly portion of it to help his many victims and organizations devoted to helping them and those like them.

Perhaps you disagree and I respect your right to do so. I can certainly understand why you would.

Tom Liberman

Forced Evacuations and Government Responsibility

Forced Evacuations Hurricane

With the tropical storm season underway and our first Forced Evacuations occurring in Florida, I thought it a good time to chime in on the subject. What responsibility does government; local, state, and federal, have in protecting us from dangerous natural disasters? Should they be able to take us from our homes in forced evacuations?

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. The unpredictability of natural disasters like hurricanes and volcanic eruptions often mean that many people were forced to leave their homes when the calamity never arrived. This is essentially government protecting people who do not want or presumably need such shielding.

On the other hand, it is often the case that citizens refuse to evacuate a location and end up in a situation where government agents spend time and effort rescuing such people. This costs money and, of course, there are those who cannot be rescued and die. These people would all have been better off if they complied with the evacuation order. Thus, government officials feel justified in a forced evacuation. If you won’t leave on your own, you’ll leave at the barrel of a gun wielded by your friendly law enforcement officers. If you’re too stupid to save yourself, we’ll do it for you.

It’s obviously not just forced evacuations but all sorts of mandatory actions the government puts on its citizens in the face of potential emergency. Stores are closed, businesses lose revenue, people lose salary, and various other economic consequences occur when the government makes such decisions for us. Yet, the amount of money lost is miniscule compared to the dollars spent if the businesses remained open and occupied and the potential disaster came to fruition.

The answer for this Libertarian is not so simple and certainly painful. In today’s world there is no excuse not to know a dangerous situation is impending. The government has every right to warn citizens and make suggestions about their behavior. If people refuse, they should not expect the government to make any attempt to rescue them. It’s easy to say something like that but what if thousands of people are about to drown? Would I send in a rescue team? Of course, I would. Therein lies the problem.

Were I in charge in such a situation I would simply make that reality plain to all. There is the potential for a disaster. I recommend you leave. If you choose to stay you might not be rescued but I will do my best to rescue you in any case. It will cost money and that will be paid for out of taxes from all the people who did heed the warning, and everyone else in the region.

The other option is to force evacuations when most of the time they are unwarranted. This also costs money. Neither option is perfect, neither is life, or tracking the path of a hurricane.

Tom Liberman

Panera Employee Turnover Misleading Headline

Panera Misleading Headline

There’s an absolutely fascinating article about employee turnover at CNBC but it unfortunately has a completely misleading headline that is nothing more than clickbait. I highly recommend looking at the article despite the Panera Losing All Workers headline.

It is true that Panera loses 95% of their workforce each year but a perusal of the article indicates that is actually a good number in the fast food industry. Most such companies lose nearly 130% of their workforce each year. Panera is actually doing quite well in that regard.

The interesting information comes from the article itself which is lengthy and technical with a variety of useful metrics. Exactly the sort of thing I like to read but I suspect doesn’t get a lot of viewership without misleading headlines. Too bad.

I won’t bore you with the details of the article as this is more about the misleading headline than anything else. Suffice it to say, no one wants to work in the fast food industry and there is no package of salary, benefits, and training that makes sense from a corporate and profitability standpoint that attracts permanent employees to the business. People take the job until they get something better.

The key to staffing such stores is automation and the various companies are moving forward with plans to do so. I wrote about this sort of thing in other places so you can read that article if you desire.

In any case, it’s an excellent and well researched article, just a misleading headline.

Tom Liberman

TSA Bans Disney Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles

Thermal Detonator Soda Bottle

**** UPDATE ****

The TSA will allow the Disney Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles in stored luggage but not carry on.

**** END UPDATE ****

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently decided to ban people from bringing Disney Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles on planes because they apparently have a resemblance to hand-grenades. Why did this do this? Let’s examine the question.

The Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles are actually just soda bottles, not thermal detonators. They are designed to look like an explosive device set in the Star Wars universe and are being sold at Galaxy’s Edge, a themed area at Walt Disney World in Florida. The devices are rather neat looking and many people are keeping them after finishing the sugary beverage inside. Naturally, many of these people are travelers and want to bring them home.

The idea is that someone with the intention of committing a terrorist act might bring across a real weapon and claim that it is merely a toy, and in this way circumvent security guards. This appears to me to be patently nuts. Why would a terrorist disguise a bomb as something that looks like a bomb when they can disguise it as a barbie doll or any other plastic souvenir? The Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles are made of plastic, as are many things that don’t look like weapons.

The reality is the bottles don’t really look like a hand-grenade anyway. They look like a fictional weapon from the Star Wars universe. There are plenty of things that bear a vague resemblance to a weapon or a fictional weapon and are not banned by the TSA.

There are two other likely reasons the TSA has banned the Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles, at least in my opinion. The first is they enjoy hassling passengers. The second reason is they want to give people the illusion of safety without having to do any real work. The illusion of safety makes people feel better but doesn’t actually do anything to make their lives safer.

Does banning Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles make you any safer? No. Therefore, your freedom is being taken away for no discernable reason. And, you guessed it, I’m opposed.

Tom Liberman

Antonio Brown and the NFL Helmet Kerfuffle

NFL Helmet Antonio Brown

There’s in an interesting situation in the NFL involving wide receiver Antonio Brown’s desire to wear the NFL Helmet of his choice rather than that mandated by the league. Until this season the players were allowed to wear whatever helmet they wanted but new rules only allow certified NFL helmets to be used. Brown wants to wear the same helmet he’s worn for his entire career but the league prohibits doing so and therefore he is filing legal injunctions against the league.

Certainly, the league has the prerogative to dictate uniform requirements. Their new rules affected a number of players in the league including Tom Brady who has expressed displeasure with the situation but so far complied. To fully understand the situation, we have to delve more deeply into the history of the league and the nature of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the role concussions play in it.

CTE is a terrible disease which seems to occur largely in athletes who play contact sports like boxing, football, ice hockey, and others. Players suffering from the symptoms of the disease and other difficulties sued the league and have won more than a billion dollars in various settlements to date. The league long denied any connection between brain injury and repeated concussions despite strong evidence suggesting otherwise.

The motivation for the change is clear. The league wants to do everything in their power to defend themselves from future lawsuit but also to protect players by using NFL helmets believed to be best for preventing head injuries.

It seems clear Brown should want to use a better helmet for his own self-interest but it must be remembered hockey players long fought against having to wear helmets and facemasks including even goalies. They didn’t feel comfortable in the new equipment and thought it impaired their ability to perform. People often do things that are largely self-destructive and what is the role of an employer in preventing such behavior? That’s essentially the question with which we are dealing.

I think the NFL helmet rule is perfectly reasonable. They are a private entity making uniform rules for their employees. If the same thing was being forced on the NFL by a government agency, I might well have a different opinion on the subject. In addition, the right to wear whatever NFL helmet you want is not protected by the Constitution of the United States so the league does not fall afoul of that important document.

As a Libertarian I sympathize with Brown. I think it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to wear the helmet of his choice but the reasons his employer are enforcing new rules are more than compelling, even if the new helmets prove ineffective in preventing brain injury.

Tom Liberman

An Atheist can be an Asshole and Atheists Should Always Say So

Atheist

I just watched a YouTube video from my favorite Atheist show, The Atheist Experience, and I thought it an extremely instructive example of how we should all try to behave. In a nutshell, if you largely agree with someone on a subject but they are saying something stupid; you need to be the one to tell that person her or his behavior is idiotic.

The Atheist Experience is a show in which theist call in with arguments against Atheism although the show also takes atheist callers albeit less frequently. The hosts of the show rotate fairly regularly but for the call in question, the main host was Matt Dillahunty along with his co-host David Warnock. Dillahunty is a former Southern Baptist well trained in the arts of debate and logic with a deep understanding of theology. He is a fearsome opponent in any sort of philosophical debate and is internationally recognized as such.

The caller to the show, a woman named Rose, was clearly a well-meaning and rather sweet older woman who wanted to prove the existence of God through a particular line in the Bible. She had come to a gun fight without even the proverbial knife. Her points were logically dismissed with almost careless ease by Dillahunty but it is only after this that the important part of the call occurred.

Rose mentioned that her son asked her to call into the show. Dillahunty immediately came up with the hypothesis that her son was an Atheist and had sent his mother, if you’ll forgive me, intentionally into the Lion’s Den in order to humiliate her. Dillahunty asked Rose if her son identified as an Atheist. Rose confirmed the hypothesis and that’s when Dillahunty and Warnock got angry, not at Rose but at her son.

“Your son is a dick,” was basically the first thing Dillahunty said after he found out the reason Rose called. “He makes us all look bad,” followed shortly thereafter from Warnock. They admonished the son, told Rose that the boy should apologize to her. They refused to speak anymore about the religious aspects of the topic because they did not want to further attack Rose, although they continued to harangue the son, who happened to be on the phone and attempted to explain his reasoning. Dillahunty and Warnock were having none of it.

The son was chastened. I feel very confident in suggesting that if religious people had rightly told the son his behavior was reprehensible, he would have given their opinion less consideration than he did that of Dillahunty and Warnock. That’s a lesson for us all.

When we look into the topics of politics, religion, sports, whatever; people are not much interested in listening to or giving credence to the opinions of those who oppose them. It is only when people are called out by those on the same side that real change is likely to happen.

If I may pat myself on the back and recall an incident that happened at a St. Louis Rams game some years ago. I was a season ticket holder and had seen the decline in the years after the Greatest Show on Turf. One week we played the Denver Broncos who were coming off a season in which they reached the Super Bowl. The Rams played an outstanding game and dominated the Broncos. As the crowd was filing out one of my fellow Rams fans started yelling idiotic thing to nearby Bronco’s fans. I immediately told him to show some dignity in victory, turned to the Broncos fans and thanked them for visiting St. Louis and wished them well. I’m happy to say the Rams fan shut his fat yap.

In any case, that’s my advice to you. Don’t worry so much about yelling at people you hate, call out the ones you like when they are behaving badly. If everyone did that, we might see some progress in this world.

Tom Liberman

Shai Werts and the Bird Shit Cocaine

Shai Werts

A young man named Shai Werts who plays football for Georgia Southern was arrested for cocaine possession the other day and the entire thing gives me yet another chance to rant against the so-called War on Drugs. The entire episode illustrates how police use the War on Drugs to persecute those they don’t like, which, I’m sure you’ll find shocking, is most often minorities.

Here’s what happened. Werts was supposedly speeding on a secluded road and an officer tried to pull him over. Werts was uncomfortable in the situation, called 911, and drove to a more populated location followed by police. When he did pull over, he explained why he didn’t stop immediately.

Our finest officers then scraped bird shit off his car hood, put it in their field kits, claimed it tested positive as cocaine, and arrested him. Werts told the officers it was bird shit but they weren’t going to put up with that excuse. Later, when subjected to a real laboratory test, the substance turned out not to be cocaine, what a surprise.

Here’s what really happened. A young black man was rightly afraid for his life when the police pulled him over for speeding. That alone is sad testament to the reality in which we live. He was also likely afraid they’d plant drugs on him because that’s also is a reality of the world. So, he forced the officers to follow him to a less secluded location. That pissed off the officers. They decided they wanted to punish him. They found the flimsiest of excuses to harass him. Did the bird shit actually test positive in the field kit? Who knows, field kits and drug sniffing dogs are notoriously unreliable.

This situation was simply officers abusing their authority to harass someone who did something they didn’t like. If you’re a minority living in this country, you aren’t at all surprised by this. If you’re not a minority you probably don’t even believe it happens, you’re mad at me, and will write nasty comments about how I hate police.

This is the War on Drugs. An excuse to harass citizens, steal from them, put them in prison, and be a general bully. This behavior has effectively alienated law enforcement from the communities they are trying to serve. I’ve written before how this is a tragic situation both for citizens and police so I won’t reiterate.

What does it say when police scrape bird shit off the hood of a car in order to harass people they don’t like? What does it say that we put up with drug detecting field kits that mistake bird shit for cocaine, that is if we don’t just assume the officers were lying?

Close your eyes to the travesty that is the War on Drugs and reap the consequences.

Tom Liberman

Anand and Kramnik or Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Anand and Kramnik

In the chess world, which I enjoy although about which I’m aware my loyal fans are somewhat less enthusiastic, there is an interesting dichotomy in the behavior of two former world champions, Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. Anand is still playing top level chess while Kramnik decided to give up competitive chess. Whose decision is right and whose is wrong?

It is certain one must be a good decision while the other is bad because they are in opposition to each other. Is it proper to continue to play chess competitively when you were once world champion but have little or no chance of once against ascending those dizzying heights? Kramnik is five years younger than Anand but decided he’d had enough, while Anand is still playing and doing extremely well at top-level events.

Surely, we must decide one of the two is correct while the other made a terrible mistake. That is our job, after all. It is all but impossible that both adults are capable of making the best decision about their own life and that I shouldn’t be telling them how to go about living.

It’s impossible that Anand enjoys playing chess and feels he is a role-model for the many young Indian players who are making their presence known with some great chess. Therefore, the best decision for him was to keep playing the game he loves. No, I must inform him that his once greatness is gone and now, he must retire to save his dignity.

It is likewise quite clear that Kramnik, younger than Anand, still has some great chess in him. That just because he doesn’t enjoy playing as much and wants to pursue other avenues in his life is no reason to quit so young. I am just the person to tell him how to go about leading his life.

It’s impossible for mentally capable adults to make better decisions about their life than I can make for them. Frankly, I think the governments of India and Russia should interject themselves into this matter and pass a law forcing Anand to quit and Kramnik to return to the game. Or, wait, forcing them both to quit, or no, forcing them both to keep playing. Or something. We need government oversight; we need other people telling us how to lead our lives. Yes! I’m outraged at one of them, I’m not sure which, but there is wrongness here and it must be addressed! Who better to do it than me? Than the government?

Tom Liberman

Big Government Liberal Josh Hawley at it Again

Big Government

Once again big government liberals, Republicans that is, are proposing intrusive laws into an industry they barely understand. Senator Josh Hawley from my beloved home state of Missouri wants the federal government to tell Facebook how to arrange their page and limit you to thirty minutes of time on Facebook a day. Yay, saved by big government liberals again.

Hawley thinks endless scrolling and auto-playing advertisements play upon human addiction patterns and must be controlled by the government. His new bill in Congress goes so far as to force Facebook to inform you every thirty minutes that you’ve been on their site with a conspicuous pop-up, yes, I know, the bill rails against pop-ups but wants to enforce itself with pop-ups. Even if you specifically allow Facebook not to ban you after you’ve been on for more than thirty minutes, you’ll still get reminded about it if this law is passed.

Here is the reality about big government liberals. They are rampant in both the Republican and Democratic party and their goal is largely to legislate their perceived enemy out of business. Would you stand by if there was a law proposed about how many cigarettes you could smoke? How much alcohol you could drink in the privacy of your home? Why aren’t Hawley and his big government cohorts on board with sugary drink bans that play upon human addictions? Because the sugary drink companies aren’t in his crosshairs.

This is the problem with big government. It uses its power to attack perceived enemies rather than governing. This is why Libertarians rail against such, regardless of the good intentions espoused by the legislative branch. The more power we give government to control our personal lives, the more they will use it to hurt their foes, it matters not that they are Republicans or Democrats. There is only one party that largely wants to leave you to your own devices.

Libertarians trust you to spend as much time on Facebook as you want. They trust you to smoke as many cigarettes as you want, to drink as much alcohol and soda as you want, to purchase as many loot boxes in video games as you want; even if doing so is unhealthy or unwise. It’s your money, it’s your life, it’s your time; not mine. I absolutely do not know better how you should you lead your life than you do yourself. That’s the mantra we should all embrace. That’s the kind of women and men we should elect to avoid big government liberals of all political stripes taking away our freedom.

Cling to your big government party all you want, that’s your business, but don’t come crying to me when it’s your freedom they decide to take.

Tom Liberman

Fake Guacamole on the Rise Because of High Priced Avocados

Fake Guacamole

If you’re like me, you love guacamole and avocados. Yum. The price for avocados is skyrocketing and this is causing a lot of pain in restaurants who use the delicious fruit in various dishes. It strikes particular hard for Mexican establishments who tend to use it across a wide array of menu items but other restaurants are suffering as well. What do they do? Use other ingredients and create Fake Guacamole.

If you weren’t against tariffs because you’re a freedom loving Libertarian who promotes open and free trade then this phrase almost certainly hits somewhere most likely even more important, your stomach. The very words Fake Guacamole should be as rage inducing as trying to Get Over It. Ok, that’s a video game reference and sometimes I just can’t help but let my inner nerd out for all to see. Well, actually, it’s pretty much always on display but I won’t get sidetracked from my mission to free you from Fake Guacamole.

I’ve written about why protectionism hurts consumers far more than it helps those industries it purports to protect so I won’t reiterate here. The results are plain to see. Avocados cost a lot more today because tariffs have exacerbated a poor harvest and increasing demand. Today’s issue is the sort of punch to the gut that I think economic philosophy and Libertarian ideology don’t impart. You, the consumer, have most likely eaten Fake Guacamole in the last few months. You are certainly paying more for what avocados you still purchase although it’s almost certain you’ve cut down on that particularly delightful and healthy food.

This is the direct result of policies that promote protectionism and their attendant tariffs. How does it feel to know you’ve been tricked? That you’ve been served something under false pretenses because politically motivated economic policies forced the restaurant to do so in order to survive? Perhaps you think it’s worth it, that the trade off is worth the horror of fake guacamole. I disagree because I see no benefit from the policies of protectionism. They are merely political rallying points to inspire a group of citizens who are not happy with the direction of government.

If you are not happy with where our government is going, more bad policies are not going help. Things are hardly perfect in the United States but don’t let that encourage you to vote for politicians who enact policies detrimental both in the short and long term. Don’t let your rabble be raised in negative ways. Demand good decisions from your leaders with your votes. They’ll listen, I promise.

Free trade means cheaper avocados and real guacamole. How can you be against that?

Tom Liberman