Jack the Ripper and Our Love of Closure

 Jack the Ripper

I see headlines all over the news about how Jack the Ripper has finally been conclusively identified. I heard radio talk show hosts talking about how wonderful it was that we finally knew Jack the Ripper identity. I was immediately skeptical but I would guess the majority of people were not so. I just read a wonderfully written article from Ars Technica indicating my skepticism was well-founded. Exceptionally good work, Jennifer Ouellette!

In any case, I leave it to you to read the article yourself and come to a conclusion. I don’t really want to talk about the guilt or innocence of Aaron Kosminski but instead the seemingly inherent human desire for closure. People want closure and, to a large degree, don’t really seem to care if it comes at the expense of critical thinking. Judging by what I’ve heard and read in media articles most people are thrilled to know that a conclusive result has been determined in the Jack the Ripper murders. Spoiler if you didn’t read the article, the case is far from closed.

Why do people care? The murders happened a hundred and thirty years ago. Solving the murders isn’t going to help or hurt anyone in any way. The descendants of victims are not going have their lives changed in any way. The descendants of the supposed murderer, who was a prime suspect to begin with, are not going to be arrested or punished. Yet, it’s clear to me, people are absolutely giddy with the idea that Jack the Ripper has been identified. Despite such knowledge having no practical effect.

I think the underlying cause is the satisfaction we get at a job well done, whether it is solving a murder or mowing the grass just right. Humans enjoy accomplishment and the identification of Jack the Ripper is just that. Not directly for me, not directly for anyone reading the article, but indirectly, very indirectly for people as a group. The case remains in the public conscious all these years later and there is a satisfaction derived from solving it.

I understand why people are happy with the news but I warn you to be aware of this human tendency and take it into account. Yes, you would be happy to know that Jack the Ripper has been identified but take into account you want this outcome. Be skeptical of people who understand human nature, in this case the people who released this supposedly conclusive proof. They are taking advantage of your desire to see something come to completion. The evidence is terrible and result is largely unsupportable. You’ve been duped.

In conclusion, be skeptical and do your research, particularly when it comes to something you want to believe.

Tom Liberman

Trump and his View of the Civil War and Andrew Jackson

trump jackson civil warPresident Trump is of the opinion if Andrew Jackson was President of the United States around the time of the Civil War that he might have prevented it from occurring at all. It’s an interesting premise in a number of way.

Firstly, Jackson actually was president near the time of the Civil War. He left office only twenty-four years before hostilities broke out and the long simmering dispute was in full bloom during his term. While president, Jackson presided over what is called the Nullification Crisis. Jackson’s actions all but caused the Civil War to start earlier.

Legislators in South Carolina believed federal tariff laws were hurting the state’s economy. They passed legislation that essentially said laws created by Congress could be nullified by the states. Jackson sent in troops and eventually South Carolina, after some negotiating, backed down.

I suspect when Trump makes the suggestion that Jackson would have prevented the Civil War, he is referencing the Nullification Crisis and the resolution therein. It’s an interesting history lesson in what can happen in a short period of time. The twenty-four years that elapsed after the crisis and the beginning of the Civil War were dramatic.

The two presidents that preceded Lincoln were Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Both men knew the terrible danger of Civil War and did their best to appease the southern states and avoid the calamity. It is generally thought their inaction led to the conflict because it emboldened the southern states. They believed the northern states would never allow the country to go to war over the question of slavery.

Lincoln, on the other hand, was far more of a Jacksonian. He called the bluff of the southern states but, unlike at the time of Jackson, these states were now ready to push the issue. Thus, the Civil War began.

When Jackson made his stand, the circumstances were far different from the situation Lincoln found himself in. The lesson is important. We can learn from history but situations change. An action that led to one particular outcome yesterday can lead to an entirely different one tomorrow.

There is an apt idiom stating: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The idea is that someone who knows nothing about an issue generally does not attempt to fix a perceived problem. On the other hand, someone who has a small amount of knowledge might be willing to make a fix, but because their information is limited; that solution causes enormous problems.

Issues are enormously complex and fixes difficult. There is often no perfect solution to a particular problem. In the case of the Civil War, the two paths were both rather awful. One was the Civil War and the other was to continue to allow the abomination of slavery along with permitting the southern states inordinate power in comparison to their voting bloc.

The Civil War, it’s causes, and the events leading up to it are part of a complex tapestry that is not particular easy to piece together. What President Trump seems to be saying is that Jackson could have bluffed the south away from the issue of slavery. That by threatening them with war, they would have voluntarily abolished the peculiar institution. That is an example of making statements with little understanding of the issues involved.

That being said, his admiration of Jackson’s forthright style has merit. Someone should tell him that Lincoln was cut from the same cloth. That’s why the Civil War happened when it did, because Lincoln was behaving just like Jackson.

Tom Liberman

Masada Admirable Rebels or Foolish Martyrs?

masada-fortressAlmost two thousand years ago Roman soldiers besieged Masada which was held by a splinter group of Jewish people called Sicarii. This group strongly opposed Roman occupation of Judea and carried out a terrorist campaign to prosecute their beliefs.

Eventually less than a thousand of them took refuge in Masada where they held out for a few months before Roman engineers finished a ramp into the fortress. When the Romans finally arrived, they found the Sicarii had all committed suicide rather than be captured.

This event has come to be celebrated as symbol of Jewish heroism against overwhelming odds although another opinion is that it was simply a group of violent extremists who forced the Romans into drastic action. That the Sicarii brought about their own deaths because they refused to accept reality and engaged in a series of assassination against not only the Romans but any residents of Judea who they deemed sympathizers.

Which was it? Heroic martyrs or violent extremists? I think the answer to that question contains a great deal of value to the modern world. I won’t keep you in suspense. It’s apparent to me the Sicarii were violent, murdering, extremists tied to a hopeless position and willing to drag down anyone who opposed them.

The Roman occupation of Judea was generally, as were many Roman conquests, enlightened. The Romans brought their laws, clean water, and other benefits with them. This was one of the main reasons they were able to conquer much of the world. The daily lives of the average person improved under Roman rule as compared to the previous government.

I’m not saying it was all wonderful for everyone. Certainly, the leaders of the former regime often met gruesome fates or at least lost their power and prestige.

The reason I mention this is because the modern-day equivalent to the Sicarii are radical Islamic terrorist. The people who are carrying out the most horrific and terrible violence against innocent civilians would actually be far better off under the rule of those who they see as invaders. They live under despotic, theocratic rulers who allow them very little freedom and restrict their general well-being in any number of ways.

The terrorists are essentially fighting to preserve their own misery. As individuals, they have committed to a particular side and refuse to compromise in any way or even accept the fact their leaders are far from ideal.

While the terrorists are somewhat responsible for their own circumstances there are other culprits. The western world spent many years exploiting these nations for their mineral resources while propping up said brutal dictators. We are still doing so.

I think it’s important to understand that we can only be responsible for own behavior. We can’t tell a terrorist to stop her or his suicidal course. When we seek out and kill terrorists, when we support brutal dictators, when we cause terrible hardships through economic sanctions, we only push more and more of the population to terrorism. We can only control our own actions.

That’s a little bit off topic as to my point today. I’m saying that we all have choices in life. We should make decisions that are going to be in our long-term benefit. The Sicarii chose a path that led to their own destruction and did not benefit their nation in any way. Modern-day terrorists are doing the same thing.

The United States is making choices that create far more terrorists than we kill and has been doing so for some time.

What choices are you making?

Tom Liberman

Pre-Industrial to Industrial to Information

Industrial-revolutionI’ve seen quite a bit of debate both in person and online about the idea of Protectionism and why we either need to avoid it or embrace it. I find that people who believe one side of the argument seem to be largely immune to attempts to convince them otherwise. As you might imagine much of this debate is fueled by the current political climate in the United States.

President Trump is a strong protectionist. He believes that we must protect our workers from foreign depredation. On the other hand we have Libertarians like myself who believe in Free Trade. What I’d like to do today is not argue with you but ask you to argue my point. Perhaps no one will take me up on it, my blog viewership is somewhat short of the millions. However, perhaps a few people who believe in the Protectionist mantra will be willing to step forward.

So here we go.

Imagine that is not 2017 but in fact it is 1760. Before even the United States existed as a free nation.

Our economy is based almost completely on Pre-Industrial economics. Agriculture is the primary form of employment and wealth generation, as it has been for tens of thousands of years. People are born, live, and die all within fifty miles of a single location. On the horizon is a frightening thing. The Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution will destroy virtually every single job that exists today. I am a precursor of the Luddites. I believe this new way of doing things will destroy my family and my life. I will no longer be able to work, to make money. Tell me why I should embrace textile manufacturing, metallurgy, steam power, machine tools, chemicals, cement (my job is a brick layer), gas lighting, glass making, paper machines, automated agriculture, mining, canals, roads, railways.

These things will destroy my family. My children will work in a factory instead of providing subsistence farming at home. I don’t know the skills required to live in this coming world.

I will suffer. I will not have a job. You, the government, must protect me and my job from this new way of doing things. I don’t know how to write code, I mean fix a steam engine. Explain to me how it could possible be to my benefit, to my nation’s benefit, to the world’s benefit to move from pre-industrial to industrial. Why should we not fight this?

Go!

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

Christmas Truce a Libertarian Anthem

Christmast-truceTen million men died. Another twenty-seven million were injured or went missing. World War I. In the midst of this unfathomable horror came the Christmas Truce.

Call it humanity. Call it decency. Call it a miracle. Call it what you will. I call it The Libertarian Holiday. This was a moment in history in which men of different nations, for a brief moment, embraced the world as it would be under a Libertarian Utopia.

That moment. Those men, few if any are still alive, represent everything for which I stand. And they represent it in a way, under circumstances, under insanity, which I will never know.

These men decided to stop killing each other. They decided to cross over lines and exchange gifts. To tell each other about themselves. To share common ground beyond the vile Nation State. Beyond the politicians who would have them hate and kill one another. To find that which they shared.

And that is everything I attempt to discuss in my blogs and my novels. Why do Republicans hate Democrats? Why do Christians hate Muslims? I don’t think it’s about politics. About religion. It’s about those who fear people of like interests enjoying each other’s company despite artificial divides. It’s about two people who share an interest. Dungeons and Dragons. Model Trains. Nothing else matters.

No nation. No religion. No political party. Spend your time with those who enjoy doing the same thing as you. That is all. That is the Libertarian Utopia.

After the Christmas Truce of 1914 the powers that were forbade it. They issued strict orders that it should not occur again. The powers that be are your enemy. Those who share your interests are your allies. It matters nothing nation, religion, political party.

Those who tell you differently are manipulating you. Using you. Twisting you to their own ends. Be free, my brothers and sisters. Be free.

Be free. Be a Libertarian.

December 25th. Christmas to you. Freedom to me.

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

Great Pyramid of Giza and Critical Thinking

Great_Pyramid_DiagramThe pyramids of Egypt are in the news lately for a couple of reasons and it gives me the opportunity to discuss the nature of critical thinking. Of course I’ll take it!

The first story involves a new chamber being found in the tomb of Tutankahmun.

The second story involves presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s assertion that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a grain silo.

Another group of stories involves how it is impossible for the pyramids to have been built with the technology of the time. I addressed this issue in another blog so I’ll leave it alone today.

Finally is the twenty year timeline for building the pyramids themselves which is based upon certain assumptions.

The first story proudly declares that a new, hidden region was found in the burial chamber of Tutankahmun.

When I finally got around to reading the story I discovered that no such new chamber has been found at all. What they do is scan the region for temperature. An area where the temperature is slightly cooler might indicate a draft from a room. It could also indicate some damage to the structure that is letting in air. No one has gone into these areas because to do so would potential destroy them. It’s a lot of speculation and, frankly, I’m not convinced. It seems more likely to me that the cool areas are caused by structural flaws than hidden chambers, particularly because any number of these were found in the analysis.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are many hidden passages in the burial region. It just seems to me that it’s best to go with the most logical explanation before leaping to the most sensational conclusion. That’s critical thinking.

This, naturally, leads me to the rather bizarre assertion by Carson that the Great Pyramid of Giza was a grain silo. I’ve included a diagram of the pyramid to illustrate why this conclusion is so unlikely. The grain silo explanation has to do with a biblical story about Joseph warning Pharoah (Genesis 41 ESV) that seven good years would be followed by seven lean years and thus grain should be stored away.

What is called the main shaft of the pyramid, which leads to the burial chambers, is basically equivalent in dimensions to a silo. However, building a grain silo of those dimensions would have been trivial to the people that built the Great Pyramid. One look at the diagram above makes it obvious that it was not designed to store grain. Only someone who desperately wanted to come to the grain silo conclusion could possibly think otherwise. This is called a Cherry Picking fallacy. From what I’ve seen of Carson this fallacy seems to largely determine his entire thought process.

Finally, as to the twenty year time scale on the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is based on three facts.

  1. Workers left a mark in an interior chamber with their name on it and the name of Pharaoh Khufu.
  2. Khufu reigned for 23 years. This is disputed.
  3. The mummification process took some 70 days to complete.

From these three facts Egyptologists assume Khufu started the Great Pyramid upon ascending to the throne and that the completion of the pyramid coincided with his death.

I find these conclusion dubious. Khufu could have died long before the Great Pyramid was completed and been stored away until then. His reign could have been much longer than twenty years, some sources put it at over sixty.

The most logical conclusion I can draw is that some other Pharaoh started the pyramid but it was finished during Khufu’s reign and he simply usurped its use for himself.

Do we know for certain? No. But why not go with the most apparent conclusion first? Why leap to an unlikely scenario?

Tell me where my critical thinking skills have failed me in the comments!

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

 

How the Pyramids were Built

Kheops-PyramidI saw an article this evening from LiveScience about how one of the great mysteries involving the Pyramids of Egypt was recently solved. It’s not that big a mystery, despite what you may have heard or even think yourself.

The pyramids of Egypt seem to engender a lot of mysticism.

I see comments on boards all the time to the effect that modern engineers could not build a pyramid even with today’s technology. This is utter nonsense. Cranes can easily lift more weight than the pyramid stones and modern stone masonry can cut stones with much greater precision. Crawler Cranes, as one example, can lift up to 3,500 tons and the heaviest stones in the Pyramids were about 80 tons.

This is not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about today is the phrase, “We don’t know how they built them.” I hear this phrase all the time and it is often taken to mean that it was impossible for the Egyptians to build the pyramids and therefore they had to have some sort of help. An advanced civilization or aliens or some other such lunacy.

We don’t know how they built them” does not mean that. What it means is that we have no written record of how they were built. There are any number of very reasonable theories. All of which might be partially or completely correct.

The original article I read presents a good argument that dragging the stone blocks across the desert would have been even easier than other methods suggest. It’s not particularly ground-breaking news but the comment section is filled with people absolutely married to the idea that the Egyptian Pyramids, and others around the world, could not possibly have been built by the societies that built them.

So, what does “We don’t know how they built them” actually mean? I’ll give you an example of what it means.

Do you know how I got to work this morning?

Your correct answer is, “I don’t know how Tom got to work this morning.”

However, you can make excellent guesses based on the evidence. Was my car in the parking lot? Was my car parked at home anytime last night? What did the odometer on my car this morning read compared to what it read last night?

By looking at the existing evidence and deducing how I traveled you can guess that I drove my car to work. You don’t know I drove my car to work. I might have done so but I might have hired someone to drive my car to the parking lot while I walked to work. I might have built a jet engine and wings onto my car and flown it to work. I might have been picked up by aliens, flown to Jupiter, had a breakfast burrito under the seas of Europa with an intelligent life-form called the Bortlebuts, and then used a transporter from the Enterprise back to my office.

Which is the most likely explanation? That same logic applies to the pyramids. This same way of critical thinking is crucial to finding correct solution to problems that present themselves in everyday life.

We live in this amazing Information Age and can easily look things up and make informed decision. Why do so many people choose to eschew reality and plunge foolishly into fantasy? I just don’t understand. Believing things that are in all likelihood false is a bad habit to be in and an even worse one to teach, by example, those around you.

How do you think I got to work this morning?

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

Trail of Tears Football Banner – Opportunity Knocks

Trail of Tears BannerThere’s an interesting story making the news rounds about a high-school football team that used what is called a break-through banner which taunted their foes using the term Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears refers to the events surrounding the 1830 Indian Removal Act in which many Native Americans were forcefully removed from their homes in violation of previous treatise. This law was passed by both the Senate and the House although not with enough votes to override a veto in the House of Representatives. It fell to President Andrew Jackson to sign the law or veto it.

The history books I’ve read on the subject suggest that he was conflicted. The debate on this issue was passionate. In the end, from what I’ve read, Jackson felt that settlers were going to move into the region and getting civil authorities to prosecute these settlers was going to be difficult if impossible. That these settlers and Native Americans would eventually get into conflicts. That the opening of the land and the relocation of the Native Americans was inevitable. In the end he signed the legislation and the supposed voluntary removal led to both Trail of Tears and Second Seminole War.

These two events are stains upon the honor of the United States and it can be argued that the removal act as a whole was a decision that shows the United States in a poor light.

My blog today isn’t about this history, it is not even about the banner, it is about the result of the banner. There are those calling for the resignation of school administrators that allowed the banner to appear. The principal of the school, Tod Humphries, took responsibility for the banner, apologized for the banner, and promised that the entire school would be educated about the Indian Removal Act of 1930.

So, we have two options here. We can vilify Humphries as the person ultimately responsible for the banner or we can both accept his apology and use the moment to educate people about the Trail of Tears and our history.

You can probably guess my position. It appears to me the apology is sincere and I’m willing to take the principal’s word that they will educate students at the school about the Act and its terrible results. I think that Native American leaders should embrace the proposal. They should publicly and vocally accept his apology. Offer to visit the school and speak on the subject. Use the moment as an impetus for good. Shake his hand and vow to make the world a better place.

Can you imagine a world where we embrace those who make mistakes? A world where we move not to blame but to make right? A world where we work with one another even when we disagree?

What do you think should be the result of the banner?

[polldaddy poll=7575738]

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

The History of Marriage

MarriageMarriage is in the news a bit lately and I’m going to end my blog vacation with a few posts that I hope will clear up the debate for those of you willing to look at it from a critical perspective. I’m going to start with the origins, history, and general purpose of marriage.

A good start is this article on Wikipedia but I’ll try to summarize.

Marriage has been around for as long as recorded history and certainly seems to date from a time before that. The largest single factor in the concept seems to be that single, sexually active women wreak havoc on society. Sorry ladies. Of course, it’s not really the single, sexually active women wreaking all that havoc; it’s the testosterone fueled monkey-men going bat poop crazy for all those single, sexually active women that causes the trouble. The competition this engenders often turns violent, thus marriage.

There are three main types of marriage throughout history; a single man and a single woman called monogamy, a single man and multiple women called Polygyny, and a single woman and multiple men called Polyandry.

Ancient Israel was a Polygynous society and there are a number of rules set forth in something called the Covenant Code as to how a man is supposed to treat his multiple wives particularly in regard to not mistreating older wives when newer, presumably younger, wives are added. Adultery by a wife, as in most ancient cultures, was a capital punishment.

In Greece and Rome marriage was more of a mutual agreement between two parties rather than a religious or civic ceremony. It wasn’t until around the 300 CE that the Christian clergy took a stronger interest in the concept as an event before god rather than a simple mutual agreement. The state remained uninvolved until around 1545 with the church recording marriages for those who desired records and the state being completely removed from the issue. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that a marriage was not considered legal unless a priest had presided at the event.

In much of Asia and the Middle East marriage was largely an arranged event with Polygyny remaining the most common form until around the 20th century. In many countries it is still perfectly legal to have more than a single wife and the Mormon religion practiced polygyny, which they called Celestial Marriage, from 1830 until 1890. The banning came after a long battle with the U.S. Government which tried to eradicate the practice. When Utah next applied for statehood, in 1896, it was granted.

Biblically marriage is referenced in the Old Testament with Polygyny being the most common form mentioned. Jesus mentions marriage explicitly on several occasions referencing a man and a woman along with monogamy.

In the New Testament there are some restrictions against Polygyny in that particular people; Bishops, Deacons, and Elders must have only one wife. Other people are not instructed as to how many wives they may have and monogamy is never explicitly mentioned.

Biblically marriage seems to be promoted as a way to avoid the sin of sexual congress in an unmarried state. If you can’t maintain celibacy then marriage is required seems to be the message most often mentioned.

Anyway, that’s a quick history of marriage. Tomorrow I’m going to look at marriage from a Libertarian point of view and what I think would be an ideal arrangement.

Tell me what you think.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Privacy in the United States – Definition

Privacy
Privacy is a complex issue in the United States. The advent of new technology is changing not only the perceived definition of privacy but also its reality. In this series of blogs I’m going to take on this complex issue and examine how it relates to every citizen of this county and, more generally, to the idea of Libertarianism and free thinking.

As is my want, I’ll start out with the general definition. This is a difficult concept because there is the definition of privacy, the general expectation of privacy, and the actual fact of privacy law in the U.S. Surprisingly, these three things are fairly widely divergent.

First I want to examine simply the concept of privacy. The dictionary seems a good place to start. Sadly, I don’t have a subscription to the magnificent Oxford English Dictionary site but Merriam Webster comes to the rescue.

a. the quality or state of being apart from company or observation

b. freedom from unauthorized intrusion <one’s right to privacy>

I think we are largely talking about definition “b” in this case. Our right to privacy from unauthorized intrusion. The first definition concerns itself more with my individual right to hide in my room typing my blog, writing my latest book, and playing Skyrim.

Now, as to our perception of privacy. An interesting story recently demonstrated that, largely, our sense of what is private does not mesh with reality. I don’t want to get into the details of the story but basically it talks about how our shopping habits, tracked through our credit, debit, and reward cards gives retailers a great deal of information about us.

We think that is private for the simple reason that until the advent of massive database tracking it was impossible for someone to keep track of that much information. Those sorts of databases now exist and combined with identifying tools like reward cards and tracking cookies it is possible for people to not only keep that information but mine it for gain, both yours and theirs.

How does that help me? It helps me everyday when I’m on the computer. Advertisements that interest me show up in my browser, books that correspond to my reading habits show up every time I visit Barnes and Noble or Amazon to check on the rather anemic sales of my books. This sort of targeted advertising will only increase as the technology blooms. When I check in at the grocery story my phone will tell me items on sale that I’ve purchased in the past. When my shirts start to get to be a year or so old  I’ll get an automated message from Brooks Brothers that I need some new ones.

These are the sorts of things we once thought private but are quickly finding out are not. If, say, I purchase an inordinate amount of Bookers Bourbon in a month perhaps I might get a call from an alcoholic center. It’s difficult to say how far this information will go but its safe to say that where there is money to be made the technology will follow.

When you are talking on the cell phone or send an email there is no privacy. That is open line communication and fully non-private. Everything you do on the computer at your workplace, browse the internet, send instant messages to your loved ones, or play solitaire is managed by the Information Technology team at your office. None of it is private.

Every web page you visit is tracked although this is where we start to get into the legal definition of privacy. While certain information is available it is not necessarily admissible in a court of law.

So, as to the legal definition of privacy in the U.S. There are different laws for public and private figures and I’m mostly going to talk about personal privacy for now. Public figures have less privacy than non-public ones for a variety of reasons.

As far as most of us are concerned, privacy laws essentially protect us from someone finding out information about us to either publicly disclose or use for personal gain. Yellow Journalism and the advent of the easily available cameras spurred many new laws in the past and new technologies are changing the landscape almost every day.

To try and wrap up part one I’ll mention the idea of tort law in the U.S. in regards to privacy. There are basically four areas covered and I’d recommend a long perusal of the Wikipedia article for better information.

  1. Intrusion of solitude: physical or electronic intrusion into one’s private quarters.
  2. Public disclosure of private facts: the dissemination of truthful private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable
  3. False light: the publication of facts which place a person in a false light, even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory
  4. Appropriation: the unauthorized use of a person’s name or likeness to obtain some benefits.

Ok, that’s it for part 1. Tomorrow I’m going to try and take on the history of privacy in the U.S. and how technology has, and is, currently changing it.

As always, Like, Stumble, Tweet, Digg, and otherwise share this information if you think someone else might find it of interest. Comment are always welcome!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

We the People

The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Great SealIn 1912 an amendment to the Constitution of the United States proposed that Senators be directly elected by the population of each state rather than be appointed by the legislatures of said states. It was ratified within a year by 31 of the 48 states and became law on May 31, 1913.

In my experience I find that most people are unaware of a time when Senators were not directly elected so I’m going to go back in time and try to explain the original concept of the Founding Fathers.

Put on your time travel hats and come with me on a journey … journey … journey.

During the Philadelphia or Constitutional Convention the founding fathers gathered to write the new constitution. There were a number of factions each with their own plan but one of the main issues rested on how officials to the new government would get their jobs. I’m going to generalize here pretty broadly and I’d suggest a perusal of the article for better details.

Anti-federalist largely wanted there to be one representative per state so as each state would have equal power and the federal government would be weaker. Federalists largely wanted direct, proportional elections so that larger states had more power and the federal government would be stronger. They ended up with the Connecticut Compromise. Direct, proportional election of the House of Representatives, two Senators per state appointed by state legislatures, and an executive elected by the Electoral College.

The effect of this was as follows: The house of representatives with their two year terms were beholden to the people of their states, more subject to the whims of the moment, and the larger states had significantly more say. The senators with their six year term were beholden directly to the state representatives and not the people of the state which gave state legislatures, big and small, an equal say in federal policies.

The reasons suggested for the new amendment were that some senators engaged in direct and indirect bribery of state legislatures to get their job. Also, when a state failed to elect a senator because of gridlock the senate went unfilled.

These reasons gained so much momentum that 31 state legislatures proposed making the change. This galvanized the federal government into proposing the amendment before the states themselves engaged in a “runaway convention” and took matters into their own hands.

In my opinion the federal government was correct to propose the change at the time because it was the will of the state legislatures and their ratification of the amendment demonstrates this fact. However, we’ve had a hundred years to see its effect and it is time we reexamine an amendment as has been done before.

Its effect has been profound and I’ll site one dramatic example. In 1994 the Republican Party took control of the Senate with 52 of the 100 seats. Had the 17th amendment not been passed Democrats would have had a filibuster-proof super-majority of 70 seats.

Now, as to the less dramatic effects of the new amendment. Essentially the Senators are no longer beholden to the state legislature and that removes power from the states. Some argue that it also helped pave the way for special interest groups and lobbyist to influence the now unburdened Senators. Essentially lobbyist used to focus on their own state legislatures but now gather in ever growing flocks in Washington D.C. Before lobbyist had to spread their attention to multiple people in each state legislature but now only have to influence two senators.

Now, as to my opinion, finally.

I think the weakening of state power has only increased the corruption that was largely the motivator in making the change in the first place. Certainly there was corruption in the Senate appointment process but that corruption has simply gone up the ladder to the federal level while at the same time depriving states of their primary weapon in this great Union. As individual states lose their power, and the federal government gains it, the concentration of power draws in more and more corruption. As the federal government becomes directly responsible to the people and not the state legislatures we slide towards democracy rather than representative republic. I detail why this is a bad thing here.

I’m not suggesting that repealing the 17th amendment will fix the woes of the country but I think it’s one step necessary in the process.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist