No Planning means no Military Parade

Military ParadeThere’s an interesting story in the news about plans, or lack thereof, for a military parade in Washington D.C. The parade was on but then it was off again. I wasn’t that interested in the story until I read the sequence of events that led to President Trump announcing the parade was cancelled, not that I think it is permanently cancelled, the president is a man of mercurial whim and anything can change. That being said, I think this incident gives us some insight into the nature of his administration. Lack of planning.

Trump wanted to have a military parade ever since he saw the Bastille Day celebration in France back in July of 2017 and has been credibly reported as saying he wanted something similar in Washington D.C. He’s been talking about this idea with various members of the Armed Services and others for over a year now. Apparently, his insistence finally started some action but this is what I want to discuss.

If you speak with the women and men charged with planning any sort of a parade, even a kindergarten march through the school, they will explain to you the necessity of making plans. Lots can go wrong in such events and a military parade through downtown Washington D.C. is something that I hope anyone, regardless of political affiliation realizes, is a complex affair. There is much organization and coordination between various groups required.

City officials were notified on August 8, 2018 to be aware planning for a parade was under way and they would be involved. The letter from Homeland Security listed one detail and that one being vague, it would happen on or around November 10, 2018. The announcement the parade was cancelled because of cost came on Aug 17, 2018. That’s eleven entire days. Which is hardly enough time to make a proper estimate, but it gets much worse.

The city didn’t receive any other information about the parade until Aug 14, 2018. Even then officials were not told how long the parade would last, how many people were involved, what route was planned, what military equipment was involved, or apparently much of anything. They were then asked to estimate the cost to the city!

It’s hard for me to put into words how idiotic is this request. How can anyone make an approximation without at least some information? The data given to them made it impossible to make an estimate. City officials then threw out a number, a mistake if you ask me, of $21.6 million. I’m guessing they looked at expenses for other such events with extra pay for police, fire, and emergency services, cleanup costs, etc. Still, they should have just told the White House they had no idea and needed more information before any sort of an estimate could be offered.

The Pentagon has apparently long resisted this parade and someone began throwing out numbers with one being $92 million. General Mattis, who would supposedly be in a position to know about the plans, in an overt admission said that no one had any idea how much the parade would cost and any estimates should be discounted. Mattis at least had the courage to admit no one planned a damn thing and it was impossible to guess the cost. Maybe he hoped no one would comment on the incredibly stupidity of the entire organizational failure. Wrong. General Mattis, you bear some responsibility for this nonsense.

The worst part about all of this is that it seems like standard operating procedure for this administration. If you support it, please take note of how lack of planning is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. From tariffs, to immigration, to travel bans, the entire administration simply fires on the whim of the president. Maybe you like that, maybe you support that, but don’t come complaining to me when things go horribly awry. Without plans, as even the most ardent support of the president knows in their heart, chances are things will spiral into disaster.

Tom Liberman

Polish Poker Players are from Poland and Play Poker

pokerI was watching one of my favorite poker streamers the other day when someone posted in chat a question about Polish Poker players. What did Tonkaaap think about them? He replied, without much thought, that he supposed they were poker players. This seems like a small thing but it struck my Objectivist ideology with an arrow shot to the heart.

The idea behind the question is that in the poker community there are those who think players from various countries have particular traits and certain tactics might be used to have better results against such people. Tonkaaaap dismissed this idea casually and with barely a moment’s thought. He was right to do so, naturally, but I wanted to spend some time discussing the nature of tendencies and why they mean nothing about an individual.

It’s absolutely true that groups of people have tendencies based on the cultural and social norms from where the originate. It’s quite possible that a certain percentage of poker players from Poland will behave in some general fashion during the course of the hand. This tendency is a natural product of spending time with a similar group of people.

I’m going to use chess as an example. I played chess as a youngster but the number of people I played against was limited by geography. We had no internet and the only way to play was staring at the person across a physical board. This meant I played the same people all the time and they, of course, did the same. This meant that we all fell into tendencies based upon the limited pool of opponents. If you were to play against someone from St. Louis you might find we play a similar game. However, you could not make such generalizations about all players from St. Louis and if you did would certainly be setting yourself up for defeat as you encountered stronger players from the region. That’s Tonkaaap’s point. He is playing for real money. He can’t afford to make assumptions about individual players simply based on their geographic location. He must play against each player as an individual, analyzing their tendencies, and making the best decision possible at that moment.

This is, in a nutshell, Objectivism. We certainly can and do judge people based on superficial things like place of birth, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, heritage, age, appearance, and any number of other things. But, when we do so we not only do them a disservice, we set ourselves up for failure. If you discount or even simply refuse to consider someone because of these things then you are hurting yourself.

Let’s imagine you are the coach of a baseball team. It’s quite clear that men are bigger and stronger than women on average. The best baseball players in the world are all men. If a woman tries out for the team and you refuse to give her a chance you might be missing out on a player who can help you succeed. This goes for all aspects of life. Groups of people have differences, but we can’t let these general tendencies guide our decision-making processes. We must judge individuals on their actual performance.

Another thing to consider is the nature of globalization. Getting back to my chess. I now play people from all over the world thanks to the internet. I am no longer constrained by geography. This has improved my game tremendously and also largely eliminated all the tendencies I learned playing a boy.

This exposure to new ideas and things means we are all losing our geographic based tendencies. It means anyone, from anywhere, can succeed or fail based solely on their merits. And that’s a good thing.

Tom Liberman

The Decision of an Objectivist is not Static but that does not make it Subjective

objectivist thinking
It is my opinion there is a large and important debate going on in the world between those who hold an Objectivist philosophy and those who favor the Subjectivist point of view. One idea, objectivism, is that each problem has a correct path to follow and that an objective person should attempt to find it. The other idea is that there is no real correct path, the decision that I choose is always correct simply because that is what I wanted at the moment. This morning, as I was deciding on breakfast at Whole Foods, I made an interesting realization about these concepts and much of the confusion they engender.

My story goes as follows: Whole Foods generally has two breakfast sandwiches that interest me; a breakfast burrito and a breakfast muffin. Both cost the same amount but one, the burrito, is significantly larger than the other. However, I enjoy the taste of the muffin more. The subjectivist will say there is no right answer. I might choose one today and another tomorrow. The objectivist will suggest that one choice is right for me and the other wrong. The reality is one day I might be hungry or have less money for a later lunch purchase and thus the burrito is the correct choice. Another day I might have more money or be less hungry and the muffin is a wiser decision.

What I think it is critical to understand is that just because I made two different choices on two different days doesn’t make either of my decisions subjective. I analyzed my desires at each moment and made the correct, objective, decision in both cases. The subjectivist will incorrectly argue these events prove their point. The circumstances of the moment changed the resulting choice. They will say there is no “right” answer. All answers are subject to the circumstances and opinions of the moment.

This is where I think most subjectivist go understandably wrong. The decisions, while different, are objectively correct both days. This is the heart of the objectivist position about how to conduct your life. We try to make decisions that are going to best improve our lives taking into account the affect of the decision both in the short and long-term.

It is clear I made two different decisions on subsequent days. It appears the decision itself is completely subjective but it is actually quite objective both days. This is a difficult and fine nuance. A subjectivist believes that it doesn’t matter what I choose on either day, it is the right choice because I made the decision. An objectivist believes there is a correct decision on both days. The difference is illustrated when we imagine a third party weighing our decision.

I’m not particularly hungry, I prefer the taste of the muffin sandwich, I have an early lunch date planned with Emily Ratajkowski, and I decide to have the muffin over the burrito. From a third-party point of view that is clearly the correct decision. This demonstrates the clear delineation between an objective decision and a subjective decision. If I chose the burrito under the circumstances outlined it would have been objectively the wrong decision.

In this case, the wrong decision doesn’t lead to dire results. I’m simply enjoying my breakfast less and, being full, decide to cancel my date with Ratajkowski. On second thought, maybe the results are catastrophic!

In our lives we are faced with thousands of decisions each day. It is by making objectively correct choices that we improve our lives and the circumstances of those around us. That’s the goal. The sum of all these decisions often determines the course of our lives. The more objectively correct decisions we make, the better off we will be in the long run.

This is why I think it’s important to sweep aside the ideas of subjectivism. What is good for me is good for those around me. When, as individuals, we start to make a greater percentage of objectively good decisions, we improve the world around us. The more people who engage in such behavior the better the world becomes. A society filled with people making good decisions rises while one filled with people making bad decisions fails.

It is a numbers game. If 5% of the people in one group are making good, objective decisions, and 10% of the people in a second, relatively equally sized group, are doing the same. The second group will largely be better off. The idea is to give people the foundation of objective, critical thinking, so that all our lives are improved.

Tom Liberman

Solving Animal Abuse at Intensive Animal Farming Facilities

intensive animal farmingThere are two apparently diametrically opposed sides in the animal husbandry industry. Animal Rights Activists and owners and operators of Intensive Animal Farming Facilities. One of the positive takes I have about being a Libertarian and Objectivist is that I’m not ideologically tied to any particular side in an issue.

On one side are the activists who see the abuse of animals and feel an ethical obligation to do everything in their power to help the largely defenseless creatures. On the other are people trying to provide goods to paying customers, employ willing people, and make a profit while doing so. What we see are two groups of people doing all they can in court, on social media, and in various state legislatures to attack one another.

I, on the other hand, do not see the two groups as necessarily needing to fight one another for the minds of public opinion. I think there is a place for both sides and a happy middle ground. I understand getting the entire population of the world to turn to a plant-based diet is a hopeless endeavor. People will always want to eat meat and someone will provide this product. I am also truly disgusted when I see the videos animal rights activists’ post when they gain access to such farms.

If we take a Libertarian and Objectivist point of view, I think the inevitable conclusion is there will always be such farms but that animals should not be tortured and brutalized while they are living their short lives. When videos come out showing horrific abuse of animals the owners and operators of the facilities always express outrage but I find words to be largely meaningless. I want to see action.

That brings me to the point of this article. How can the owners and operators of Intensive Animal Farming Facilities and Animal Rights Activists work together in a pragmatic way to reach some reasonable solution? This is important. It must be remembered when the two sides attack one another this takes time, effort, and money. These things could be channeled into productive activities that make a difference.

The simplest solution is for Animal Rights Activists to purchase, install, monitor, and maintain cameras at various points in the facilities. If the owners of such farms truly are concerned for the welfare of their animals, as they express time and again, they will have no problem with such a system. It costs them nothing and ensures workers are being monitored for abuses to animals that certainly affect production.

It will also help the public make informed decisions about their purchases. If I can go online and watch how the animal is being treated at the farm before and during slaughter that helps me feel good about my purchase. If I know the animal is reasonably well-cared for and not being tortured, I am happy to spend my money on the product. I imagine that I’m not alone in this feeling. If I knew that an animal was horribly abused before getting to market, I would probably not make the purchase. This ripple effect causes those farmers who practice treating their animals with respect gain market share.

This changes the Intensive Animal Farming industry as a whole. If people are well-informed in their purchasing decisions and farmers who treat animals well are rewarded, then the farmers who have less healthy practices are driven from the business.

This is a desired result. It is good for the ethical farmers, it is good for the purchasing public, and contributes to the welfare of the animals themselves. I don’t think anyone would have an objection to this outcome except those who enjoy abusing animals. Let us not pretend that such people do not exist and are not attracted to jobs that allow them to carry out their perverse desires. They must be curtailed.

From my perspective, the important thing here is to try and work together to come up with solutions to problems rather than simply attacking one another. I find that ideological differences can be overcome when you are willing to examine practical solutions and work with each other. I also believe when you refuse to engage in such compromise you are setting yourself up for long-term disaster.

Neither the Intensive Animal Farming industry or the Animal Rights Activists can truly win this war alone. They need each other.

Tom Liberman

Pay Frank Giaccio for Mowing the Lawn

Frank GiaccioThere’s a feel-good story making the rounds about a fellow named Frank Giaccio who wanted to mow the White House lawn. There is a lot of good in the story but there is one small thing that bothers my Libertarian sensibilities.

Giaccio mows local lawns in the Washington D.C. area and contacted the White House about his desire to perform the service for them. Someone read the letter and invited the young, he’s eleven-years-old, man out to do the job. He was loaned a mower by the National Parks Service and went to work.

I applaud Giaccio for his entrepreneurial spirit and his eye toward publicity. I congratulate the White House and the Parks Service for setting up the event. The young man got a personal visit with the president. All this is great. However, what he didn’t get was paid.

I understand the publicity about the event was worth more to Giacco than any small remuneration, but I’m telling you if I had been president, I would have insisted on paying his normal fee. That’s the message I think is missing in all of this. I’m reminded of the events of Atlas Shrugged when Dagny Taggart and Jon Galt go sightseeing in The Valley. They rent a car from a friend. It’s a small but important moment in the long novel. They don’t borrow the car, they rent it. When services are rendered, payment should be given. If you do something for someone, even a friend, they should pay you for your efforts.

This is the heart of capitalism.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is some major transgression by the White House, the Parks Service, or even young Giaccio. I’m not triggered. I just think it would have been a good lesson to insist on paying the lad. He did the job, pay him.

Tom Liberman

Investment Advice from the Comments Section

investment adviceI’m not exactly sure what it is that makes people think they are financial wizards but there is an inordinate amount of bad investment advice in the comments of every financially orientated story that make its way into the news. Generally, one person starts off with solid advice about Index Funds, finding good companies, buying a reasonable amount compared to your savings, trusting a good advisor, and what not. Then come the replies.

The stories themselves are usually, but not always, filled with good advice. Beware any story that is sponsored. Other than that, it’s usually solid investment strategies. Make sure you keep enough cash on hand to survive for six months if you lose your initial investment. Avoid the small caps and absolutely stay far away from microcaps. Talk to a financial professional and heed her or his advice. Keep your portfolio varied with a mix of different investments so as to avoid disaster if one sector is badly hit. Mix investments with growth and hold stock and be aware of your retirement date.

Anyway, all good advice. The problem with all this good advice is there is no get rich quick plan. Naturally, most of the advice from the comments section involves making a lot of money quickly.

There is a strong, mythical almost, and unfounded belief that precious metals are a good investment. They are not. A small foray into such is not a disaster but they pay no dividend and offer little growth potential, only sharp swings which is pretty much a guessing game.

Another tip I see frequently is to get out of the market now! This strategy is apparently employed by many people and it is disastrous. The idea is you sell all your stocks for cash when you suspect the market is going down and then rebuy after it starts to go back up again. The problem with this strategy is the same as with precious metals but even worse. You don’t know when the market is going up or down. No one does. It’s purely a guess. Maybe you’ll get lucky once or twice but on average you’ll lose because the market generally goes up. In addition, you pay fees to sell and then repay when you repurchase. If you just held the whole time it’s likely your investments would have grown and you won’t have paid any fees.

I also see lots of advice on how to make millions buying microcap stocks. These are often called penny stocks. The idea is you can buy a million shares of some company and if it goes up by fifty cents you make a lot of money. The problem with these companies is they are often highly manipulated by shady dealers. Basically, a single investor buys the stock very low, plants a bunch of false information, pumps some of their own money back into it as it rises, and then sells when it reaches a particular height. The issue here is the average investor is often locked out of early transactions, they occur before others are even given the opportunity to buy. Thus, the vast majority of investors buy high and sell low while the manipulator does the opposite.

Then there is the derision for those who give sound financial advice. Anyone, like me, daring enough to tell people to avoid precious metals, commodities in general, a high-turnover strategy, in and out, and microcaps is immediately assaulted as being stupid and wrong. Therefore, there becomes an impression that the majority of people are advocating a particular strategy and it must be the best one. It is not.

Like a lot of things in life, there is no simple answer. Anyone who insists that you can get rich, solve a complex problem, or improve your physique with this one easy step is almost certainly lying in order to get you to behave in a way that benefits the liar. Be aware.

That being said, it’s your money to spend how you want and everyone who invests foolishly puts money into the market. This money slowly and steadily enriches me and other wise investors.

Now you know.

Tom Liberman

Jeff Sessions, Hawaii, Stupidity, and Humor

jeff sessionsI wasn’t planning on writing about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his comment about being amazed that a judge in Hawaii could put a hold on an Executive Order. Then he tried to pass the entire thing off as a joke, complaining that no one has a sense of humor any more.

So, anyway, now I’m going to comment. This strategy of covering up for a stupid statement by pretending you are joking is a clear indicator of lack of character. Sessions said something stupid in two ways. He referred to Hawaii as an island in the pacific as if that made if somehow less of a state, then he stated amazement over a point of law that he should well understand, he being the top law-enforcement officer in the United States.

If Sessions parents had taught him a little something called personal responsibility he would have handled his statement differently. He would have admitted that the word amazed was improperly used. Perhaps he doesn’t like the fact that we have a system of checks and balances in the United States but he certainly should not be amazed by it. He was also clearly making a derogatory statement about Hawaii and the judge in question. He should have apologized. That’s what a man of character would do.

It’s not up to me to speak for Sessions. He can speak for himself. However, I do get to judge a person by their words. Again, the original statement was rude and he probably misused the word amazed. I’m angered by his trying to pretend he didn’t make a mistake at all. That he didn’t insult the state of Hawaii.

I said something wrong, insulting, and stupid. To cover up this fact, I’ll pretend I was telling a joke. Shame on you for not having a sense of humor. Nope, not shame on me. Shame on you for a complete lack of personal responsibility.

This seems to be the standard way people excuse their mistakes these days. Well, it’s not really a mistake, I was just telling a joke, and it’s your fault for not getting the joke. I hear it all the time in conversations with friends, the highest levels of political discourse, from various media sources, sports figures, and on and on.

The attempt is to change the course of the conversation away from your misstatement. Rather than admit a mistake, it’s better to attack your opponent with whatever weapon you have available. Accusing someone of not having a sense of humor forces them onto the defensive. I do too have a sense of humor. I like to laugh. Suddenly we’re no longer talking about the original statement. We’re talking about my lack of humor.

It would be pleasant if people had the character to admit mistakes. It’s one of the most telling things you can learn about someone. When they make a mistake, do they admit it or do they attempt to cover it up by accusing you of lack of humor? You can’t change them. Sessions is the man he is, there is nothing I can do about it. The only person I can change is me. I now understand Sessions is the sort of fellow who won’t admit a mistake.

Good to know.

Tom Liberman

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

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

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

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

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

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

The idea is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breezewood PA Clashes with the Objectivist Idea of Self-Interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know I shouldn’t but …

say-what-you-meanOne of my Facebook friends just shared a post from one of her friends that started off with the following sentence: I know I should not … but I can’t help myself.

What a coward.

I am using the word coward intentionally and I mean it. I am not being sarcastic. I am not trying to tell a joke. I am not saying something I know I shouldn’t but doing it anyway. Why? Because I am exhibiting a character trait called personal responsibility. I am standing behind my words and saying what I want without pretending that I’m not saying it. I’m not a coward.

I’m ranting a little bit today because this business of “I was being sarcastic”, “I was just kidding”, “I was telling a joke”, “I know I shouldn’t but …”, “No offense but …”, are all cowardly and dishonest. Using such words demonstrates a complete lack of character.

If you know you shouldn’t be saying something, I’ve got a recommendation. Hopefully you can figure it out.

If you say something nasty and vile about someone that turns out to be false I’ve got some advice for you. Apologize. Don’t claim you were joking.

I’m not saying that a joke never goes awry because sometimes it does. I’m just suggesting people take responsibility for their words. Don’t preface it with “I don’t mean to be insulting but …”, “No offense intended but …”.

Those are the words of cowards. People who don’t have the courage of their conviction. If you don’t like my opinion then let me know and tell me why with good arguments. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize. That being said, this post represents what I meant to say. It is not a joke. It is not something I know I shouldn’t say.

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

Treadmill for a Legless Person a Bad Thing? Price is Right

danielle perezThere’s an interesting little news story making the rounds about an episode of the game show The Price is Right where a double-leg amputee won a treadmill as part of her prize package. Apparently some people were upset by this although, judging by the comments, the majority of people don’t have a problem with it.

The game show issued a perfectly satisfactory explanation and I’m not sure I need to elaborate much upon it but I did want to discuss the idea that some people found the episode uncomfortable and consider their point of view, or at least the rationale behind it.

The prize, of course, was determined long before the contestant was chosen. There is no way the show can match every prize to every contestant. I would imagine many of the contestants simply sell their prizes in order to pay for the taxes on the earnings so it’s rather pointless to worry about what the prize is to begin with.

The contestant, Danielle R. Perez, seemed enthusiastic about the prize and made no mention of the fact that a treadmill wasn’t the most appropriate prize for a double-amputee and the host also made no mention of the seeming incongruity. But the real question is why were people upset?

Do people get upset when a man wins a product generally designed for a woman or vice versa? What was it about this particular episode that got people thinking?

It’s my opinion that people generally want to be good, they want to be helpful. It makes us feel better about ourselves when we do something nice. The idea here is that people came to an erroneous conclusion, Perez was in need of help or sympathy. She wasn’t. She’s just fine the way she is and happy with the prizes.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want to be nice to people and to help those suffering from real harm. That attitude is one of the good parts about being a human being. But it becomes a bad thing when we try to help people who don’t need it for the sole purpose of making ourselves feel better.  It’s quite clear that Perez didn’t need anyone to help her. People are trying to do so largely because it makes them feel better about themselves.

This is a difficult thing to fully grasp. We want to be good people and do good things and thus we seek out ways to affirm our goodness. In this era of instant communication people use Twitter and other social media platforms to show the world how wonderful they truly are. They stick up for the downtrodden by spending a few seconds writing a Tweet and Liking a post but they aren’t really a good person for doing it.

It’s not easy to examine our motivations deeply but I think the world would be a better place if we did. The next time you want to help somebody, take a moment to examine if that person actually need any help. Examine your motivation.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Rush Limbaugh and the James Bond Controversy

idris-elbaHuge news story hitting the world right now!

There is talk of replacing Daniel Craig as master British Secret Service Agent James Bond. Craig has done a masterful job of bringing back the edge to 007 after the series turned rather comedic with Roger Moore and those who followed. I’ve loved Craig as Bond and I’d be sorry to see him go. So what’s the big controversy?

One of the actors being considered to replace Bond is Idris Elba. Elba is a dashed handsome fellow from England with a good history of movies and television credits to his name. So what’s the problem? Rush Limbaugh thinks Elba should be disqualified from the role because he is a black man. Bond, James Bond, is white you see, at least according to Limbaugh.

I’ll dispel with any suspense about my opinion on this one. The actor who does the best in the audition and who the casting director and the director of the film think will do the job should be awarded the part. Anyone who says anything different doesn’t believe in capitalism. I’m talking to you, Rush. Racism? Maybe. Dirty, filthy, anti-objectivism – absolutely! To suggest that Elba should be disqualified from the role regardless of his ability to play it makes my blood boil! Out, out foul villain. Not in my house.

People argue that Bond is a fictional character and thus open to interpretation. Not relevant. I don’t care if it is a historical character. If a black man kills in an audition for Eleanor Roosevelt he should get the role. If a white man destroys in an effort to depict Ghandi, he should get it. Oh wait, he already did (well, half-white). If a ginger-haired, fair-skinned woman is best as Nelson Mandela then so be it. Anyone who says differently will face my wrath!

This is what Ayn Rand is talking about when she writes Atlas Shrugged. This is a meritocracy. This is the way the world should be. Whoever does something best should be rewarded. Limbaugh shows us here that he doesn’t believe in Rand, he doesn’t believe in capitalism, and that he is certainly not an Objectivist.

I see this so clearly. I know I’m right. I know Limbaugh and anyone who agrees with him is wrong. Dead wrong. That is the kind of thinking that holds back a society. Maybe we shouldn’t hire someone who does the best because they are a devout evangelical. Nope. Maybe we shouldn’t hire a woman to be head of our security department because women aren’t qualified? My advice? Hire the person best qualified under any and all circumstances. It’s your security!

I don’t even know what else to say to make my point. Hire the person best qualified. Period. Anything else is wrong.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Is a Boy with Long Hair a Bad Thing?

English Boy 1871I just read an interesting article written by a mother whose son prefers long hair and is often mistaken for a girl. My own opinion is that young boys and girls haven’t begun hormonal changes and are largely the same from a physical standpoint anyway, so who cares? I expected the comments to be along the same lines and I was sorely surprised.

It appears that a healthy percentage of people think it’s wrong for a boy to look like a girl when young. That long hair on a boy is a bad thing. I wonder what they would make of the fact that until modern times it was pretty common to put boys in dresses until they were older. I suppose nowadays we’d be criticizing mothers who did such a thing as turning their children gay. At least that’s what seemed to be a fairly widespread point of view among those commenting. That and the poor boy would be traumatized for life.

I think the problem largely rests with a sexualized society in which people apparently judge a young child by the length of their hair. It’s ridiculous because they are merely children. As I mentioned earlier, hormones have yet to kick in. Except for a boy’s penis and a girl’s vagina there’s hardly an outwardly observable difference between the two. You’d pretty much have to do a blood test to see the difference. They are interested in things that interest children. Sexual roles aren’t part of the equation and when we try to force them on these children I don’t think we’re doing them a service.

Be a man? Girl’s are supposed to be pretty? How about be a child! Enjoy it. Play with your friends. I can’t believe that forcing a young male child to look like an adult man is good for his long-term mental health. It’s society that is somehow embarrassed by a boy who looks like  girl or a girl who looks like a boy. The reality is they pretty much look the same until hormones begin to turn them into adults.

I’m reminded of the recent incidents where a man smacked a two year old boy for wearing a pink headband that belonged to his mother and then verbally abused the woman and the airport brawl where a drunken traveler attacked a man for wearing a pink shirt.

The problem is not with the child, it’s with the person who has an issue with long hair or a ribbon. How many boys with older sisters didn’t play dress-up or wear their mother’s heels and clomp around the house? It’s not a matter of gay or straight, boy or girl, man or woman. It’s a matter of pre-pubescent child.

We are far too interested in other people’s business in this country and the politicians we elect reflect that misguided ideology. Back when men were men, as we like to say, no one gave two rats asses about a boy wearing a dress and having long hair. No one! It doesn’t make us more manly to care about it now, it reveals our own insecurities as a society. Our own paranoia and fear.

It seems the more we care about things that just don’t matter the less we care about important things. That can’t be good.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

 

Heddon Street Kitchen No Shows – Rude and Rude

Heddeon Street Kitchen and Gordon RamsayThere’s an interesting story in the news this evening about celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay and the opening night for his new London restaurant.

On opening night his restaurant endured 100 no shows out of a total of 140 bookings. The inference that Ramsey makes is that a rival restaurateur was behind all the false reservations.

When I perused down to the comments, as I always do, I anticipated a lot of people expressing their joy and this comeuppance for Ramsay. The reason I suspected as much is because Ramsay comes across as arrogant and cruel on his various television shows. He yells at young chefs and calls them names when they fail to prepare a dish to his standards. He is harsh and abrasive to say the least.

According to those who know him, this is somewhat of a facade to generate ratings and interest in his various restaurants. I don’t have any doubt that Ramsay is somewhat of a perfectionist who doesn’t tolerate stupidity. He also seems very loyal to those who are good at their jobs and it is well-documented that he has helped other chefs in their careers. So when I got to the comments I was prepared for the worst.

I was quite surprised that the comments were largely along the same line as my thoughts on the subject. Whoever pulled this “prank” is a selfish prick. In addition to hurting the owner of the Restaurant they also financially hurt every employee. Ever person who worked very hard to get that place open on that night and was hoping to be rewarded for their hard work. That’s what a Libertarian like myself believes is one of the most important societal events. People who plan, work hard, and accomplish something must be rewarded.

It’s entirely possible the new restaurant will fail. Perhaps Ramsay was counting on his reputation to carry Heddon Street Kitchen to success and he cut corners. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible the restaurant will be a great success. That the employees of that restaurant will go on to create their own dining establishments. That they will learn from Ramsay what it takes and eventually create dozens of great restaurants; and thus we all benefit. That’s Objectivism.

This action, by whomever took it, was not a prank. It was a violation of everything a Libertarian holds dear. It was also theft and not just from Ramsay and his employees. There were surely many people who wanted to go that night but couldn’t because it was booked. They were robbed of a meal. They were robbed of spending their money willingly and happily.

If you want to beat Ramsay then open a better restaurant next door. That’s the Libertarian way. This? Rude and wrong. For shame!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

Do you want to be a Millionaire?

MillionaireThat’s the question that I saw posted on Facebook and the vehemence of my reaction surprised me. Fuck no.

I want to earn millions of dollars. I write my books and I want people to love them. I love writing them. I want people to read my books and understand the philosophical ideology behind them. That we make our destiny in this world of ours. That those who work hard and treat others with honor earn their millions. Don’t give me a million dollars because I picked a randoms series of numbers.

I want people to buy my books by the millions. I want movie studios to understand the power of the words I write and offer me millions, tens of millions of dollars because turning my books into movies will entertain countless fans and earn money for other people. I don’t want you to spend your $2.99 on my books to make me a millionaire. I want you to spend that money because you love reading my books. I want you to spend that money because the ideas of decency, fair-play, hard-work, personal responsibility, and independent action resonate with you.

I do not pursue millions of dollars. I pursue doing things I love. I pursue writing books I love. I pursue a fulfilling life. I pursue spending my time with interesting people who enrich my life.

This is what Ayn Rand was writing about and she was right. Howard Rourke did not pursue wealth. He pursued the glory of his craft. John Galt did not pursue millions nor did Dagny Taggert and Francisco d’Anconia. Those who think the point Rand made was that money is the motivator don’t understand her and they won’t understand this post.

No!

No, I do not want to “be” a millionaire. I reject the notion out of hand. I want to earn millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions. I want you to read my books. I want you to love reading my books as much as I love writing them.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

Dallas Buyers Club – Objectivist Perspective Movie Review

Dallas-Buyers-ClubI recently watched Dallas Buyers Club and it occurred to me that I might start giving movie reviews from a Objectivist point of view. By this I mean not so much judging the acting, the story, and the cinematography as much as looking at what sort of message the movie delivers from the philosophical perspective of an Objectivist .

So, onto the review. Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed with AIDS in the mid 1980’s and given thirty days to live. Woodroof then acquires a drug called AZT which is in clinical trials to combat the disease. He immediately grows worse and ends up in Mexico seeking alternative treatment where the doctor thinks AZT is a poor choice of medicine and offers other options which seem to help.

Woodroof realizes these alternative therapies are illegal in the United States where they haven’t seen clinical trials, begins to bring them into the United States in bulk, and sells them to other AIDS patients using the front of a “Buyers Club”. It is illegal to sell drugs directly so patients pay a monthly fee and get all the drugs they require. This goes over very well and soon Woodroof is making money but also helping those in need. Eventually the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conspire to put him out of business. By now he is providing the drugs more to help the patients than to make money.

So, what did I think?

One of the core philosophies of the Objectivist ideology is that we must do our best regardless of circumstances and that by doing so we elevate those around us. Dallas Buyers Club certainly passes the muster in this regard. Woodroof doesn’t accept his diagnosis and fights for life although he certainly breaks a few laws to do so. He eventually comes into contact with an overbearing government agency and works to circumvent it.

It must be pointed out that the FDA has stringent policies in place to prevent fly-by-night drugs from entering the mainstream marketplace. There is a testing procedure and it is good that such is in place. However, as a result of Woodroof’s activities new laws were enacted for the terminally ill where they can take such untested drugs at their own risk. The idea being that they have nothing to lose. Therefore its seems to me that Woodroof’s struggle was in the very spirit of the Objectivist Ideal. Not to say he didn’t do a few shady things along the way.

Another major theme of the movie is Woodroof’s friendship with Rayon who is a transgender man with AIDS and eventually Woodroof’s business partner. In the movie Woodroof is rather homophobic although there is some debate about his feelings in real life. That doesn’t really matter to my review. In this movie there is a man who dislikes another man not because of his actions but because of his sexuality. Over the course of the movie this changes because of their growing understanding that they are pursuing the same course. Again we see a positive Objectivist message. You should dislike someone because they don’t do their job properly. You should dislike someone based on their deeds, not on their appearance or sexual persuasion. This is wholly a Objectivist philosophy.

Another character in the movie, Dr. Eve Saks, initially refuses to help Woodroof because of her own loyalty to the medical community and her supervisor. This in itself is good. Loyalty is an excellent trait and when the movie begins Saks has no reason to trust Woodroof over her colleagues. As the movie progresses it becomes clear that large doses of AZT are more harmful than helpful and she begins to change her attitude as well.  The change in attitude of Saks is another classical idea in Objectivism. The willingness to discard preconceived notions and go where the facts lead.

In the end Woodroof dies but he has helped thousands of people and also become a better man. This is a very important idea. Woodroof begins bringing in the drugs to make money, a fine pursuit, but in doing so ends up helping many other people. This is very typical of Objectivist ideas. That by making money we end up helping those around us. By being a success we end up elevating those around us.

So from a Objectivist point of view: 5 stars!

What did you think of the movie?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

Blissfully Incompetent – The Dunning Kruger Effect

Dunning-Kruger EffectWhile at work today we had a short network outage which gave the Web and Software Development team a little time to talk about our favorite subject. How stupid everyone else is.

One of our younger coders mentioned something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I immediately headed out to Wiki and read the article. There is nothing earth-shattering in the article. Even Dunning and Kruger mention in their original study that philosophers from the earliest times have noted stupid people are blissfully unaware of their idiocy while the intelligent are filled with doubt.

What was interesting was the scientific method was used to prove this effect, at least among those raised in Western cultures. A few studies on those from Eastern backgrounds did not show the same thing.

The studies also showed that competent and intelligent people tended to underestimate their own ability much as the less competent overestimate theirs. The idea being that competent people find particular tasks easy and assume that such jobs are, in fact, easy. That anyone should be able to do them without much of a problem.

The studies are interesting to be certain why the blog?

This study, this Dunning-Kruger effect is a tremendous impediment to the Libertarian Ideal. If the incompetent don’t know they are miserable at their jobs and the competent can’t recognize how well they do their job; we are left in a bad place.

What do we do about it? The study itself shows the way. Those people who are incompetent at their jobs recognize their previous inability after they are trained to do the job better! That’s really good news. It means when we see someone doing their job badly, our course is to spend the time and effort teaching them to do it better. It’s a good idea to pat the high-performers on the back as well.

Now that I’ve read the article on the Dunning-Kruger effect it makes much more sense to me. Those who find a task difficult assume it is difficult and everyone has a hard time doing it. Likewise those who find it easy figure that everyone can do it. Now that I at least partially understand the psychology of the effect I’m better prepared to deal with it.

I can’t wait to start roaming the office and telling everyone how to do their jobs … or maybe not!

Still, it’s an interesting piece of psychology and while I don’t suggest telling everyone how to do their job. I do think if you are a supervisor it’s a great idea to spend time with the low-performers and give them a hand. Maybe you’ll have a better understanding of why they struggle to improve.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Coming Soon: The Broken Throne

Why Writing Posthumous Notes to your Children is Selfish

posthumous lettersI’m not going to win any friends with this post but there’s a trend I’ve noted of late that I find unhealthy. I just read yet another story in which a soon to be deceased person plans to write a long series of messages to their child.

This trend apparently took its cue from the movie P.S. I Love You.

I don’t doubt for a moment that Garth Callaghan has only the best intentions as he pens a note a day to his young daughter. He wants to express that he loves her and offer her advice as she moves on in life. He knows that he might die in the near future and wants to let his daughter know he loves and cares about her.

As well-intentioned as these notes are, I think they are ultimately selfish. They are about him and not his daughter. They are about his unwillingness to accept the fact that death might be imminent. He wants to remain alive and imagines he is doing so by writing these notes. I’ve not see P.S. I Love You but the premise, from what I can tell, is the same. That the dead husband has only the interests of his widow at heart. That he wants to help her move on with life. I’m certain this was exactly the result of his letters in the make-believe world of movies.

It’s my opinion a series of posthumous letters from a dead relative cannot possibly ease the loss but only exacerbate them. Constant reminders of your dead father, husband, wife, or dog cannot be good for a person’s mental well-being. Yes, it’s good to have memories, loving memories. I’m not even saying a long-farewell letter shouldn’t be written. I’m suggesting this constant barrage of letters telling a loved one how to act or how much you still love them, even after death, is purely selfish and not in the interest of your loved one.

I’m not questioning the motivation, just the action. If we want to tell someone we love them we should do it, now. If we want to give someone some advice, we should do so. This idea that I have all the answers and will continue to do so even from beyond the grave is delusional and selfish.

I know my opinion on this isn’t going to be popular. I don’t think Callaghan is intentionally doing harm.

Some people might argue that this very blog is all about Tom Liberman and not about the reader. They’d be right! It is about me. It’s my opinions. I’m expressing them because I think they should be heard. But have no doubt, this blog is selfish and it’s largely about me, me, me. I want you to read the blog, click the links to my books, and purchase them.

Before you lay into me about how wrong I am, I would like you to honestly answer one question. After that, do as you will.

If you were to write a bunch of letters or emails or whatever to a loved one to be delivered after your death; are you doing it for your loved one or are you doing it for you?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Stadium Collapse or Misleading Headline?

Stadium Collapse BrazilI’m tempted to create a series of posts entitled “Misleading Headlines” as the practice of putting headlines on stories that sensationalize articles to the point where they are misleading is becoming all the more common. I could write a daily post about ridiculous, attention promoting headlines from the online financial adviser Motley Fool.

In this case there was a story about a stadium collapse that caught my eye because of a comment a friend made over lunch the other day.

I’m a football fan and by that I mean a soccer fan. The World Cup is approaching and it is being held in the football mad nation of Brazil. The Brazilians are arguably the most successful national team in the history of soccer and having the World Cup played in their nation is a matter of tremendous local pride.

Back to that lunch. My friend heard that there were pollution problems in Brazil associated with upcoming 2016 Olympics and a bit of research on my part showed that they do have considerable issues in regards to fecal matter in the various waterways that will serve as venues for some sports in the game.

When I read about the “Stadium Collapse” I thought to myself that this was another example of problems within Brazil associated with upcoming sporting events.

The article was updated and in reading it I learned that a construction crane fell. This then caused a chain reaction that tore down part of the roof and a scoreboard in the stadium. While the incident is horrible and two people were killed it’s hardly what I would call a “Stadium Collapse”.

A crane fell on a building and caused some damage. That’s what happened.

Anyway, for those of you who thought, as I did, that a stadium had actually collapses, that’s the real story.

Stay tuned for more misleading headlines!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

The Public Perception of Being Overweight

Hating Fat PeoplePerhaps I’m not the best person in the world to be talking about overweight people and the public perception they face in the United States. I’m 5′ 7″ and about 165 pounds. I work out five days a week and come from a family of relatively thin people. Still, the pure mean-spirited nastiness I see directed towards overweight people sometimes stuns me.

I just finished reading a story about a Frenchman who was denied a flight back to France because he weighs over 500 pounds. The airline couldn’t accommodate him because of his weight. In the article it was mentioned that he was in the United States receiving medical treatment for a hormone disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This is in all likelihood at least partially responsible for his weight gain while in the U.S.

The family made alternate plans and will now take a train to the coast and liner to Europe. I understand the airline and their policy and certainly the family itself does not seem to have an issue with happened, or at least nothing of that sort was mentioned in the article.

What prompted me to write this blog was the avalanche of horrible comments below the article itself. I’ve a number of friends who battle weight problems and, even though I’m relatively thin, I’m trying to get a little more fit and drop some weight.

The thing about losing weight that is so difficult is that eating is something we do every day. Eating can be an incredible joyful and sensual experience. I love to eat good food. I’ve been accused by dining mates of having sex with a particular good order of oysters. Drool … oysters on the half-shell.

If you are a drug addict, or a cigarette smoker, or an alcoholic the best method of removing the addiction from your life is to completely end the habit, cold-turkey as they call it. That’s just not possible with food. We must eat and it is generally healthy to eat multiple times each day. There is temptation at every turn. To lose weight and keep it off you must be strong for not a week or a month but for the rest of your life.

In addition it is not just eating better but you must exercise. You must find time in an already busy day to get to the gym and do cardiovascular and weight work. That is the only true path to fitness and anyone who tells you it’s easy is lying.

I’m single, I have no pets, I work at most 40 hours a week so it’s not that hard for me to get to the gym almost every day, but even then it’s not easy. I have to make myself do it. I shop only for myself so if I refrain from buying fatty foods at the grocery store then I’m not tempted by having them nearby.

Losing weight and keeping it off is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. It’s not easy, it requires effort every day, multiple times a day.

What bothers me the most is all the hate towards overweight people. It’s not like I’m covering exciting new ground here. The vast majority of people know that it is difficult to keep off weight. The diet industry is huge. The exercise industry is huge. Food is cheap and abundant. It is designed to be tasty so that we overeat. Human nature is to eat while the eating is good.

So, why all the hate? Why the nasty comments? If almost everyone realizes how difficult it is to lose weight and get fit why do we see so many spiteful comments?

When my overweight friends take steps to solve the problem I encourage them. I help in any way I can. I don’t make nasty comments about them to their face or behind their back. What’s the difference between me and the people making those nasty comments?

I’m at a point in my life where I’m increasingly less inclined to be cruel to other people in order to feel better about myself. In fact, being cruel makes me feel worse about myself. If you’ll forgive my smug self-satisfaction, I’m simply the better person.

Are you?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne