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

Nello Bans Single Women from the Bar Illustrating Compound Stupidity

Nello Restaurant

There’s a news story making the rounds about an upscale restaurant in New York City called Nello which has instituted a policy wherein they have banned single women from sitting at the bar. Such women must sit at a table. It’s a double-dipping, moronic, Libertarian Triggering, nightmare of epic proportions!

The reason for the new policy is that prostitutes sometimes sit at the bar in the hopes of attracting customer. The management of Nello doesn’t like having these ladies in their establishment so they’ve taken to seating single women at tables rather than the bar. Why is this so incredibly stupid, you might ask me? I’m so, so happy to tell you.

Nello is banning all women because women are engaging in a banned profession despite the fact that the banning of prostitutes is clearly not working in the first place! But, obviously, the banning of single women from the bar will work where the banning of prostitutes hasn’t. Oh, the joyous, glorious, Libertarian irony. I’m figurately giddy. Or is that literally giddy? You’ll have to read my recent blog on the difference between the two to know. As for me, I’m just so darned pleased with myself that I’m going to continue to ramble.

You see, the banning of women because the other banning isn’t working is not the only problem with the Nello policy. All single women wanting to dine at Nello are being punished for something someone else is doing. This is the misguided thinking behind the so many useless, freedom defying laws that dot the legislative slates across our country. Some people might waste their money playing poker or betting on sports, ban gambling! Someone might become addicted to a substance, ban marijuana! Kids might be vaping more than is good for them, ban Electronic Cigarettes! Someone might use a firearm in a crime, ban weapons!

Nello, my dear fascist enforcers of moronic policy, if there is a lady of the evening in your restaurant, kick her out. She’s the one causing the issue. Personally, I have no problem with prostitutes. They are providing a service to a willing clientele. However, I absolutely support Nello’s right to have in their establishment who they want; if they don’t want ladies of the evening so be it.

Now, before you start telling saying, ‘Hey, dumbass, you’re being hypocritical because Nello can ban single women at the bar and you should support their right to do so’. I agree Nello has every right to ban single women from the bar, the owner of the restaurant can make any decision in that regard he or she wants although Constitutional protections for gender might well be something to consider legally. I just think it’s a poor business decision. They are alienating a certain portion of their clientele.

Stupid decisions? Those are theirs to make as well. If it affects their business, perhaps they’ll change the policy. That’s the reality of the situation. I can’t tell Nello how they run their restaurants. I can choose which restaurants to patronize. That’s freedom.

Tom Liberman

Candace Bure and the Misleading Headline

Candace Cameron Bure

I’m not sure misleading is the proper category for the headline that suggests Candace Cameron Bure isn’t getting older but it does present an opportunity to allow my inner Grammar Police personality out in all its annoying glory. You guessed it; it’s time to learn the difference between Literally and Figuratively. Yay!

When someone says something happened in a literal fashion what they are saying is that it actually happened. While it may sound crazy what I’m telling you, it really did happen. An example might be shy, socially inept me was sitting at the bar at my favorite watering hole, Sub Zero when a quite attractive dark-haired vixen with impressive surgical enhancement cozied up a few stools down. I literally moved over and engaged her in conversation. Hard to believe, yes, but literally true.

Now, an example of figurative. Later, after a few direct messages she figuratively blew me off. That is to say, she stopped responding to my texts. If she literally blew me off that would mean that with her breath or perhaps her hair dryer, she aimed a gust of wind at me and sent me cartwheeling off to the barrel of rejected boys. The barrel of rejected boys is, by the way, also figurative.

If Bure literally stopped aging it would certainly amount to a medical miracle and the poor young woman would be subject to a hurricane, figurative of course, of lab tests.

Now, my disciples, go out into the world and use figuratively and literally properly!

Tom Liberman

DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship Mayhem

DraftKings

During the recent DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship held in New Jersey an interesting situation involving computer technology is causing a bit of a fuss and I find the whole thing very interesting from a legal, sports, and Libertarian perspective.

Recently the Supreme Court ruled the prohibition against sports betting was unconstitutional and the various states immediately went to work to allow it. I wrote a blog about this not long ago. In any case, New Jersey was early on the bandwagon and DraftKings hosted the event in which the winning prize consisted a cash payment of one million dollars. The entry fee was $10,000 and two-hundred gamblers paid the fee to enter.

The rules of the event are relatively unimportant for consideration here but basically each of the players wagered money on various NFL playoff games that weekend. Whoever accumulated the largest winnings during this time would receive the prize. The problem happened because the morning game ended only fifteen minutes before the afternoon game started. Betting was only allowed before a game began.

Some of the players were able to take their winnings from the early Sunday game and apply them to the bets on the afternoon game. However, because of a computer glitch, others were not able to make wagers on the second game. This severely impacted their ability to win the tournament. One player in particular, Rufus Peabody, would have won the first prize if he had correctly wagered an all or nothing bet on the second game. He was prevented from doing so because his winnings from the first game didn’t register until after the second game began.

This, in my opinion, created an unfair playing field. It will be interesting to see what the courts have to say and I wouldn’t be surprised if DraftKings didn’t offer a refund to those who were locked out of betting.

That’s the important thing. The courts can make a determination. Before the gambling prohibition was lifted such events were run as illegal operations and if anything went wrong there was no lawful recourse. The group running the event could move on their merry way. Now that we have legalized gambling, we also have legal remedies.

This simple fact proves the benefit of allowing adults, of their own volition, to engage in activities that might cause them harm. Laws against gambling didn’t stop people from making wagers or ruining their lives. The gambling went on as before but under the auspices of illegal operators. Because the activity is now legal, we are in a much better situation. Yes, people still ruin their lives gambling but society is better able to address the wrongs associated with the activity.

This is a lesson that should be applied to other areas of our legal code. In trying to prevent people from doing harm to themselves we only make the situation worse.

Tom Liberman

North Macedonia and the Libertarian Fight Against Nationalism

Macedonia

An absolutely fascinating situation regarding Nationalism played out recently in that the Republic of Macedonia hoped to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They were blocked in these efforts by Greece. Why? Largely because of tribal Nationalism. Let me explain.

The reason for the refusal was the people in Greece think of Macedonia with pride in regards to Alexander the Great and a province in Greece is named Macedonia. The Greeks regard this as part of their heritage and are extremely proud of it. Many of the people of the Republic of Macedonia feel the same way. In order to get into the EU and NATO the legislature of the Republic of Macedonia agreed to change the name of their nation to the Republic of North Macedonia. This change was a matter of great controversy and many people are extremely upset.

The point of Libertarians is largely that it doesn’t matter what you call something. The individual is greater than the state. As a writer I’m aware of the power of words. I’m not here to say it doesn’t make any difference to the pride of the people of both Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. I’m just saying the name we choose to call something makes no difference. I’m proud that I’m from Missouri. From a municipality called University City. That I went to the University of Idaho. That being said, the names of those places have nothing to do with my pride.

I’m proud to have played Water Polo, Swimming, Soccer, and Tennis at University City with a bunch of the best guys in the world. I wasn’t the most social fellow in the world and it wasn’t all good times, almost exclusively my own fault, but those guys, those times, that’s what gives me pride. The idea of a name change is relatable to me. When I played sports at University City, we were the Indians. The awards I earned, to be found somewhere around here, bear that logo.

Long after I graduated, the school board changed the mascot from Indians to Lions. There was the usual attempt to prevent the change but the name alteration went through and now we are the Lions. Does that change any of my memories? Does that change the good times I had with all those great friends? Does that change the victories or the defeats? The simple answer is no, it doesn’t.

Alexander the Great and Macedonia remain as they were regardless of what a nation calls itself today. People are who they are, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or their current living conditions.

I’m not telling you to stop being proud of who you are or to forget your heritage. I am saying the name you choose to call something is irrelevant. It changes nothing. What is past is irrevocable. The Greeks were wrong to deny the Republic of Macedonia entrance into the EU and NATO because of a name. The people of the Republic of Macedonia were wrong to care so much about changing the name.

It just doesn’t matter. The state is merely a name, a circumstance of birth, a way to communicate information. It means nothing and hopefully, someday, all nations will dissolve.

The individual is paramount. You are not a name, a place of birth, a high school, or a college.

Tom Liberman

Russia and the Battle for Soft Power

Soft Power

I just read an interesting article about how Russia is advancing their political cause by opening up educational opportunities to foreign students, this is an element of something called Soft Power. In the last twenty years Russia and China, perhaps realizing the United States military is largely unassailable, have been ramping up their use of this method of acquiring power in the world and we need be aware of this strategy.

I’ve written about how the United States is losing their edge in the education world more than once and you might want to peruse those articles here and here. Meanwhile, I’ll continue with this one.

The idea of Soft Power essentially means getting other nations to want to be like you. For the entire history of the United States we have enjoyed an enormous advantage in Soft Power simply because our Constitution guaranteed us freedom and with this freedom came upward mobility on a scale never before seen in the history of the world. Our colleges attracted foreign students in enormous numbers, and still do. These students went back to their home countries with stories about the plentiful opportunities the United States has to offer.

The effectiveness of this Soft Power was demonstrated particularly after World War II when it defeated the Soviet Union who, at the time, was much more interested in Hard Power. The United States offered hope and opportunity, a lady with open arms and a welcoming smile in the Upper New York Bay. When the United States came into existence there were very few nations in the world where the people were free, that has changed, largely because of our use of Soft Power rather than military exercises. Freedom has spread.

Success engenders imitation and the leaders of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, are spending a great deal of time, effort, and money in that flattery. They see it works and are now implementing various strategies across the globe designed to demonstrate the value of China and Russia to the people of other nations.

Meanwhile the United States is going in the opposite direction. We have fewer foreign students than we had ten years ago. We are actively attempting to reduce the number further. We are sanctioning more and more countries making it difficult or impossible for our greatest Soft Power asset, capitalistic ideology, to do business with foreign states.

The United States is still a leader in propagating Soft Power throughout the world but we are heading in the wrong direction while our chief rivals are moving to supplant us. An America first plan ensures that we will become America third before too long. Relying on Hard Power didn’t work for the Soviet Union and it’s not going to work for us.

Tom Liberman

Yoga Mayhem Generated by Loss of Routine

Yoga

This morning in my yoga class there was something wrong with the environmental controls and I’m fascinated by how this relatively minor problem created a situation of so much unease. We humans like routine and when that is disturbed it can completely change our entire disposition. Let me explain.

At my new gym the yoga room environment is controlled by an automated system based on the class schedule. There are free-flowing advanced classes, called Vinyasa, in which the practitioners build up a good sweat. In such classes the room is generally kept cool. There is yoga in an intentionally heated and steamed room, called Bikram, in which the room is artificially turned into a sauna-like environment. And there are others, all with their ideal temperatures. Because the instructors of the previous class sometimes forgot to change the temperature to a setting comfortable for the next class; it was decided the new classroom should do it automatically. Hurray! Except when it doesn’t work.

This was the case today. When I arrived, it was clear the room was anticipating a Bikram class as there was a strong sense of moisture in the air and the yoga room was quite hot. The system began to cool the room not long after I arrived but that didn’t stop a virtual hurricane of anxiety as each new person came into the room and commented on it thus triggering replies from those already there.

About ten minutes into the class the steam came on and the room became decidedly warmer. The instructor kept her head, turned on the fans, propped open the door with a block, and largely remained calm. That being said, she was thrown off her game and the feeling of uneasiness crept into the room. I can only imagine how bad it might have become with a less calm instructor.

The class flow itself lost cohesiveness as the instructor attempted to keep the students calm while adjusting various exercises for the new paradigm. We took a Child’s Pose in the midst of active maneuvers because our instructor was concerned people might be overheating. Eventually the temperature ameliorated and the steam shut off.

Still, I found the entire episode instructive. It’s amazing how quickly a situation can turn from calm control into utter chaos. Luckily, in this case, our instructor was level-headed and the situation only mildly degenerated despite the feeling of panic that was hanging in the air for a little while. I can only imagine what might have happened with a less professional instructor.

It doesn’t take much to throw people out of their routine and into panic. It’s important in such situations to remain as calm as possible and carry on.

I’m not saying there was the potential for disaster but I can easily imagine some yoga classes degenerating into chaos under similar situation, with everyone babbling and losing the flow entirely. That would have been a waste of my morning and I’m glad it didn’t happen.

Tom Liberman

Paul Whelan a Speculative Analysis

Paul Whelan

Paul Whelan was recently arrested and charged with espionage by the Russian government and this is making many headlines. There is a great deal of speculation as to whether or not Whelan was acting as a spy and I have my own thoughts about it which I’ll express here. I do want to be clear; my thoughts are largely speculative based on a limited amount of evidence. I could easily be wrong.

First a few facts about him. Whelan joined the marines as a young man but was given a bad conduct discharge for check fraud involving the use of someone else’s social security number. He visited Russia during this tenure and reportedly enjoyed his time there. He has tri-citizenship in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Irish Republic. He has made any number of trips to Russia over the years. He was reportedly in Russia at this time to help a friend plan a wedding party.

Now comes the speculative part of my article. Whelan strikes me as someone who has an inflated sense of intellect and importance. He also strikes me as someone with delusions of grandeur. This is the sort of person Russian Intelligence, Federal Security Service, loves to exploit, see Paul Manafort. What I imagine happened is that intelligence agents became aware of Whelan and his ego. They sent someone, likely an attractive woman, to get a sense if he could be manipulated. They quickly discovered he was susceptible to such tactics.

From there it was relatively straight-forward. Have someone approach Whelan claiming to be disenchanted with the Russian government. Have that person claim to know important intelligence information. Whelan then plays the fool. He goes somewhere the FSS has wired for video and sound. He solicits this agent for secret information. The agent turns over a thumb drive with said information to Whelan. Whelan leaves thinking he has pulled off a major spying victory for the United States. He will be a hero! The CIA will welcome him with open arms, maybe he will get to visit President Trump. Boom, down come the clamps.

I repeat, I’m speculating based on the limited information I have. It’s entirely possible Whelan is completely innocent and was picked up by the FSS and a fake thumb drive is being used as evidence. That he is going to be used by Vladimir Putin to trade for Maria Butina or Russians held here in the United States.

It’s also possibly Whelan was actually working for the CIA. That he was on some covert operation and the Russian’s caught him.

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Still, I think my explanation has the ring of truth to it. It’s quite likely we’ll never know the full truth. What do you think?

Tom Liberman

Trace Riff and the Sad Reality of Mental Illness

Trace Riff

The story of Trace Riff is making the news because he was once an international male model who has done something terrible. Riff kicked a black toddler to the ground while screaming racist remarks and bragging about being a white supremacist. It all makes for fantastic clickbait headlines, something the mental illness and drug addiction that destroyed Riff’s life didn’t engender. That’s a shame. Before this incident I’m almost certain you, like me, never heard of Riff.

Riff was recruited by talent scouts at an early age because of his good looks. His fashion career got kicked off back in 2005 with a photo in Harper’s Bazaar with Gisele Bundchen. He spent the next few years traveling the world as a fashion model. Eventually that career came to an end, likely because he was mentally ill and couldn’t perform his duties, and he returned to his home in Wichita, KS. There his problems escalated until he was homeless and completely delusional.

The reality of this is that his family tried to help him many times. In reading the article we hear from his grandmother and his brother who tell stories of trying to aid him. They took Riff in. They sent Riff to drug treatment facilities. They attempted medical interventions. Riff didn’t want help and doesn’t want help. His grandmother says he’s completely delusional and I have no reason to doubt her assessment. He has been homeless for a number of years and seems to prefer it that way. He is well-known to the local police and his grandmother suspects it will be in an altercation with them that Riff will eventually be killed.

All this is terrible but it is so commonplace it didn’t amount to so much as a headline outside of a few local papers before he went on his racist rant. Now it’s national news. Mental illness is not easy to treat, particularly when the person so affected doesn’t want treatment. I’ve written about this subject before but this case is even more egregious. It’s entirely possible Riff will eventually become a violent threat and yet, despite the best efforts his family, not much is going to be done about it.

I’ll reiterate what I spoke about in that other article for a moment before going on. If a person is mentally ill and refuses treatment the solutions are not always easy. We don’t want to make it simple for the government to lock up just anyone who displays a few symptoms.

That being said, we really aren’t trying very hard. The amount of money it takes to help a person like Riff is considerable and it is likely he will never be able to integrate into society in a normal way. It’s an enormous and ongoing expense to pay people to treat Riff and to keep him housed, fed, and clothed. That money would largely come from tax dollars. It’s easier to let him live out his miserable, drug-addicted, homeless life away from our vision and hope he doesn’t turn overtly violent. It’s cheaper. That’s sad but true.

While I’m certain we can’t solve the problems of all mentally distressed people in this country, I think we can do better.

Tom Liberman

Was the Firing of Five NFL Black Coaches Bad?

Black Coaches

I just read an article written by Doug Farrar in USA Today lamenting the firing of five black coaches in the NFL. There were eight coaches let go by their various teams this year and those included Hue Jackson, Marvin Lewis, Steve Wilks, Vance Joseph, and Todd Bowles who are black. Farrar thinks this represents a backward step for the NFL in their attempt to improve minority hiring practices. I strongly disagree. I think it’s a beautiful and amazing step forward.

Back in 2002 a situation arose in which evidence-based metrics showed that black coaches with better records than white coaches were more likely to be fired and less likely to be hired for another job. This resulted in the Rooney Rule. This rule was designed to ensure NFL teams in the future would more fully consider minority candidates for the position of head coach. At the time of the Rooney Rule there had been a total of six minority head coaches in the entire history of the NFL. Since then a further eighteen have been so hired.

The fact that five black coaches were fired is, to me, a tremendously strong indication that the Rooney Rule has had the desired effect and that black coaches are being hired and fired on the merits of their record rather than the color of their skin. That’s a great thing. Everyone should be hired and fired on their merits rather than external factors like race. There is nothing in the color of a person’s skin that will make her or him a better or worse coach.

Let’s take a look at the events of this season in context. As I said, prior to 2002 and the Rooney Rule there were a total of six head coaches of color in the entire history of the league, one of whom was Hispanic rather than black. The fact is, this season an equal number of black head coaches were fired from their jobs as existed as head coaches in totality prior to 2002. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

It’s fairly easy to look at events through the lenses of our choice and come to conclusions that conform to our biases. I’m of the opinion that’s what is happening here. People who see racism in the NFL, and I have no doubt that it still exists in some small corners of the league, want to find reasons to point it out. This is not one of those times. I think the coaches that were fired lost their jobs for performance and personnel issues that have nothing to do with race.

I feel confident that black coaches will be hired to fill at least some of those positions and also those of the white coaches that were fired. Sports is a great leader in this sort of thing. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947, long before segregation ended. The Texas Western Miners defeated Kentucky in the NCAA Basketball Championship in 1966 which led to integration in the south as a whole.

Winning is the thing in sport and if a player or coach can help a team do so, race should not be a factor. I certainly don’t deny a long history of racism in sport but I’m of the opinion the firing of five black coaches in a single season is a testament to the death of such thinking, not its perpetuation.

Tom Liberman

Sports Leagues Draft Systems are Libertarian Hell

Draft

With the conclusion of the NFL regular season we are once again talking about the draft. The draft exists for all professional sports leagues in the United States and it is a horrific affront to my Libertarian sensibilities on a number of fronts. I figured I’d spend the last day of 2018 tilting against that indestructible monstrosity that is the draft.

The very idea that a young professional exiting their schooling is drafted by one company and they are only allowed to negotiate and sign with that company should bother anyone who believes in freedom. The courts somehow decided because collective bargaining agreements were made between unions and the various sports leagues this means entry drafts are not subject to anti-trust and restraint of trade laws. Poppycock! If someone writes up a contract that gives me permission to kill, roast, and eat them, that doesn’t exempt me from murder laws.

Many people will argue that sports leagues could not survive without the draft. At the risk of repeating myself, poppycock! This sort of draft system largely only exists in North America. Everywhere else in the world the teams sign players from development leagues according to their financial capabilities. Even here in the United States, college athletics works on this type of system. Every top high school athlete is recruited by a number of colleges and the player decides freely where to play. It seems to work well enough everywhere else so the idea it can’t work in the United States is nonsense.

Then there is the very nature of the vile atrocity itself. The team that finishes in last place gets the first pick! What sort of horrible system is this? We reward failure and punish success? Where else would such a system be tolerated? At your work place? In your home? Hardly.

The solution is ridiculously simple. Get rid of the draft altogether. Each young player can negotiate with whatever team they want for a spot on the roster. If they don’t get a good offer, they can go to another team and try again. Eventually the market will find equilibrium. This is how life works everywhere else except in sports.

Tom Liberman

Bread and Water because Mom Did it that Way

Bread and Water

I just read an intriguing article about the elimination of Bread and Water as a punishment in the United States Navy. I’m not amazed by the punishment itself but rather how it started and why, until recently, it was still being used.

Bread and Water is a disciplinary action available to captains of naval vessels where they can punish a sailor by restricting her or his diet to simply bread and water. The modern terms of the punishment limit the amount of time to three days and ensure that the sailor in question is given as much bread and water as they desire. In 1909 the maximum time was reduced from thirty days to seven and sailors could no longer be chained while undergoing the punishment.

The bit I found most interesting is the idea for Bread and Water punishment was derived from a similar practice in the British Navy. At the time that naval power was largely considered the finest in the world so adopting some of their practices made a great deal of sense. However, the British Navy outlawed the punishment in 1891. That’s not 1981 in case you are a little bit dyslexic, as am I. It was banned in the British Navy over one-hundred years ago. Yet the Bread and Water punishment persisted in the U.S. Navy until 2019.

This is the equivalent of doing something for the sole reason that your mother or father did it that way. That is, to a large degree, an enormous component of human psychology. I wrote sometime ago about why so many people feel it should be required to teach cursive writing in school when it has little practical use in the modern world, particularly when it takes so much time from other, more useful, subjects.

We do many, many things simply because they have been done that way in the past. It’s not necessarily wrong to do something the same as it’s always been done, but it is important to examine what you are doing, why you are doing it, and the results generated therein. The fact that it’s been done a certain way for a hundred years or more has no bearing on whether or not you should continue to do it. True though this may be, it is not something most people are willing to accept.

If it was good enough for my father than it’s good enough for me. Wrong. If it’s good, then it’s good. If it’s not, then it’s not. Sometimes something that worked well in the past just isn’t useful today. Sometimes it was awful back then and it remains awful now. We must take the time to examine why we are doing things and the results generated from doing so.

The fact that U.S. Navy finally got around to fixing this is a good thing. The fact that it took a century to do it is a lesson for us all. Just because mom did it that way doesn’t mean you should as well.

Tom Liberman

Welfarm and the Demise of the Family Farmer

Family Farmer

I just read an article written by a family farmer, Jim Goodman, who recently sold his herd of forty-five cows because economic conditions made continuing untenable. The article laments the steady demise of the family farmer in the United States and the growth of both factory farms and what the writer calls Land Barons. These are wealthy individuals who purchase smaller farms but don’t actually work on them, they own them simply as investments. While I feel sorry for Goodman, I won’t shed a tear for a group of people who vote for the bed they sleep in with unwavering devotion.

Let me explain. Welfarm caused this entire mess and Goodman acknowledges all the factors that caused the problem without once accepting the slightest bit of responsibility for it. Goodman contradicts himself in almost every paragraph. He blames ineffective government subsidies, apparently wanting more, when it is this very Welfarm that caused the oversupply he so passionately understands is the root of the issue.

The United States has a system of government that includes the Senate. The Senate doesn’t care about population. There are two senators per state and this gives rural states disproportionate power in Congress. This power has been used since the 1970s to expand a policy of get big or get out. Those who own small farms eagerly and continuously voted for politicians who perpetuated this policy as they handed out enormous sums of money to the family farmer. I need say no more than Ethanol and cheese although there are many, many more examples of this strategy.

Basically, the taxpayers of the United States have been pouring money into the pockets of farmers encouraging them to grow more and more. These policies have encouraged the family farmer to produce more milk. These policies have aided the enormous growth of factory farms.What needs to be done? Stop Welfarm. Yes, it will hurt farmers initially, I do not deny this fact. However, what will happen is output will shrink to match actual demand and only then will farmers get what Goodman says is the only thing they want, fair prices. Sadly, that’s not the only thing they want. They want tax dollars by the bushel and this dependence on government has destroyed them. They got exactly that for which they voted.

If a Libertarian Revolution is to sweep this country, and I hold out high hopes that it someday will, it will begin in rural areas only when people like Goodman recognize the policies of their picked politicians led to the destruction of the family farmer. Goodman recognizes the problem but his vote perpetuates it.

Tom Liberman

Why Does the Federal Reserve Raise Interest Rates?

Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve and the President of the United States seem to be at odds over the idea of raising interest rates. I’m of the opinion that most people, including many of my fellow Libertarians, don’t really understand the base purpose of the Federal Reserve and the point of increasing interest rates. I’m not an economist by trade but the issue is relatively straight-forward and I thought I’d take a few moments to go over it.

As I said, it’s relatively simple. Pretty much since the beginning of human history there has been something called the business cycle, or in common parlance, the boom-bust cycle. Basically, when times are good and people have plenty of money, they tend to spend it on speculative interests in the hope of gaining much more money. In contrast, when times are not good and money is in short supply, people have a tendency to hoard what they have. These two things exacerbate the business cycle.

Essentially, because people are spending more money on potentially enriching schemes during boom times the bubble goes to extremely high levels before it bursts and creates devastating economic destruction. Once the bust takes hold it is difficult to stop the downward spiral because people are reluctant to borrow money.

The solution created by Alexander Hamilton and the founders was the First Bank of the United States. Its primary idea was to raise interest rates during boom times thus curtailing people’s willingness to borrow money and fuel the boom and to lower interest rates during times of bust to encourage people to take out loans and pull the economy from its collapse.

It did not stop the business cycle altogether and thus its opponents, who felt there was artificial manipulation of the economy at the expense of growth abolished it. The booms and bust then grew much worse and so the Second Bank of the United States was formed with essentially the same goals as the first. Once again, the business cycle continued although with tempered effects because of the policies of the bank. As can be expected, people grew unhappy with the bank because they felt it was impacting the booming economy negatively and so it was abolished.

Immediately thereafter there again began a more virulent series of business cycles until Congress established the Federal Reserve which still exists to this day. As expected, the business cycles continue to be a problem as we have seen recently. One of the things that has happened since President Reagan is that the Federal Reserve has acted more to promote economic growth but not to slow it. This means, naturally that the boom cycle is not properly tempered.

That is the point of the Federal Reserve in their recent raising of interest rates. They desire to slow economic growth to temper the boom section of the business cycle. These actions anger the President of the United States in the midst of that cycle. Politicians desire to brag about the good they have done and lay blame for the bad, but the business cycle is beyond their control. The Federal Reserve cannot stop the cycle, the people who make policy can only hope to temper the catastrophic effects of the inevitable bust.

That is why it is generally considered a bad idea for politicians to dictate policy to the Federal Reserve. Their actions are often, and for good reason, opposite of those wished by the politicians.

Tom Liberman

Camp Fire Workers and Freedom of Speech

Camp Fire Workers
Camp Fire Workers Offensive Images

A news story making the rounds about Rob Freestone, and other Camp Fire Workers, who took vile pictures of themselves amongst the ruins of people’s lives after the tragic wildfire in Paradise, California, perfectly illustrates the concept of Free Speech as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Freestone and two other workers took pictures of themselves laughing it up over the corpses of beloved pets, in destroyed homes, jumping on burned out trampolines with captions denigrating the owners, along with other pictures. That these pictures might upset the owners of the homes and their neighbors who had recently lost everything, including friends and family, is not at all surprising. What can be done about people who do such things? That is where the Freedom of Speech of the camp fire workers comes into play.

One group of people seems to think the men are free to say what they want without repercussions based on the First Amendment. A second group of people want the camp fire workers to be arrested and charged with a crime for their vile behavior. Both groups are incorrect. The concept of the First Amendment seems relatively simple to me. People are protected against an overly aggressive government attempting to incarcerate or fine them because of their words. However, the camp fire workers are in no way protected from ramifications devised by sources not the state.

The company that employed the men, Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. and their contractors PG&E are entitled to do as they will. They have done so. Bigge announced the three men were fired from their jobs and wrote an apology to the residents of Paradise published as a press release.

I don’t necessarily fully support Bigge for this decision, nor disagree with it, but I absolutely think Bigge has the authority to fire the men. If law enforcement agencies bring charges against the camp fire workers, which they are looking into doing, then I find myself on the side of the workers. The police should not be allowed to charge people with a crime for posting deeply offensive photographs.

Now, to demonstrate the difficulty of law, let’s suppose Bigge didn’t fire the workers and the state subsequently refused to give future contracts to the company because of that decision. This is where law becomes problematic and why we have a judicial branch. This situation not being the case, I won’t wade into the thorny issue.

The outcome as it stands cleanly and neatly illustrates the protections of the First Amendment. We are entitled to say what we will, with exceptions carved out over time by the courts, without fear of arrest or fine by the state. We are not free to say what we want without repercussions from our employers, family, friends, and random strangers on the internet.

You might find particular words to be offensive while another person supports and agrees with those same utterances. That is the point of the First Amendment to a large degree. The state, in the form of whatever political party is currently in power, will always like certain speech and find other words to be dangerous. The state, and the state alone, is very limited in how it can respond to such speech, this is a good thing.

Tom Liberman

Baby It’s Cold Outside and Political Affiliation

Baby It's Cold Outside

The latest political controversy involves the song Baby It’s Cold Outside and whether or not radio stations should be playing it this Christmas season. I think the divide neatly illustrates a strong political division that embroils our nation. Basically, we have Democrats and Republicans on one side and Libertarians on the other. This is the special frustration of Libertarians because if you ask most Republicans and Democrats, they will vehemently deny they are on the same side of this issue. I’ll explain.

Whether your want a radio station to play Baby It’s Cold Outside or not is irrelevant. If you are making posts on Social Media, urging people to listen to or boycott a station because they are or are not playing the song; you are attempting to enforce your sensibilities on other people. You are one in the same either way. You are a force of coercion. Republicans and Democrats will come up with every excuse in the book to pretend they are not part of this concerted effort to enforce their will upon others who disagree. I’m not actually telling them, I’m not holding a gun to their head, I’m not passing a law about it. You are bringing pressure to bear in order to force others to do as you want.

The other side of that coin is a Libertarian. If a radio stations wants to play the song, go right ahead. If you don’t want to play Baby It’s cold Outside, that’s just fine also. If I have strong feelings one way or the other, I will listen to that song when it comes on or I will turn the channel. I will not attempt through boycott or other method of coercion to force my sensibilities on you. I trust you, as an adult, to make your own decision on the matter.

This misconception about Democrats and Republicans being on the opposite of issues is apparent in many different musical ways. One group has no problem with a country song that glorifies killing one’s wife and watching her bleed to death while the second has no problem with a hip-hop song encouraging the killing of law enforcement officers. And, of course, they absolutely decry and attempt the reverse from playing on any radio station because we must protect the children!

In summary: You are a lowly worm, afraid of your own shadow, thinking you are better and kinder than others, you believe that which you support should be forced upon everyone and that which you despise should be forbidden to all. I am a Champion of Freedom. When someone comes to take your music, I will stand against them regardless of the nature of that music. Despite this I extend my hand to you, join me, climb aboard, you are welcome here.

Should you decline my offer and continue on your current course; that’s fine also, you be you.

Tom Liberman