Jussie Smollett and Small Government Collide

Jussie Smollett

If you hadn’t heard the news that charges against Jussie Smollett for filing a false police report were dropped then you aren’t paying attention. The case tickled the fancies of the two main sides in our political spectrum and unfolding events proved interesting to this Libertarian. I’ll review for those not fully up on the Smollett case.

Smollett reported being physically assaulted during which racial insults were used and a noose was placed around his neck. In the course of the investigation Chicago police eventually determined that Smollett actually paid his supposed attackers presumably in some sort of publicity scheme. After the case was turned over to prosecutors, they dropped charges when Smollett agreed to forfeit his bond money.

Now for the Libertarian take on matters. After reports of the original assault, democrats largely called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to step in and treat it as a hate crime. When the evidence began to shift, they fell silent. Meanwhile, Republicans had no interest in the federal government getting involved in a local assault case. When charges were dropped, they immediately wanted federal involvement to punish Smollett for his crimes.

This is essentially a microcosm of the belief system of the people associated with our two main political parties. They want as much federal intervention in your life as possible as long as they are punishing or rewarding people they consider enemies or friends. When such federal intervention goes against their interests, they immediately fall silent. This is the problem with giving federal and even state government power over such matters. It is only a matter of time before someone uses that power to punish enemies or reward allies. Both are bad.

Assault is assault whether or not someone hated the victim because they are part of a particular group. I’m completely opposed to hate crimes in general and the local police should handle such matters. Likewise, decisions to prosecute or not should be left completely up to the prosecuting attorney in the particular municipality. They can best determine what should be done, not an overreaching federal government intent on punishing perceived enemies.

I’m certainly not pretending that injustice doesn’t happen. That a prosecuting attorney in a case might give preferential treatment to a friend or use her or his power to punish an enemy. We have a remedy for such incidents and it’s called the Judicial Branch. All is not perfect and corrupt officials do considerable harm at the local and state level, I admit as much. Still, it is my opinion the harm they can inflict locally pales in comparison to the harm that can be done by federal authorities with unlimited funds and a grudge.

As things stand, it appears to me that Democrats and Republicans alike consider federal power a useful bludgeon to be used indiscriminately to reward and punish. I disagree.

Tom Liberman

Stormy Daniels Brings down the Vice Unit in Columbus

stormy daniels

Back in July of 2018 a woman with the stage name of Stormy Daniels was arrested for non-sexual touching in a strip club in Columbus, Ohio. I wrote an article at the time expressing my Libertarian outrage at the event and now the entire vice unit that ran the operation has been disbanded because of a series of events that sadly do not boggle the mind; frankly, it’s the sort of behavior I expect out of law enforcement agents these days, and that’s a tragic thing.

You can read about the incident with Stormy Daniels that caused the vice unit to come under scrutiny in my original blog so I won’t reiterate it here. The tragedy currently unfolding sadly reinforces my opinion of the continuing downfall of law enforcement to an agency of oppression.

Officer Andrew K. Mitchell is under indictment for any number of abuses he allegedly committed during his thirty-year career as an officer. He is accused of forcing women in custody to provide sexual services in exchange for release. Two other members of the former unit are under investigation for similar activities. The entire unit blatantly disregarded the prosecutor’s office that warned them specifically against the sort of behavior they engaged in during the arrest of Stormy Daniels.

Mitchell also apparently owns properties in which he extorted tenants for sex in exchange for a discount on their rent. In addition, he killed a woman in August 2018 in which he and a fellow officer claimed she attacked them.

This is police enforcement in the era of the War on Drugs. It’s the police versus the community rather than the police with the community. There was a time this wasn’t the case and I’m sure there are plenty of officers out there who don’t behave this way. The reality is tragic for communities and law enforcement.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If we ended the War on Drugs, removed moronic laws from the books, and essentially allowed adults to do as they pleased within reason, the relationship between law enforcement and we the people would begin to be repaired. There is also good news in that more and more law enforcement agencies are recognizing the rift that exists and taking concrete steps to improve the situation.

Right here in my hometown of St. Louis, MO the police and local communities are engaged in a terrific program in which officers play chess with young students.

I recognize that my statements in these blogs can be misconstrued as anti-law enforcement. Nothing could be further from my intent. What I want is for law enforcement officers to be seen as a force of good in the communities they serve, not the enemy. Also, for such officers to view the citizens as people to befriend and protect, not as cash meat bags to be used and discarded.

The fact the vice squad is being dismantled is a good thing and the role Stormy Daniels had in it is to be applauded. It’s just a sad statement of fact that it took such a high-profile incident to expose the vile underbelly that has been consuming law enforcement for the last thirty plus years.

Reality often hurts but it is better to expose a painful truth than allow a lie to grow and fester.

Tom Liberman

Lakers Superfan Happy to See Team Lose Misleading Headline

Lakers Superfan Misleading Headline

I just read a fascinating article about a fellow named Jimmy Goldstein who is identified as a Lakers Superfan in a Misleading Headline about the Los Angeles Lakers missing the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. The problem is that Goldstein is not a Lakers fan at all, although he loves NBA basketball, claiming to spend nearly half a million dollars a year traveling around the country to see various games.

The implication of the Misleading Headline is that Goldstein wants to see the Lakers miss the playoffs perhaps because he doesn’t like the current coach, because he thinks LeBron James was not a good acquisition, or is unhappy with the direction ownership is taking the team. At least that’s what I thought when I was baited into clicking on the article and perusing it.

It turns out Goldstein, who has had courtside season tickets to the Lakers since 1962, doesn’t like the team and enjoys watching them lose. He hasn’t had much to be cheerful about since the Lakers moved to the City of Angels all those years ago as they’ve been arguably the most successful franchise in the league. So, he’s enjoying the current losing streak immensely and pointedly says that: Lakers fans deserve it.

Now, I certainly question Goldstein going to all those games if he doesn’t like the Lakers. Even if they were a horrible team it seems like an odd way to spend your time. I certainly wouldn’t want to watch games at Wrigley Field for the rest of my life whilst rooting against the Cubs, even if they lost most of the time, a practice I hope they resume again soon. Still, he’s a big NBA fan who lives in Los Angeles and so attends the games. That’s his business. Odd as it seems to me.

In the end, the Misleading Headline should not have called Goldstein a Lakers superfan.

Tom Liberman

Hot Tea Cancer Misleading Headline

Hot Tea

Does drinking hot tea cause esophageal cancer? That’s what my Misleading Headline of the week certainly seems to suggest. Once you spend the time to read the article a different reality emerges.

Putting something scalding hot in your throat, regardless of its composition, causes irritation with in turn leads to an increased risk of cancer. Certainly it’s more common to burn your throat with a liquid than a solid and lots of people drink tea hot therefore it’s a likely culprit, but it’s not the tea causing the problem.

In order to burn your throat with hot items they have to be quite hot, so hot that such tea is rarely drunk in most places in the world. In a few cultures the tea or coffee is kept in a samovar which is continuously heated and it is in these places the studies took places.

Most people wait for their tea, or coffee, or hot toddy, to cool enough where they aren’t burning their throat. Don’t always believe the headline and keep coming back for more Misleading Headlines!

Tom Liberman

Jack the Ripper and Our Love of Closure

 Jack the Ripper

I see headlines all over the news about how Jack the Ripper has finally been conclusively identified. I heard radio talk show hosts talking about how wonderful it was that we finally knew Jack the Ripper identity. I was immediately skeptical but I would guess the majority of people were not so. I just read a wonderfully written article from Ars Technica indicating my skepticism was well-founded. Exceptionally good work, Jennifer Ouellette!

In any case, I leave it to you to read the article yourself and come to a conclusion. I don’t really want to talk about the guilt or innocence of Aaron Kosminski but instead the seemingly inherent human desire for closure. People want closure and, to a large degree, don’t really seem to care if it comes at the expense of critical thinking. Judging by what I’ve heard and read in media articles most people are thrilled to know that a conclusive result has been determined in the Jack the Ripper murders. Spoiler if you didn’t read the article, the case is far from closed.

Why do people care? The murders happened a hundred and thirty years ago. Solving the murders isn’t going to help or hurt anyone in any way. The descendants of victims are not going have their lives changed in any way. The descendants of the supposed murderer, who was a prime suspect to begin with, are not going to be arrested or punished. Yet, it’s clear to me, people are absolutely giddy with the idea that Jack the Ripper has been identified. Despite such knowledge having no practical effect.

I think the underlying cause is the satisfaction we get at a job well done, whether it is solving a murder or mowing the grass just right. Humans enjoy accomplishment and the identification of Jack the Ripper is just that. Not directly for me, not directly for anyone reading the article, but indirectly, very indirectly for people as a group. The case remains in the public conscious all these years later and there is a satisfaction derived from solving it.

I understand why people are happy with the news but I warn you to be aware of this human tendency and take it into account. Yes, you would be happy to know that Jack the Ripper has been identified but take into account you want this outcome. Be skeptical of people who understand human nature, in this case the people who released this supposedly conclusive proof. They are taking advantage of your desire to see something come to completion. The evidence is terrible and result is largely unsupportable. You’ve been duped.

In conclusion, be skeptical and do your research, particularly when it comes to something you want to believe.

Tom Liberman

Why the Government should not Ground 737 MAX Planes

737 MAX
Boeing 737-MAX8-200 K66201

The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of President Trump, has grounded Boeing 737 MAX airplanes because of two accidents over the last five months involving such planes. There is not yet evidence to suggest the crashes are related to one another or a problem with the plane but the public perception is that there is such a correlation. My question today is if the government should mandate airlines stop flying the planes?

Most of Europe, China, Canada, Panama and some other countries had already mandated various airlines stop flying the planes while other nations largely left the decision up to the companies. The first question you might ask yourself is how the United States federal government has the power to dictate to a private company which planes to fly. I discussed much of their reasoning in a blog back in May of 2017. I won’t go into details but if you want to learn more please peruse that article.

Certainly, people are afraid. Southwest Airline is the largest user of the 737 MAX planes with 34 of them and they are offering customers a chance to change flights to a different plane free of charge. This is an example of capitalism, without government interference, in action. If enough people refuse to fly on the 737 MAX planes it is fairly obvious that Southwest and other airlines would stop using them until some sort of safety check was in place.

It is clear the 737 MAX planes have flown many times without incident since they began service in May of 2017. However, two accidents within half a year does bring into question the plane’s general safety. This brings us to the topic at hand. It is better for the government to mandate the stoppage or to let each airline make the decision independently of oversight?

No one was calling for the plane to be grounded before the second accident so neither of those tragedies would have been prevented by a grounding. After the second accident the airlines were largely offering people a chance to fly on different planes so the net result of the grounding is relatively small and I suspect if enough people changed flights the airlines would have grounded the planes on their own. The practical difference is fairly small although I’m sure that would come as no comfort to the families of victims if there is a third crash.

I absolutely prefer letting each airline make their own decision about the 737 MAX. The reason is there is potential for government malfeasance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that politicians, all the way up to and including the president, might have a grudge against one company or another and use this power to influence profits. This is Crony Capitalism at its worst.

I recognize this is a special circumstance to some degree but I’m largely against the government interfering in business decisions and that goes for this situation as well. I don’t think this grounding makes anyone safer and it further cements the idea that government has and should use this sort of power. That is a danger in itself.

Tom Liberman

Outlawing Fornication in Utah

Fornication

Legislators of Utah recently repealed a law that made having sex outside of marriage a crime, fornication. Interestingly, when the United States was founded no such laws existed but eventually sixteen states added them to the books. Punishment was rarely imposed and the Supreme Court largely made them unenforceable. Still, I wanted to examine the idea behind them and the danger they represent.

It’s pretty much summed up by the words of one of the Utah legislators against the repeal. Basically, Representative Kevin Stratton says that what is legal is below what is moral, and fornication is immoral. Far below, in his own words. I would guess there are people across the country who feel this same way, I would guess largely religious people. What Stratton is saying is that it’s true we cannot legally enforce the moral codes as laid about by various religious texts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Thus, he voted, along with 31 other members of the Utah House, against the repeal.

This is the sort of thinking that has long held sway in both major parties. I think I know what is best for you and, when I have a majority position, I’m going to force you to do it against threat of criminal prosecution. In this case it’s certainly Republican based but I can offer examples of Democrats doing the same thing whether it be vaping or drinking sugary soda. Either way, it’s simply you telling someone else how to lead their life.

We must be cautious about how many things we make against the law or we will essentially turn our entire population in criminal. Oh, too late, we’ve already done it. There are so many traffic and drug laws I would guess that hardly a day goes by without everyone committing a crime of one nature or another. Here in my home state of Missouri, it’s illegal to use the wrong side of a crosswalk while crossing a street.

Imagine if the Supreme Court had decided it was perfectly acceptable to prosecute people for fornication. How many of you would be in jail? How many of you would have lost your freedom for having the audacity to believe you were actually free? Every time a law like this makes it onto the books, we put law enforcement officers in a position to selectively enforce their laws and that inevitably leads to inequity against whatever group is perceived to be the enemy. This is a danger to us all, because, eventually, someone who doesn’t like the way we conduct our lives is going to have the majority.

At some point a person is going to be in a position of power who doesn’t like something that you do and try to make it illegal. This is where the Constitution of the United States and its final arbiter, the Supreme Court, comes into play. They can strike down any law they believe violates the Constitution. Hooray!

We have limits expressed by the Constitution that people of both political parties really like and others that they hate. I find the Second and Fourth Amendments illustrate this nicely and I have a blog addressing that issue if you want to read it.

The point here is that Utah has, until the Governor signs the new legislation, a law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is unenforceable both legally and pragmatically. Yet, some people want it still on the books. If that doesn’t make you appreciate the Constitution, all of it, then we are not of like minds.

Tom Liberman

Philadelphia Bans Cashless Stores and Why It is Silly

Cashless Stores

The idea of Cashless stores has been around for a while now but with Amazon set to open a series of Amazon Go outlets around the country it’s getting more news. The city of Philadelphia has now passed a law making in mandatory for most retail stores to accept cash. Cashless stores are also banned in the state of Massachusetts with similar bans being considered in New York and New Jersey. Why is all this happening and will the legislative efforts solve the issues or make them worse?

The reason retail outlets want to go cashless is because they can streamline their operations. They don’t need cashiers to make change, count cash, or risk being robbed while delivering bags of money to the bank. A quick swipe and you’re out of the store.

The reason politicians want to ban it is because such cashless stores inordinately affect the poor. People from lower income classes don’t always have credit cards or debit cards or smart phones. This means that if every grocery store in a particular region had become a cashless store, those people would not be able to purchase groceries.

It’s important to understand that both of these arguments are absolutely true. If retail outlets streamline their processes that translates to savings for consumers. If poor people are unable to purchase basic necessities that means suffering for them. We like lower prices but we don’t like suffering. The deciding factor then becomes if the proposed legislation is going to alleviate the problem it purports to solve.

Retail outlets want your money. They want rich people’s money and they want poor people’s money. There are a good number of poor people in this country and if grocery outlets shut them out then the company itself will certainly suffer. This is something the business fully understands, better than any politician I’d guess. They know the numbers. Because of this knowledge, retailers like Amazon now offer lower cost membership to low-income families enabling them to make purchase. I’d guess any grocery store in a low-income area would immediately make provisions to the do the same, they don’t want to lose out on all that business.

If a business is able to offer lower prices through modern business models, and we need look no further than Amazon and Walmart to see this, then people save money, everyone who purchases anything saves money. This includes poor people who will, if they want to purchase something at a cashless store, have to pay some amount for a debit card or a membership.

It’s my opinion in the end the poor person is going to save money by entering into the new business model, but I don’t see it as worse than a break-even proposition. That being the case, the legislation is putting an undue burden on the business, it is politicians sticking their noses in and creating laws that don’t help anyone.

The point of a law is help enforce a just system. When it the law does not do so, it shouldn’t be there at all.

Tom Liberman

Taking Offense is for Mockery and not Mimicry

Taking Offense

I’ve noticed a general trend in this world in Taking Offense all too quickly and with little, if any, provocation. The most egregious examples of this, to my mind at least, are people who mistake mimicry as a reason to be offended rather than as a form of flattery.

Let’s dispense with the partisan politics right away, devotees of both parties are equally offended by remarks made by people from the opposite party in equivalent amounts. The so-called snowflakes exist on the left, right and, sad to say, here in Libertarian Land as well.

It’s been said that taking offense is something you do to yourself, rather than others doing it to you; however, I will not pretend words can’t be vicious and painful. It is sometimes perfectly appropriate to be offended when someone says or does something particularly distasteful. What I’d like to address is the difference between mimicry and mockery.

Mimicry is a thing that seems to engender a great deal of taking offense when it should not. If a person of one culture wears the clothes of second culture or the hairstyle associated with another culture, or enjoys the music of yet another culture this is not offense worthy, it is mimicry. A white girl who wears a kimono to prom is not engaged in offensive behavior. An Asian boy in dreadlocks is not engaged in offensive behavior. A black girl listening to Ozzy Osbourn is doing so because she enjoys it, not because she is stealing anyone’s culture.

In this globalized world of ours we see this sort of mimicry in every walk of life. A trend catches on in Japan and soon enough teenagers the world over are imitating it. Some interesting historical style from Africa looks good and again, people from all over the world are soon wearing clothes attuned to that look. A phrase from Russia catches the fancy of people and soon enough people the world over, imitating thick Russian accents, are saying it everywhere. This is mimicry and it is flattery, not mockery.

Mockery is easy enough to spot as well. A person talking with the accent of a particular region of the United States and saying moronic and stereotypical things is an example of mocking and taking offense is reasonable. Painting your face black and making comments that portray black people in a bad light is mocking. Painting your face black and going to a Halloween party as Oprah Winfrey is mimicry and flattery. I realize this last one is going to trigger some people in this world of ours but that’s the way it goes.

If I’m not free to dress up as Lou Brock, one of my childhood heroes, because painting my face dark is reminiscent of people who dressed in blackface to mock and denigrate black people, then I can never honor Brock, no matter how honorable my intentions. No one can honor, through mimicry, someone of a different race or gender. I understand there is nuance but it seems generally obvious to see the difference between mockery and mimicry.

If we pretend to be unable to recognize the difference between the two and simply ban behavior, then we are not making the world a better place, we are making it worse.

Tom Liberman

Timothy Morrow and Stop Insulin Advice for Diabetics

Timothy Morrow

A fellow by the name of Timothy Morrow thinks insulin is a toxic agent that doesn’t help diabetics but instead hurts them. He recommends herbal remedies. He also promotes not giving children vaccines. He suggests alternative medical treatments for brain tumors and cancer. One of his clients had a child with diabetes and, on the advice of Morrow, didn’t give the boy insulin or call medical services. The child died. The question becomes if Morrow committed a crime.

This case reminds me in some ways of the Michelle Carter case in which she cajoled a friend to commit suicide. What Morrow did and continues to do is immoral and disgusting. He is dispensing bad medical advice for financial gain. The death of the young man in question is not the first time someone has died because they followed Morrow’s advice. However, is it criminal?

The herbal remedies that Morrow sells are labeled in a way indicating they are not approved for medical treatment and they are not intended to be used as medicine. He certainly advises people not to get vaccines, not to take insulin, not to go to doctors. His mantra is that the medical community is not interested in curing people but simply getting them sick and taking their money. Ironic to be certain as that exactly describes his own practice, but criminal?

It is reasonable to suggest that any person told not to give her or his child insulin for the child’s diabetic condition has plenty of information available to explain the folly of this advice. If the parent chooses to follow the bad advice despite ample and easily accessible proof to the contrary, who is at fault? The person who gave the bad advice or the person who followed it? Both?

Morrow pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse and has to pay for the cost of the funeral and an extra $5,000 in fines. The parents are not being charged with any crime at all.

Should the state met out punishment for people whose beliefs are unsupported by evidence and result in harm to a minor? Should the state seek criminal charges against those who offer medical advice that while perhaps heartfelt, leads to the death of a minor? These are important questions in this era when people forego vaccines and other life-saving medicines for their children because of, to be frank, completely ridiculous beliefs.

If I told you to drive off a cliff to cure your myopia and you did it, am I guilty of a crime? What remedy does the state have for people who do stupid things and people who dispense bad advice?

It’s a difficult question and cases need be evaluated individually but I’m not one to shirk away from a tough answer. In this case I’m sad to say I think the wrong people were charged. Don’t get me wrong, Morrow is vile, but he didn’t commit the crime, the parents did.

As I’ve said many times before, Freedom is free, it’s just not safe.

Tom Liberman

Why Did a Man Like Robert Kraft Solicit a Prostitute?

Robert Kraft

A fellow by the name of Robert Kraft who has a few billion dollars to his name and owns the 2018 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots was taped by police in a brothel with a prostitute. Out and about at my gym and in the general public the question on everyone’s lips seems to be: Why would such a man pay for an $80 sex act from a prostitute?

The conversations I’ve overheard generally follow a similar line. Kraft is a billionaire in a high-profile position in life and probably has his pick and choice of willing women, besides his wife, who would be happy to give him sexual satisfaction. What possible motivation could he have for seeking gratification at such a place? Then those having the conversation proceed to speculate on any number of reasons why it happened. Perhaps he likes taking risks. Perhaps he likes Asian women. Perhaps he wanted to be caught. The possibilities go on and on but I have a simple answer.

Kraft did it because he wanted to do it. It’s his business and none of mine and none of yours. This is not coming from some Patriots fan-boi, believe me. This is coming from a Libertarian perspective that understands the problems with laws against prostitution as a whole.

The reason Kraft was caught by the police is the establishment in question is accused of bringing women from Asian countries to the United States under false pretenses and forcing them to work in the sex trade. This is a problem but it’s an issue largely created by making prostitution illegal in the first place.

If prostitution was not against the law, women who were so treated would likely go to the police as quickly as they could. If the sex trade was established like Starbucks then it would be regulated and managed by our judicial branch and their law enforcement arm. Personally, I think Kraft desiring sexual gratification for $80 makes more sense than his spending $8.00 for a cup of coffee but if he wants to do either it’s just not my business.

It’s important to understand that legalizing prostitution will not stop people from being exploited. There is no single solution to the world’s ills. The best strategy is to implement a pragmatic and realistic solution that will create as good a situation as possible. In this particular case, the Libertarian issue with Kraft soliciting prostitutes is that the women were potentially doing something against their will. If they were happy to take Kraft’s money and provide him with sexual gratification then it is not my business, it’s not your business, and it certainly should not be the business of the state.

Why did a man like Kraft solicit prostitutes? Stop caring and you’ll make the world a better place.

Tom Liberman

Suboxone Film Case Explains Drug Prices in a Nutshell

Suboxone Film

The United States Supreme Court just ruled that a drug called Suboxone Film, made by a company called Indivior, can no longer exist as a monopoly. Suboxone Film is used to treat opioid addicts and generated over a billion dollars in revenue for Indivior last year. That company has been fighting in the courts to keep generic, cheaper, versions of the drug unavailable. They lost.

I think a quote from spokespeople from Indivior pretty much explains the horrific situation we currently have in the United States when it comes to expensive medication. In arguing before the court, the company’s legal team stated: An entire business, and the jobs and livelihoods that depend on it, will be in peril.

Basically, what they are saying is that if a generic drug that does the same thing but at a far cheaper price were to be introduced it would hurt the company. This is actually quite true. However, it is not the government’s job to protect a company from being run out of business by competition, although that message has largely been lost when it comes to the Food and Drug Administration and our nation as a whole.

The government makes it incredibly difficult to introduce generic drugs in a number of ways and this leads to a lack of competition. The FDA is essentially a tool used by established pharmaceutical companies to make it difficult for competitors to gain a foothold in the market. The loser in all of this is the people of the United States.

Indivior says that if Dr. Reddy’s Laboratory is allowed to introduce their generic substitute for Suboxone Film to the market then they themselves will introduce their own authorized generic. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know then I’m not sure you will ever be convinced. Indivior has been more than able to introduce a cheap generic version of Suboxone Film for who knows how long. They haven’t done so because the United States has prevented competition. They say quite explicitly that if there is actual competition, they will introduce a cheap generic.

In the meantime, the people of the United States have been forced to buy an expensive drug in lieu of the cheaper substitute. This process subverts the glorious benefit of capitalism that Libertarians like myself extoll. If the market is allowed to operate largely in a free fashion then competition benefits everyone. It is when the government gets overly involved that everything gets messed up.

It’s important to understand that the FDA and the United States government as a whole are hurting us all the while claiming it is for our own protection. I’m not completely opposed to running trials for drugs to ensure their safety before allowing them to market, the problem is that the FDA isn’t doing that anymore. They are largely working for established companies and suppressing competition. They do this because they are bribed with fancy conferences, vacations for their families, and other benefits.

It took a lawsuit that made it all the way to the Supreme Court to change this particular instance and that should also tell you something. The case of Suboxone Film simply proves my point.

Tom Liberman

Heather Nauert Demonstrates Lunacy of Politics

Heather Nauert

Heather Nauert was the planned nominee to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations but President Trump never formally submitted her name to the Senate. The reasons for this became clear when it was revealed that Nauert employed a foreign nanny who was not authorized to work in the United States. The fact that Nauert has now withdrawn from consideration fully demonstrates the political insanity that is the norm in our country.

Let me be clear, Nauert is almost entirely unqualified for the position for which she was being considered. She earned a degree in Communications and a masters in Journalism then went on to a broadcast career at Fox News and ABC News working on a variety of assignments. She has no experience in international relations and was given a job as spokesperson for the State Department in the Trump White House simply because she catered to his enormous ego and is an attractive woman. It’s really that simple.

That being said, Trump has every right to appoint whomever he wants to the position despite a of lack experience and qualifications. Nauert might have been an excellent Ambassador to the United Nations. It’s impossible for me to say one way or the other how she would have performed on the job. Now she cannot because the Trump Administration has made illegal immigration a key issue and Nauert employed someone who was not authorized to work but was legally in the country. The optics of such an appointment don’t look good.

The optics of appointing someone completely unqualified is apparently far less important than the optics of someone who has committed a minor infraction that benefited everyone involved. The nanny had a job making money, the Nauert family presumably had a hard-working and valued employee whom they trusted with their children. This is the reality of immigration, illegal or legal, but not the point I’m making today.

Where are we headed as a country if we can’t allow people to do their job because they’ve violated, or are even accused of violating, some relatively minor law?

Before you leap on me for favoring one party over the other, let me state unequivocally this is an issue that plagues both parties. If a person has done something deemed wrong in their past, they are generally immediately disqualified by people of the opposite party while completely defended by those of the same party. However, if the transgression involves some core value of the first political party then they are destroyed by infighting within their own ranks.

Anyone who has lived a full life is going to be vilified by one side or the other leaving us with no one left to actually do the job.

This particular incident boils my Libertarian blood in two ways. Nauert never should have been considered for the job based on her skill set and she never should have withdrawn because she employed a willing worker to do a needed job.

Congratulations America, watch as the rest of the world catches up and eventually surpasses us.

Tom Liberman

Pizzagate Chuck E. Cheese Style

Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese is the center of a new conspiracy hypothesis making the rounds all over the internet thanks to popular YouTube personality, Shane Dawson. The basic idea is Chuck E. Cheese employees are putting together leftover slices from various tables, reheating them, and then serving them as a new pizza.

The evidence for this is pizzas often come out with rough edges and slices that don’t appear to match up. Any number of pictures displaying this are readily available. The explanation put forward by various Chuck E. Cheese employees is pizzas are sliced and then put on a larger pan where they shift about haphazardly on their way to the customer. It is also put suggested that sometimes the slicer miscounts and makes five cuts instead of the required six, Chuck. E. Cheese insists each pizza have twelve slices, and kitchen workers then slice the two largest pieces in half to make up the difference.

I’d like to go after this conspiracy hypothesis with a line of critical thinking that I’ve had success with in the past. When discussing these ideas with believers I think it’s quite useful to point out what would have to happen in order to make it true. I’m of the opinion this forces the person advancing the hypothesis to walk it through in a rational fashion. In this case, the question is how would Chuck E. Cheese employees go about making such a pizza.

Basically, the bussers would have to collect every slice of uneaten pizza left on each table. These slices would then have to be arranged in the kitchen by pizza type until exactly twelve slices remained of a particular type. Then they would have to put those slices back in the oven and reheat them. The first problem becomes actually finding twelve slices of a particular kind of pizza. This seems to me to be a rather difficult task considering people generally eat most of their pizza leaving crusts perhaps but not entire slices.

The next problem is where you would store the uneaten slices waiting for an entire pizza to be assembled. Space restrictions in a kitchen would seem to make this not particularly easy.

A third problem would be keeping the entire thing a secret from the outside world. In order to make this work every employee at every Chuck E. Cheese would have to be part of the conspiracy. This particular hypothesis has been around for at least ten years, likely because of the various misshapen and oddly sliced pizzas as discussed earlier. I find it all but impossible to believe every employee of the franchise is loyal enough to keep this a secret.

Is it possible the slices are being collected, stored, and assembled while all the employees are keeping the secret? I don’t argue that it’s impossible, just incredibly unlikely. Therefore, I choose to accept the explanations offered by former employees and the company itself.

And you?

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Tom Liberman

Sports Gambling Experts and the Tricks they Use

Sports Gambling

The prohibition against Sports Gambling was lifted by the Supreme Court not long ago and a number of states have already started to allow such betting with many more planning to do so. I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about a Confidence Game that Sports Gambling experts rely upon to relieve you of your money.

If you listen to Sports Talk Radio or watch it on television you will eventually come across a number of shows in which a gambler claims to be willing to sell you the guaranteed winner of certain games each week. He or she generally offers a free sample to prove how accurate are her or his predictions. It’s a relatively simple little trick but before I explain let me give you an example of how attractive it sounds.

Let’s say I make an absolute guarantee of victory and you fill out the required form. I send you my winner of the week. Imagine it turns out to be right. You’d be not much impressed I imagine. Anyone can get a game right. It’s essentially a 50% chance. Either the team I predicts covers the spread or they don’t. However, you’re intrigued. Let’s try again you might say to yourself. This could be easy money.

You try it a second time and I’m right again! Ok, this is getting serious. I might actually know what I’m doing. You’re a cautious person though and you want to test it a few more times. You’re so cautious you test it six times and each time I’m correct. Now you are willing to shell out a few hundred bucks to get a guaranteed winner, right? I mean, yes, you have to pay for the winner but you can gamble much more money and win it all back. Easy money!

What’s the trick? As I said, it’s not too difficult. Basically, each week I send out groups of predictions rather than single predictions. That is to say I don’t send a free sample of the same game to everyone who inquires. Instead I send out one of ten games randomly to each person. Each time I do so I risk being wrong 50% of the time. That means one out of every sixty-four, or two percent, of the people I send my predictions to will get the correct winner six weeks in a row.

I send these out to tens of thousands if not millions of people. Two percent of the people, if they required six straight corrects, will subscribe to my service. Let’s be conservative and imagine I send out these samples to 10,000 people a week. That means two-hundred people will send me their hundreds of dollars in return for my prediction, per week. Eventually they might become disenchanted but many will require less “proof” and many will remain loyal. This is a lucrative business opportunity, much better than actually betting on sporting events.

That’s the entirety of the trick. You can thank me by purchasing one, or more, of my novels. They’re only $2.99 and you might enjoy reading them. Even if you think it sucks, you’ll be out less money than if you listened to Sports Gambling Experts.

Tom Liberman

Misleading Headline Funds Seized from Student

Misleading Headline Student

Student’s funds seized after he paid $500,000 rent on penthouse blares the completely true but nevertheless Misleading Headline. The general intent of the Misleading Headline in this case is essentially to attract clicks. What, I asked myself, is all of this about? Probably I’m not alone in thinking some poor student is being mistreated by a government agency. Nope.

In this case, a young fellow Vlad Luca Filat moved to London and began studying. He made a number of luxury purchases including the penthouse in question. At issue is that he has no source of income and his father stole in excess of a billion dollars from Moldova while serving as the prime minster of that country. The general assumption being that Filat was using the money his father stole to finance a lavish lifestyle.

The National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom determined this is exactly what happened and seized the young man’s assets.

While the story is certainly a Misleading Headline it shines a light on the enormous amount of money being stolen by politicians in virtually every country in the world. I wrote about a year ago how the world is awash in untraceable money largely looted from the taxes of various nations, that is to say the average person. The looting is worse in some places, in Moldava the amount stolen was equal to 12% of the entire nation’s GDP, but there is no doubt it is happening everywhere including the United States.

This huge amount of stolen money isn’t really a problem for politicians because they’re the ones stealing it. They purchase all sorts of luxury items and pat themselves on the back for helping the economy. The amount of money is so enormous that no one can easily track it and politicians and their allies are simply fools if they don’t join in. That’s the world in which we live. Don’t blame me.

Tom Liberman

Casey Smitherman and Doing Good to Make Yourself Feel Better

Smitherman

The story about Casey Smitherman who made a false insurance claim to help a sick student has been much in the news lately and gets me thinking. Thinking about what, you might ask? Thinking about people who try to do something good largely for the purpose of making themselves feel better, not the person they are supposedly helping.

First the situation. A student in Smitherman’s school district, Ellwood Community Schools, missed some days of school and Smitherman went to the home of the student and took the boy to the doctor. There she used her insurance card and claimed the student was her son. This is insurance fraud.

I would guess the average person reading this story will laud Smitherman as a hero. While what she did was illegal, it was with the best intentions of the student at heart. This demonstrates an idea I wrote about a while back called Relativistic Morality but I don’t want to rehash that topic in this blog. What interests me in this case is that Smitherman has resigned and at least one family member of the boy who was treated is happy about it. Why? Because Smitherman came into the family home, took the boy, got medication, and gave it to him without permission from his guardians.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know all the facts about the case. I don’t know the circumstances of the boy’s life or the responsibility of his guardians but that fact bring into doubt Smitherman’s motivations. Basically, it’s possible she was simply doing it because she wanted to feel better about herself and was less interested in helping the boy. That’s the idea I’d like to examine in this blog. People who claim to be helping others when in fact they are trying to make themselves feel like better human beings.

How many of us are guilty of the same thing? We see something that appears to be an egregious situation and step in, without permission, to right the wrongs. How many of us stick our noses in the business of others where it does not belong?

If we see a parent disciplining a child in a way we deem to violent, should we step in? Most people want to be helpful and kind. It makes us feel good to help others. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads people to overstep their authority and place. We jump into someone else’s life with the hope of aiding them but in reality, we are just trying to make ourselves feel like a good person. They did not want nor need our help.

There are no easy answers here. Sometimes it’s very important to step in and help people. Other times we are doing it for the wrong reasons and we are making a situation worse. One of phrases I like to think about in these circumstances is: Don’t criticize the way another person goes about doing her or his business. Before intervening, I suggest you consider why you are doing it. Is it to help the other person or is it simply to make yourself feel like a good person?

I think Smitherman crossed onto the wrong side of the line when she took the boy without permission and her actions should be taken in that light. You may feel differently.

Tom Liberman

Local Grocers Helping People and Wilbur Ross

Wilbur Ross

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said something I think illustrates one of the biggest problems in implementing good economic policy. In addressing the need for federal workers to make it through the shutdown, he said, “Local people know who they are, when they go for groceries and everything else.” I see this sort of thinking from many people in the business community and it demonstrates an old military adage that tells us we are always fighting the last war.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard politicians and local leaders talk about how important small business is to the economy of the United States, how it is the backbone of our nation. This was true for a long period of time after the Industrial Revolution but today our economy is largely driven by what is called Enterprise Businesses or Multinationals. The majority of business receipts are controlled by such companies despite their entire number being a small percentage of all businesses in the nation.

Secretary Ross and President Trump are under the impression that we all reside in a small-town America that no longer exists. Most people do their shopping at Wholefoods, at Walmart, at Home Depot, or online, even those who live in rural regions. While the clerks at such companies might well know you by name, they don’t function the same way mom and pop grocery stores did even just thirty years ago. Their accounts are done electronically and they can’t just give people another month or two to make payments. To do so requires getting into the computer code at corporate headquarters. It’s just not feasible and the fact that men like Secretary Ross and President Trump, supposedly powerful business leaders, don’t seem to understand such a simple reality is discouraging.

This way of doing business saves we consumers a huge percentage of our paychecks and allows us to have many nice things. The global economy and the Enterprise Companies that arose with it deliver goods to our doors at shockingly low prices. Our choices are all but limitless and this is a product of capitalism. It is a good thing. But it also means Wholefoods can’t just give Tom a break on my purchase of potatoes because they know I’m good for it.

This is the nature of our economic world. This is reality. Perhaps you harken back to a simpler time when we had to spend a far greater percentage of our paycheck on food, shelter, and clothing. I don’t. Capitalism and globalization have brought us so many wonderful things including the incredibly cheap computer, tablet, or phone on which you are reading this blog.

Until our leaders recognize this modern world, they will not be able to fix its remaining economic issues. Things are not perfect, that is certain, and I do not say they are so. What I am saying is that if you are the Secretary of Commerce, if you are the President of the United States, maybe you should stop living in a delusional version of a world that no longer exists. You might make better decisions for us all.

Tom Liberman

Ian Poulter and the Misleading Putting Headline

Ian Poulter

Thanks to TaxibikeRob and Ian Poulter, this week’s Misleading Headline is also informative! The aforementioned Twitter user was confused when he was Poulter putting from on the green with the flagstick still in the hole during the Dubai Desert Classic and made mention of it on his twitter feed. The misleading Headline blared “Fan tries to narc on Ian Poulter putting with flagstick, in predictably gets mocked by Poulter and others.”

Ok, Golf Digest, to begin with you need to shorten up the headline and give it more punch. Furthermore, if you actually spent the time and effort to read the tweet in question, TaxibikeRob was more asking a question than actually trying to narc anyone. Hence the hashtag #confused and the fact that he literally (see this to learn how to properly use that word) actually asked if the rules had changed.

Yes, the rules have changed which is something I didn’t know myself. Had I seen a golfer putting with the flag in the stick I would also have been taken aback. I might have even been stronger in my objections that TaxibikeRob was about Poulter. In addition, TaxibikeRob was totally cool when several people, including Poulter, mentioned the rules had changed.

In fact, most of the so-called mocking was good natured ribbing aimed at Poulter as much as TaxibikeRob. Good on both of them for seeing the humor in the situation. Bad on you Golf Digest for making it appear as if something egregious happened.

Tom Liberman

What Does Zero Economic Growth During Shutdown Mean?

Zero Economic Growth

Zero Economic Growth was the prediction made by the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors and that indicates something very important. It means the federal government is largely driving economic growth in the United States. Without such intervention, there is no growth. This is a complete, although inadvertent, admission that the government is far too entangled in the economy; that Socialism has completely taken over. That’s not a good thing.

Kevin Hassett is certain the Zero Economic Growth engendered by the shutdown will not have a long-term negative effect because money will pour forth from the federal government once things are settled. This is missing the entire point. Our entire economy is now dependent on taking money from taxpayers and giving it to various businesses that would not survive without it, this is socialism. We are there.

The Defense Industrial Complex, read War Machine, and everyone in it, including many of my friends and relatives at Boeing and Lockheed, would largely not have jobs without such intervention. The entire farm industry is almost completely dependent on government handouts for survival. The federal government has its noodly appendages hooked into almost every industry in the country. Education, Technology, Energy, Healthcare, you name it and the government supports it to one degree or another.

The switch from capitalism to socialism is all but complete despite any claims from Republicans to the contrary. That particular political party is probably more responsible for this turn of events than the actual socialist who clamor for it. Every time the government passes a law that supports one company over another, every time the federal government spends a single dollar, they are influencing the economy of the nation. The more money they spend, the greater the impact.

Ever since the Reagan election of 1980 it has been economic doctrine that government stimulus is needed during economic difficulties. As the money flows so does the influence it wields. When a business wants to succeed, they seek out government contracts. They tailor their proposals to the requirements meted out by the government.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the government always has, and always will, have some influence over the economic health of the United States. The point is that it shouldn’t have such an outsized reach that without it our economy will suffer Zero Economic Growth. That’s where we are at and even the Trump Administration admits it is so. The entirety of economic growth in the United States is completely dependent on the government, you heard it directly from the horse’s mouth.

Tom Liberman