What do Unused Water Bottles in Puerto Rico say to You?

Water BottlesThere’s been an interesting image of a large number of water bottles sitting on a runway in Puerto Rico circulating throughout the news and my social media feeds. It shows tens of thousands or perhaps millions of water bottles sitting on a runway apparently unwanted and unused. What conclusions have you drawn from this event? I’m going to tell you what conclusions I originally drew and then what I found out when I investigated the issue.

Government waste of my tax dollars. Some stupid government agency either ordered way too many water bottles, didn’t arrange for transport of the bottles to needy citizens of Puerto Rico, or simply forgot about them and left them on the runway. Then I did some research. In my original guess as to what happened I thought it was one of three stupid things; surprise, it was all three.

FEMA purchased, loaded, shipped, and unloaded far too many water bottles. The water bottles on the runway were not needed. FEMA didn’t release the water bottles to the government of Puerto Rico until they had been sitting in the open, exposed to the elements, for months. FEMA didn’t make any arrangements to distribute the water. Finally, someone noticed the water and contacted FEMA, who released them to the government of Puerto Rico, who then began to distribute them but found the water was fouled by its exposure. So, there it sits. Now someone has to clean it all up, again, using tax dollars.

Yay! Government hard at work as usual. Is it any wonder the disaster relief in Puerto Rico and other places has been less than stellar in its execution? I’m not saying disaster relief is an easy thing to do. There are many moving parts and a huge amount of coordination is required. We need professionals in charge of this sort of thing, not people who raised a lot of campaign dollars and want a nice salary. People suffer because of failed government and my tax dollars are given to bottled water companies for no good purpose. At least those businesses are happy.

My final question is to you. What did you assume when you read the story about those water bottles? Something different? Don’t lie.

Tom Liberman

Allison Mack and the Multi-Level Marketing Sex Traffickers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman