Nasty Glares for Breastfeeding in Restaurant

Ashley-KaidelThere’s apparently a big story making the rounds about a woman named Ashley Kaidel who posted a picture of herself breastfeeding in a restaurant.

Apparently a nearby woman was glaring at Kaidel for her display. Kaidel took exception and glared back which is when the picture was taken. Kaidel writes in her Facebook post: If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that.

She has accumulated almost 400,000 likes to the post as the image has gone viral.

She’s angry because the other woman in the restaurant is making an attempt to shame me and indirectly tell me without words that I am wrong and need to cover myself.

I’m a man. I’m not married. I’ve never had a child. Yell at me all you want, but Kaidel is in the wrong here. I’d be uncomfortable if a man pulled off his shirt and exposed himself this way, let alone a woman.

I’m upset when people a few tables over start yelling at each other. I think it’s rude when a man wears inappropriate clothes to a fine dining establishment. Why? Because it’s disrespectful to everyone else in that restaurant. It’s a ME-ME-ME attitude on display for the world to see.

Like it or not a female breast has a sexual aspect to it. It’s fine at a nudist beach, in the changing room, at home, or any other place where it won’t be intruding on the lives of others. Not to mention that it’s not that difficult to cover up. Yes, it’s a uniquely female problem but does that mean someone is sexist to suggest that perhaps you shouldn’t pull out your breast in public? Is it sexist to say a man shouldn’t expose his penis in public? Is it sexist to say a woman shouldn’t show her vagina in public? I think not.

Kaidel’s long rant makes it clear she has an agenda. Everyone should breastfeed everywhere so little girls learn to love it. You have to read the whole self-centered thing yourself to truly get her narcissism. She’s a crusader, make no doubt about that. Most laughable is her claim at the end that she didn’t make the Facebook post to get attention.

All that aside, it’s not a matter of disgust, intolerance, hatred, or shaming. It’s a matter of respecting the other diners at that restaurant. Kaidel is the guilty party in that regard.

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

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

You are Destroying America by Linking too Much (Share this Post Now or Your Family will Die)

Spreading LiesA friend of mine just went on a Facebook rant about how blog posts are often Liked, Shared, Linked, and otherwise disseminated to the public with no one actually bothering to check if what was written has any validity. Apparently he saw one too many miracle cancer cures roll by on his feed.

I’ve sort of spoken on this topic before. Here I talked about our culpability in spreading fake cancer cures on Facebook, and here I spoke about the idea of how the news story you click on drives it up the page. I have a weekly Stupid/Misleading Headline feature on this blog.

My friend included a link to this beautifully written and researched blog post on how to spot lies and distortions on the internet. After reading and admiring the post I didn’t want to simply reiterate the points so accurately made by David Wong.

The ways to spot fake articles listed by Wong are not particularly earth shattering. Whenever we read such a headline or story we generally realize it probably isn’t true. What harm could there be in putting in a Link? A Share? A Like? It’s just one click. Wong eloquently explains how these links, shares, and likes drive a story to more and more viewers, generating more and more hits, causing the information to gain credibility.

So, why am I writing this post? I hope to get people to spend some time thinking about their own responsibility for the plethora of false information out there. There is so much false information that it’s very easy to believe what you read and then spread the lies. When we pass along lies of this nature we are doing no one any favors. It is likely that a friend will believe us and tell someone else who will then laugh at them and correctly call them stupid. When you believe something, particularly something that seems unlikely, without bothering to do any checking of facts; you are stupid.

This problem has become so prevalent that many dishonest people are taking advantage of your clicks. They are using you for their own ends. Wong’s blog goes into great detail. As an example; magazines like Forbes now post the blogs of anyone who signs up. This is designed to drive their click rates up. Anyone can write anything and the blog link appears to go to a Forbes article. By having the Forbes name on it, the link seems legitimate, it is not.

The same goes for completely made up science articles, polls, news stories, and just about anything else you see. People simply make up something attention grabbing and sensational and then count on you to link to it.

The very nature of this fraud goes to my Libertarian philosophies of personal responsibility. Do you really want to link horoscope information? The article that proclaims your least favorite politician is DOOMED? Do you want to spread lies? Most of us would feel extremely guilty if we spread a lie about a friend but every time we Share an article we are spreading that information, if the article is a lie, we are liars.

Each time we do something like this we increase the amount of false information on the internet. This sort of thing cannot be stamped out through legislation. It is up to each of us to examine the information and Share it only if we have spent at least a few seconds confirming its veracity.

My advice is that you should avoid being stupid. Spend some time looking into that article before you share it with friends. And, of course, SHARE THIS NOW!!!

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

Ten Years for Trolling

Troll in JailThere are a number of interesting cases making their way through the justice system in several countries that involve threatening words written during internet conversations. It’s interesting for a number of legal reasons and it’s not as clear-cut as people would like to imagine.

A person makes one crazy post in an internet chat room and now sits in prison awaiting trial and a possible sentence of ten years in jail. Another makes a series of threats on a memorial page for a slain teen, pleads guilty, and is sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison.

Most threats of this nature not only never amount to anything but they weren’t made with any intention of being carried out. Still, when you threaten to kill people the authorities have every right to come by and see if you have made any plans to carry out said attack.

Part of me feels bad for Justin Carter and Reece Elliot but another part of me thinks that their incarceration is not without merit. When you threaten to kill a classroom full of children, when you post disgusting and threatening remarks on a memorial page for “a laugh” then maybe you shouldn’t be surprised to hear a knock at the door. The police take their difficult job seriously and well they should.

As the A.C.L.U lawyer mentions in the first article that I linked, we don’t joke around about bombs in airports anymore. We know it can get us, should get us, a conversation with a large man in a small room. Insane people are out there planning such attacks and if you joke around about making one yourself, well, don’t come crying to me that is was all in fun, a joke, sarcasm.

I do think prosecutors should be able to separate real threats from people just saying incredibly stupid things. That people who say violent, angry things but have no weapons, no plans to actually carry out their threats, have taken no actions towards carrying out threats, should be treated more kindly.

In the United States you cannot be arrested for saying you hate President Obama. You wish he wasn’t president. Political speech is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and rightly so. When the government can arrest you for saying you don’t like a politician, that you dislike, say, the Evil Chicago Cubs, then we have lost our freedom. However, if you threaten to kill the president, expect a visit from the Secret Service. If you have purchased weapons and bought a plane ticket to Washington D.C., well, you get what you very well should get. A stint in the big house.

I’ve said it over and over on this blog. Words have meaning. Words hurt. You trolls out there; keep that in mind. There is a line and it can be crossed. When it is crossed you won’t get much sympathy, not even from Libertarians like me. Prison is not the place you want to end up because you wanted a few lulz.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for 300+ pages of action packed excitement and moral lessons galore)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Facebook Privacy and Chelsea Chaney

Chelsea Chaney Snoop PictureThere’s yet another Facebook Privacy story in the news lately and I thought in this case it was interesting enough, and different enough, to talk about.

In this situation a student in Georgia posted a family vacation picture of herself wearing a bikini. Somewhat surprisingly she posted on Facebook instead of Instagram because all the nerdy adults like me use Facebook whereas the cool kids have long since moved on. That aside, this is where things take a turn to the interesting.

Somehow a copy of the picture ended up in the hands of the school’s director of technology who used it during a presentation to demonstrate the permanency of social media information. The director of technology did not get, nor even seek, permission to use the photo in the presentation. The student is now suing the school district for $2 million.

There seems to be a lot of passion on both sides of the debate with one group calling Chelsea Chaney stupid for posting on Facebook and not expecting the picture to be displayed publicly, greedy because of the lawsuit, and apparently a slut because she wore a bikini. The other side seems to think the director of technology was likely a pervert and disgusting for using the photo.

To understand whether or not the picture was used legally we must examine something called Fair Use and Copyright.

Whoever took the picture had copyright ownership immediately. There is no need to register a work for it to be copyrighted. This right includes the right to perform or display the work publicly. So, the picture clearly falls into that category.

In this case the Fair Use doctrine falls under the education exception. Basically people can often use images of this nature if they are not for profit and for educational purposes. Clearly that is at least the intention in this case. The law gets pretty murky about the definition of educational and profit and the courts will eventually decide.

I see both sides of the story here. Chelsea is an attractive young woman and the picture was used at least partially because of this. The school claims the picture was chosen randomly but I strongly suspect that’s not the case. It was chosen specifically because she is attractive and the picture would garner attention. The fact that she posted it to Facebook really isn’t a factor from my perspective. Someone besides Chelsea was using her image in a way she did not intend. She was, at that time, not a public figure. She is now and that’s why I can get away with using her picture without the threat of a lawsuit. Also, the picture above is considered a thumbnail and generally avoids copyright restrictions.

On the other side I suspect the director of technology meant only to use it to make a point about the permanency of images posted to social media. It was not meant to make a profit or embarrass Chelsea.

That being said, it did embarrass Chelsea. I cannot tell her whether she should be embarrassed or horrified, that is her decision. If she says she was, then she was. That’s the law. You cannot prove mental pain and suffering. If the plaintiff claims it, then it exists. It’s up to the judge to decide on how big a settlement, if any, should be awarded.

What should be the resolution? Here’s my take. The director of technology should publicly apologize to Chelsea in front of as many people as were at that conference as can be reasonably gathered. A school official should publicly apologize to Chelsea in front of the entire student body. Chelsea should accept both apologies and drop her lawsuit. She should explain that she filed merely because she didn’t want to happen to others what happened to her.

Finally to the ugly undercurrent of the many comments I see. Chelsea is a pretty girl with a nice figure. Therefore people get their jollies calling her stupid, a slut, someone deserving of what she gets. Chelsea is a pretty girl with a nice figure so the school administrator must be a disgusting pervert because he was drooling over her pictures.

We are too quick to judge in this world. If we insist that cave dwellers are the only ones eligible to be president, to be co-workers, to be teachers, we are going to get the kind of people who live in caves. We don’t want them. We want people who have lived, who take fun pictures (Chelsea), who have made mistakes in life (the director of technology). The kind of people who are our friends, our family, our co-workers, the kind of people we are ourselves.

Stop judging and start living.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for 300+ pages of sword and sorcery excitement)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Nature of Fraud – Aura-Etheric Body-Chi

Healing FraudOne of my friends recently Facebook Shared an advertisement for an anti-cancer product called Aura-Etheric Body-Chi. I was immediately outraged by the claim in the advertisement that it was ten-thousand times stronger than chemotherapy. I’m certain that being ten-thousand times stronger than chemotherapy doesn’t have any real meaning because there is no single chemotherapy treatment. There are many types for different sorts of cancer. Nevertheless, the advertisement is clearly trying to claim that the product is a much better cure for cancer than is chemotherapy.

My sister is alive today because of chemotherapy. That’s not the point here but perhaps it explains my passion on the subject of false medical promises made to sick and desperate people.

Before I posted a reply on Facebook to my friend’s Share I looked up Aura-Etheric Body-Chi on the internet. As far as I can tell it doesn’t exist outside of Facebook. They have no website, the first two pages of results are all different language Facebook posts for the product. So I broadened my search to Etheric Healing. This does seem to be an industry. There are any number of practitioners of the art selling their methods and offering certification in the art of Etheric Healing. I tried to find it on Wiki but didn’t have much luck. Here is a list of Esoteric Healing (curing people through faith or human will) methods which doesn’t include Etheric Healing.

There is something called the Etheric Body listed and doesn’t seem to mention Etheric Healing either.

I finally stumbled on Bio-Etheric Healing but that seems more about healing through understanding of past lives, Chakras, and things of this nature. Not some fruit that has ten-thousand times the power of Chemotherapy.

I concluded the product is phony. I made a post suggesting that this product was fraudulent and designed to steal money from sick, desperate people. That it might convince some people to turn away from chemotherapy and real cures in the hopes that this product would help them. That those people would then likely die from cancer.

I was immediately set upon by a defender of herbal remedies in general. This person stated that medical science often looks to nature to find cures and that I was fear mongering. That people have a right to put into their own bodies what they want. This is called a Straw Person argument. I actually agree that medical science looks to nature to find cures. I’m not opposed to eating healthy foods to treat illness. I completely agree that people have a right to put into their bodies what they want. Those were not my points.

I responded in an effort to clarify my objections to the ad. I said that I was infuriated by a product that seemed solely designed to bilk money from very sick, desperate, and vulnerable people. That my opponent was supporting this effort. I was told to calm down.

So now I’m writing a blog post, I guess I’m not calm yet.

To the point of this blog. Fraud. Yes, cancer stricken people, afraid of death, desperate for a cure, could choose not to purchase this product knowing it is likely fraudulent. They share some of the blame for being deceived. However, if we allow companies like this to exist we might as well not have a law against fraud at all. If people get fooled then they are fooled. Shame on them. If someone lies to you, practices to deceive you, tricks you, then it’s your fault, not theirs. There is merit to the idea of Caveat Emptor. I agree that people should be wary, they should suffer the consequences for bad decisions, but I cannot idly watch a scam designed to part the victims of a horrible disease from their money. I choose to speak out. To attack the deceiver even while admonishing those fooled to be more careful.

I urge all my rational thinking friends to speak out when they see things of this nature. Be a voice of reason. Do not let Facebook scams slide by silently. Your silence encourages the spread of irrationality, of evil. I think the makers of this product are evil. I won’t pull punches. They are despicable in their aims and their methods.

I’m not asking you to go on a crusade, to write a blog post, I’m asking you to make one comment. Be a beacon of reason. Tell people when you see something that is wrong and understand that you might be attacked in return. The right path isn’t the easiest path.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (300+ pages of fantasy fun)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Kobe Bryant Facebook Rant

Kobe BryantOn Saturday night a fellow by the name of Kobe Bryant likely tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the remainder of the NBA season, including the playoffs, and it might mean the end of his long career.

Early in the morning, unable to sleep, on pain-killers, he made a lengthy post on his Facebook page which is getting some notice. I’m not a Lakers fan although I’ve admired Bryant as a basketball player for many years. I tend to root against the Lakers and Kobe has made some mistakes in his life, as have we all. When I read his “rant” I was immediately struck by the heartfelt honesty that comes starkly through. I’m not sure if he’s going to face abuse for a few misspellings and some raw words or praise for the post but I wanted my opinion on record before the world judges.

It was a great post. Kobe told us exactly what he was thinking. Maybe it was the drugs that allowed him to be brutally honest rather than guard his emotions but, either way, this post places directly in front of us a glimpse of what it takes to be a champion.

For those of you who are not sports fans I’ll go over Kobe’s career quickly. Kobe went to the NBA directly from high-school and faced much criticism for skipping college. He was a good student with a 1000+ SAT score and had his pick of colleges clamoring to give him a scholarship. He was drafted by the Lakers in a trade with Charlotte and at seventeen had to have his parents co-sign his contract.

In his seventeen year career he has so far won five NBA championships and garnered a lot of critical attention for his desire to be the star player alienating Shaquille O’Neal and, for a time, his coach Phil Jackson. There were also some personal life issues with marital infidelity and a sexual assault charge. Suffice it to say there are those who don’t like him.

In Bryant’s post he shows remarkable courage and self-awareness in admitting that at 35 this injury might end his career and how frustrating that thought is to him. He wonders aloud how he will continue his basketball career. He recognizes that it is early in the morning, that he is on pain-killers, that perhaps he will face rehabilitation with a better attitude in the morning. He mentions that he will have to act as a coach for the remainder of the season and expresses confidence in his teammates to battle and win in the end. He recognizes that his post is raw and filled with emotion and might garner criticism but reflects that he just wants to be honest with his fans via social media. His misspells a word or two but largely does better than a certain sober and well-rested blogger and author who shall remain nameless.

An amazing post. An amazing fellow. He’s has flaws, sure, so what.

Mr. Bryant, thank you for an honest glimpse into your life, into your thoughts. I wish I had as much courage. I wish our politicians, our leaders could display such honesty. If we could all honestly share our fears without being attacked for weakness, for admitting fear, perhaps the world would be a better place.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Book: The Sword of Water (buy it, buy it!! It’s a great read, I promise)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Ice Cream and Pakistani Customer

ice creamThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about yet another Facebook mishap. To me it’s one of those situation that, if people take adult attitudes, might end up being a good thing. If childish behavior is in play instead then there is the damage to all parties involved.

I’ll cover the basics and then talk about the adult solution and the childish one.

A self-proclaimed muslim customer asked an ice cream manufacturer in Wyoming if they used pork in their gelatin. The idea being that as a muslim he couldn’t eat their ice cream if this was the case. The CEO of the company responded glibly that they didn’t deliver outside of Wyoming and certainly not Pakistan. The customer is from Wyoming. The internets then showed their displeasure flooding Yelp with one star reviews and the company Facebook page with negatives comments. The company then took down their Facebook page. The CEO has offered to resign.

So, if we insist on behaving like children the company might suffer serious financial loss, the CEO will lose his job, and the customer gains some sense of vengeful satisfaction.

On the other hand the CEO and company could invite the customer, his family, and friends out to the plant for a tour (they don’t use pork gelatin so no religious tenants are being violated). The company might even host a muslim appreciation day for all the muslims in the region. The company might gain a whole new customer base and a lot of muslims in the region might find an ice cream they love.

Doesn’t the adult way sound better?

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

Facebook Girls Face Felony Charges

SlanderThere was an interesting article about how two girls, aged 12 and 13, created a Facebook profile purportedly of another girl and then used it to make posts to humiliate and socially hurt the impersonated girl. The parents of the victim approached the local sheriff who conducted an investigation and learned the identity of the girls who now face felony charges.

It’s an interesting case to me for a number of reasons. I had a conversation with a buddy about a year or so ago about this sort of situation that changed my mind. At first I argued that kids bully one another frequently and as long as it doesn’t get too physically violent it is just part of life. My friend pointed out that such behavior is not well tolerated in the adult world but more importantly that cyber-bullying leaves hard evidence behind.

Typical bully behavior from when I was a child would become a situation of he said/she said with evidence hard to come by. That is no longer the situation, as we see in this case. These young girls impersonated another person, not for financial gain, but to threaten third parties, reportedly from the first person, and otherwise cause social distress.

This is not an isolated incident nor is it a phenomenon restricted to young people. Small towns are undergoing an epidemic of such behavior via a social site called Topix. It is all pretty much like vicious gossip except, and this is important, there is hard evidence left behind. Evidence means legal remedies are more likely. People hurt by gossip, their business ruined, facing social ostracism, might well have legal recourse.

What’s the resolution? You know me by now, I’m not one to stand by and complain about a situation without offering solutions.

If you plan to break laws, be prepared to accept the consequences. If you say something bad about someone that might have real negative consequences to that person then there might be repercussions. Now, as to individual cases, I think they are best settled out of court with apologies, public confessions of wrongdoing, and parental punishment. I would argue that such resolutions are better for both the girls and the victim but I don’t presume to make decisions for those negatively affected. If they want to involve the police and the courts that’s their business.

Kids need to learn lessons and so do adults. If you tell a lie about someone that is potentially libelous or slanderous you might well face your day in court. Keep that in mind.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Yoga Teacher Fired – Texting Student

YogaThere is a relatively small situation all over the news lately that I find endlessly interesting and worthy of discussion. A yoga teacher in San Francisco was fired from her position at the Facebook campus two weeks after giving a dirty look to a student who was texting in class. This is interesting to me for several reasons.

I take yoga classes, I’m big technology guy, I’m a teacher, and I’m a heavy user of social media. My good friend’s wife is the Social Media director at Siemans and I’m interested to see what she thinks about this case. I think it brings up several incredibly interesting points.

To start with I noticed the heavy preponderance of comments sided with the yoga teacher in question. They ran the gamut from suggesting lawsuits to vilifying the texter and I’d say it was about 50 – 1 against the firing. I’m going the other way on this one and I’ll tell you why.

As a teacher of adults I fully understand that the paying students are in my class on their time. They could be doing a lot of things but chose to pay money to take instruction from me. I think this is a fundamentally different situation from a primary school teacher whose students are children. Generally when a phone rings during class, my reaction is to tell the student that it’s not a problem. If they have to take care of business step outside and I’ll catch them up on the material when they return.

When I see students texting or checking their email during class I simply ignore it. These are adults with real jobs and in modern society jobs are not 9 – 5 anymore. It’s likely that my students are going to get important emails, texts, and phone calls during my class. These important work related items must be dealt with and are, in the big scheme of things, far more important than my class.

What’s not at issue here is that it was a ringing phone. Ringing phones can be a distraction at any sort of public gathering because they intrude on the other people. In this case the yoga student was answering a text. In yoga class a ringing phone is an issue because it takes focus away from the pose at hand. A text, on the other hand, is a quiet activity that is largely not distracting. I would equate it to a student who during a strenuous pose decides to move to a rest position. It’s not what everyone else in class is doing but it’s not disruptive in any way.

I also have an issue with the teacher giving the student a disapproving look. Again, we are adults here. I think the best way to handle a disruptive situation, which I don’t think this rose to a level of being, is to tell the student you understand work is important and to please take care of it outside.

In this particular instance it was to a group of Facebook employees! To be surprised and annoyed that they might be texting during class seems not particularly thoughtful to me.

Of course, it’s possible that the yoga teacher in question was not a good teacher for other reasons but that’s not really the question in this case. Maybe she was a great teacher. I just don’t think publicly chastising an adult student in a class is generally a good plan. There are certainly times when disruptive behavior must be dealt with but I’m of the opinion that this case did not come anywhere near that line.

Should she have been fired? Not if this was a one time incident, in my opinion. I think a quick session in which it was explained to the instructor that her Facebook students get important texts and will be dealing with them is part of the class. Communication!

What do you think? Was the yoga teacher perfectly reasonable? Was she unreasonable? Tell me in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

My I Hate Facebook – Facebook Post

FacebookA good friend of mine, and by that I mean a person I know and with whom I play Dungeons and Dragons on occasion recently told the world that he was kind of over the Facebook thing … with a Facebook post!

Is it possible for me to let that one go by without comment?

Even better, my friend’s wife, who is probably the most prolific poster of all my Facebook friends said she agreed, right before making eighth straight posts! Admittedly it was for something called Bubble Safari but still ….

Now, I don’t want to suggest that my friend and his wife aren’t actually tired of Facebook I’m just going to suggest that by posting on Facebook that you’re tired of Facebook is proving that Facebook is a great way to communicate with people you don’t see every day in your normal life. I’m not ashamed to say I like Facebook. I’m not even going to poke fun at my friends who play games and have a thousand friends. That’s cool. I love games. It’s great to meet people who have similar interests that you would otherwise never know. I don’t play games, I’m only friends with people I know in real life and people who have purchased my books and told me they liked them. Hopefully that group will grow as word of the awesome Hammer of Fire spreads.

I primarily use Facebook to keep up with friends who I don’t see regularly and to promote my blog and my fantasy novels. That’s cool also. It’s a volunteer service. People are on it who want to be on it and people who aren’t, are not. It’s become very popular to bash Facebook while using Facebook. I had to talk my niece of the ledge when the new Timeline came out. The ridiculous thing is that she didn’t even understand that it only effected her profile page which barely anyone looks at anyway.

When was the last time any of my Facebook friends looked at my profile page? Anyone? When was the last time anyone looked at anyone’s profile page? We all look at our walls and click the posts and pictures that our friends post there. But, complaining about the service we voluntarily use has become widespread.

So, I have this advice for my friend. If you’re tired of Facebook, stop using it. Don’t tell all your Facebook friends by posting on Facebook.

However, I say, please, Brad, keep using Facebook. I enjoy the pictures of California you post. I enjoy seeing how Nick is doing and how your job is going. I can’t say I’m a big fan of Alex’s Bubble Safari but I slid her into my acquaintances group and told it not to post on my wall anymore.

Facebook is what you make it, like life. Funny that.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Facebook Outing

cyber stalkingThere is an interesting case in the news these days about a German athlete (and police officer) who received an email from a fan that included a sexual explicit photo. The reason it is in the news is that the athlete then posted the name and photo to her Facebook page effectively outing the stalker from the anonymity of the internet.

I think it’s a pretty normal first reaction to say, “Good for her”. The vicious anonymity of internet posters and their ability to cyber bully is a well-known phenomenon by now and has resulted in more than one tragic incident. The fact that someone was sending these things to a relatively public figure is a violation of her personal life. I see this sort of behavior in minutia every time I read the comment section of a news article. The anonymity of the internet gives way to a crowd mentality wherein otherwise law-abiding, peaceful people behave in ways they never otherwise would.

However, in this case there are some considerations of privacy for the person outed to be thought about.

The first thing that comes to mind is if the stalker used someone elses identity when they emailed and sent the photo. This is not as far-fetched as some might imagine. It’s quite easy to impersonate someone with an email. All you need is a photo and a fake email account with that person’s name on it. A supposed stalker could really be someone with a grudge against a third-party. They would then frame this person by sending incriminating emails. When I was in college a few friends of mine thought it would be funny to give gay men they met at clubs my phone number and name as their own. It was relatively harmless as I simply informed the eager caller that it was my friends being stupid. In this situation the person so outed might have a significantly more difficult time proving their innocence and would certainly have their reputation tarnished.

Another possibility is that the supposed victim of the crime might actually be the perpetrator. Perhaps they have a grudge against the other person and have a partner send phony emails and images. Again, it’s not hard to obtain pictures of a person as almost everyone has posted images of themselves to some form of social media or another.

There is talk in Germany, where online privacy laws are more stringent than the United States, of charging the athlete with a crime.

It’s an interesting case and I’m not sure there are easy solutions. Cyber bullying and cyber stalking is a huge problem but the potential for the wrong person to be unintentionally outed our even framed certainly exists. Once erroneously outed that person’s reputation and life might well be forever ruined.

What do you think?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Activism for the Inactive

Activism
Or … how I eased my conscience by curing cancer, stopping child molestation, bringing down a brutal dictator, and wishing my mom happy birthday all in less than thirty seconds.

Yep, you guessed it my friends. Because I haven’t offended enough people in the last week with my tirade against dumb platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook, tomorrow I take on virtually every worthy cause you’ve ever liked, tagged, re-posted, or otherwise acknowledged.

Is such activism worthwhile it or is it simply an exercise in making myself feel better with no tangible results?

Find out tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

You can do Anything if You Set your Mind to it

PlatitudeThe final day of my weeklong attack against Facebook Platitudes has arrived and I like to think I’ve save the best, and by that I mean most egregious, for last.

You can do anything if you set your mind to it.

I can do no better than to quote the magnificent Penn Jillette, “Eat the sun”.

I’m fairly certain I could simply call it a blog right there but I’m going to analyze the idea behind the platitude, the well-intentioned hopes, and the disastrous results.

There are two thoughts behind making this statement one of which is well-intentioned and the other is malicious. The first is to encourage a person to be adventurous and try things. This is excellent advice. Life is better if we enjoy it broadly rather than narrowly. There is much that is good in this world and being afraid to try things leaves us with a less than full life. It’s great to encourage a person to try things. This is just a poor platitude to do it.

Parents encourage their children with this platitude in the hopes the kids will leave their fear behind and experience life to its fullest. Again, excellent sentiment, I wholeheartedly approve.

The negative situation where I see this platitude thrown around is to blame people for failing to complete a particular task. It is often used when the failure is beyond the person’s control and is the tactic of a bully to deflect their own culpability in the events leading up to the failure.

You didn’t finish the job? Why not, you can do anything if you set your mind to it.

The bullies of the world take over when the achievers are not allowed to succeed. This is one of the central messages of Randian Objectivism and I’ll talk about it in another post.

Now let’s move onto why this idea is not only silly but dangerous.

If we tell children they can do anything they might actually believe us. A child that is told they can do anything is doomed to disappointment. They cannot do anything. They can accomplish more than they think they can, they can do amazing things if they plan and execute with realistic, objective thinking. But, this platitude sends a ridiculous message of entitlement. I’m going to talk about the sense of entitlement that pervades our culture in a later post. I really do think that telling kids they can do anything leads to adults who are unrealistic and entitled. This is bad for our nation. When we talk about greatness it is usually in reference to people who achieved after a great struggle. People who think they are entitled don’t bother with struggle. They quickly give up. Having to work for something is not a bad thing, in fact it is the opposite.

I’m playing a lot of chess lately and because I live in St. Louis, Missouri with its world-class chess club I get to see guys like Hikaru Nakamura play. Thanks to modern computers I get to watch a fellow with the monikor Chess Network play live on Twitch and actually get to play him now and again. I’m not of the opinion that I can beat either of them. However, I’m working on my game, playing better chess, advancing, and feeling pretty good about that.

This to me is the most important thing of all. We can’t raise a generation of people who have unrealistic expectations about themselves and about the world and hope to see western style democracy finish what the founding fathers started. So, don’t tell your children they can do anything. Teach them to think objectively, to plan, to try new things. And don’t just teach them. Show them. Be the example. It can be something as small as trying a new thing at the restaurant but not with peanuts if you are allergic to them! Be bold but understand the challenges and your limitations. Be prepared!

Tweet, Like, Stumble, Comment, Digg, Pinterest, and otherwise share if you think someone else might like to read this.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

You can do Anything if you Set your Mind to it

PlatitudeI’m going to go ahead and tell you the topic for the epic denuement to my weeklong attack against Dumb Platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook. I admit that Facebook wasn’t the first place I saw this piece of insanity but it appears regularly enough.

You can do anything if you set your mind to it.

Good luck with that. I’m going to talk about why it is a tool of bullies and a destroyer of children. Hopefully after you’ve read my blog you’ll lambaste anyone you hear spouting this nonsense.

Stay tuned for the finale of Dumb Platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook week! Coming tomorrow.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Dumb Facebook Platitudes – Day 4

PlatitudeTomorrow I post the fourth of my week long attack on Dumb Facebook platitudes but it is going to be a little bit of a cheat. While I have seen sayings reflecting this point of view it isn’t a single actual platitude and the original time I saw it wasn’t on Facebook.

Still, I think the concept is one giant platitude and it’s worthy of inclusion. However, in the name of suspense and as always, I’m going to keep The Secret <—- hint … hint until tomorrow!

See you then,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Dumb Platitudes Day Three – Give 110%

PlatitudeDay three of my attack on inane and stupid platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook! Today I take on the sporting world. How many of you have heard someone say, I gave one hundred and ten percent? I think I could spend a week or two on dumb sports platitudes alone but I decided to choose this one because it is largely used as an excuse for failure or a dangerous encouragement to over do your effort.

As with most platitudes it is issued with fairly good intentions but the reality of it is that it gives people an unrealistic idea of what is expected of them or of the performance they’ve just witnessed.

I think the first thing to do here is to examine the idea of what giving one hundred and ten percent is intended to convey. It essentially means that a person gives their maximum effort and is usually invoked before or after a sporting event.

Relatively obviously it is impossible to give more than one hundred percent so the platitude causes me to roll my eyes right from the beginning. However, I want to give the expression a more in-depth examination.

The main reason I think it is dangerous is when used before an event to exhort someone to maximum effort. “C’mon team, we have to give it one hundred and ten percent to win”. Giving your all is definitely a good thing. When we are trying to achieve something it is important to give our best effort, otherwise the chance of failure increases. However, I am of the opinion that one hundred and ten percent means, or at least implies, something different than giving our best effort. It means to strain our bodies past their breaking point.

A good example of this is my yoga classes. When I started yoga I took the beginner classes and in them the instructor usually did a good job of explaining how to position my body so as to avoid injury. There was plenty of time spent on instruction and probably not as much on actual yoga practice itself. As I moved to the intermediate classes I immediately encountered instructors who switched quickly from strenuous position to strenuous position without much time making sure people were doing them safely. This is probably not a bad thing as the students in the more advanced classes want less instruction and more yoga. However, it does increase the possibility of injury. If I give one hundred and ten percent in a yoga class I’ll end up injured.

Another thing I often see when people are overly encouraged is an initial burst of energy which wanes over the course of an event. Sometimes giving your best means pacing your effort for the length of the race. When we exhort people to give one hundred and ten percent I think the message is often taken as “Go all out”. This is almost always a counterproductive plan of action. By reserving our energy for crucial moments and pacing our output we are far more likely to succeed.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen tennis matches where a player tanks a set to reserve energy and comes back to win the match. When you are down 5 – 0 the chances of winning the set decrease and the expenditure of energy can be counterproductive. I’m not exactly a fan of giving up either so there is a flip-side to this argument. I think judicious use of reserves is generally a good plan.

The other time we frequently see the platitude is by a player after a game or match. It is usually meant to convey that they tried as hard as possible. I prefer the platitude, “I left it all on the field”. This to me conveys that they tried their best, played their best, but the other player or team just had more on that day. To me, that is victory even in defeat. Whenever I can honestly say I did my best I have a good feeling about my effort, win or lose.

Conversely, when I hear someone say they gave one hundred and ten percent my immediate reaction is that they didn’t give their best effort and are trying to pretend they did. Maybe that’s unfair but that’s the way I see it.

So, everyone out there, give it your best!

Thanks for reading and Comment, Tweet, Link, Share, Stumble, Digg, Pinterest, and all the rest!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Dumb Facebook Platitudes – Day Three

PlatitudeTomorrow is the third installment of my week long attack on dumb platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook. If I haven’t offended you yet … just be patient! My remorseless attacks will continue with one of my all time favorites although I’ll keep the title under wraps to build the suspense.

Think, we haven’t even reached the halfway point yet!

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Everything Happens for a Reason

PlatitudeDay Two of Dumb Platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook continues with this nasty little choice: Everything Happens for a Reason. Interestingly, it is almost always said with the best of intentions. Usually we hear it when a child is pulled from her house, thrown into a field, critically injured, lingers a few days, and then dies. It’s often used in conjunction with God Acts in Mysterious Ways, It was her Time, and other such well meaning phrases.

The idea is that when tragedy strikes it will comfort us to know that there was a reason behind the event. Many people might actually find this somewhat comforting but I think it is important to understand why it is so dangerous.

First, let’s examine the real meaning behind the platitude. It tells us there is a blueprint/master plan for our lives. As if we were a house that must be constructed with an end purpose in mind. You were born for a reason, you contracted strep throat in third grade for a reason, you dropped your dinner knife at the restaurant for a reason, you moved your forefinger slightly to the left at 3:03 p.m. on Monday, March 5, 2012 for a precise and important reason. Everything is an all encompassing word and it must be. If even one thing doesn’t happen for a reason that means that it was an event within our control and invalidates the master plan.

And that, my loyal followers, is why this phrase is so dangerous. It teaches people that someone else controls the events of their lives and this is false. I want to state this as clearly as possible. Things do not happen for a reason. Everything that ever happened – happened. Everything that never happened – didn’t happen. This idea that our lives are steered by a magical hand forces us to relinquish the controls.

Your life is what you make it. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. You will make decisions and they will turn out well or they will turn out poorly but they are your decisions and it is your life and your life alone. This is Libertarianism, this is Critical Thinking. This is being empowered! I write this blog, I drive with caution, I go to the gym, I eat healthy (or not), but it is always, always, always, me.

There are things out of my control, cancer for example, but it is important to understand that’s okay as well. I control what I can and do my best with the things I cannot control. I don’t give the credit to the master plan and I don’t blame it.

And now I get to what is most important. How to build and maintain a nation that allows people the greatest ability to make their own lives. There is no question a child born in the Congo might be raped and murdered or starve to death and has less chance to make their own lives than a child born in the United States. A perfect government is one that provides the opportunity for education, provides safety, and allows the best and brightest to succeed because it gives us the freedom to make our lives whatever we choose. We fail because of our actions, we succeed because of our choices.

Sounds good, no?

Comment, Tweet, Like, Stumble, Pinterest, Digg, and all the rest!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Dumb Facebook Platitudes – Day 2

Platitude

Tomorrow I continue my assault on dumb Facebook platitudes and endanger my friend list even more. Stay tuned as I take on sayings that work against my Libertarian philosophies. You just might learn something! I did in the research for my first post when I looked up God favors those who help themselves and was more than moderately surprised by what I learned.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist