Let’s Not be Real

Let's Be RealA phrase I hear a lot these days is Let’s Be Real. The idea largely being that we should be perfectly honest with one another and express our feelings without reservation. At first glance, this certainly sounds like a good idea. It’s not. We are not real for even an hour of the day. We don’t tell everyone what we are thinking all the time and that’s not just a good thing, that’s the only reason society survives!

The word of the day is specious. I think it’s a good word because it tells us things that appear to have value on the surface often do not. Just because an idea sounds good doesn’t mean it can be implemented to any useful effect. In this information age we seem to be more real than we’ve ever been in life and it’s not doing us any good.

In the old days people said things like: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That’s some good advice right there. Another great old quote is: It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. But no, today we’re just keeping it real and confirming the stupidity for all to see. A pox on let’s be real!

I’d be grateful for some good old-fashioned politeness and manners when reading the news. I’m certainly not suggesting we can’t disagree with one another but how about we do so without calling anyone on the opposing side a complete moron or worse?

The reality is the world is a complex place and there are largely no single, simple solutions to some of the complex and even relatively uncomplicated problems we face. There are many factors and people hold opinions for a variety of reasons.

Being real is just an excuse to be cruel. I’m not calling you nasty names, I’m being real. I’m not a jerk, I’m just being real. The reality is you are calling someone horrible names and you are a jerk. You are doing these things no matter how much you want to excuse that reality.

Let’s be real isn’t just overrated, it’s downright dangerous. Let’s not.

Tom Liberman

Bob Ross and the Value of Talent and Serenity

Bob RossI was not surprised to find that painter Bob Ross, eighteen years after his death, is finding a new audience on streaming services like YouTube and Twitch. Mr. Ross, for those of you who don’t know about a PBS television series called The Joy of Painting, was a painter who used a wet-on-wet technique to quickly create beautiful landscapes. His calm and happy demeaner mixed with his skill made his show amazingly popular for the time. I can only imagine how many viewers he’d have to today if Lymphoma hadn’t struck him down at age 52 in 1995. If he was painting live on his channel I’d guess he’d be among the top-rated content providers.

In addition to hosting a popular television show he also inspired countless artists throughout the United States and now that message is being spread worldwide. What I’d like to talk about today is the value of what Mr. Ross provided and what it tells us about humanity as a whole.

What is it about Mr. Ross that is so appealing? His genuine good nature? His skill as a painter? His happy little trees? I’m of the opinion it was a combination of his talent, serenity, and ability to communicate a complex procedure in a way almost everyone finds understandable. Mr. Ross made you feel good about yourself and about life as a whole and that’s a message of astounding popularity.

On the other hand, the internet is filled with people spewing messages of rage and hate against anyone and everyone who disagrees with them about anything. Those people get an audience as well but not as big as Mr. Ross’s. Ask yourself, is watching someone like that helping you? Does it make you happier, better, nicer? Does watching Mr. Ross achieve those ends?

It’s an important question in deciding how you go about leading your life. Do you think you’re helping yourself by calling other people stupid or making fun of their politics? Sitting around patting yourself on the back about how smart you are and how stupid and wrong everyone else is? I think you are not. I think you are harming yourself.

My advice is to head on over to the streaming service of your choice and watch Mr. Ross paint a picture. Especially if you’ve been listening to one of the angry, talking-heads on your favorite news channel or social media network.

Happy is better than angry and Mr. Ross proves it. His popularity demonstrates what people truly want in their lives, even if they don’t know it.

Tom Liberman

How a Decent Person Reacts when they Accidentally Share Fake News

Fake NewsFake News is an important part of our lives now and it can be difficult to spot at times. I read a lot of stories and my Fake News detector is always at a pretty high state of alert so when someone I’m friends with on Social Media posts something suspicious I’m usually right on it. I attempt to verify the story and, if it turns out to be Fake News, alert my friend. It is the reaction thereafter that is the focus of my post today.

I’d like to begin by talking about how pervasive Fake News is becoming. I see false stories almost every single day going from complete fabrication to subtly nuanced exaggerations to simple omissions of vital information. Some of the fake stories are laughable bad and easy to spot while others are cleverly disguised and designed to pull at the political or social ideology of the reader. It is not always easy to spot Fake News and just because you post something that you thought was good and useful information but actually turns out to be false doesn’t make you a bad person.

That being said, when it is pointed out to you the article you shared is, in fact, Fake News, your reaction says a lot about your ethical standing as a person. This came home to me just the other day when a young woman who is the daughter of a friend posted a story and I immediately leapt to my normal level of jerk-hood and told her the story was both false and racist. Her reply? I’m so sorry. Story deleted. The end.

What a great reaction. I’ve told other, older and supposedly wiser and more moral people, her or his story was false and gotten a universally different reaction. Mostly I’m told, well, it may be false but the underlying ideology matches with my point of view and it is still good information to know so I’m going to keep it up. I’ve been told by people who absolutely consider themselves good and moral they don’t care it is Fake News, it matches their political beliefs and go screw yourself Tom. In all caps no less.

I’ve been completely ignored. I’ve been told I’m the immoral person. I’ve been attacked claiming the news is completely true even when I point out the obvious flaws. Deny, deny, deny. I did nothing wrong. I didn’t write the story, I just passed it along. I’m not responsible. I hate Fake News. I’m a good person. It’s not my fault, it’s the other person. I’m decent. I love my kids. I go to church. I don’t hate foreigners. Endless excuse making and lies, mainly lies to themselves.

To my friend’s daughter, well done. I’m very proud of you. We can all be fooled but it’s our actions afterward that show our character.

Tom Liberman

I was Much the Same Myself

Much the sameWhile watching a clip from the classic Robert Redford film Jeremiah Johnson a bit of a throwaway line caught my attention; I was much the same myself. Johnson is trying to decide on a name for the young boy he took off the hands of a crazed woman who had seen most of her family murdered. The boy is not in a talkative mood as they ride along. Johnson gives him the name Caleb as it is one Johnson has much admired. The boy does not respond. Rather than pursuing the discussion, or chastising the lad, Johnson utters the line in question.

It’s a good line. I’m of the opinion it has a lot of relevance in today’s world. It seems people have always enjoyed being critical of one another but with advances in communication and the advent of social media such has risen to new heights. Much of the criticism involves telling other people how they should think or conduct their lives. This is what I was much the same myself addresses.

Johnson recognizes that, as a child, he wasn’t particularly talkative and when Caleb exhibits a similar attitude, Johnson accepts it without criticism. It is very easy to criticize people making what we deem as similar mistakes to those we made ourselves as children. I think the actions that tend to draw the most outrage are often those things we see in ourselves. The traits we dislike about ourselves and see in others.

Most often I see it in adults, like myself, in criticizing the way younger people are going about their business. Kids today. We were kids once but that is a fact apparently lost upon most of the critical curmudgeons of the world. Even as adults we do unwise things on a fairly frequent basis, but when someone else does something stupid, we are eager to point out their foolishness.

Perhaps it is a way to pretend that we are better than the other person. I wouldn’t do something so foolish, I wouldn’t think that, I wouldn’t act that way, I’d never take a picture like that, I’d never blah blah blah blah blah. The truth is, yes, we would and yes, we probably have at one point or another.

The next time you are considering chastising someone for their behavior or opinion, think about that line. I was much the same myself. Try it out. You might be pleased with the result.

Tom Liberman

Lies of the FCC and Why You Choose to Believe Them

fccIn May of 2017 the FCC claimed a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack sent their website down when in reality it was complaints from concerned citizens about the proposed ending of Net Neutrality. Gizmodo writer Dell Cameron wrote an excellent piece detailing the lies and the chain of evidence that proves them. I’m not going to try and rewrite her or his excellent article, instead I’d like to examine why the FCC felt they could get away with such an obvious lie. It’s all about you.

As some background information I’ll reiterate events. When the FCC proposed eliminating the rules of Net Neutrality, comedian and television host John Oliver gave out the complaint URL for the website and urged people to contact the FCC. This also happened in 2014. Both times the website immediately went down.

In 2014 the commissioner of the FCC decided the truth was best. He simply said increased traffic and antiquated systems overwhelmed the system. In 2017 not only did the commissioner and his agents claim it was a DDoS, they also claimed it was also a secret DDoS back in 2014 but that it wasn’t reported. These claims were, naturally, lies, to cover up the enormity of the outrage over the proposed change in Net Neutrality rules. The current commissioner doesn’t want people to think there are actually a large group of outraged citizens.

Now, this lie by the FCC was blatant and obvious. At the time any number of commentators pointed it out. The timing of the supposed DDoS at exactly the same moment as the genuine anger of many people at the proposed new rules was clearly suspicious. Anyone with even a mild amount of critical thinking skills would naturally be doubtful of the story claimed by the agents of the FCC. I dare say very few of you would be bold enough to tell make such an obvious fabrication, you have too much integrity. So, why did it happen?

To my way of thinking it’s a relatively simple answer. Those who believe the current administration and support the agenda of the FCC will largely believe anything they say. Those who oppose will assume it is a lie even if evidence supports their claim. It simply doesn’t matter if you tell the truth or not anymore. Those who are in favor of your agenda will believe your lies and spread them earnestly and without question. Those who oppose will claim even your truths are simply lies.

That’s pretty much where we’ve gotten to in this country. It just doesn’t matter if you tell the truth or not, so why bother doing it? If you tell the truth you’re going to get hammered by the opposing side anyway. If you lie you’re going to be supported by your side as if you were telling the truth.

I’m of the opinion our leaders could spew forth utter gibberish and would gain the exact same amount of support and opposition as if they’d stated some sort of a policy. Well, to a certain degree it’s not an opinion, it’s a simple fact.

A young student in Georgia got up during graduation and gave a quote he claimed was one person and they all cheered. He then informed them it was actually a person from the opposite party and silence and booing ensued. His point was the same I’m making. The majority of people in this country just don’t care anymore.

Two plus two is whatever I want it to be.

Good luck to us.

Tom Liberman

Yanny and Laurel and the Nature of Reality

Yanny LaurelThere has arisen a large kerfuffle amongst people who hear either Yanny or Laurel when a particular sound is played. It seems impossible to those listening and hearing one of the two that those who claim to hear the other are being completely honest. This gives us an interesting opportunity to peer into the realm of what we think of as Reality. Of Subjectivity versus Objectivity.

There is both an objective and subjective reality in this situation. The sound being played is propagating through the air as an audible wave of pressure. Devices can measure this wave and display it visually as a wavelength. With some small variances depending on the sensitivity of such devices and also the variance of the sound projecting machine this Yanny or Laurel wave has an objective reality.

However, every human ear is of a different shape and the tiny bones that detect those audible waves are not the same from person to person. Everyone likely hears the sound slightly differently. Our brains are all configured differently and interpret the sounds with slight variances. The fact people seem to hear one of the two, Yanny or Laurel is interesting but not surprising. We have no problem accepting the fact that groups of people have various levels of color blindness. That many groups see green in one way and others in another fashion.

The reality of the sound wave is objectively true. The reality of our interpretation of that wave is subjectively true. I might hear Yanny and be perfectly correct while another person might hear Laurel and be equally without error. A third person might hear something completely different or relatively close to Yanny or Laurel, they also would be right.

This presents me no discomfort. Communication is not at all about the sound wave but, instead, the meaning behind it. Words are merely grunts to which we assign meaning in order to communicate ideas with one another. It’s difficult for me to order lunch if the waitperson doesn’t speak the same language as I do. This is the entire purpose of communication and, to a certain degree, defines our reality.

The sound wave that generates Yanny or Laurel is the same either way and yet what we hear is slightly different. As long as we can come to some mutual understanding of the sound and its meaning, then everything is perfectly fine. Now, let’s imagine I’m having a conversation with the leader of a belligerent power and I use a word meaning one thing to me but she interprets it to mean something else. Then we’ve got a problem.

When we speak different languages, we are using two completely dissimilar sounds to convey the same idea. As long as the idea is effectively communicated that is the entirety of our concern. The objective reality of the sound wave is meaningless, it is our subjective understanding of it that is of paramount importance.

Much of the life we lead follows this exact same principle. A red light means nothing without our interpretation of it to stop the car. The red light is objectively what it is. It is a truth. In our society we have learned to stop at a red light but other societies might have completely different rules in regards to traffic. Both are subjectively right for the circumstances.

This is not to discount objective reality. There is such a thing and our common understanding of it largely determines the subjective reality we experience. Most words don’t have the duality of Laurel and Yanny. Most words are understandable to everyone and have particular subjective meaning that aligns directly with the objective sound wave. When two different people hear the same word, they assign the same meaning to it. This is important.

It’s possible for someone to interpret the word, “Hello” to mean something derogatory and punch me in the face after I utter it to them. Subjectively they might be hearing the derogatory word but objectively it has meaning and law is based upon that meaning. When the ensuing court case, or my return fist, lands, the law will be on the side of the objective meaning of the word. Consequences will be meted out.

What does all this mean? You hear what you perceive but it’s not reality. It’s your interpretation of the real sound. Or, to be more succinct: It’s fine either way. Go have an ice cream.

Tom Liberman

Kimberly Guilfoyle and Unseemly Eagerness

Kimberly GuilfoyleA Fox News personality named Kimberly Guilfoyle is actively admitting she is interviewing to get the job of White House Press Secretary, currently held by Sean Spicer. I suppose I’ll get labeled a Liberal Shill or a Snowflake but this public lobbying for someone else’s job seems pretty gross to me. It’s just a lack of decency.

I mean, I get it, people get fired. Someone takes that job. That’s part of the business and political world. A business has to interview for a position they know is going to be vacant, but everywhere I’ve been it was done quietly. Other people in the office weren’t told about it, and certainly the person interviewing for the promotion didn’t go on Facebook and tell all their friends.

I’m not in the White House making decisions about who to hire for any position. I’m not hiring or firing anyone. My opinion is pretty much worthless in all of this. Still, if it was me, I’d certainly eliminate Guilfoyle as a candidate the moment I saw the interview. If she can’t be discreet enough to keep the talks quiet, then why would I want her working for me?

I suspect, as usual, thoughts about her behavior will be split along political lines, and that’s a shame. All too often we are willing to put up with bad behavior from someone who espouses the same political philosophy as us, while eagerly denouncing those who support the opposite side of the aisle.

When it comes to that sort of situation, I too feel the pressure. More than once, friends of mine who largely agree with my political point of view have spouted off inanities on their Social Media accounts. I always hesitate before saying something. On the occasions I do chastise an ally, I risk their friendship. I try to put my criticisms in a positive way. That doesn’t always work. I’m an abrasive fellow, there is no denying it. I’m not the most popular kid in school.

The problem is that the only people Guilfoyle is going to listen to are those who largely agree with her politics. She certainly won’t let my opinion influence her. It is only if someone with whom she largely agrees and respects sits her down and tells her how deplorable is her behavior, that she will mollify it.

That’s why I think it’s imperative to be critical of those with whom you largely agree when you see them doing something wrong. I think that’s what is largely missing in our current political climate. The ability to be critical of those with whom we find like cause.

And, of course, don’t lobby publicly for someone else’s job.

Tom Liberman

J.K. Rowling and Stolen Intellectual Property

intellectual propertyThere have been a number of cases involving stolen intellectual property in the news lately and a short story written by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling is the latest. In addition, episodes from Orange is the New Black were stolen and released after Netflix refused to pay a ransom.

This is an issue that touches close to home as I’m an author. I’ve written nine Sword and Sorcery fantasy books and I’m close to releasing my tenth. I’m certainly not nearly as famous as Rowling nor do I have as much to lose as Netflix, but I like to think of myself as a kindred spirit. What would I do if someone broke into my cloud account and stole the latest version of my book? Or, as in the case of Rowling, physically stole the manuscript I’m proofing? What if they released it for free on the internet? What if they attempted to extort money from me before doing so?

Rowling is imploring people not to purchase the stolen story which is, I suspect, about the only thing she can do. Anyone who wants to read the story and not pay for it, will be able to do so. In fact, anyone who wants to read any of her novels or watch any of her movies can illegally download them for free. It’s not particularly difficult. A collector can purchase they actual, physical story as a keepsake.

We live in a world in which intellectual property is all but impossible to protect. Even if television episodes, novels, movies, music, or any other information is not stolen; once it is released to the public, the ability to copy and redistribute it is all but unstoppable. People who want to purchase it from third parties who don’t own the intellectual rights will always find a way to do so.

What’s interesting about intellectual property theft, as opposed to physical theft, is the person stealing the information wants it. The exception being those who steal with the intent of extortion. Most people are not downloading music, movies, or novels because they plan to resell to a third party. They want to listen to, watch, or read the content. Thus, an appeal like Rowling’s makes an impact.

That’s reality and it’s important for those of us producing such content to understand it. Certainly, the Motion Picture and Music industries have lobbied Congress and gotten stringent and punitive piracy laws enacted. Some people have paid large fines for stealing music and other files but it hasn’t slowed down illegal downloading.

I can rely on the government to pass laws protecting intellectual property. I can rely on cyber-police to attempt to enforce those laws. I can rely on the court system to prosecute those few they catch in violation. What I can’t rely on is any of these methods to stop the theft.

The only way to stop most people from illegally purchasing or downloading such content is to ask them not to do so and to price the content in a way that is friendly. If Rowling were to put her story for sale at $20 a copy, that tempts people to steal it. However, if she places it on sale for $1.99, it is a very short story written on a single A5 postcard, I think the vast majority of her fans would simply shell out the two bucks. Why bother stealing when you know you can support the artist for a nominal price?

There will always be those who refuse to pay even a small price for such content but the various industries and artists have to balance their own profit margin with the potential for theft. As awful as it sounds to moderate our price because of thieves, there really doesn’t seem to be any other option. I currently cannot charge $20 for my novels because I’m an unknown, but if I was famous and my novels were hugely popular I might be able to do so. I wouldn’t.

That’s the only pragmatic solution to this problem. Make content cheap enough that regular people are willing to purchase it. That and use strong passwords!

What else is there to do?

Tom Liberman

Why is Stealth Marketing Illegal?

stealth marketingThe Federal Trade Commission is apparently quite concerned people are mentioning they like particular products without revealing they are paid for these remarks. It’s called Stealth Marketing. Basically, someone who has a large number of Social Media followers is paid by a business to mention a particular product.

The FTC requires that people who do so use #ad or #sponsor to indicate they are being paid for their opinion. Why does it matter? Why would government feel the need to secure us from this apparently dire threat?

Certainly, there is all sorts of Stealth Marketing going on in movies and television shows from which the government does not see fit to protect us. In addition, every time an athlete wears a jersey or shirt, swings a golf club, or hits a ball it is an advertisement for the apparel company that pays the university, league, or athlete. Every time an actor wears particular clothes to some award ceremony it is because they are paid to do so.

I could ask why there is apparently a different standard for the two but I just don’t care. Why on earth does the government care? Why is it against the law? It’s utter insanity. The government, as usual, couches their blatant interference in terms of protecting us. If we don’t force them to tell you they are paid sponsors, you won’t know! We’re doing it to save you from them!

In reality it is just another way for the government to justify its existence. There are apparently people at the FTC spending their time monitoring this situation and we pay the salaries of those people. Congress likely had to have hearings and who knows how much time went into writing these regulations. All to what end? From what are we being protected? Who does Stealth Marketing hurt?

Who cares if a celebrity says they like something on their Twitter account and they are being paid to do so? How is ensuring we know it’s an advertisement any different? I think Emily Blunt is a talented actress. If she happens to endorse Yves Saint Laurent Opium perform why do I care if she mentions it in a Twitter post as opposed to a commercial? Wait, there is a fragrance called Opium? Seriously? That’s awesome. I’m surprised the government hasn’t outlawed that.

Will I suddenly be less inclined to buy a product that a celebrity I admire uses if I know they are sponsored by the manufacturer? Gosh, I was all set to by that Opium perfume for my pretend girlfriend Emily Blunt but I found out she really doesn’t use it. She just shills for it on television. Now I won’t. Thank you, government for saving me from this terrible decision to purchase a product of my own free will.

I reiterate, who cares? Why do we care? What business is it of the government to tell a person they must reveal if they are just saying they enjoy a product or if they are being paid to say they enjoy a product? What’s the practical difference?

Who is hurt? The consumer is purchasing a product that was promoted. Whether it’s a paid promotion or a genuine promotion is irrelevant.

The people of the United States are fully capable of making their purchasing decisions without being protected by the government.

Tom Liberman

The Sad Message of Ann Coulter and Berkeley

ann-coulterThere’s been an ongoing situation with a woman named Ann Coulter who was invited to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. The lesson to be learned is that those who promulgate violence can sometimes win. It’s an important lesson to learn for those of us who preach tolerance and the peaceful exchange of ideas.

The reason Coulter eventually had to cancel her speech was because of the threat of violence. That threat largely comes from two ideologically motivated groups that don’t much care about Coulter or whose side she represents. They want violence and travel around the country looking to instigate it.

I’m a Libertarian and well acquainted with these two groups.

One is the Anarchists. Some of them call themselves Libertarian and I get to read their anti-government, anti-globalization nonsense on websites I frequent. They are angry, irrational, and extremely violent. You can spot them in a crowd wearing black with a stylized A symbol somewhere on their clothes.

The second is the White Nationalists. I’m familiar with them because they post racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic comments on Libertarian websites hoping to find those of a like mind. They are angry, irrational, and extremely violent. You can spot them in a crowd wearing a swastika on their clothes.

They are spoiling for the fight because it gets them publicity. They get to be on the news and they love battling each other. They find locations where their counterparts are protesting and immediately instigate a brawl. They have goggles and other equipment designed to defeat police suppression. They avoid carrying weapons and firearms knowing law enforcement officers will simply gun them down.

Between them they are far outnumbered by the rational and reasonable; however, they make up for it with violent fervor. There are plenty of people on the both sides who might not agree with Coulter, or a speaker from the other side, but are more than willing to promote civil discourse.

It’s important for those people to come together and sponsor talks from speakers like Coulter. Not just from one side but from both. The extreme right and left, frankly I don’t think there’s much difference between the two, benefit from the breakdown of civility. The losers are the moderates, those willing to listen and compromise.

The violent-prone extremes hope to bait us moderates into combat. They yell terrible things and posture angrily, hoping for a reply that will allow them to unleash their rage. And, of course, they love seeing their supposed opposites protesting nearby. The violence they desire is all but ensured.

The bad news is that Coulter eventually cancelled her speech because the moderates that invited her in the first place realized the lunatics on both sides were hoping to use the event to engage in violence.

Berkeley itself tried to accommodate the speech by moving it to a place better controlled by law enforcement officers. That was an excellent step forward by the University but it was not enough.

In order to stop the march of violence promoted by the extremes, people on opposite sides of the debate must come together. Those who oppose Coulter should try to make arrangements for her to speak safely at Berkeley. Those ideologically in line with Coulter should invite someone from the other side to speak as their guest.

Work together to promote civil discourse, engage in a dialectic with those opposed to us, band together against violence. These are the ways forward. These are the methods required to defeat the irrational and violent.

It is extraordinarily important to defeat those who promulgate rage and violence as a political means. Understand that rage and violence can win. Act accordingly.

Tom Liberman

Bill O’Reilly and why Money Matters

bill-oreillyThe slow unraveling of the career of Bill O’Reilly has an important lesson for everyone. Money matters. At least that’s the angle I’d like to examine.

O’Reilly made a lot of money for a great many people including himself. O’Reilly’s top rated show generated enormous income for Fox News but also for the advertisers. They weren’t spending tens of millions on his show for no reason. Everyone who worked at Fox and far beyond benefited from the ripple effect of his money printing machine. Camera operators, commercial actors, executives, other personalities at Fox, the list is almost endless.

That’s why it took so long for Fox to finally fire O’Reilly. Imagine O’Reilly was a simple camera operator. How many incidents with women would it have taken for him to get fired? I think we all know the answer to that one. How many people would have risen up in support of O’Reilly under those circumstances? Again, we all know the answer to this question.

We can lament this situation all we want. We can complain about the extra chances someone in O’Reilly’s position gets, the opportunities many others would not, but reality must be considered. Someone who is generating huge amounts of money will almost universally get the benefit of any doubt and even be allowed to continue long past the point of uncertainty.

I think it can be argued that simply being in the position O’Reilly was in encourages the sort of behavior in which he engaged. If you are immediately punished for wayward behavior then you just don’t get an opportunity to repeat it, you’ve been fired.

There are lessons to be learned for those who have a pragmatic mind. Sure, the ideologically motivated will attempt to lay blame on one group or the other but that’s really beyond the point. The reality is people who generate a lot of revenue are going to get more chances than those who do not.

If someone in a position of power does something reprehensible to you, you might want to seek financial rewards rather than taking the high ground. No matter your principles, the person who wronged you is going to avoid consequences, at least for a while, until multiple allegations begin to pile up.

Certainly, you should report the situation to whatever authority you can but if nothing is being done about it, you must be a pragmatist. Get out of there as quickly as your legs can carry you, like Megyn Kelly. The old adage about life giving you lemons has validity in today’s world.
There are people like O’Reilly everywhere in this world and they often crush those who get in their way. They don’t hesitate to use their wealth and power to get away with many terrible things. That’s the lesson. Don’t let yourself be crushed. Understand that life is extraordinarily unfair. That many times you’ll be in the right but won’t be rewarded for it, you might even be punished.

The final lesson to consider is your own behavior. If you find yourself in a position of power, a place where you are allowed to get away with things, don’t do it. Take the high road, you’re the only one with the option to do so.

Tom Liberman

Privacy in Browsing History Government v Capitalism

internet-browsing-privacyPeople are up in arms because Congress granted Internet Service Providers the ability to sell the browsing history of users. Well, that’s not exactly what happened. In 2016 the Federal Communication Commission began enforcing a rule preventing ISPs from selling such information. Congress just repealed that rule.

The major ISPs have now come out with a statement saying they will never do so.

Here we have in brilliant technicolor the problem with government regulations. Anything the government can do, they can undo with the swipe of pen. Any law they pass to support one thing, can oppose that same thing when an ideologically different party takes power. When we give government the power to restrict an ISP from selling our browsing history we implicitly give them the power to allow it.

Why, you might ask, have the major ISPs taken the unusual step of vowing never to do so? Because of capitalism. If their customers find out they are selling browsing history they might well find themselves short of customers. Oh, but wait, nobody has much of a choice in ISPs because local government puts up enormous and expensive barriers to companies that want to bring you internet service.

Cable companies pay huge amounts in bribes, I mean fees, in order to service a community. Now things are changing. Wireless Internet Access companies are available in many places but the system is still horribly monopolistic.

Imagine if local governments weren’t involved at all and any capitalist could start up an ISP to compete for your dollars. How long do you think the ones that sell your browsing history would last in a truly competitive market?

The only reason the big ISPs are vowing not to sell your information is because of competition, not government regulations.

Competition brings enormous benefits to consumers in a way government regulation never can. Government regulations are often the reason companies can engage in anti-consumer activity, they stifle competition. Without competition there is nowhere else to go. With competition a company that angers its customers just won’t survive.

That’s capitalism.

The more the government does to protect us, the worse off we are.

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

Chevy Chase, Community, Hate, and Success

community_paintball_explosionI was browsing through some of the glorious paintball clips of the television show Community on YouTube when I came across this video. It reminded me one of the show’s stars, Chevy Chase, hated being on the show and most of the cast and creator were not particular fond of him.

If Chase hated being on the show and most of the people he worked with didn’t like him, how was the show so hysterically funny? How was Chase so good? How did the other actors create comedy gold in scenes with him? How did the show runner produce hilarious episodes one after the other?

In team sports there is something called chemistry. This is how the players and coaches interact with one another. It is universally considered a benefit when everyone gets along. When the culture of the team is good. But perhaps the reality is different. At least that’s what I’m thinking. Maybe liking each other isn’t all that important to success. Maybe working with talented people you hate can be and is far more of an indicator of success than so-called team chemistry.

As an extreme example; it’s pretty clear no matter how much the other players on the St. Louis Cardinals might like me as a person, I would be an anchor on the team, what with me striking out nine out of ten plate appearance (ok, 99 out of 100).

Is it pleasant to be around those we like? To spend time in the company of those we enjoy? Yes. Why, yes, it is. I enjoy life more when I’m surrounded by people whose company I enjoy. The question becomes, is it an element of success? It seems like it should be an obvious answer. If the team, be it sports or business, likes one another they should be happier and thus more willing to perform excellently. Yet, is it?

Does happiness engender success? These are the question managers must ask themselves while building their teams. Is this new person we’re adding going to improve the culture? Is this new person we’re adding going to improve our chances of succeeding at the project?

Who is more important? Douchebag super-talent or sweet person average talent?

Obviously we’d love both, but what I’m asking is which takes priority. You want the job done. You are the manager. What’s your choice? The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that success is more related to talent than chemistry. Much more. What do you think?

The poll question is a bit black and white and I understand there are nuances.

If you were building a team which would you place in higher esteem?

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

What the word Fart has to Say about Your Integrity

rempel-may-fartThere’s a silly news story making the rounds that gives me an opportunity to ask you a question, so I’m going to do it.

Politician Michelle Rempel said the word “fart” in regards to how the province of Alberta was being treated by the Canadian Parliament. The leader of the opposition party, Elizabeth May, thought the word lacked decorum and called out Rempel. A war of words ensued.

What I want to examine is the idea that the word itself has no meaning at all to most people. It is the person who says it. Let’s pretend you have no idea what political parties Rempel and May represent. You simply know Rempel said the word fart in a place where normally one uses decorum.

I want you to think introspectively about yourself and your past behavior when answering this poll. Don’t immediately answer. Think about it. Then give me an answer.

Would your Comment about this Story Change based on Political Party?

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It’s my opinion that the vast majority of people are totally influenced by party affiliation. Which side they take on this issue has nothing to do with the word itself but the party affiliation of the person who said it. I’m also of the opinion that most people who answer this poll will deny that. They will answer that party affiliation has nothing to do with their answer.

Thus, I guess I’m saying most people I know will lie in order to support their political agenda. And they will do it with little awareness they are lying. They will tell their lie and believe they are telling the truth. Worse even than the means justify the ends. Lying supports the party I like and therefore it is the truth.

It’s my opinion this is where we are as a country, not just in Canada.

Finally I will discuss my opinion on the controversy although I hope you answer the poll before reading.

Rempel was in violation of simple decorum but not enormously, it was an impassioned speech. May was out of line in publically attacking Rempel. She should have simply pulled her aside quietly and suggested that such language is probably not best in parliament. Perhaps Rempel might have stood up the next day and explained that her passion carried her away and that she is sorry for her choice of words if not for the message. Maybe even have thanked May for pointing it out. Then May might have reciprocated explaining that she understood and heard Rempel’s message. That they might try to work together to solve the problem.

But then again, I’m just a silly dreamer who thinks we are headed toward Utopia.

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

Pokemon Go Shaming and Fear

pokemon-go-memeAs if you didn’t already know, a game called Pokemon Go has become hugely popular in the last week.

Along with its popularity I’ve seen a huge spike of news stories and comments in social media attacking the game and its players. The question I want to try and examine today is why is there all this hate and fear?

The object of Pokemon Go is to physically wander around in public places and collect virtual Pokemon. These are little creatures that do battle with one another. A player who has stronger Pokemon can defeat players with weaker Pokemon. Thus it becomes necessary to collect ever stronger Pokemon to win battles. Players can join teams where groups battle one another. What makes Pokemon Go different is that you have to venture out into the physical world to find and collect your combatants. And people are doing it by the millions.

People are getting out of their houses and wandering the world at strange hours and visiting places they might not have visited before. They are getting exercise they would not normally get. They are meeting strangers whom they would not normally meet. Social boundaries are crumbling as people who would never so much as give each other the time of day because of their jobs, race, religion, sexual orientation, or physical locations are now meeting and finding common ground.

That, my devoted readers, is causing abject fear in the establishment. I know it sounds like I’m making way too much out of this but the plethora of news stories about the dangers of playing Pokemon and the social shaming I’m seeing everywhere must have an explanation. People of all religions, colors, nationalities, ages, sexes, and sexual orientations are finding out they have something in common besides our traditional way of separating ourselves. They enjoy playing the same game.

And, by golly, that’s with whom we should be associating! We should hang out with the people who love the same things we love regardless of all those other factors. Factors which are often merely the circumstances of our birth.

Look at that forty year old, white computer programmer sitting on the bench with those two young black men in baggy trousers teaching the police officer how to play. (That’s one of the few positive stories on Pokemon Go I’ve seen). You’re fooling yourself if you think images like that don’t frighten the authorities. What would the world be like if people with the same interests hung out with each other and didn’t worry about what everyone else was doing?

What would happen to nations? To boundaries? To government?

I know, I know, I’m making way too much out of this. Still, my friends, go play Pokemon Go and make some friends you otherwise would never have met.

Be afraid, authority. Change is coming and it comes from unexpected sources.

Is Pokemon Go just a game or something more?

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

Heineken – Where have all the Good Men Gone?

drunk-guyI’ve been watching a Heineken commercial for a few months now and it’s been bothering me since the first time I saw it.

Basically it is a little montage of women walking out on their incoherently drunk male companions from a variety of locations. They sing of their lament that there are no more good men. Eventually one handsome fellow pushes away a beer and we know that the moderate drinker is the hero for whom they’ve all been looking.

Call me thin-skinned. Call me political correct. By golly I’m offended. I’m not offended to the point where I’m going to boycott Heineken (which I don’t drink anyway, so boycott threat pointless). I’m not asking other people to stop drinking it. I’m not asking for the ad to be pulled. I’m just saying, gosh, it’s offensive. I’m a guy. I drink. I’ve been drunk.

Where have all the good men gone?

What if the commercial asked where have all the good women gone and show trampy looking girls making out with guys in the ally with liquor bottles scattered everywhere? Where have all the good girls gone? Would there be outrage?

Anyway, not that big a deal. Just a quick, informal poll. Let me know what you think.

Is the ad offensive to men or am I overreacting?

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

Newest Prime Number Stupid Comment of the Week

Newest-PrimeAnd with a triumphant return we have my newest Stupid Comment of the Week!

There was an interesting article about how software using computer idle time is performing mathematical calculations to find prime numbers. Such software found the largest one yet back in September but news of it is being spread far and wide through the internet.

Upon reading this story a fellow named Michael Mulranen decided to post his mathematical acumen for the world to see with his comment as displayed in the image above.

Michael then went on to defend the argument with more comments! First he attacks someone who dared point out his logic was idiotic by commenting on their spelling. Then he defends his original argument.

More-prime-defenseFinally he attacks another person who told him his argument was wrong.

Congratulations, Michael. You are my Stupid Commenter of the Week!

Oh, and of course, Prime Numbers are by their nature odd numbers. Any odd number to which five is added will be an even number and therefore not prime. This was pointed out to Michael but he doesn’t want to listen.

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

 

 

Truth or Compassion?

truth-or-liesThis weekend my step-mother missed a step resulting in a badly and gruesomely broken leg. As she lay there writhing in agony she said, “I think I my have broken my leg”.

I responded, “No, you broke your leg.”

Not exactly Mr. Compassion and Kindness. The incident is a window into me to some degree but it brought to my mind a question. Is it better to be brutally honest or skirt around honesty with compassion? I recall another incident while visiting the great state of Alaska where my young niece, perhaps ten or eleven at the time, and me were staying in a cabin and she asked me what would happen if a bear came in the windows. The Denali guides had given us a lesson on what to do if a bear attacks earlier in the day. I responded, “It would kill us.”

Tess was not particularly happy with my response, as might be expected.

Are we better off hearing the awful truth at all times or is it better to soften the blow occasionally?

In the case of my step-mother it was quite clear her leg was broken, she knew it as well as did I. One couldn’t come to any other conclusion. It was going to require an ambulance, a stay in the hospital, and likely surgery. There was nothing to do about it so perhaps I could have said something a little softer, perhaps, “It does look that way but you never know”. Would that have been a better answer at the time? I think it’s the answer a lot of people who actually have a heart might give, but my black and little used blood pumping organ doesn’t seem capable of such.

Likewise with my niece I could have easily said something like, “I’ll protect you.” It would have been true to some degree as I would have tried to protect her but the reality makes almost no difference as a bear was not going to break into the cabin in any case. Giving a softer answer would have reassured her and probably allowed her a more restful evening.

I’m not really asking if my answers were wrong or right in both cases but examining a more philosophic question. When the truth is unhelpful and won’t change anything is it better to lie a little bit?

I seem to find it almost impossible to lie in situations like that. I’m sure it has to do with my social awkwardness and likely autistic spectrum nature but it makes me wonder if I might have more friends if I was a little less direct, a bit less literal.

Oh well, as Popeye was want to say, “I ams what I ams.”

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

What to do with a Fraud like Shemitah?

shemitah-idiocyI belong to a Libertarian website where a healthy gathering of free thinkers get to express their thoughts. Recently a fellow named Jeff Berwick has been writing any number of blogs about a thing called Shemitah.

The posts are largely a series of dire predictions about economic collapse and World War III as they relate to a little observed Jewish holiday.

Those that promulgate the stories are scam artists hoping to scare gullible people and extract money from them. I’m not going to waste time talking about how stupid are the scams or how vile are those using fear to steal from people. What I want to talk about is the need for my Libertarian website to continue to allow them to be posted.

The posts are filled with half-truths, exaggerations, and outright lies. Yet the powers that be allow the author to continue to post despite a criminal track record. Why? Because we’re Libertarians. We’re Anarchists. We’re Free Thinkers.

There must be room in such a group for such sleazy scam artists. There must be room for vile racists. There must be room for even those who promote a large and powerful central authority. We embrace opposition, we don’t quash it. It is not the nature of free thinkers to refuse ideas, even the incredibly stupid and intentionally misleading.

It is my decision on whether or not to believe the nonsense posted by Berwick. I’m free to post comments on his idiotic blogs, and rest assured, I do. But I’m not free to order his lunacy removed from the site.

I trust my fellow Free Thinkers not to be fooled by his idiocy. In some ways I welcome his moronic posts because it reminds the Anarchists of our group that just because something is stupid doesn’t mean people won’t do it. That’s why I’m a Libertarian, not an Anarchist. Ha, I say. Look at Shemitah and tell me people won’t do stupid and self-destructive things.

I’m for limited government, not no government because of people like Berwick. Idiots who will kill me and take my money even though in the end they will lose. He’s an idiot and morons do stupid things. Unfortunately, sometimes the non-morons are hurt be these actions.

So I smile when I see yet another Shemitah post. Post away, moron. In a group of Free Thinkers you represent no threat at all, just a reminder.

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

Is Shaving Your Legs a Double Standard?

Suzannah WeissThanks to my Facebook friends I’ve been made aware of a story about women shaving their legs in the news. It’s really about one woman not shaving her legs and she uses the argument that women shaving their legs is a double standard.

Suzannah Weiss wrote the piece for Yahoo! Beauty and seems to think a couple of things. That women shaving their legs when men don’t is a double standard. Also that women largely shave their legs to please men. She mentions that some women shave their legs because they like the look and they should be able to make that choice without judgement.

I suppose Weiss is simply trying to be encouraging to other women out there who don’t want to shave their legs. Perhaps she is trying to shame men who prefer smooth legs on women. I can’t speak to her motivation but the idea that it is somehow a double standard seems wrong to me. If a woman shaving her legs is a double standard then so too must be a man wearing a tie, a woman in high heels, a man who shaves his face, either sex who shaves their genitalia.

Weiss then goes on to explain that a great barometer of a man’s respect for a woman is if he thinks a woman is obligated to look pleasing to him. If a man expects a woman to look nice for him, apparently he is a bad fellow. Likewise it seems that it’s at least a negative thing for a woman to want to look pleasing for a man. If she wants to do it for herself, that’s fine. But wanting to look nice for a man? No good.

I’m a Libertarian. I believe we should always do what’s in our best self-interest. But this doesn’t mean we should be isolated. What is often in our self-interest is doing things that are pleasing to those around us. This is how we form friendships, relationships, and manage to exist in society.

One thing I noticed in the picture to the article Weiss is wearing a flower in her hair. Did she do that to please herself? Could not someone argue using her exact same points that wearing a flower in her hair is misguided attempt to be pretty to those around her? That men don’t wear flowers in their hair. Are flowers in the hair a double standard? Are men who like women with flowers in their hair somehow worse men? Are women who put flowers in their hair to please men wrong to do so?

If a woman wants to shave her legs to please a man, to please herself, or because she’s a competitive swimmer, more power to her. If she doesn’t want to, for whatever reason, fine again. If men like shaved legs on a woman, good for them. If they don’t, fine and dandy.

For purposes of full disclosure, I love smooth legs on a woman.

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