Facebook Post leads to Ticket for Dog Walking

Facebook crimeThere’s an interesting little story in the news today about a woman who made a Facebook post about walking her dog in a dog park which requires those who use it to have a permit.

I’m certain the park in question requires a paid permit because someone must spend the time, effort, and money to keep it nice. The people who walk their dogs there pay for this service. When someone goes to the park without paying their permit fee they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

Presumably one of the people who actually pays their permit fee saw the post from the woman and reported it to the authorities who issued a fine. It turns out the woman was lying in her post and hadn’t actually used the park in several years and the fine was rescinded. That’s not really the point though.

People seem to be pretty upset that the fine was issued in the first place but it doesn’t bother me at all. If you confess to illegal activity be it on Facebook, to an undercover officer, to a friend who turns you in, or in any other way there should be ramifications. Frankly, if you break the law then you should understand there might be penalties involved if you are caught.

I do think the fine shouldn’t have been issued until an investigation was conducted but I have no problem with police using their investigative capabilities via Facebook or any other legal method. We are protected in this country from unreasonable police activity by our Constitution and I think these rights must be guarded with vigilance. I don’t think this is an example of the police overstepping their bounds.

It seems pretty straight forward to me. The woman confessed to a crime on a public forum. The police failed to investigate the incident and issued a fine. She complained and the fine was rescinded.

This is not an example of the police state that I rail against in my posts all the time. If she had actually been guilty of walking her dog in the park without a permit then she should have faced the exact same penalty as someone who was physically caught walking their dog in such a manner.

My advice, use Facebook to talk with friends, not to confess to crimes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Mike Anderson Released after 9 Months – Good Call

Cornealious Mike AndersonThere’s been an interesting case here in my home state of Missouri about a fellow by the name of Cornealious “Mike” Anderson who was convicted of committing armed robbery back in 1999. He was released from the court after the conviction and told to wait for orders to report to prison.

He waited for fourteen years. Nine months ago someone spotted the clerical error and he was arrested and began serving his sentence. Today Judge Terry Lynn Brown in agreement with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster set him free from prison. There’s some controversy over events but by and large people seem to be pleased with the outcome.

I also agree with the outcome and I don’t normally write blog posts when I’m in agreement with the situation but today I’m making an exception because the reason I agree doesn’t seem to match up with the reason other people agree. There is also a conclusion to draw from the case that I think is extraordinarily important and seems to be largely overlooked.

The reason most people don’t have a problem with the release is that Anderson has been a model citizen since the conviction. He’s never been in trouble, has a family, does community work, and never concealed his name or evaded law enforcement officials. He just waited for a letter that never arrived.

The main reason I think he shouldn’t have to do any time in prison is because its more than thirteen years after his original sentence. If the state forgets about you for thirteen years that’s not your fault. He was sentenced to thirteen years and those years passed. He didn’t try to escape, he didn’t move around avoiding the letter, he just waited and got on with his life. That fact that he’s done well in life is certainly to his credit.

The most important part of the story to me is that he has done far better out of prison than he likely would have done in it. The question we must ask ourselves is: What is the point of prison?

Is a prison sentence designed to make us feel better about ourselves? It certainly seems that is the case these days. Lock him up! Throw away the key! I read comments and listen to my friends say these words all the time. Somehow punishing someone else for misdeeds feeds not only their lust for vengeance but also their sense of self-worth.

Is a prison sentence designed to deter others from committing a crime? This is a more reasonable argument and I think has value. I think in this case no one who commits armed-robbery is going to hope for similar circumstances, so letting him go is in no way lessening the deterrence aspect of the thirteen-year sentence.

Is a prison sentence designed to make the person who committed the crime become a better person? Yes! That’s the main point. we want people who commit crimes to learn remorse for their crimes and exit prison better people, people able to live in society and do good things. If every person who went into prison came out and never committed a crime again would we call that a success? I think so.

If this is your rational for prison, and it is mine, Anderson achieved that with flying colors. For thirteen years he’s been a model citizen. Now let’s contrast that with what he would have been if he had served thirteen years in a prison. Would he have come out as good as man as he is now?

The question is impossible to answer but I speculate that the answer is no. That prison would not only have made Anderson a worse person but would have hurt society in the long run. Anderson would have emerged from prison a far more hardened criminal than when he went in.

What does that say about our penal system? Something is clearly wrong. According to the latest statistics about 67% of all people released from prison are arrested again within three years. That’s horrific. It’s bad for the prisoners, bad for the victims of their crimes, and bad for tax-payers who foot the bill.

Remember that every convicted felon who emerges from prison and doesn’t commit another crime is a victim saved. That’s a fact. How many murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults would never happen if prison served to rehabilitate rather than harden criminals?

It sounds like I’m being soft on criminals and I’m willing to accept that label if my views end up preventing hundreds of thousands of crimes.

When not sending a man to prison is more effective in achieving society’s penal goals than sending him to prison, there is something seriously wrong.

We must get past our lust for vengeance and look at making prisons rehabilitation centers. Is it distasteful to spend time and money to train a rapist a useful life skill? I think so. Is there satisfaction in seeing a rapist punished for their heinous crimes, seeing them suffer? Absolutely. However, it’s worse to release the rapist only to see him rape again.

If someone raped one of my sisters I’d want them dead. The reality is that we have a judicial system and after a certain amount of time criminals reenter society. That being the reality, perhaps we should deal with it. No rape, murder, or armed robbery can be undone once it has happened. But a future one can be prevented.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Thomas M. Harrigan and Marijuana Stupidity

Thomas Harrigan MarijuanaAm I the only one who doesn’t like being stupid?

I’m going to tell you a personal story and in it one of my five sisters is not going to come off looking all that great. I just want to be clear that everything is all patched up now. The events depicted in this story happened many years ago and I have nothing but love and good feelings for said sister. All is forgiven.

When I was a young lad my sister used to have a favorite word. “Tommmmmy” she would say after I did something not so smart. She then used a facial expression that left no doubt to anyone witnessing it that I was possibly the stupidest human being on the face of the planet. That drawn out recitation of my name still sends me weeping to the corner of shame.

The end result of hearing “Tommmmmy” is that I don’t like to be wrong. People often mistake it for always having to be right. It’s not that. It’s being wrong that bothers me. It literally causes me to have an upset stomach. When I’m wrong I get physically sick. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. Thanks, sis.

What’s the point of all this personal information? I just don’t understand how people can say incredibly stupid things. Things that have no possible chance of being accurate. And yet it happens.

Thomas M. Harrigan is the Chief of Operations for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and has been a DEA Special Agent for nearly 25 years. He has a Master’s Degree in Education from Seton Hall. This is an intelligent man.

He told a Congressional committee that “Every single parent out there” opposes the legalization of marijuana.

He said: We also know that marijuana destroys lives and families, undermines our economy, and insults our common values. There are no sound scientific, economic or social reasons to change our nation’s marijuana policies.

This is a man whose salary I pay! We pay! He has been a DEA agent for twenty-five years.

There are reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana just as there are very compelling and good reasons to decriminalize it.

I fully understand why Harrigan wants to keep marijuana illegal. It means he gets to keep his job. If we ever decriminalize drugs then the people enforcing the current laws won’t have a lot to do. This includes Harrigan. Maybe they could spend their time chasing down child molesters, rapists, and murderers.

But, seriously? A Master’s degree from Seton Hall and you say that every single parent is opposed to decriminalization? He later amended his incredibly stupid and false statement by saying “most” parents would oppose decriminalization. That’s reasonable and polls suggest that parents support legalizing marijuana at a lower rate than the general public which favors it at about a 55% rate.

I don’t want to go on yet another rant about how the War on Drugs has fueled violence, crime, and done nothing to limit the supply of illegal drugs. I do want to ask you, my loyal audience, a question.

Do you hate to be wrong? Do you try to think out your statements before you make them so you don’t say something stupid? When you do make a mistake, are you embarrassed? I’ve made a few with this column of mine and I always try to immediately post a retraction and admit my mistake.

I’m always astonished when I see someone make such an incredibly inaccurate statement. I don’t get it and I never will.

If I was Harrigan I’d be hiding in the corner and I know what my sister would be saying … “Tommmmmy!”

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

St. Louis Assault Via Foam Dart

Foam Dart Attack St. LouisIt’s been a while since I’ve done a feature in my Critical Thinking Fail category but I have a winner!

Apparently my hometown is making national news with a rather ridiculous story. A young couple drove their car up to the checkout window at the drive-through of a St. Louis Lion’s Choice restaurant not with the intent of purchasing anything but so that they could shoot the attendant with a foam dart.

With the prevalence of video cameras it was all caught on tape and after investigation by the police the couple was apprehended and is now being charged with felony assault.

The Failure of Critical Thinking in this story is pretty much across the board.

Who in their right mind thinks it’s okay in this day and age to point a gun-like object at an unsuspecting person? Have you not been reading the news? The couple is lucky the attendant didn’t open fire with a real gun. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with shooting games and shooting toys. I played plenty of such games when I was a child but with people who knew we were playing. Even then I didn’t go around pointing toy guns at people who were not in the game.

Secondly, someone needs a lesson in Nerf. Nerf darts are not yellow. It’s not a big deal but can’t we at least get the story right?

Apparently the restaurant brought the police into the matter and I’m not totally opposed to their role in all of this. I think if someone is shooting anything through the drive-through window it’s not unreasonable to alert the police to the activity even if it was a harmless foam dart. Still, it seems excessive.

I don’t blame the officers in question for tracking down the fugitives. They were likely called by the restaurant and it’s their job to investigate crime. I do have an objection to charging the couple with felony assault. I suspect this a product of our zero-tolerance, no personal responsibility world. If the officer in charge of the investigation didn’t charge the couple he might have feared being accused of not doing his job. In this world he might have been reprimanded or even fired. Who knows.

What should have happened? The officer should have dragged the couple back to the Lion’s Choice, made them apologize to the worker, made them shake hands, and finally had them order a delicious roast beef sandwich. Problem solved.

This is the way we used to solve a lot of problems in this country. We don’t any more because we fear repercussions. A teacher cannot discipline a child in school for fear of being charged by the outraged parents with assault. An officer can’t walk a criminal around the block.

I’m not going to pretend there isn’t a rationale behind the zero-tolerance policies. There are teachers who physically and emotionally abuse students for their own sadistic pleasure. There are police officers look the other way for those from whom they curry favor.

My point is that these zero-tolerance policies aren’t helping. There are still individuals doing those things. The real solution is to spend the time and effort to prosecute those who are dangerously criminal in their actions. This involves giving discretion and responsibility to people in charge. To administrators, to teachers, to police officers, to judges, and many others.

If those people fail in their duties then they must be appropriately punished.

The problem is that we seem to think zero-tolerance, zero-responsibility rules will solve the problem. They won’t and they create their own issues as well. As we see in this case.

The less responsibility we give people, the less responsible they will become.

The Libertarian Ideal is a world in which the vast majority understand their actions and take responsibility for them. When there are those that do not; they must be reprimanded, educated, and often given another opportunity. This is not an easily arrived at state of affairs. It requires that everyone understand the principles of critical thinking and have the ability to apply them to their day-to-day lives and actions.

In this sort of world we wouldn’t be talking about foam dart assaults but might be focused on more important things.

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

Legalizing Marijuana will increase Crime – According to this article

mexico and marijuanaI didn’t know if I should post this article under stupid and/or misleading headlines or just express my outrage in general. It’s one of the most irrational pieces of nonsense I’ve read in … well … days. (I read a lot of nonsense trying to find something to blog about)

The headline blares: Legalizing Pot Makes Mexican Cartels Even More Dangerous

Oh no! I’m so very, very frightened now. We must not legalize marijuana for it will be very, very dangerous for me!

Here’s the insane rational for this argument. Marijuana, according to the article, generates about $1.425 billion in annual revenue for Mexican drug cartels. Because of this loss of revenue the cartels will have to resort to other criminal activities. Thus there will be an increase in crime!

The article goes on to discuss how the Mexican drug cartels are terrorizing citizens, carrying out large-scale ransom based kidnappings, extorting legitimate businesses, running prostitution rings, smuggling migrants into the United States, exporting harder drugs, smuggling cigarettes, stealing gas, stealing solvents, and not making poopy in the potty! (Okay, I made that last one up).

All this is true. The drug cartels are doing this thanks in part to the $1.425 billion that marijuana smoking Americans send them! The article suggests, in no uncertain terms, that we should continue to send them this bribe so that they don’t increase their criminal activity. Are you kidding me?

I’ve got news for you, they are already engaged in violent crime! Cutting off their funding is a good thing! They aren’t going to stop committing crime because they’ve got too much money. They are constantly looking for new revenue streams. Giving them $1.425 billion less to finance their operations is … wait for it … a good thing!

The article goes on to lament that conservative groups haven’t banded together strongly enough to try to prevent the decriminalization of marijuana. Don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of supposed small government conservatives and the DEA.

This article is fear mongering at a level of ridiculousness that makes me want to laugh and weep at the same moment.

Happily, judging by the outrage in the comments below the article I’m guessing this argument is not swaying many people. So, at least we’ve got that.

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

$3 Million in a bra?

Money In Bra

There’s a rather interesting story in the news about a school employee who stole some money over the course of seven years. Over that period she managed to steal an estimated $3 million by putting money in her bra as she was leaving school grounds.

The money came from students who paid cash for lunches over the course of the day. The employee was in charge of accounting for this money.

What I find interesting is that my first reaction, and that of most the people making comments, was that this was a huge amount of money to steal in seven years. That she must have had some specially made bra into which to stuff the huge wads of bills. Is that what you thought?

I heard the story as I was pulling up to pick up my dinner from a local grocery store and sat in my car for a few minutes before it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t all that much to money to stuff into a bra after all. My math skills being deficient I waited until I returned home to perform the calculations.

The first order of business was to determine how many days are in a school year. It turns out there are about 180 on average so I went with that figure. So, let’s work it out.

The number of years = 7

The number of days = 180

The total amount = 3,000,000

The unknown amount is how much was stolen each day (x).

The equation: 7 * 180 * x = 3,000,000

7 * 180 = 1,260.

So now we have 1260 * x  = 3,000,000. We move the 1260 to the other side of the equation and end up with this.

x = 3,000,000/1260.

The result is $2,380 per day.

Not so bad and it’s probably a good thing to get my algebra brain working again after all these years.

Now, let’s say it’s mostly $20 dollar bills, so that’s fairly simple. 2,380/20 = 119 bills stuffed into her bra on a daily average.

Our math isn’t done yet because I need to know how thick is a pile of 119 bills. Yes, I have a sickness, I admit it.

The US Treasury says that a dollar bill is .0043 inches tall.

Now we take 119 * .0043 and end up with .511 inches. Half an inch of bills every school day for seven years and we’ve got our answer! It can be done and without that much trouble.

Isn’t math great!

So, I was wrong and so were most of the people who made comments on the story.

Now, tell me the truth, when you first heard the story did you think, like me, it sounded impossible?

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

Pennsylvania Sues NCAA over Sandusky Fine – Not What you Think

Greed***** EDIT ******

I’m now reading stories that indicate the original information I read was incorrect. The lawsuit does seek to throw-out the penalties claiming that the NCAA overstepped their jurisdiction. There are still parts of the suit seeking to spend the money in Pennsylvania but please take what I wrote below as an honest mistake based on the first stories I read.

If this new information is correct, and I think it is, a hearty of tip of the hat to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and a heartfelt apology for my original story! Well done, sir.

****** END EDIT *******

A news story just came to my attention about the fact that the Governor of Pennsylvania is going to sue the NCAA over the punishment meted out in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation situation at Penn State.

I wrote a blog not that long ago suggesting that the NCAA overstepped their authority in punishing Penn State for a criminal rather than athletic case. So, when I read the headline about the lawsuit I was quite interested. I don’t want to go back over the original crime or why I thought the NCAA’s decision was wrong. If you’re interested in that just click the earlier link and you can read my reasoning. What I do want to talk about is the lawsuit, my reaction to the headline, and my thoughts after reading the entire story.

When I read the headline I was excited by the idea that the governor of Pennsylvania, like me, thought the fines and punishments completely unjustified. I assumed that the governor wanted to rectify the situation by returning a criminal case to the court of law, where it belongs, and out of the jurisdiction of the NCAA. Judging by the first fifteen or so comments I read; the majority of people leapt to that same assumption.

Wrong.

Here’s the deal. The NCAA imposed a $60 million fine on the school. This money was earmarked for programs designed to help educate children and prevent child molestation in the future. Well, the lawsuit is about how that money is to be spent. Of course, I’m not surprised. We don’t care that the NCAA overstepped their legal bounds by imposing a fine for a criminal case over which the NCAA should have no jurisdiction. We’re just pissed that we don’t get a bigger hunk of that $60 million. Sigh.

The heart of the case is that the state of Pennsylvania wants all the money spent in the state. The NCAA has a task-force deciding how to spend that money. Let me guess, paying the task-force tons of money, putting them up in hotels, taking bribes from every organization that wants a piece of that $60 million pie, and otherwise acting normally. The NCAA presidents says at least 25% of the money will be spent in Pennsylvania but the governor thinks that’s not enough. Because he wants his own task-force to make those decisions I’m guessing.

It’s all a big fight over the money. Not anything important like ethics or legality.

Greed. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. I’ll be absolutely dismayed when I find out how much of the $60 million went into the pockets of friends of the NCAA task-force members. How much went to pay for expenses. How much went for studies.

I’ll just go curl up in ball now. Call me in the morning.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Deadly Drugs – Already Legal

Prescription MedicationThere are many people out there who oppose the legalization of drugs because of the danger they represent to society. Well, I’ve got news for you. Drugs are largely already legal and lethal. Only the drugs that the drug industry controls are considered legal and alternates that could be dispensed cheaply are still illegal. This article describes how overdose from prescription medications now outnumber overdoses of illegal drugs. Prescription medication pain pills use has increased dramatically in the last fifteen years with it reaching a level four times higher in 2010 than it was in 1999.

At first glance my argument appears to support the continued legal penalties for drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and others of their ilk. If prescription medication kills so many people then we should think about making Vicodin and others illegal as well. I see the idea but my point is that the violence associated with illegal drugs would largely stop once we ended our prohibitionist laws. Also, many people who become addicted to prescription painkillers eventually turn to illegal drugs because they are far cheaper and readily available. This brings them into contact with hardened criminals. These hardened criminals are actually only a short step away from the doctor that prescribes Vicodin and the pharmacist that dispenses it.

So, prescription drugs are killers and lead to addiction. Illegal drugs lead to violence beyond imagination. What’s the answer?

There will always be people who seek out the chemical pleasure drugs induce; be it legally with alcohol or some other legal medication or illegally with marijuana or other drugs. There will always people in pain who have legitimate need for pain killing drugs to help them get through a medical crisis. We must accept this fact before we can arrive at a conclusion. Drugs will always, and have always, destroyed lives. People are documented as dying from alcohol related illnesses for as long as we have written records.

Once we come to that conclusion, that we cannot stop the self-destructive behavior of a certain percentage of our society, we can start to think about real solutions. How do we minimize such destruction and also minimize the criminal element that causes so much harm as well?

It’s a two-pronged attack. The first step is to legalize all drugs. Heroin is just branded as Vicodin or Oxycontin. It’s really the same family of drug and there isn’t any drug out there that isn’t dispensed legally by prescription. So, why not just make everything legal? It completely destroys the criminal element behind illegal drug production and dispensation which destroys so many lives.

But, that’s not the only attack. Even as a drug legalization advocate I acknowledge the dangers such substances represent. Should anyone be able to purchase heroin at the corner drug-store without a prescription? Would we end up as a nation of drug stupefied zombies? Certain psychoactive drugs are physically extremely destructive. Should we allow these to be sold over the counter to any comer?

I think the solution is one of education and available help. We should dispense with the nonsensical anti-drug arguments and give real information on the harmful effects of these substances. Then the industry of drugs should be taxed, yep I said it, to allow for free clinics for those who want help. Those who don’t want help, those who gleefully destroy their lives, there is nothing we can do for them and there will never be anything to be done.

It’s not a perfect solution. There will still be drug addicts. There will still be those who destroy their own lives and harm those around them because of these addictions. I’m of the opinion that people have to make their own way in life. If we allow people to make decisions like buying some heroin at the local drugstore without a prescription then eventually people will, mostly, make good decisions. We cannot be a nanny-state and a successful country.

We cannot force people into good decisions. We can give people information, give people choices, give people opportunities. When everyone has hope and opportunity I’m of the opinion that society succeeds. That people succeed. Maybe I’m an optimist.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Future Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Youth Football and Gambling

Youth FootballThere’s an interesting case breaking right now in Southern Florida involving youth football and gambling rings. It’s a poorly written article with an obvious bias but the story itself evokes several interesting questions.

In this case a group of coaches set gambling lines for youth football games in South Florida. This area of the country is one of the most football crazy regions in the nation. But, let’s not kid ourselves. There is plenty of gambling going on over Texas high school football. We all know about sports betting for professional and college football. It is a huge industry.

What happened in this case is that an entrepreneur found an avenue for profit. People wanted to gamble on the youth football games and someone provided an outlet. The story indicates, and it could be wrong, that whoever was controlling the gambling exerted influence to make certain that no point shaving occurred. That means they were trying to put up an honest game. An honest game is generally in the best interest of the house. It sounds strange but the house prefers an honest game. It is only the gambler that wants to cheat the house.

The problem with gambling is the ancillary harm and illegal activity it can engender. Dishonest games. Players paid to throw the game or change the final score. Referees bribed. Then of course there are those who gamble too much and must suffer for their mistakes. There are the families of those who lose all their money and must accept the consequences through no fault of their own.

It might be difficult to bribe a professional football player but not nearly as hard to corrupt someone making no money at all, a ten-year old quarterback. A coach, a player, a referee, even the ball boy could deflate a ball at a key moment. All these things are possible. I certainly understand why a state would want to make gambling illegal and they certainly have the right to do so.

I’m just not sure it’s a good idea. Generally making things illegal feeds criminals money, lots of money. This money then leads to violence as fights over who gets it occur. Do we think that once people know how much money can be made from youth football gambling that the problem will go away because of a few arrests? Or do we suspect that the underground nature of the gambling will lead to increased criminal activity?

It’s a difficult question to answer. With that much money involved there are bound to be unshady types attracted to it. I guarantee that right now, in your office, on your block, or even in your house, there is someone making an illegal bet and someone else taking it. Do we extend legal sports gambling down to youth football so that people have an outlet to make their wagers? With a legal outlet available many will choose it.

I’m of the opinion this is the only practical solution but I can see where people would disagree.

It’s a fascinating case and I’d love to see what you think! Please comment and don’t be shy about disagreeing with me!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water