What to do about Useful Money from Bad People

Useful Money from Bad People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Why You Throw Like a Girl is both Wrong and Right

Throw like a Girl

I was watching a Reality Television show called Southern Charm when Chelsea Meissner erupted at a male cast member who was having a meltdown. She said something along the lines of check your pants for a vagina and I’ve got a bigger penis than you. Meissner, as you might imagine, has more than a bit of There’s Something About Mary in her. In any case, it got me thinking.

Meissner did not intend to denigrate women but the phrases she used most certainly did. On the baseball diamond it was not unheard of to say, and I’m as guilty as anyone: You throw like a girl. What is meant is not that girls throw badly but the person in question is not good at throwing. The reality is it insults women and makes negative assumptions about their throwing ability.

In the same way Meissner was subtly, although I’m sure unconsciously, suggesting men are better adults than women. Her point was the male cast member was throwing a temper tantrum like a small child and that he couldn’t handle even the slightest bit of adversity without falling apart. This was absolutely true. She was accurate in her assessment but the phrase she used is clearly denigrating toward women in general. That’s the problem.

We have a culture of terminologies that make clearly false gender assumptions, particularly in this modern day and age when women, in progressive countries at least, are finally being given all the same opportunities as men and proving, over and over again, they are equally capable.

What’s to be done about it? I think it’s important to come up with new phrases that will, hopefully, slowly enter the culture. We can easily find ways to make our point without insulting one gender or the other. Instead of you throw like a girl we can simply say you don’t throw well. If we want a bit of color, I’m sure there are ways to make the phrases both appealing and gender neutral. You throw like a penguin perhaps. I’m sure someone else can do better.

It’s got to be a conscious effort. I have to stop complimenting a person’s boldness by tying it to the size of her or his testicles, non-existent though they may be. You have to do the same. It takes time, these changes, but it can be done with a concerted and honest effort. When you say something that denigrates a gender unfairly, you are setting an example. Try to be better, I am.

Tom Liberman

Government Bans Vaping for Teens Because it is Popular

Vaping

The various states and municipalities across the country are quite busy enacting laws to ban vaping for people under the age of 21. The federal government has gotten involved as well, regulating it as if it was a tobacco product. These laws are largely being enacted because of the rise in popularity of vaping among teenagers.

Let’s be very clear about what municipalities, states, and the federal government are doing: vaping is popular and therefore we are making it a crime to do. We’re not yet willing to start yet another War on Drugs by banning it for adults but we must protect the poor, deluded and innocent children. It is our job as politicians to tell parents they can’t let their children vape. It is our job as politicians to tell nineteen and twenty-year old, legal adults, we know better for them then they do themselves.

Is vaping bad for you? The evidence is still out for non-tobacco products but the use of tobacco is clearly unhealthy as is the use of alcohol. The question becomes if it is acceptable for the various levels of government to decide for your children what they should and shouldn’t be doing in that regard.

As you might be able guess, in general I’m opposed to such bans from an ideological point of view. I’m for the legalization of all drugs but the question becomes a little bit stickier when we are talking about people not legally competent, children in this case. I’m clearly and unreservedly against laws preventing adults from knowingly and eagerly ingesting whatever substance they want, even if it is unhealthy.

The government does have some responsibility to protect children but that largely should be invoked when parents are abusive or irresponsible. It is largely a parent’s responsibility to ensure their child behaves in particular ways. When we involve law enforcement officers, we are making an enormous problem for ourselves, one that dwarfs the issue it is designed to prevent.

Imagine, fanciful as it might seem, a nineteen-year-old wants to vape and her or his parents have no problem with it. We are now making that person a criminal. Law enforcement must now arrest and steal from, that is to say fine, that person.

In addition, we are potentially legislating a business into bankruptcy with all its attendant casualties. We don’t like vaping and therefore we shall attempt to remove a category of consumers from being able to purchase and use the product. This has an enormous impact on the vendors, suppliers, retail outlets, transporters, and varied other players.

All laws are not bad but we must balance the freedom they take from us and the harm they do against the benefit they promise. In this case I see some benefit, it is certain less teens will vape if there is a law against such. I also see harm in the criminality that will be spawned and the black markets that will certainly arise to sell such products to teens. I absolutely oppose the idea nineteen and twenty-year-old women and men are unable to make informed decisions about their vaping habits.

I shouldn’t be telling them to vape or not to vape and neither should the government.

Tom Liberman

Stormy Daniels Brings down the Vice Unit in Columbus

stormy daniels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Taking Offense is for Mockery and not Mimicry

Taking Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

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

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

The State can Take your $42,000 Land Rover for a Minor Infraction but Why does It?

$42,000 Land Rover*UPDATE*

The Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision for Limb. Well done justices.

*END UPDATE*

The Supreme Court is very likely to rule that Indiana violated the Eight Amendment for excessive fines when it took Tyson Limb’s $42,000 Land Rover because he sold a small quantity of illegal drugs to an undercover law enforcement officer. I could talk about the War on Drugs, I could talk about seizures, I could talk about Incorporation, but instead I want to focus on how and why individuals in the state of Indiana, and in many other places, have simply lost their human decency.

What happened to us that we are willing to essentially steal another person’s property for the violation of a law? The attorney for the state of Indiana argues the Eighth Amendment doesn’t apply to states and if Indiana wanted to take your Land Rover for failing to obey the speed limit, they can do so. Let’s say the lawyer is right. Let’s say the protections built into the Constitution were not bolstered by the Fourteenth Amendment; which has largely been used to give said rights to the people against states and not just the federal government.

Imagine the state could take your car for speeding or foreclose on your house for having grass growing slightly too tall. If you were the law enforcement officer, if you were the prosecuting attorney, if you were the judge; would you do that to someone else? Just because you had the power to hurt another person, would you use that power?

Do you say, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime?” Have you lost your humanity and compassion so completely that you’re willing, eager, and downright gleeful when you get to take someone else’s property? When you get to enrich yourself based on the misfortune of someone else do you jump for joy, do so, and blame them all the while?

Because that’s where we are. Law enforcement officers, local politicians, local prosecutors, and local judges happily do this every single day while the people that vote for and otherwise support them not only allow it, but cheer it on.

How can any decent person argue taking the Land Rover acceptable? It’s legal, I don’t deny that. We can pass any law we want. If enough people want to change the Constitution of the United States to reinstate slavery or to make women property, it can be done. No vile and disgusting law is beyond our power to enact.

I’m asking you to look in the mirror and ask yourself why you allow this to happen. What happened to Tyson Limb is happening to other people every single day. Why don’t you care?

Tom Liberman

Is it Wrong to Point out Mike Matheny is a Handsome Man?

Mike MathenyI noticed an interesting trend on the Facebook posts of some of my women friends in the aftermath of the firing of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Many of the women commented on what a good-looking fellow is Matheny and that they’d miss him for that aspect at least. Male friends immediately responded that if men made such a comment about an attractive woman coach or manager they’d be subject to attack from Social Justice Warriors.

It’s an interesting point because it’s true. Men who make such comments about attractive female athletes are often attacked as misogynistic. The conclusion that men seem to be drawing from this truth is, on the other hand, completely incorrect. They should be able to make such observations and so should women.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the attractiveness of another person and women have every right to make such observations, as do men about good-looking women. Our looks are simply a trait, like any other.

Certainly, Matheny’s record as a manager and ability to lead the team is a far more important factor in his being fired than his relative attractiveness. The issue is we can’t get angry at someone for pointing out what they perceive to be the truth. We can certainly suggest his appearance shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not he keeps his job although the women posting made no such claims. What we should not do is pretend he isn’t viewed as attractive by women.

I wrote an article about a golfer named Paige Spiranac and how she used her looks to get an invitation to a golf tournament for which she would otherwise not be qualified. That’s all well and good. A person should use all their assets in an attempt to succeed in their chosen profession and life as a whole. There is nothing wrong with noting such things.

It’s important to make decisions based on pertinent factors. For Matheny, his looks have little impact on his managerial abilities. For a model, her or his strategic baseball knowledge is of little consequence to success. The person doing the hiring and firing is the one who makes these decisions and if they decide poorly, they too will suffer the consequences.

If one of my female friends were in charge of the Cardinals and hired Matheny because of his appearance rather than his skills as a manager, she would eventually lose her job as well. That being said, what’s wrong with pointing out a physical feature that doesn’t necessarily correlate to job performance? To my way of thinking, nothing.

A final point as to Matheny himself. He suffered numerous concussions during his career as a catcher and his mannerisms have always struck me as somewhat dulled. I hope he is consulting medical professionals and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Tom Liberman

The Red Hen and Masterpiece Cakeshop

Red Hen Masterpiece CakeshopRecently the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a restaurant called the Red Hen because they didn’t like her political ideology as expressed in her job. Before that a bakery called Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple because of their sexual orientation.

The two stories are intertwined in an interesting way for this Libertarian. The battle lines have been drawn, as they say. For me the two cases do not present any sort of ethical dilemma. As far as I’m concerned, the ownership of both The Red Hen and Masterpiece Cakeshop have every right to serve, or not serve, who they want as long as they do not run afoul protected classes. Neither homosexuals or political appointees are guarded by the Constitution, so far. From a legal standpoint, I support both businesses.

From a professional perspective and from a human level I would not have done the same if I was the owner of either the cake shop or the restaurant. I think if I am going to start a business of any sort, I should respect both myself and my customers, regardless of their sexual orientation or political philosophy. From a personal standpoint, I oppose both business owners.

It’s really that simple for me. I don’t have to think much about it. I don’t have to worry about my political ideology or my personal distastes. I have a job and I try to do it as best I can regardless of other factors.

I’m aware we can get into nuance here. What if a group of Nazis wanted to have a birthday party at my restaurant? Would I allow it? Particularly if they were going to display paraphernalia supporting hatred of Jews. I’m actually of the opinion that I’d have them although I’d probably require modest, rather than overt, displays of their beliefs.

If a person with a white supremacist or a rainbow tattoo wanted to dine at my establishment I think I’d have no issue and attempt to serve them the best meal possible. I think we’d all be better off if we treated each other fairly and with decency regardless of personal convictions.

Now, if the same person was loudly and belligerently expressing their hatred of Jews or heterosexuals while dining, I’d feel within my rights to ask them to please express their beliefs in a more subdued fashion. If they refused, I’d consider asking them to leave. As long as they were polite and treated my business with respect, I like to think I’d keep any problems I had with their philosophies to myself.

Certainly, many of the people who I helped with software development were of deeply held religious beliefs. I’m an Atheist. I didn’t let that stop me from doing the best job I could. So, I have some evidence to support my convictions as expressed here.

I do find it extraordinarily interesting that, to some degree, those who support Masterpiece Cakeshop are opposed to Red Hen and vice-versa.

I think this is where critical thinking and a consistent philosophical outlook can make the world a better place. Where everyone gets to have their food or cake and eat them too. A boy can dream.

Tom Liberman

Go Ahead and Party Like It’s 1776

party like it's 1776The latest affront to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness took place at Cherry Hills High School in New Jersey when the prom committee decided to have a Party Like It’s 1776 theme. People were offended because the Declaration of Independence did not free slaves. The reasoning being that slaves were unable to party in 1776 and therefore black people, presumably descended from those slaves, were being forced to participate in a culturally offensive prom.

This ignores important factors. The first being that the Declaration of Independence is about the people who lived in the Colonies declaring they would no longer live by rules of the British Empire. If anyone should be offended by a Party Like It’s 1776 Prom it should be people who lived under the banner of said Empire. English, Irish, Scots, Canadians, Australians, Rhodesians, Indians, South Africans; the list goes on and on.

Another factor is that many black people in the Colonies were free and living in the northern states. Recent estimates suggest that the Patriot military was made up of four percent blacks. Crispus Attucks is believed to be the first person killed at the Boston Massacre that was one of the inciting incidents of the declaration. Many of these heroes gave their lives for Independence. Their descendants deserve to celebrate 1776 far more than me, whose Jewish ancestors fled antisemitism to America around the turn of the century.

Speaking of my Jewish roots. Should I be offended by any Egyptian themed celebration? Should Christians be offended by any Roman themed party? Is there any culture that is not guilty of some horrific crime or another?

Now, I’m not suggesting people can’t be offended by whatever they choose; I’m just telling you not to expect me to feel equal outrage or to bow to your unreasonable demands. If the offense is great enough and people join your cause, I will suffer the consequences. However, if we are talking about a bunch of young men and women who just want to party and don’t really care about your cause, then let them go about their business without interjecting your agenda into their fun.

I’m pained I feel the need to state my disgust at the enslavement of blacks in the Colonies and eventually the United States. It is a stain upon our nation. Those who defended it then or justify it today are vile. This should go without saying, sadly it does not.

In any case, the point I’m trying to make is that the prom committee of Cherry Hills is free to choose the theme of their desires. If it was Egyptian or Roman I would not be offended, there might be Jews and Christians who feel differently and they can choose to boycott said prom. That’s their business.

As for the rest of the fine young folks at Cherry Hills, go ahead and Party Like It’s 1776 and don’t worry about the attitudes a bunch of old people are trying to force upon you. If you look hard enough, life is filled with things that give offense. My advice, stop looking and start partying.

Tom Liberman

Jacqueline Ades and the 65K Texts

Jacqueline AdesA woman named Jacqueline Ades sent upwards of 65 thousand texts to a jilted love interest and the various stories seem focused on humor rather than it being an example of a terrible problem with our justice system.

Even a casual watching of her news conference clearly indicates someone in mental distress. She is clearly not capable of making competent decisions on her own. In layperson’s terms, she’s crazy. Not Ha-Ha crazy, but legitimately disturbed and desperately in need of help. Instead our justice system and our mental health facilities did not step in to do anything until long after the symptoms of her mental health were well in evidence.

We laugh at Ades and the thousands of texts but we lament when someone shoots up a school and kills dozens of people. When someone drives their car into a gathering and kills many of the assembled. Why didn’t someone do something? Let us look in the mirror. Let us look at our own uncomfortableness when it comes to mental illness.

Our ability to deal with mental health problems is abysmal. We don’t offer low level solutions when people first start to exhibit the problems. We just don’t care enough or want to turn the other way because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Normally, I’m not one to absolve the perpetrator of an act from the consequences of their action, but insanity is a different matter. When someone truly cannot think in a rational way and commits crimes, we need to be better at finding them help.

We tend to ignore such problems or laugh them off. I’m not making accusations against others here, I do the same. I’ve seen people with clear mental issues wandering around the streets, had bizarre encounters in taverns. I’ve encountered people with obvious rage issues both in social media and on the road. Anger issues that might, someday, lead them to do something terrible.

I say to myself, there’s nothing I can do about it. That seems to be the solution we as a society have arrived upon as a way to deal with such problems.

I’m certainly not suggesting helping people with mental health issues is an easy path. I’m just saying it’s extremely sad that Ades has ended up in the criminal justice system, that it’s not funny. I like to think we can do better. Maybe I’m wrong.

Tom Liberman

Rage at Incel focused on Chad but not Stacy

stacy incelThe murders of ten people by Alek Minassian in Toronto has brought to light a group of self-centered jerks calling themselves Incel. These men rage against society for their inability to have successful sexual relations with women. There’s a lot of ridicule for Incel on Facebook, and rightly so, but it largely seems focused on the Incel version of the ideal man, Chad, rather than about their ideal woman, Stacy. In this era of #MeToo and gender equality I think it speaks volume as to inequalities that persist.

I’m not going to discuss the complete lack of personal responsibility espoused by Incel. What I’d like to talk about is the public’s apparent fixation on Chad at the expense of Stacy. That’s not to say the generalizations attributed to the Chads of the world are less egregious than those of the Stacys, just that we men seem utterly determined to clear our name while women seem less compelled to speak up on their behalf.

Basically, those who call themselves Incel make wild generalizations about men and women. Virtually everyone is insulted by these terms but I’m only reading articles about how horrible these simplifications are when it comes to men. When it comes to the Stacys of the world or other generalizations about women there seems to be utter silence.

What’s that about? There are probably a lot of factors involved and there is no simple explanation but I think the underlying pathology is that we still largely live in a male-centric world. For most of the history of humanity women were largely tied to the fact, should they want to have regular sex, they got pregnant and then produced food for babies. This genetic reality gave very different roles in society to men and women. Again, I don’t want to get too involved in all of this type of thing.

Men are horribly offended by Incels, well, men like me and most of men I know feel that way. We despise the fact we’re either lumped into the Chad category or some other group that hardly represents us in any way. We rather like women and all their lovely bits. We feel the need to defend our gender against these losers. Rightly so. That being said, where are the women? Why aren’t they writing about how they too have been horribly insulted.

Are women used to being lumped into unfair and unrealistic categories? Are attractive women used to being generalized? Are they not at all surprised by the ridiculous terms used by Incel? Is it perfectly normal for them to be treated as a caricature rather than a person? Is this why we don’t see more rage coming from attractive women?

We men certainly aren’t used to such attacks. I’ve been called a nerd but that isn’t gender specific. The idea of either being a Chad or some or subclass of a Chad pissed me off. I wanted to write a blog about how we men shouldn’t be so categorized but plenty of other people took up the pen and did it for me. I had nothing of interest to add to the plethora of enraged fellows, so I wrote nothing.

Wherefore art thou, Stacy?

Tom Liberman

Allison Mack and the Multi-Level Marketing Sex Traffickers

Allison MackA relatively famous actor named Allison Mack has been charged with sex trafficking for recruiting women to join a multi-level marketing company called NXIVM and an associated group called DOS. What is interesting about all of this is the supposed crimes were committed largely against eager and willing victims.

When it comes to the idea of human trafficking, the United States is currently in the midst of a Moral Panic. Supposedly 15,000 people are so trafficked every year but there is almost no actual evidence to support this number. That hasn’t stopped the government and a large number of well-meaning but largely self-deluded citizens from passing useless laws and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to combat the largely non-existent problem.

That’s where Mack and a fellow named Keith Raniere get involved. Raniere is a despicable fellow. He runs a multi-level marketing company called NXIVM which is slightly different than others of its kind. Instead of simply bilking people of their money with barely legal promises, he also uses the company to convince women to serve as his sexual slaves. Under his charismatic control they allowed themselves to be branded with his initials in their pubic regions. Mack served as leader of a subsidiary organization that recruited women to serve sexually. DOS stands for dominus obsequious sororium which is Latin for master over the slave women.

There are allegations that Mack and Raniere used blackmail to keep women in NXIVM and this is against the law. The fact that women joined a group and served as sex slaves is not, much as many would like it to be, a crime. Legally competent adults should be able to choose what they want to do with their lives, even if sexual perversions are involved. Where there are charges of coercion and blackmail, they should be investigated.

If Mack was involved with blackmail she should be so charged. The problem here is we are using laws created to stop a non-existent problem to prosecute people for a particular activity we find distasteful. Something that should never have been illegal in the first place. This is a microcosm of the entire War on Drugs and also the needless traffic crimes which result in the theft of billions of dollars from citizens.

I think it is telling when the government went to Mexico to arrest Raniere, the woman at his compound hopped into their cars and chased the police all the way to the airport trying to rescue him. They are clearly not victims here. Certainly, they are dupes and fools but they are participating in something and they eagerly want to continue to do so. The government should not be trying to prevent us from doing that which we desire, even if it isn’t in our best self-interest. That is our job.

Raniere is scum. Mack is as well. But unless they drug an unwilling victim and keep them imprisoned either physically or through blackmail, they haven’t committed a crime. I know the headlines are shrieking human trafficking but that’s not what happened.

As much as my stomach is turned by the behavior of Raniere and Mack, their freedom is my freedom. If they can be arrested for convincing someone to be a sex slave can I be arrested for convincing someone to purchase my books because the government might not like their content? It’s not as big a stretch as you might imagine.

We must guard not only our freedom, but those who we dislike as well, particularly those whose behavior is most disturbing.

Tom Liberman

King of Donkey Kong Dethroned and it is Big News

billy mitchell donkey kongThere is a story making its way to near the top of the various news sites about a fellow named Billy Mitchell who had his world record Donkey Kong scores invalidated and removed from the site that listed them. What I find interesting about this is that it is mainstream news. I’m sure lots of people didn’t notice it, but the fact it has stayed near the top of my news sites indicates clicks.

I’m not interested in a highly technical discussion about how Mitchell was caught cheating and why the records were revoked. What I’d like to talk about is why the news is generating a lot of interest and what that means to me personally and to society as a whole.

I’m a gamer. I love playing games, watching others play games on Twitch.tv, and I played Donkey Kong in the arcade back in the day. It wasn’t my favorite game, I was a Tempest master, but that’s not the point. Back in those days gaming was a very small subset of culture in the United States and around the world. Most of us were considered nerds. Sure, a few people cared about setting records but not many.

As time has gone on the world has embraced the gaming culture. We are in a Golden Age of both video games and board games. Thanks to Crowd Sourcing, independent designers can create and distribute games that would never have seen the light of day even ten years ago. There are games for people of all different interests and they are relatively cheap. You can venture over to Steam or GoG and purchase an independent game boasting great reviews and in a genre that seems appealing for as little as ten dollars or even less.

This broadens the appeal of such games beyond the traditional young male audience to which I once belonged, I’m old now but still male. This means stories like that of Mitchell and the faked Donkey Kong high scores are making the news. That’s a wonderful thing. Why do I think so? Let me tell you.

One of the driving ideas behind my Libertarian ideology is that people should lead their lives as they choose and associate with others who enjoy the same things. Playing games is an activity that I think everyone enjoys as children. It is a glorious pastime that enriches our lives and helps us learn. Board Gaming was big fifty or sixty years ago with Monopoly and Risk but with nothing compared to the audiences we have today.

Far more people and a much higher percentage of the population are gamers now. They can play their games in person or over internet connections with each other no matter where their physical location. Friendships are being forged, competitions like the quest for the high score in Donkey Kong are raging, and people are having a tremendous amount of fun.

We have this one life to lead and we should try to cram as much fan as we possibly can into it. Gaming is one way to do that. The fact that more and more people are discovering the joy of adult gaming is a wonderful thing.

I encourage everyone to create an account at Steam or GoG or head over to Board Game Geek and find an inexpensive game in a genre that looks appealing. Give it a try. The next thing you know you might be reading complicated technical articles on how people caught a cheater at Donkey Kong, and, trust me, no one will be calling you a nerd, they’ll be laughing and having fun with you.

Tom Liberman

The Subtleties of Racism as Demonstrated by Yadier Molina

molina and lovulloHere in baseball land St. Louis there was an ugly incident between beloved catcher Yadier Molina and Arizona Diamondback manager Torey Lovullo. I’d like to use the reaction to the situation to examine the idea that there is nuance to racism. I’m not talking about Lovullo or Molina but those who are commenting on the story.

Many people are calling Molina a thug and worse for his reaction. It’s my opinion the vast majority of those doing so would be defending, say, Roger Clemens if he reacted to the words in the same way. They’d be calling Clemens a stand-up guy who had every right to react to the ugly words in a physical way. Many are defending Molina and it seems likely some would be less vociferous of their defense of Clemens in similar circumstances. That’s the version of racism I’d like to talk about and why it’s such a difficult word to raise in these situations. There are levels of racism and we tend to incorrectly categorize them as all the same.

If my hypothesis is correct, that the race of the player is a significant factor in the perception of events, then that is racism but a very subtle version of it. It’s not someone out in the streets chanting all people of a certain race are criminal thugs who should die. I think the people who are calling out Yadi and would not call out Clemens are not racists in the classical sense, but they are exhibiting an opinion on which race bears a factor. They are guilty of a subtle and relatively common form of racism.

There is no question we all have particular biases. I think it’s possible because I’m a Cardinals fan I’m more likely to justify Molina’s reaction in this situation than Javier Baez of the hated Cubs. I like to think that I’d support Baez should an equivalent bruhaha occur between him and the manager of some other team. Perhaps I wouldn’t. That’s my point. It’s easy to throw around the word racist in situation like this when it’s not truly applicable.

It’s not easy to come up with a word to describe those lambasting Molina who would not do so should it have been Clemens. As I said, I would not call them racists, but I absolutely think that race is a factor in their opinion. For others its not race but team based, they hate the Cardinals and are eager to find fault in the behavior of the team or its players.

The reason I’m writing this blog post is because I don’t think these reactions rise to the level of racism but I’m struggling to name it anything else. I don’t think it’s fair, given the current understanding of the word, to use it.

We are all guilty of racism on one level or another. Most people know it’s wrong to think this way and imagine they don’t.

I’d love for people to examine their own opinion of this incident and see if they think they are being influenced by race. Does me pointing it out make them think twice? Reconsider? What if someone was posting hate about Molina and read this, examined their heart, and said, yeah, that Tom’s got a point. I’ll have to change my mind on this one. That would be great.

Tom Liberman

Lady Friendly Doritos and why a Gender Trend is not Sexism

DoritosPepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi recently gave an interview in which she noted market research indicated men and women generally have different habits when eating Doritos, a snack made by the company. She said the company planned to release products that catered toward the eating habits of women. Social Justice Warriors Triggered!

How dare a company market a product designed specifically for men or for women besides, say, tampons and jockstraps. What unbridled sexism to suggest research indicates women generally don’t like to lick their fingers of the Dorito residue or pour the crumbly remnants of the bag directly into their mouth.

The problem is groups of people do perform tasks differently, eat particular foods, and otherwise differ from one another for a variety of reasons including gender. If PepsiCo has done market research indicating certain Dorito eating trends in women then promoting a product to that gender’s preferences makes sense. What it doesn’t mean is all women eat Doritos in a particular way. That’s the gist of all the tumult. An angry female says: I’m a woman and I do like to lick my fingers of the Dorito residue. I’m a woman and I enjoy pouring the crumbs from the bag into my mouth.

No one at PepsiCo is telling you how to eat your Doritos. They are simply creating and marketing a product toward particular trends their research indicates. They discovered a certain percentage of women don’t eat Doritos because their fingers get sticky and they don’t like leaving the crumbs behind but are unwilling to pour them directly into their mouths. I’m sure there are plenty of women who do these things just as I’m sure there are plenty of men who don’t like sticky fingers and crumbs.

Let’s imagine the research indicated 70% of women don’t like to eat Doritos in the way described. With there being about 300 million people in the United States and approximately 150 million of them being women that suggests 45 million women out there do not meet the trend. That’s a lot of ladies. It also means about 105 million of them behave as the marketing indicates. Now, I’m making up the 70% figure but let’s work with that for the sake of argument.

What PepsiCo has found is their product is unappealing to 105 million women because of the sticky residue and crumbly product. They want to target that large group of people, who happen to be mostly women. Is that wrong? Is that sexism? Is that terrible and awful? I say absolutely not. I say it’s finding a market and making a product that appeals to it. That’s smart business, not sexism.

No one is saying all women eat Doritos in a particular way or that all women are dainty and all men are rough. It is impossible to deny there are differences in women and men. Savvy companies use those tendencies to market their product to specific segments of society. Does anyone deny certain television shows and movies appeal more toward women than men and vice versa? Does this mean all women love Chick Flicks and hate Action Movies? Does it mean men don’t like Chick Flicks? No. I think Steel Magnolias is a great movie but I love The Right Stuff and Fight Club as well. It’s a tendency, not a sexist agenda.

Men and women are unalike in some respects and their respective preferences in eating Doritos might just be one of those differences. That’s a fact whether you like it or not.

Tom Liberman

Disgusting Behavior at the President’s Club Charitable Trust

president's clubThere’s a pretty interesting story making the headlines in London and throughout England in regards to the President’s Club Charitable Trust where many members of a group of wealthy business men behaved crassly toward the young women who acted as hostesses for the event. What I find fascinating about the proceedings that transpired is problems could have easily been solved by some simple communication.

First, let’s review what occurred at the event for those not familiar with the story. The charitable gathering was attended by only men. The female hostesses were groped, propositioned, pulled onto laps, and otherwise harassed during the occasion. Before the dinner began the women were told their job was to serve drinks and put up with annoying men.

The woman who exposed the activities, Madison Marriage, was working undercover as a hostess and in her article, admits that some of the hostesses, most likely those who knew what to expect and came as a group, had fun and enjoyed themselves during the event but many others were horrified and tried to hide in the restrooms to avoid the situation. These women were escorted out and forced to rejoin the party. This dichotomy of experiences tells us virtually everything we need to know.

The President’s Club planners needed to communicate with the hostesses exactly what sort of behavior they could expect and the men attending needed to understand what sort of activities would be tolerated. I’ll give you an example. Marriage indicates a man in his seventies asked a nineteen-year-old woman if she was a prostitute. Many people find that horrific. I have no problem with it. He asked, she told him no, and he continued on his way; presumably without bothering her further. That is the way the entire event should have unfolded.

The President’s Club should have been explained to the men attending they should keep their hands to themselves unless a hostess acquiesced to whatever he had in mind; maybe just holding hands, or sitting on his lap, or perhaps even performing sexual services for an agreed upon financial return. That any man who violated these rules would be warned and ejected if they persisted.

Meanwhile, the hostesses should have been told men would be propositioning them, hoping to hold hands, sit on their laps, perhaps asked to gyrate in only their underwear but they were under no obligation to do so. It’s clear to me from the story that some of the hostesses knew exactly what to expect, turned down propositions they didn’t like, and acquiesced to those requests they welcomed. They earned money for attending the event and possibly got side payments for particular behavior.

Communication was the key element missing from this entire sordid affair. The women and men were all adults of legal age and competent minds. They just needed to know what was expected and what would be tolerated. If that had been done I think everyone would have had an enjoyable experience.

Sure, the men are pigs. I get that. I’m a fifty+ year old man. A like looking at a pretty young woman. I enjoy it when the attractive waitress puts her hand on my shoulder or touches my elbow. I don’t grab her ass or try to shove my hand up her skirt but I might touch her shoulder and say thank you. Perhaps she wants a larger tip or maybe she finds me attractive and hopes I’ll ask for her phone number; maybe she wants both! That’s her prerogative and I think it’s wrong to tell any young woman she shouldn’t attend an event of this nature; provided she knows what she is getting into and the men are punished for behavior that goes over the line.

The idea older men should not be interested in slap-and-tickle with younger women is a hopeless concept. Some men will always be interested. And the general assumption the women were all harassed, abused, and needed protection is also nonsense. Some women enjoy this sort of event and should be allowed to attend without shame.

Adults should be trusted to make these sorts of decisions on their own. The women don’t need to be protected and the men don’t need to be punished; provided everyone knew what was expected and reasonable limits were kept. That is the fault of the hosts.

The most egregious thing that happened at the event was the President’s Club forcing clearly uncomfortable women back to the party. That is despicable; the rest of it could have been easily avoided.

Tom Liberman

Hell Hath No Fury Like Lindy Lou Layman Scorned

Lindy Lou LaymanThere’s a trendy story about a woman, Lindy Lou Layman, who damaged some expensive pieces of art after being intoxicated at the home of a prominent Houston Attorney, Tony Buzbee. It’s not completely her fault. She’s nuts, I get that, but bear with me for a moment. I’m going to have to do a lot of speculation but I think it’s important to consider our actions and Buzbee needs to think about that as well as Layman.

It is claimed Layman and Buzbee were on a first date and I’m already suspicious of the official story. Why didn’t Layman have her own car? Did they meet at the restaurant or wherever and then decide to drive back to his place in his car? I suspect they simply met while out on the town. Layman is an attractive young woman and Buzbee a wealthy man. Eye contact was made, drinks were purchased, things progressed, and she agreed to return home with him.

She got drunk and Buzbee decided he’d call her an Uber rather than continue the date. Again, suspicions raised. Why wouldn’t she leave when he called her a ride, then hide in the house, and finally begin to destroy property. It seems fairly apparent Buzbee made certain verbal contractual statements. You can stay until morning and we’ll go get brunch. I’m having a great time and would like to see you in the future. In exchange for these verbal commitments some sort of oral or other services were provided. After the completion of services Buzbee decided he’d had enough and wasn’t going to fulfill his verbal, and non-binding, contractual statements. He called an Uber and went up to bed. Thanks for the memories.

Somewhat or completely intoxicated and feeling both rejected and used, Layman began to take out her feelings on the artwork in the house. Hearing the commotion at some point Buzbee realized the girl he treated like crap was maybe a little pissed about it and wanted vengeance, go figure. Police summoned.

What’s the lesson here? I’m not sure. Buzbee might well not have gotten the services he desired if he’d been honest with Layman about his intentions to send her home immediately after completion. He almost certainly lied to Layman in order to get what he wanted. Buzbee shouldn’t be such a douche. She has legitimate grievances with him. Of course, there are few legal remedies to such breech of contract situations. What damages has Layman suffered? A little humiliation most certainly but anything financial? Hardly. In addition, Layman should blame herself for performing services so quickly and readily before understanding the nature of the relationship. Destroying expensive art is a good way to end up in prison and she chose to do so.

Actions have consequences. If you treat another person like garbage that other person might consider doing harm to you or your material possessions.

The question becomes if it was worth it. If I were to ask both Buzbee and Layman, I think they’d both say no. Something for us all to think about when dealing with other human monkeys.

You never know, maybe they’ll end up married. They just might deserve each other.

Tom Liberman