How Coke Became Religious Symbology in San Cristóbal de las Casas

San Cristóbal de las CasasI just read an interesting article about how San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico is plagued by diabetes largely related to the consumption of about half a gallon a day of Coca-Cola by residents of the community. The article is interesting in a number of ways but the thing that struck me was the inclusion of Coke paraphernalia in religious ceremonies.

Coke has a large factory in the region that was established fifty years ago and has been producing the sugary beverage ever since. Because the plant is essentially next door, the price of the soda in the region is quite affordable; the result being the enormous average consumption of residents. This combined with changing weather patterns, limiting rainfall in the area, has meant soda is actually cheaper than water for many of the residents.

What’s fascinating is the fact many people in the region believe, after two generations of exposure to the soda, that it has healing properties. They use Coke bottles in religious ceremonies and the so-called “traditional” healers in the region use the soda to treat a variety of ailments. This demonstrates, with little room for argument, how quickly humans can incorporate idiocy into their religion of choice. To be clear, I’m an Atheist. I think all religion is nonsense and I find this series of event exposes many of the natural roots behind religious belief as a whole.

The idea is relatively simple. We human monkey beasts are really good at spotting patterns but sadly we also see patterns where they don’t actually exist. If a child is sick, drinks some coke, and then gets better; we see a causal relationship where one does not exist. If a dog eats a particular treat from china and immediately becomes very sick; we see a pattern. If a child begins to show autistic symptoms after receiving a vaccination we see a connection. The connection, the pattern, is not real. The treat didn’t make the dog sick and the vaccination didn’t harm the child. No amount of double-blind studies can convince us otherwise. We saw the two things happen in succession and we are convinced.

When something becomes as prevalent in society as Coke has in San Cristóbal de las Casas there will inevitably be coincidental incidents between the product and events in the region. People see these as related to one another and quickly seize upon supernatural explanations. Thus, we see Coke and religion heavily intermixed in the region.

We do not see Coke being worshipped in other places in the world because there is no logical reason to do so. Religion is largely a product of seeing patterns where they do not exist. We lean against a tree and soon our child recovers from an illness. A ha! The tree must have supernatural properties that healed the child. We beseech an invisible, undetectable god to solve a problem for us and the problem is sometimes solved. A ha!

To me, the worship of Coke in San Cristóbal de las Casas is no different than the worship of a man on a cross. I’m sure many find the latter far more palatable than the former, from a religious perspective at least. I don’t.

Tom Liberman

Pro Uncovered Breastfeeding, Strong Women, and Twitter Rage

Twitter-hateI made a post the other day about a woman who was proudly, without any covering, breastfeeding her child and angered by the woman at the next table who was glaring at her.

A self-declared feminist on Twitter retweeted my original post and attracted the attention of a group of people who strongly, and I do mean strongly, advocate breastfeeding in public without any covering.

I’ve gotten a large amount, well, a large amount for me, of Twitter hate. I’m being called misogynistic, ill-informed, perverted, male-privileged, and various other names. In the midst of it all a woman grabbed a screen capture of my Twitter image which shows the three main protagonists from my latest novel, The Girl in Glass I: Apparition. She asked if I liked the way the woman was dressed. It was Rhia the powerful swordswoman of the group.

I do like strong and powerful woman. I find them attractive and interesting in real life and I enjoy writing about them in my fictional universe. My mom and all of my sisters (five for those of you counting) certainly fall into that category and the women I date tend to as well.

A thought occurred to me as I was looking at this Tweet.

Are not the women who are so dedicatedly defending the act of uncovered breastfeeding also strong and passionate women? By golly, they are!

I personally don’t think we’re that far apart in our opinions of breastfeeding uncovered in public. I think a woman should make an effort to cover herself out of consideration to the other diners. My Twitter friends think otherwise.

I certainly agree women should be allowed to go without covering themselves and not fear arrest of indecency. I think if a woman wants to do so she has every right to do that. I would fight vigorously against making such illegal. I also think accommodations for breastfeeding women should be made much more readily available.

That being said, it is not me who thinks our opinions are widely divergent. It is the strong and vocal women. They are mad at me, not vice versa.

To that I say: Good for you. I admire your passion. Keep up the fight! We disagree but that’s not a reason to hate, at least not for me.

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

 

Bat Girl was a Hottie Orion Slave Girl?

Yvonne_CraigSad news today from the entertainment world in that an actress named Yvonne Craig passed away.

If you knew of her it all it was probably because she portrayed Barbara Gordon on the original Batman television series. Batgirl. What took me by surprise was that she played Marta the green-skinned Orion slave girl serving a lifetime sentence in the episode Whom Gods Destroy of the Original Star Trek Series.

An independent, intelligent, beautiful young woman superhero seems fairly passe in this modern age but in many ways Craig was real pioneer. I’m of the age that I well remember Barbara Gordon on the original Batman television series. She only appeared in the final season of the show which is a shame. Perhaps it’s just my foggy memory but I recall enjoying her role immensely.

In my adult life I find independent and intelligent women to be those I’m most attracted to. Perhaps Craig is at least partially responsible for that. Who can say with any real certainty?

Still, it’s a sad day.

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

Who is to Blame for Throwing Urine on Chris Froome?

Fan-Urine-Chris-FroomeAccording to Chris Froome the responsible party is our favorite whipping boy, “The Press”.

First the story. The Tour de France has been plagued by Performance Enhancing Drug scandals almost since it was first run back in 1903. Things got very ugly when Lance Armstrong admitted to doping during his record breaking seven victories. There are members of the public are skeptical of anyone who performs well in the annual race and the 2013 winner, Chris Froome, was doused with urine by a fan during the 14th stage of this year’s race.

My issue is that Froome laid blame squarely where it did not belong. Here’s the quote that so aroused my ire:

I certainly don’t blame the public for this, it’s certainly a minority of people out there ruining it for everybody else … I would blame some of the reporting on the race, it’s very irresponsible.

Really? You don’t blame the person who filled a cup with urine, waited for your pass, screamed “dope”, and threw it on you? That person is apparently blameless? It was the press who somehow forced the spectator to act that way? What utter nonsense.

The press reports that riders in the Tour de France might be doping and that’s irresponsible? They suggest that Froome, a former winner, might be cheating and that’s completely out of the question?

I’m not saying those who write sensationalist stories attempting to get people riled up rather than reporting facts are somehow good people. It’s despicable to accuse someone of cheating when you don’t have reasonable evidence or shady circumstances to suggest as much. I’m just saying that, beyond any doubt, the person responsible for throwing the urine is the person who threw the urine! I mean, it doesn’t require an advanced degree is Blameology.

This idea of blaming the press or some organization for an individual’s behavior is rampant. We blame ISIS for domestic terror attacks. We blame racist organizations for mass shootings. We do this because they are convenient targets. The press is such an easy target in this case and often seems to be so.

I find it most useful to blame the person who acts in an egregious manner. I’m of the opinion that assigning blame appropriately is an extremely important part of finding solution. If we blame those who are not responsible then the chances of arriving at successful outcome is all but impossible.

I think the goal should be to solve problems, not lay blame on those who we perceive to be enemies. I’m naive that way.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition – Release date: late August 2015

 

Game Theory – Fortune and Glory Board Game

Fortune Glory gameLast night was game night and we played Fortune and Glory from Flying Frog. The main reason I mention this is not that my glorious victory erased the memory of my ignominious defeat at Illuminati but that we had a fascinating moment in what is often called Game Theory.

I know many people aren’t much interested in board or role-playing games but I think what I’m going to talk about today is something you should be interested in regardless of your gaming habits. Game Theory largely involves decision making while playing games but has tremendous application when it comes to real life as well.

Understanding not only statistical odds but also the many other factors that go into a successful endeavor is a study that everyone should understand. I was never taught game theory while growing up and I’m certain that I am the worse for it. I’m of the opinion that Game Theory should be mandatory education at a primary level of schooling and continuing through secondary and advanced education. That being said I’m not going to go too deeply into the topic. I just want to explain what happened last night and how it was I emerged victorious. I think it is instructive in a number of ways.

In the game Fortune and Glory you move your tokens around a board that is made up the world. The goal is to collect Fortune. You do this through a number of game mechanics. In addition to collection your own Fortune you also gain various Event Cards which can be used to help you or hinder your opponents. This is very important.

Back to the game. Two of my opponents were playing quite well and getting close to victory. I then began to use Game Theory. In Fortune and Glory you get the most Fortune through the accumulation and eventual sale of Relics. To get Relics you have Adventures. You must pass a series of Adventures to get the Relic. You can rest between Adventures and hold your victories or push your luck, but if you fail an Adventure you lose your accumulated successes.

In this case I used good Game Theory in pushing my luck even though my chances of success were low. I then had a series of fortuitous dice checks for which only luck gets the credit, not me.

But now comes what for me was the most interesting point of the game. There were three of us with enough Fortune to win the game but we had to rush back to our home base to claim the victory. We were all within a lucky Movement roll of victory and it came time for initiative to see who would move first in the upcoming round. It seemed clear that whomever moved first of the three of us would be victorious. The dice were rolled and my string of luck ran out, I would act last in the round.

Here is where my Game Theory failed me. I assumed all was lost. However the reality is that this “bad luck” roll actually allowed me to win the game. As the two fellows with the appropriate amount of Fortune made their final moves all of sudden my fellow competitors started to pull out various Event cards that blocked their progress in one way or another. After a flurry of activity it was suddenly my move and no one had any blocking cards left!

The path was clear and victory was mine.

While I’m happy to have won, the reality is that playing the game with a great bunch of guys made us all winners (just me a little more). The real moral of the story is to study Game Theory because it will help you make good decisions, not only across the board but in life as well. Sometimes it’s not easy to see what the best decision will be and often it is counter-intuitive.

Happy gaming!

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

 

The Terrorist Threat to Freedom

The Threats of TerrorismThe winter Olympics are coming soon and will be held in the Russian city of Sochi. There are concerns about security at the Olympics which were illustrated when Chechen terrorists attacked the city of Volgograd twice within twenty-four hours.

These attacks were likely made by Muslims from Chechnya; which has been in a two-decades long war with Russia to become an independent nation.

These types of attacks represent a real threat to our freedom and our way of life. Obviously they did not occur in the United States but we’ve seen similar murderous rampages in this country from both Muslim extremest and domestic terrorists.

After the Sochi attacks the head of state of Russia, Vladimir Putin, made some strong statements about the actions that would be taken by the state. In the comments section below the story I noted that the vast majority of people not only agreed with Putin, that violence should be met with more violence, but they felt that Putin was the sort of leader they would prefer to have in the White House.

A tough-talking leader who promises that all enemies will be destroyed and that the safety of the people will be guaranteed by annihilating said enemies is a natural result of terrorist attacks. People are frightened and want assurances and vengeance. I suggest that this sort of leader is the greatest threat terrorism brings. This sort of leader is a far greater threat to your freedom than are the terrorists.

I do not want a leader of Putin’s ilk to rise in the United States.

Let’s take a little trip in time back to September of 2004. A group of Chechen and Ingush terrorists attacked School Number One in the Russian town of Beslan. The attack ended when Russian forces stormed the school killing the terrorists. 334 hostages, including 186 children, also died.

What’s important to remember is the aftermath of the attack. Putin ordered sweeping security changes which were approved by the democratically elected government. These changes strongly centralized the government and changed the constitution in a number of ways, all in the name of security, of safety.

In Russia the leeway given to security forces in detaining and spying on citizens was increased. Laws were strengthened so that people could be arrested more easily.

It’s also important to note that almost all of the terrorists in the attack had suffered from Russian security measures in Chechnya and Ingush. They had family members killed or imprisoned, homes destroyed, or property confiscated.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It is only fair to note; such measures do increase security from outside attacks but, as the more recent terror attacks make clear, they do not guarantee safety.

Terrorists attack are a threat to our freedoms because they cause us to be afraid. We make changes to our laws that often represent a far greater threat to our safety than the terror attacks themselves.

People would be wise to remember the lessons of history. Increasing the powers of the police, giving more authority to the central government, and taking strong measures to ensure your security might seem to increase your safety but in reality they leave you more vulnerable.

I’m certainly not saying security measures should be completely abandoned. I’m just suggesting that we carefully implement them so as to safeguard our freedoms and our bodies.

If enough people in the United States want a President like Putin, it will not be long before we have one.

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

7 Million Chinese College Graduates

China College GraduatesThere was an interesting article in the news this morning about how a large number of college graduates in China are causing an employment problem in that nation. Larger numbers of graduates make the job market more difficult to penetrate.

It was an interesting premise but not what I took from the article.

If China is graduating seven million highly educated students each year and the United States is producing fewer that means a shift of brain power in the world. An interesting article here shows how China has already surpassed the United States in college graduates and India will do so soon.

This shift of intelligence is changing the dynamics of power and the role of the United States in the world. It’s actually a good thing that countries like China and India are graduating more students and empowering young women. This has many beneficial effects for the world including decreasing population growth and increasing general wealth and well-being. However, it is also a challenge to the United States.

I wrote not long ago about how there is a politically motivated movement to discredit science in the United States. There is a general undercurrent of disdain for academia and intellectual achievement. The power structure of the world is changing as we continue to move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The countries that embrace this change will lead this new world in the same way the United States led during the Industrial Revolution.

Graduating college students is directly related to new technology, new ideas, and a new way of producing wealth. I’m not suggesting everyone should go to college, that a college degree is the end-all goal of every single person. I am suggesting that the nation that produces the largest number of intelligent people will have an advantage in the new world.

As I said, I’m thrilled to see China, India, and other nations educating their youth and making the entire world a better place. I’m eager for the days of abundant and cheap energy, super-fast transportation, and a stable population with plenty of food and goods for all.

I’m not so encouraged by my country’s response to the gauntlet that has been thrown down by the emerging world, and by Europe and other places. Economic power is, in many ways, military power. If the United States is not making the important breakthroughs, if the United States is not leading the way then we will be following. In some ways we are already following.

China and India have a huge advantage in massive populations but the underlying issue is society’s emphasis on education. It’s stronger in other nations than it is in the United States.

My main fear is that as the United States continues to fall from our preeminent position of power in the world that the citizens of my country will grow increasingly frightened. That we will elect officials who stoke this fear and offer draconian solutions to “save” our nation. That the very tenants of the Founding Fathers will be discarded in order to make us “safe”. On a personal level, that my freedom will be taken away.

In order to combat this decline and this fear I say emphasize education, teach people critical thinking skills, and venerate science.

Let us not fear this new world but instead embrace it and join it as an equal.

 

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Jenna Renee’s Best Look

I’m not sure I need to explain the reason for this post but somehow I feel I should.

I get some of my sports news from CNNSI (Sports Illustrated) and they have a daily feature called Extra Mustard where they spotlight a Lovely Lady of they day. There are some good articles too! Really.

Anyway, I rarely (ok sometimes, well often) do a quick search of the woman in question to see different images. On Thursday April 29, 2013, the woman of choice was Jenna Renee. She is a fitness model and is obviously extremely dedicated to staying fit and must work extremely hard. That’s a credit to her resolve and will. What I’m going to say next doesn’t really have that much to do with her but with something I’ve increasingly noticed, something I call the Pamela Anderson effect.

Women who are naturally quite lovely takes measures to increasingly enhance themselves in ways I find makes them less appealing. Photographic trickery tries to make them more beautiful but has the opposite effect. It’s entirely possible my standards of beauty are out of whack with everyone else but I wanted to take a quick, very informal poll on what you think.

I’m going to post two pictures of Jenna that I think reflect her transformation from someone I found to be stunning to something, certainly not grotesque, but artificial. I’d like you to pick picture A or picture B. If you want to make a comment then please do so as well!

Picture A                                                 Picture B

Jenna Renee A Jenna Renee B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jenna Renee looks better in which Picture

View Results

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Apology to Congressman Ryan

ImageOne of my loyal viewers, or possibly a mere passerby, pointed out that I misread the quote from Congressman Ryan yesterday. The quote I read was actually from the audience member and not the Congressman. Ryan responded by telling the questioner not to vote for Congressman Ron Paul (who is not actually running) unless he, the questioner, wanted President Obama to win.

This certainly changes my reaction. Ryan was not comparing Libertarians to a joke candidate although his basic argument, that we must vote for a Republican to avoid a Democrat rather than voting for who we actually want is still misguided. It’s the mantra of both parties to keep themselves in power but it’s certainly not something new or something that would enrage me.

I am sorry for having misread the article and apologize to Congressman Ryan and the five people so far who read my blog post (I’m not exactly a heavy hitter in the blogosphere). Still, it’s embarrassing to make mistakes and I apologize. I pride myself on making sure I read entire articles and try to get both points of view so it’s a humbling mistake. They do happen and, again, I’m sorry that I made this one.

Tom Liberman

The Hammer of Fire – Cover Process

Here is the final cover for my new Sword and Sorcery novel, The Hammer of Fire!

My mother finished with the copy-edits yesterday and I’ll be over there tomorrow for Memorial Day. I’ll pick up the changes and finish the book probably by Tuesday and post the novels to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords that day. It usually takes about 48 hours for the books to start appearing on site so I anticipate a release date of Thursday, May 31. I’ll make an announcement then.

In the meantime, here is the finished cover along with the drafts from Raro. It’s fascinating to watch a concept turn into a cover. Raro is an amazing artist!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of FireHammer of Fire Final ColorHammer of FireHammer of Fire First Sketch

The Hammer of Fire – Available Now!

The Hammer of FireI’m happy to announce the release of my Sword and Sorcery novel, The Hammer of Fire.

Cover art by Raro.

Summary

Half-breed dwarf Dol Delius and his friends Milli and Brogus steal the great Hammer of Fire from its sacred resting spot in the halls of the hidden Dwarf citadel of Craggen Steep and head south to find adventure, riches, and fame.

Along the way they travel to Das’von where they hope to meet Corancil, the young conqueror, and join forces for a journey south to the volcanic regions. Once in the southlands they come across the fierce Black Rider who leads the Black Horsemen of The Sands and run afoul his plans to stop Corancil’s armies.

In hot pursuit of the trio are representatives of both the Blackiron and Firefist clans who want to bring the hammer back to Craggen Steep and kill the misfits who stole it. Turmoil bubbles in Craggen Steep from various factions hoping to end the ironfisted rule of the dominant clans and bringing back the hammer seems the only way to prevent revolution in the city.

It all comes to a climax deep on the southern continent where fiery volcanoes are the backdrop for the battle between Dol, the forces of Craggen Steep, and an ancient Fire Elemental from the dawn of time.

The Hammer of Fire is the third sword and sorcery novel in the Tales of Corland Saga.

Purchase Information

AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords: $2.99

Previous Novels

The Staff of Naught at AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords: $2.99

The Staff of Sakatha at AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords: $2.99

Thank you for purchasing and reading! I hope everyone enjoys the books.

Coming Next

The Sword of Water. Jon Gray returns in this epic tale of an ancient sword used to destroy the power of the Elementals. Jon searches for the relic to add to his father’s collection while young prince Jerichi of Cawl comes along to help. Opposed to them is the ancient and beautiful daughter of Gazadum, Eleniak the Golden Flame and her partner Arioch, Prince of Hell.

Website Pages

See more about each of the novels, read sample chapters, and watch videos about the characters and philosophies behind each book.

The Hammer of Fire – The Staff of Naught – The Staff of Sakatha – The Sword of Water

Teaser – The Road to Fanaticism

FanaticalTomorrow I delve into the road the leads to fanaticism. A lot of things have to go wrong for someone to become a violent fanatic and it starts early. If you think about all the people in the world who could, with the flick of a wrist, turn their car into a crowded sidewalk and don’t it’s pretty amazing how few violent fanatics are out there.

If the path to being a fanatic is so well-known it seems we could take a few easy steps to stop it. I’ll try to cue you in on the warning signs and maybe you can stop someone heading down a dangerous path.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

How Frustrations leads to Violence

FrustrationWe see a lot of violence in the world and I think most of us realize things would be better if we could reduce it. We see children murdering school mates, workers murdering fellow employees, soldiers killing civilians and, of course, possibly the worst of all, terrorists trying and sometimes succeeding in murdering large numbers of innocents.

But there are small, unpublicized fits of rage around us everyday. Driving too aggressively, punching a spouse, verbally abusing a child, vicious exchanges with coworkers, and countless others.

Where does all this rage come from? Is it natural and even healthy? Can anything be done to stop it?

I’m certain that I don’t know all the answers but it seems to me that a much of the anger and impetus to violence that I feel stems from frustration. When I’m trying to get something done and fail. Modern society has foisted a lot of frustration upon us from trying to navigate an automated phone system to making the computer work properly. I’m a teacher and not being able to get a point across to a student is tremendously frustrating and I have to stem my anger and even rage. Why aren’t they understanding? What’s wrong with them? Maybe something is wrong with me because I can’t teach properly? Anger rises. Of course, I manage to calm myself and keep cool. I find another way to deliver my message but I can’t deny the anger the boils inside when I’m frustrated.

Again, I’m not in the psychiatric field but it seems clear that people who end up perpetrating violent acts have navigated from frustration, to anger, and eventually to violence. Think back to the last time you got angry and what instigated the incident or perhaps the last time you lashed out violently even if only to kick the door or smack the table.

I can’t discount mental illness of course and that certainly is responsible for some of the violence but I’m talking about people without brain damage who are somehow brought to a boiling rage. Do you know someone prone to anger to violence? What sort of activity precipitates their explosion?

I doubt the concept of a link between frustration and violence is much of a revelation or anything but what I do think is that if we can decrease general, daily frustrations we might well see a decrease in violence as well.

So, how to decrease frustration? I think the one way is to simply try and come up with logical, critically thought out systems for doing business. If the system is as straight-forward as possible then there is less frustration and, hopefully less violence. One thing we read about in the news is smart traffic systems so that we spend less time in traffic delayed by lights that are not well timed. I don’t know about you but I find traffic to be one of the most frustrating events of my life and I only travel ten minutes to work! Even a simple system of storing things in their proper place so that things can be found. Systems for accomplishing repetitive tasks at the office so that they are always done.

Also, this applies to foreign nations that oppose the United States. We should think of policies that empower these nations and their citizens. Terrorist nations seem to be made up primarily of oppressive governments where you will end up with an angry and frustrated population. This anger is often misdirected towards the U.S. but that is the nature of rage. I’m not sure we can change the governments of foreign countries but the spread of democratic republics which allow citizens to have a say in their government can’t be a bad thing.

Think back about how pleased you were when a new system replaced an inefficient one and you could now do something with more ease. Instant hot water for my tea is a nice one but there are plenty of innovations that help with daily life the problem is that too often thing are unleashed without enough critical analysis of how to make them work most efficiently.

I think I’m probably just sort of rambling at this point but the next time you find yourself on a project try to remember to think it through and test it thoroughly before releasing it on the general population. You never know. You might just save a life or at least prevent someone from hurting their foot when they kick the nearest solid object.

Tweet, Like, Comment, Pinterest, Digg, Stumble and otherwise share!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Science Rocks

Science Week – Computers

ScienceI don’t think anyone takes computers for granted these days so there isn’t a lot of sense in telling everyone how important they are in the world. Instead I want to talk about how they, more than any politician, altered the economic landscape of the United States and mention of few of the most important names in the field. It’s important to understand why computer technology kept the U.S. as the world’s leading economy and why we are now, once again, in some danger of losing that power.

So my loyal followers, dig into your closets, find that oft used Time Travel cap, and place it firmly upon your head as we go … back … back … back to 1971.

Computers have been around for quite some time with even the ancients using calculating machines. I’m skipping past the fascinating stories of Hero of Alexandria, Wilhelm Shickard,  Charles Xavier Thomas, Ryoichio Yazu,  Joseph Marie Jacquard, Charles Babbage, Herman Hollerith, Arthur Pollen, and Konrad Zuse among a host of others. If you’ve time and inclination these are all interesting stories. However, I’m skipping ahead a bit.

In 1971 Intel developed the microprocessor for a Japanese computer company based on an invention of Robert Dennard. What I think is important here is that a U.S. company built it for a Japanese company. At this time Japan’s economy was growing while the U.S. was beginning a period of stagnation. Japanese cars were flooding the market and American consumers rightly found them to be superior to home built vehicles. Technology from Asia was beginning a flow that continues to this day with China leading the way.

Then in 1975 a little machine called the Altair 8800 was introduced and a group of young Americans began to play with it.  A couple of young fellows named Paul Allen and Bill Gates wrote something called a BASIC Interpreter for it. Two other young guys, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began to work on their own versions of home computers.

Now, I’m going to leave aside all the name dropping and get back to the economics of computers and how they changed the landscape of U.S. power. By the late 1970’s there was a feeling that the U.S. was losing it’s place as the preeminent economy in the world. Gasoline embargoes and the rise of Asian technological advances contributed to a perception that probably had some merit if was overblown.

Computers changed all that. With companies like Microsoft, Apple, a reinvigorated IBM, Hewlett Packard, Xerox, Commodore, and a host of others suddenly pumping huge sums of money into the economy and paying massive tax bills our economy grew at an astonishing rate. The link between economic growth and technical achievement is strong. However, the boost we gained from computers is waning as it does with all new technology. There are some arguments that this boost was less than others throughout history.

With new technology our living standards improve dramatically, our work week declines, our free time increases, and our buying power increases. I think many of these things are directly attributable to the rise of computers and their related technologies.

The lesson I take from all this is that if we want to continue to improve our lives then we need to continue to invest in emerging technologies and particularly reward entrepreneurship. Too much of late I see Crony Capitalism and regulations designed to empower the established businesses at the expense of the small innovators.

This is a core message of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. If the big companies squeezed out Microsoft, Apple and others with regulations and government intervention our lives would have suffered. The individual achiever must be allowed to innovate and achieve and then we all benefit.

In my opinion, the next new technology is alternate energy. If we continue to invest heavily in subsidies for oil we will fall behind other nations researching nuclear, wind, solar, wave, thermal and other sources of power. If this happens will will lose our place as the most powerful economy in the world. I’ll take that topic on in more detail soon.

For now I simply want to say thank you to all the men and women who bring me computer technology! Gentlemen, Ladies, thank you! Maybe you can take the time to head down into the little cave where your IT staff resides eating donuts and making fun of the technologically illiterate. Ignore the odors, the dank depression, the wild eyed maniac drooling in the corner, and any other strange things you might see, pop your head in with a cheery smile and say, “Thanks!” Then get out of there while you still can!

Tell me what you think in the comments. Like, Tweet, Stumble, Pinterest, PlusOne, and otherwise share with your friends if you think this is worthwhile subject matter.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Affirmative Action

Affirmative ActionTomorrow I’m going to take the idea of how diversity is a good thing from today’s post and extend that to the idea of Affirmative Action. If the playing field is unfair for a particular group of people is it the government’s responsibility to level that field?

I may end up taking a couple of days to examine this complex issue.

Stay tuned,

Tom Liberman

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The United States is becoming a Democracy

Focus GroupOne of the areas I find people have a great deal of confusion about is the idea that the United States is a democracy. The U.S. is a representative republic which I spoke about in a previous post. The issue I want to take on today is the idea that we are slowly becoming a democracy.

When the Founding Fathers established the political system of the United States they broke authority into three branches of government. The Federal Convention is where the Founding Fathers gathered to draft the wording for the new constitution. There was much consternation about how the people in these branches would get their jobs. There was also a great deal of concern about how much power should rest in the hands of the federal government but I’ll save that conversation for a future blog. For now I want to talk about how our representatives get their jobs and their duty therein.

The Federal Convention ended with a system, after much debate, where the lower house, The House of Representatives was elected directly by a vote of the people, an upper house, the Senate, appointed by state officials, the executive, the President, who was elected through a mechanism called the Electoral College, and a Judicial, Judges, who were appointed by the executive.

The Senate and House of Representatives make laws, the Executive signs them, and the Judicial determines their meaning in individual cases. The important factor here is that it is Congress (the collective term for the Senate and House of Representatives) makes the laws. The laws are not voted on by the people. The founding fathers did this for a specific reason that I will talk about tomorrow.

Most state governments operate the same way.

Things have changed to a large degree. The main culprit in this change, I think, is the proliferation and immediacy of polling and voter outrage. By this I mean that the people can almost instantly respond to any proposed legislation before it becomes law and organize opposition. Also, with sophisticated polling, the politicians are aware of the will of the people before they cast their vote. This has the effect of pushing politicians in the direction of the majority of the population. Not just in their legislative duties but in their campaign promises and party platforms.

Focus Group

We’ve seen massive vote swings based on popular opinion quite recently with the SOPA act but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Politicians regularly hold focus groups in order to weigh the popularity of a particular plan. They fear getting removed from office if they make decisions that are unpopular with their constituency.

This is not the system envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The original plan was that the representatives made the laws and the people redressed that situation once every two, four, or six years with elections. Even then only the House of Representatives faced direct election by the people. The Senators were appointed and the President elected via the Electoral College. So, the drift towards democracy is something that was not originally planned.

Now, there are quite a few people out there who consider this movement towards democracy a good thing and they have some interesting points. I’ll talk about what this change means for the future of the United States tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Foul Language

My friend Dora recently undertook a scientific poll (she posted on Facebook) about whether or not women are offended by being called “gal”. For some reason this brought to my mind the power of words or at least the power that we give them. Be warned, the post is going to contain some pretty vile words so if you’re easily offended, read no more.

Why are words so hurtful to us? They are just words after all, not fists and feet. First, I think we need to dismiss the idea that words are not hurtful, because they most certainly are and it is not just us “letting” them hurt us. “I hate you”, “I don’t love you anymore”, “I just used you to get what I wanted”, these are all examples of words that can be devastatingly painful and I’m sure we’ve all experienced anguish because of words in the past.

So, words can cause pain.

Words are our way of expressing ideas. The words themselves are just conglomerations of sounds but we give them meaning. So, when someone says “Go fuck yourself” it isn’t the same as “I’m a little busy right now, could you get back to me with that later.”

The person expressing the words is trying to convey meaning and foul words convey meaning quite strongly. That’s why they are so prevalent.

Nigger, Spick, Hymie, Wop, Mick, Chink, these are words used to convey hatred and they are effective. I think it’s pointless to pretend that they don’t have meaning.

Now I’m going to get to the point of this blog. I’m tired of people pretending that they are not saying vile words by using euphemisms for those words.

How many times do we hear someone say “the f-word”. Fucking hell. If you want to say “Fuck” then say “Fuck”. Don’t pretend you’re not saying “Fuck” by saying “the f-word”. It’s a way that people get to say what they want to say while pretending that they are too good to actually say it. Fuck that.

The “n-word”. It’s vile, its derogatory, it’s cruel, it harkens back to a time when one group of people enslaved another.  But, don’t say, “I never say the n-word”. Say, “Nigger is a vile term. I don’t use it except to denounce its use.”

I don’t think hiding something is a good way to educate people. Bring it into the light of day. Show what it means. Tell people what it means.

I tend not use vile words except as part of a joke. I’ll refer to myself as a Kike or Hymie not because I think it’s true but to illustrate the stupidity of the word and the idiocy of the people who use it in its proper, vile, context.

My point, I guess, we can’t pretend words don’t have meaning nor we can we be so afraid of them that we hide them away. They have meaning and strong meaning at that. Use the proper words to convey what you mean. If you mean “Fuck you” then say it. If your parents taught you manners, then say, “I’m sorry but I can’t deal with that right now.”

Tell me what you think.

Tom
Sword and sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian twist