Fluid Dynamics and Physics not Needed for Blood Spatter Analysis

blood spatter analysisIf you’re a fan of crime drama then you’ve almost certainly heard of Blood Spatter Analysis. It’s a technique used to determine how a crime happened. It doesn’t work. That’s very clear. The experts testifying about it generally know nothing of Fluid Dynamics or Physics and earn a certification after a forty-hour course. Yet, it’s an accepted science in almost every part of the United States. Lovely.

I just read an amazing article about how all of this came to be. Basically, one fellow invented the so-called science in his basement and was convincing in the courtroom despite having no scientifically backed evidence to back it. Now a horde of experts, almost all of whom trained with and were certified by him at his forty-hour course are testifying against one another in cases across the country. It’s not hard to find someone who will testify a blood spatter is evidence of absolute guilt while another person from the same discipline argues for complete innocence.

People’s blood is different in consistency and even different throughout the body. Weather can play an enormous role in fluid dynamics. Gravity plays a part. The setting on the air conditioner will make a difference in how blood behaves in various circumstances. There is good reason no readily repeatable experimentation on blood spatters exists. Yet, the testimony has resulted in any number of people being exonerated or convicted.

There is currently an effort by scientists with strong backgrounds in fluid dynamics and physics to try and make this actually work but the problems persist. It’s largely a field mired in confirmation bias. The result you want to get is the one you get. There just isn’t enough consistency in results to come to reliable conclusions.

There is a lot of sad in all of this. But, being the Libertarian that I am, I’m going to reserve my outrage mostly for myself. Why didn’t I realize this entire methodology is bunk? There is nothing in the article that I couldn’t have figured out simply by thinking about it for a bit. Obviously, blood splatters are going to have huge inconsistences based on wind, temperature, pressure, blood thickness, angles, and who knows what else.

Yet I ate it up on crime shows and assumed it was based on scientific principles all this time. Bad Tom! Do better.

Tom Liberman

Cut Soccer Player Sues to be Put on Team

Ladue SoccerIs it legal when a coach decides to cut a high school junior soccer player from the Varsity team and the Junior Varsity team is generally reserved for freshman and sophomores who have more years to play, leaving the soccer player without a team? The parents don’t think so and are suing the school district for age discrimination. This is all happening right here in my hometown of St. Louis, MO at a Ladue Horton Watkins High School and thus catches my attention. There is a lot going on here worth discussing.

I have a long history of playing sports and I’ve had good coaches and bad coaches. I’ve had coaches who showed favoritism and coaches who simply wanted the best players at each position. There’s no doubt in my mind the coach might have unfairly or unjustly cut the player. It’s also clear that the age of the player is absolutely a factor in not being placed on the Junior Varsity team. The coach admits as much in a letter written explaining why the player was cut in the first place. If the youngster was on the bubble, as the letter says, then it is highly likely he has the skill necessary to help the Junior Varsity team.

Here’s the problem with all of that. It’s the soccer coach’s decision and the best player isn’t always the one that helps the team the most. There are all sorts of possibilities in play. Maybe the player in question is the fourth best forward and tenth best player on the team but there is only room for the top three forwards. So, despite being clearly one of the ten best players on the team, there is no room for him at his position. This happens all the time. At the college level a player in such a situation transfers to another school. At the professional level they are traded. At a private high school, they might move to a different school but a public school, such a Ladue, they are largely bound by the district in which their family lives.

The same rule applies to Junior Varsity. A player with three more years of eligibility has more to offer to the team in the long run than one with but a single year remaining even if they don’t currently have the skills of the older player.

It could be the player just has a bad attitude in the locker room and contributes to disharmony on the team. As I said, there are plenty of good reasons why the player was cut but there are also plenty of bad ones. Maybe the coach is friends with the family of another player who was kept on the team. We just don’t know. Maybe the coach is making a bad decision. Again, there is really little way to know.

In the sports world the thing that ends up mattering is results. If the Ladue soccer team fails to succeed in the coming years the coach will eventually be fired. If the coach makes a bunch of poor personnel decisions then failure is likely.

Life is filled with injustice but the final arbiter is generally success. This is nowhere more evident than in sport. I certainly feel badly for the player in question, particularly if the coach’s decision was based on anything other than merit, a possibility I not only admit exist but readily understand happens all too frequently. That being said, such personnel decisions must be left to the coach, not the state.

Tom Liberman

Does Ticketmaster Mind Scalpers Breaking Rules?

TicketmasterThere’s a fascinating story in the news involving Ticketmaster being complicit in scalpers reselling tickets. The idea is simple enough, Ticketmaster has a service called TradeDesk in which people who have tickets sell them to willing buyers. The problem is TradeDesk is largely a way for scalpers who purchase tickets on Ticketmaster to resell them at higher prices.

Why is this problem? At first glance it doesn’t seem as if Ticketmaster is doing anything wrong. They sell the tickets to whoever is first to purchase them and then are involved in the resale at a higher, or lower, price. This is obviously lucrative for Ticketmaster as they get a percentage of all sales; essentially, they are profiting twice off the same product. However, thanks to some undercover work from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it seems Ticketmaster is making it very easy for scalpers to purchase large numbers of tickets to events before the public has a chance to do the same. Ticketmaster has a rule in which no one is allowed to buy more than a small block of tickets but they essentially ignore it when scalpers bypass it.

Thus, people who want to purchase tickets to an event never really have much of a chance and are forced, if they still want to attend, to buy the higher priced tickets at TradeDesk. Sales representatives for Ticketmaster told undercover investigators they pretty much were facilitating such transactions. The company is denying the allegation and said they are looking into the practice. They claim they attempt to stop such large purchases to the best of their abilities.

This entire thing intrigues me from a Libertarian perspective. Let’s imagine Ticketmaster doesn’t have the rule about blocks of tickets. Then what we are seeing is capitalism in action. The event promoters generally set the ticket prices and if resellers are able to get a higher price, it’s likely the promoters set the original price too low. That’s their bad. The scalpers are merely capitalizing on a mistake. The risk is all with the reseller. If they misjudge and have to resell the tickets at a lower price, because there is little interest for instance, they lose money.

I totally agree Ticketmaster is not being transparent if they are, indeed, allowing scalpers to purchase large blocks of tickets with the intent of reselling in violation of Ticketmaster rules. The reality of the supposed crime is more complex. Even if Ticketmaster cracks down on large blocks of tickets being sold to a single user, I’m fairly certain the scalpers will refine the technology they use to call and order and still scarf up the majority of the tickets.

Is it fair to the average user who just wants to go to the concert or see the game at the price of the original ticket? No. That’s clear. Then again, such a viewer can simply choose not to spend the extra money for the resold ticket.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman

Why is the United States Placing Cyanide Devices in Western States?

M-44 Cyanide DeviceThere’s an interesting legal case ongoing about a device called a M-44 Cyanide device which is used mainly in western states as a way to control coyote populations. One of the devices injured a young man from Pocatello, Idaho and killed his dog.

There are two elements to the situation that intrigue me. First is the case itself and second is the reason Wildlife Services places the devices at all.

The case is interesting in that the boy’s family describes the incident in which he was injured in a way that is largely impossible. They claim it exploded when he touched it but it has only a spring-loaded mechanism. It sprays cyanide when an animal bites the scented end and pulls with force.

The assumption here is that Canyon Mansfield likely did more than simply touch the device in order to set it off. That is the government’s argument for why they won’t pay damages. It’s probably true. They claim the Mansfield was negligent in handling the device and responsible for his own injuries.

Still, if I were in charge of the case I’d make the payment. It’s not going to set a precedent. People aren’t going to run out and mishandle the devices in order to get settlements. No one wants to be doused in cyanide.

The second thing I find interesting, from a Libertarian point of view, is why we are using the devices at all. Since the 1930s the United States has been placing the devices in order to kill coyotes and wild dogs. The M-44 Cyanide device killed over 12,000 coyotes in 2016 alone so they are clearly effective. This is out of the 76,000 the service killed overall. The reason we are killing such animals is they are a threat to livestock. Naturally they also kill pet dogs on occasion and at least 22 such animals were killed between 2013 and 2016.

I’m certain the Wildlife Service argues that far more pets and livestock would have been killed by coyotes if the devices were not used. My question is why is the government killing so many coyotes on public lands? The reason is simply because the United States leases these lands to ranchers in western states. The ranchers have livestock on the land and the government is spending your tax dollars to protect those animals.

This is at the heart of a number of problems, some of them having engendered major headlines in the last few years, associated with federally leasing such land. The ranchers depend on the land to feed their livestock. Without that land they couldn’t produce much of the beef we eat. Many of them have come to think of that land as theirs. However, if the land was owned by the ranchers they’d have to spend money to keep it up. As it stands, the government does all that work for them although the price of the leases mitigates the cost to some degree.

Basically, the government is killing millions of animals each year, yes, the number is that high, essentially to help out ranchers. There is pretty good evidence much of the killing is unnecessary. If the ranchers owned the land themselves they would probably carry out killings as well but because they don’t have an essentially unlimited budget, they’d probably only kill as many as necessary to protect their investment.

So why does the government own all this land which is being used largely by private industry? If you thought this problem was complex before, we haven’t even gotten started yet. That being said, I’ll give it a rest. I won’t bore you with the Bureau of Land Management, Native Americans, Public Land as a whole and the issues therein.

It’s not an easy issue to solve. I’ll say that much at least. Democrats largely wouldn’t want to turn the land over to private industry and Republicans largely wouldn’t want to force the ranchers to own and maintain that land. So, here we stand.

Tom Liberman

Cienega High and Senior Grad Trips Stealing Big

Senior Grad TripsThere’s an interesting story in the news about a travel company called Senior Grad Trips and various high schools including Cienega High in Tucson, Arizona. Basically, a company called Senior Grad Trips organizes high school senior trips to a variety of locations. They take the money and then apparently don’t deliver the trips. I don’t know all the details so I’m going to have to do some speculating but the basic idea is that stealing big is easy if you’ve got good legal advice.

The line from the story that really resonates with me comes from the mother of the one of the students from Cienega who had her money stolen, I could go to a grocery store and shoplift, and I would be put in jail that night. This man stole, and it’s taken more than a year for someone to say, ‘We’ll do something.’ What does it take for someone to care? Ronda Dillon made the comment after spending the last year trying to recoup the money her daughter and friends spent for the trip. So far to no avail.

Here’s what I’m guessing is the issue. Senior Grad Trips created their company with fraud in mind. The owners wanted to take money from various students, then use the profits on a party life. They had the contracts written with that in mind. They engaged in advertising designed to deceive. They covered their legal bases and there is little recourse against thieves of this nature. That’s why no one has been able to do anything as of yet.

Dillon is correct when she claims if she did some minor shoplifting she’d be charged and fined almost immediately. Our law enforcement agents are almost universally focused on petty crime while those who steal on a grander scale simply get away with it, smiling and nodding to our legal system all the while.

Deceptive contracts are the norm, not something unusual. Every contract you sign is designed with the idea of legally getting away with as much as possible. From your phone to your television viewing. Does anyone even dispute this?

Laws have been passed in recent years making it easier for a business to declare bankruptcy while individuals find it much more difficult. I wouldn’t be at all surprised, should there be an eventual resolution to this issue, if the students never get their money back and the owners of the Senior Grad Trips simply go on about their way, probably starting up some new scam.

That’s where we are. Practicing to deceive is not even fraud any more. It’s just a perfectly legal way to steal your money.

Tom Liberman

Stormy Daniels and Selective Enforcement of the Law

stormy danielsStormy Daniels was recently arrested when patrons at the strip club she was dancing at touched her in a non-sexual way. This is apparently against the law in Columbus, OH. Daniels is in the midst of a lawsuit against President Trump in regards to sexual relations between the two. The arrest is an egregious example of selective enforcement the likes of which is destroying the relationship between the police and the citizens they supposedly serve.

The idea is simple enough. The state or local government passes a law and law enforcement agents are tasked with enforcing it. We have a number of problems in this case.

The first of which is the law goes against almost everything for which a Libertarian stands. If two consenting adults want to touch one another then the government shouldn’t be involved in any way. I understand laws against lewd behavior in public but the location of this offense, a strip club, is specific enough that no one who goes there is going to see anything they don’t want to see. Certainly, they can leave if they do.

The second problem is perfectly clear, Daniels was not the only stripper touched in a non-sexual way during the course of the evening. It is obvious dancers and patrons touch one another in non-sexual, and likely sexual ways, every single night at Sirens. Police went to this strip club on a night where Daniels was guest dancing with a very specific target in mind. They were going to arrest Daniels for doing exactly the same thing that happens at that club every night, a fact law enforcement agents happily ignore. I’d be shocked if a few such agents haven’t done a little non-sexual touching of their own while out of uniform.

This blatant hypocrisy is undermining the entire community with not only law enforcement agents but the government itself. The law is stupid, this is true, but the selective enforcement of said law is dangerous. This selective enforcement is why arrests of minorities for minor traffic violations and drug transgressions are much higher than arrests for white people even while statistics show quite clearly there is no such discrepancy in those that commit such crimes.

This is a police force intent on attacking, I do not use that word lightly, targets of their ire and using the law to punish those they don’t like. The Constitution of the United States spends a great many words attempting to ensure this sort of behavior doesn’t occur. The Founding Fathers were subject to such selective enforcement by English agents of the law. They well-understood the dangers it presents and eventually rose up and violently ended such enforcement.

This targeting of someone at odds with the President of the United States is particularly disturbing. Could anyone who speaks out against their local Congressperson be so beset? If you vote against the Senator that wins might you be arrested for some minor legal violation while those who supported the Senator do it with impunity?

This is not as big a stretch as you might imagine. Once it becomes evident to politicians they can use the courts and law enforcement agents to imprison their political enemies the path is clear. Sadly, they don’t see the inevitable conclusion to this trail, they merely realize the immediate gain.

Dictators, even ones who espouse democratic ideals, often find themselves at the wrong end of an angry mob. Mayor Ginther, now you know.

Tom Liberman

Why Hate Crimes and Unmasking Antifa Legislation Show Political Hypocrisy

antifaThere is a new piece of legislation making its way through Congress that proposes an extra fifteen-year penalty for people who commit a crime while wearing a mask, Antifa. There is already similar such legislation in many states and the federal government for people who commit a crime motivated by hate. Who opposes and supports such legislation shows us the bankruptcy of the ethical philosophy of both Democrats and Republicans.

The gist of the problem is that government is trying to give extra penalties to people who commit similar crimes for different motivations or because they are wearing a mask. So now we have three classes of assault. If you assault someone you have committed a crime and are punished. However, if you do the same and are motivated by hate, you get an extra penalty. If you do the same and are wearing a mask, essentially Antifa, you get an extra penalty. The crime is the assault; not the motivation behind it or the clothes you wear while committing it.

Largely, Republicans are opposed to hate crime legislation because there is no need for it. Assault is a crime in itself. There is no need to add the person’s motivation to it. Democrats are, generally, for this legislation because people who commit such crimes deserve longer punishment and hopefully that will deter them.

Largely, Democrats are opposed to Unmasking legislation because there is no need for it. Assault is a crime in itself. There is no need to add the person’s choice of clothing to it. Republicans are, generally, for this legislation because people who commit such crimes deserve longer punishment and hopefully that will deter them.

I’m confident you can see the tremendous hypocrisy in this situation and I won’t spend any more time on that. What I will talk about is the enormous danger the government presents to all of us when it attempts to legislate such matters. What the government is attempting, in both cases, is to legislate against groups they see as aligned against their interests. In one instance it is Democrats against white supremacists and in the other it is Republicans against Antifa.

In both cases such legislation doesn’t reduce the risk of violence but increases both it and the danger of armed revolution. If enough people feel the government is willing to make up laws in order to put them in jail, they will simply attempt to create a new government. We see this path throughout history. In the United States we have the ability to vote in a new government and have largely avoided violent attempts at revolt.

Our government seems increasingly willing to imprison those they see as political enemies. This course of action is expressly forbidden in the Constitution of the United States. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Amendments all attempt to prevent the government from enacting such legislation. They do so not only to protect the people but to save the nation from the inevitable violent revolt that such imprisonments eventually engender.

A politician must not take sides in political debate. She or he must simply present arguments and persuade people to vote accordingly. Anything else tempts disaster.

Don’t be a hypocrite, be a Libertarian.

Tom Liberman

A Study of Tariffs and Laws and the Tomato

tomatoWith all the talk of tariffs in the news these days, I’ve been doing a bit of research and came across an interesting Supreme Court case related to the Tariff of 1883 and the humble tomato. Our friend the tomato is almost universally referenced as a vegetable in common parlance, this despite the fact that it is undeniably a fruit in botanical definition. This became an issue when the two food categories were treated differently in said tariff legislation.

If you were a seller of produce back in 1883 and sold tomatoes the tariff became an enormous issue. You see, fruits were exempted from tariffs while vegetables were not. The government, being the government, decided to include as many things in its revenue scheme as possible and that included tomatoes.

A fellow named John Nix founded a company called John Nix & Co. which became the largest sellers of produce in New York. They shipped produce from Virginia, Florida, and Bermuda to the city. Naturally, Nix didn’t want to pay extra tariffs on tomatoes. This is one of the problems with such tariffs. They raise revenue, certainly, but that revenue is taken indirectly from tax payers. While Nix’s company certainly has to pay the tariff directly to the government, they recoup this loss by raising the price on their produce. Thus, any tariff is really just an indirect tax. That is beside the point.

The point here is that the case went all the way to the Supreme Court in Nix v. Hedden, Edward L. Hedden being the Collector of the Port of New York. Hedden collected that money and Nix wanted it back. From a botanical perspective, the tomato is undeniably a fruit and therefore clearly exempt from the vegetable tariff.

The Supreme Court decided, unanimously and against nature, the tomato is not a fruit, it is a vegetable. The argument being that it is commonly thought of as thus. It is eaten as dinner rather than dessert. Therefore, Nix had to pay the tariff.

Is there a moral anywhere to be found in all of this? I’m not sure. The government instituted a tariff that was vague in reference using simply the words fruits and vegetables in non-taxonomic terms. The Supreme Court decide what Congress was really trying to do was put a tariff on tomatoes even they are clearly fruit and thus changed the legal definition in regards to tariffs, although they had not the power to change the scientifically determined definition, for which we can all be thankful.

It does give us some insight into who is the one paying for these tariffs and why manufacturers and wholesalers tend to fight them to the bitter end.

And, of course, my summation. Even if the Supreme Court made Nix pay the tariff because the tomato is commonly thought of as a fruit, this does not change the nature of the tomato. It clearly fits the established definition of a fruit, like it or not. Me, I’ll go with science over government.

Tom Liberman

Amazon and Strict Liability Laws

Strict LiabilityThe judicial branch has ruled a woman named Megan Fox, who had her home destroyed in 2015 when her son’s hoverboard caught fire, is not entitled to damages under the Strict Liability laws enforced in the United States. The case is quite interesting for a number of reasons that, as a Libertarian, I’d like to examine closely.

Strict Liability law essentially mean that anyone who manufacturers, distributes, or sells a defective product is liable even if they were not negligent in causing said defect. The concept took root in California in the 1950s in a landmark legal case called Greenman v. Yuba Power Products. The idea being the individual harmed by the defective device often has little means to recover from a devastating injury. Prior to Greenman, liability required proof the user did not use the product in an unsafe manner. This sort of negative proof is extraordinarily difficult to show and cases that crisscrossed the United States ended up with horribly maimed victims unable to get even basic compensation.

This inequity meant that Strict Liability spread from state to state and is now established in federal law as well. Case closed, you might say. Amazon sold it and owes the Fox family for the damage. The problem is that Amazon didn’t really sell it or even list it, it was purchased on their Marketplace website. This allows third-party vendors to sell products directly to customers, Amazon merely being a common location where buyers and sellers can more easily find one another. Therefore, legally they are not part of the chain of liability. Case dismissed.

The company that manufactured the hoverboard is from China, maybe. The hoverboards ended up being extremely defective and there were any number of incidents. The company vanished. There is no one to sue. There are an increasing number of cases like this one and Amazon has won victory after victory in court.

The problem with finding Amazon liable in this situation is that such a law would then extend to any third party that facilitates the selling of goods from one person to another. Companies like eBay, eBid, and Bonanza would most likely have to shut their virtual doors immediately. Websites across the country would have to eliminate their classified sections. So, I think the courts ruled correctly.

I’ll go even a bit further in that I’d like to examine the idea of getting rid of Strict Liability altogether. The base concept is companies are more easily able to absorb the costs of catastrophic injuries related to products even if it wasn’t really their fault. They can simply budget this extra cost. Everyone pays a bit more for the product to compensate those few horribly injured. This is the idea expressed by the judge in the Greenman case which drove the concept of Strict Liability to dominate state law.

In the hoverboard case news of incidents involving the devices spread across the internet via social media almost immediately. Amazon eventually sent a warning about the devices and instituted a payment plan that anticipated many returns. You might say, well, goodness, all the more need for Strict Liability but I say the opposite. This ability to research the safety of products so quickly shifts the burden back onto the consumer. If you purchase an item without doing readily available and easily obtained information about it, then anything that happens is really your responsibility.

It’s important to understand that in this case removal of Strict Liability would make no difference. The product was manufactured with obvious defects and the company that made them would be responsible no matter what. In addition, if a person uses a product in an inherently unsafe manner and his harmed, Strict Liability does not apply.

Is it time to end Strict Liability, particular for products that have been readily available for a period of time and whose potential to cause harm has been established?

I think it’s an idea worth examining. What do you think?

Is it time to rexamine Strict Liability Laws?

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Tom Liberman

What Led to Twenty-Year-old Emily Weinman being Hit by Police

Emily WeinmanThere’s a viral video of a woman, Emily Weinman, being struck multiple times by a police officer that is making the news. Police have now released the bodycam video taken by the part-time officers who were at the crowded beach as extra security. Apparently, their job is to increase revenue in the region by harassing beachgoers.

Weinman is twenty-years-old and there were alcoholic beverages available where she was sitting. Officers didn’t actually see her drink anything. Despite this; they approached her, asked her age, shoved a breathalyzer in her mouth, and then tried to cite her for having drinks on the beach.

She was understandably upset at this bully tactic used by officers to extort money from citizens. Apparently, she wouldn’t cooperate and when they tried to grab her, kicked one of the officers. The video of him hitting her repeatedly is the result.

The problems here are many but the root issue is why police officers were trying to cite Weinman in the first place. It’s largely about revenue. The part-time officers are bullies most certainly. They enjoy enforcing their will on people unable to fight back. They are worse than schoolyard bullies. That fact is not the focus of this blog. What I’d like to try and convince people is these inane laws are driving a horrible wedge between law enforcement and the community they are supposed to be serving.

Who was in danger from Weinman having an alcoholic beverage near her? She clearly wasn’t drinking. We can be sure the breathalyzer came back negative, otherwise they would have ticketed her for underage drinking rather than simply having alcohol nearby.

The regulation itself is the problem and that is the case with so many laws. They are not designed to make us safer but simply to extract money from us. Most traffic laws are of the same ilk. Changing lanes without signaling, failing to come to a complete stop, running a red light at two in the morning when there is no traffic around.

Stupid laws of this nature give bully officers the opportunity to act out on their pseudo-sexual fantasies of dominating other people. If you don’t think the officers in question enjoy forcing other people to follow orders, you are sadly mistaken. There are plenty of wonderful officers out there who don’t try to enforce this nonsense. They are being slowly destroyed by their fellows.

The breakdown of trust between police and citizens results in terrible tragedies for all parties. The police are afraid, citizens are afraid. I belong to a number of Libertarian groups in which Anarchists make their feelings known. Well-armed and violence leaning anarchists. Police are enemy number one in their crosshairs, I don’t use that word lightly. We see this attitude growing in alt-right organizations as well.

The more trust breaks down the more society itself is harmed. What’s the solution? It’s certainly complex and there are many issues. Still, it is bad laws that drive a lot of it. The War on Drugs, the age restriction on alcohol and cigarette consumption, an absolute myriad of traffic laws. All of these things done supposedly for our safety but in reality, just revenue streams.

This leads us to the first step in solving this issue. Remove as many of the moronic laws as possible. This gives police less reason and fewer opportunities to harass and anger citizens. This in turn leads to better relations between the community and the law-enforcement arm of our government.

Our politicians have largely spent our municipalities and our states into bankruptcy. They can’t afford to pay teachers and need more revenue. How do they get it? By stealing from Emily Weinman.

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

Right is Right when it Comes to the Nuns and Katy Perry

Katy PerryAn ongoing story involving Katy Perry and a pair of nuns recently heated up again when one of the nuns passed away in court and the other claimed bankruptcy. I think what’s important to understand is Perry is completely in the right. Yet, there are clearly many who think she should give up her claim because the elderly nuns are a sympathetic pair. Bah humbug, says this scrooge.

I think the first step we should take is to examine the case itself. Five nuns lived at a property called Los Feliz for many years although moved away a few years back. The property is owned by the Los Angeles Archdiocese although two of the five nuns claim they were the actual owners because of their long years living there. The three other nuns are not part of the legal situation and support the Archdiocese’s right to sell.

Katy Perry expressed an interest in the property and was in negotiations to purchase it when the two nuns got wind of the sale. They watched a few of Perry’s videos and decided they didn’t approve of her. So, they contracted with a third party and quickly sold it for well under it’s value with a miniscule down payment.

The judge ruled that they had no right to sell the property and the third party was engaged in tampering and ordered Dana Hollister to pay Perry and the Archdiocese no small fee. “Clearly invalid,” was the term the judge used in regards to the sale.

It seems clear Perry is right from a legal aspect but I’m willing to go significantly further. I think she’s right from an ethical perspective. The nuns are behaving horribly and using their position to vilify Perry and break the law. They are acting in an incredibly entitled fashion. We don’t like Perry. They claim they are somehow breaking their vows by allowing the property, that they haven’t lived at for years, to be sold to someone so evil as Perry. Their behavior is despicable and filled with selfish and righteous horse manure.

The two, now one, are a playing on the sympathies of those who look at them and see a pair of elderly nuns being taken advantage of by a ruthless mogul when the opposite is closer to the truth. The nuns are acting ruthlessly and viciously exploiting their position to turn public opinion against Perry.

The surviving nun is now claiming she is bankrupt despite the fact the Archdiocese continues to pay all her living expenses and has expressed it will continue to do so until her death. She is saying terrible things about Perry.

I will not stand by. I’m calling her out! Try to be a decent human being in your last years of life you angry and bitter old woman. Yep, I’m yelling at a nun and I’m doing it because she is legally and ethically in the wrong.

Don’t give up the fight, Katy. And, if you ever happen to visit St. Louis, dinner and a drink? My treat.

Tom Liberman

Why Are Law Enforcement Officers Risking Their Lives McKesson Makes Billions?

mckesson opioidsI just read another story about the so-called War on Drugs involving one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, McKesson Corp. The company generated almost $200 billion in revenue in 2017 and recently agreed to pay a $150 million bribe, I mean fine, to the government for essentially selling enormous amounts of opioids to warehouses that were in turn supplying drug dealers, legal and illegal. McKesson paid this bribe rather than having executives go to prison and having distribution centers shut down.

I wonder what law enforcement officers think about this. They are on the front-line of the phony War on Drugs. They are risking their lives every day investigating, confronting, going under-cover, raiding, and arresting those they suspect of dealing drugs. They have largely destroyed their relationships with the communities they serve in the attempt to stop illegal drug use. Meanwhile the federal government, and many state and local entities, are filling their coffers with drug money obtained by providing people with opioids.

It seems fairly apparent to me that law enforcement officers are being used to suppress competition to the drug companies and provide revenue to local, state, and federal government agencies. They are being paid some small salary as a bribe to risk their lives in order to enrich a bunch of people sitting around counting money and laughing at them.

Drug companies like McKesson provide billions of illegal pills to the market because it generates huge revenue. I respect this part of the equation. As a Libertarian I think all drugs should be legal. McKesson should be perfectly free to market and sell their product to able-minded adults as much as they desire. However, at the same time, they are asking law-enforcement agents to sacrifice their well-being and even their lives and this does not meet with my approval.

As an example; McKesson was distributing upwards of 2,000 pills a day to a small town in Colorado with a population of 38,000 people. This was not an isolated incident. There is an enormous demand for opioids and this market generates huge amounts of money. The drug companies, doctors, pharmacists, and others see this and provide product. Meanwhile they are using law enforcement agents to crack down on other groups doing the exact same thing.

Government in the United States is quite clearly financially dependent on the illegal drug trade. There are many jobs that would not exist without the illegal drug trade. The entire investigation into McKesson likely involved tens of thousands of hours of work and many millions of dollars. Local and state government are likewise financially tied to the illegal drug trade. If all drugs were made legal it would be an enormous financial blow to the government.

I wonder how long the people who are putting their lives on the line are going to put up with this contradiction? I’m certain many of them honestly believe they are doing something good in attempting to interdict the illegal drug trade, they do not realize there are being used as dupes in a much larger game and are making the situation much worse. That’s a shame.

We are not engaged in a War on Drugs. The government is happy to collect money from drug dealers, illegal and otherwise. Drug companies make billions but so do many ancillary organizations like the penal system. Law enforcement officers have a role in all of this. They are complicit in the tearing apart of communities, families, and people.

When will they say enough? That’s up to them.

Tom Liberman

Government Fails to Save us from Silver Dragees

silver drageesI just learned a rather astonishing fact. Those little silver balls, dragees, you often see on cakes and pastries during the holiday season are for decorative purposes only. The United States government does not allow them to be served for consumption. Presumably if you did so, you’d be subject to imprisonment or a fine. Well, a lot of people I know should be in federal lockup, which is the point of my article. What good does banning silver dragees do?

To me this is a clear illustration of the responsibility of government as compared to what is actually happening. If the government has evidence silver dragees are dangerous, they are considered edible in Europe so I’m guessing the science isn’t conclusive, what are the options? People are going to put them on desserts no matter what and some people, me included, are going to crunch away.

I have no problem with government alerting people to the potential dangers of silver dragees and warning against eating them. That’s fine. That is the role of government. I’d support research on the subject funded with taxpayer dollars and a website illustrating the issues. However, it is when the government tries to enforce these suggestions with actual laws that we run into all sorts of troubles.

In only one state, California, are the silver dragees illegal to sell. Everywhere else you can sell and use them as long as you remove them before serving. Good luck with that. This law does several things, none of which I suspect the government was hoping to achieve.

First: It puts a huge financial strain on companies that do business with silver dragees. California is an enormous market and losing it is not an insubstantial hit to profits. This hurts these businesses and the people who work there.

Second: It creates a potential black market in California for the items. People from neighboring states will smuggle illicit bags of dragees into the state and money will be funneled to criminal enterprises. I’m not certain if this is happening but I see no reason why it would not be so.

Third: The people of California won’t have pretty pastries. It takes away from the esthetic pleasure of looking at them. This might seem trivial but it is a big issue for me. The government is basically taking away from the pleasure of people who might well use the dragees without consuming them. Let’s assume they are dangerous to eat, there is still no reason to make it illegal to put them on cookies. It reduces the quality of my life, even if by an insubstantial amount.

Fourth: It creates an enforcement nightmare. California is presumably devoting policing resources to visiting retails stores and pastry shops to ensure they are in compliance with the law. They might even be raiding homes this Christmas to ensure no one is putting dragees on their cookies. Then there is the time spent in courts prosecuting the scofflaws who dare to put them on their pastries.

I know all this sounds a bit ridiculous and far-fetched but the War on Drugs is, for all practical purposes, a large-scale example of this issue. Every problem I’ve illustrated here has done much to destroy our way of life in the United States when it comes to drugs. We have spent enormous amounts of money interdicting drugs and locking up those who choose to use them. This cost is not just in money but in human potential, human lives. I’ll leave off the War on Drugs comparison to the ban on eating dragees but the two issues are related.

By the people and for the people. That is the idea behind government. It is one of the jobs of government to protect its citizens but when government becomes financially invested in protecting its citizens from their own decisions, they are not making our lives safer, they are merely heading to a totalitarian state.

Tom Liberman

Sandwich Dispute Illustrates the Demise of Capitalism

sandwich-capitalismThe demise of capitalism in the United States is amply illustrated by a lawsuit that took place back in 2006 in the state of Massachusetts between Panera Bread Company and Qdoba Mexican Grill. I came across this horrific little story while perusing Wikipedia’s Sandwich entry. The sandwich, you might ask? A lawsuit? Sadly, yes.

There was a time in the United States when business owners and operators devised methods of defeating their competition by providing a better product, a lower price, more amenable service, or any number of other methods. While for many companies those days still exist, more and more we are descending ever further to a point where success is decided largely by government intervention.

The Panera in question was, perhaps still is, located in the White City Shopping Center in Shrewsbury, MA. The company agreed to move into the center as long as it was written in their contract that no other “sandwich” shop would be allowed to rent space there. The fact someone actually attempted wording like this in a contract is by itself alone enough to raise the ire of this Libertarian. Competition is the backbone of capitalism. Without competition the consumer is the ultimate loser. The fact that contracts like this are legal is another huge problem from my perspective. It encourages companies to rely on government backed capitalism, or Crony Capitalism.

More and more businesses must rely on government for survival. It is not enough the government spends enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars simply to support whichever business pours the most money into election campaigns, the government is the ultimate arbiter of legal disputes. The law and its equitable enforcement is a vital component of healthy capitalism and the law has gone wrong.

The very existence of non-compete clauses like the one Panera tried to enforce are an affront to the tenants of capitalism and, by extension, to our nation. If industries can legislate their rivals out of business as the primary way to achieve profitability, the consumers lose. While I’m not suggesting capitalism is dead, I do think it is beginning to fail. When competition dies it means the end of enterprise in the United States. Businesses in other countries will overtake industry here. They will win customers through true capitalistic ingenuity. I think this phenomenon is already manifestly occurring across the globe as other nations are filing larger number of patents and surpassing the United States as an innovative leader.

Our government’s solution to the issue seems to be larger involvement in business processes. There is a strong sentiment in our leaders to impose tariffs and restrictions on the companies competing with businesses in the nation and this America First policy seems to have found strong support among a populace that apparently fails to understand what is in their best interest. So be it. We live in a nation where we vote for our leaders and if the people believe in this sort of intervention, we deserve what we get.

The proper solution is the opposite of this approach. Government should lessen their presence in enterprise. Many people consider this a reduction of regulations. The sad part is the majority of regulations are designed to give one company or industry an advantage over a competitor rather than protect the consumer. I support most deregulation for this reason. That being said, the main problem is government contracts and legislation decide which company makes a profit and which go out of business. This outcome should instead be related to the purchasing habits of consumers.

Only when companies survive by providing better products, cheaper products, and better service will they be able to compete globally.

A business that relies on government to save them from rivals is eventually doomed, either to foreign takeover or violent revolution. The government of the United States is culpable in all of this, and by extension the voters, and it should end. Voters have this power although they seem disinclined to use it.

Tom Liberman

The Great Bologna Bust

Contraband BolognaThere’s a news story about a woman who tried to bring bologna into the United States but was stopped by border patrol agents and it’s tickling the fancy of audiences everywhere. An unnamed woman attempted to bring in about two-hundred and twenty-seven pounds of the savory meat but when she declared it, was fined $1,000 and the meat was confiscated and destroyed. Why? I’m not sure.

I’ve read several articles about the incident which all claim different reasons for the seizure. One says the meat contained pork, another says it was simply originally undeclared, a third claims it can cause disease in the pork industry. None of those reasons makes much sense to me. Bologna is generally made from pork so what’s the problem? She forgot to declare it at first but then remembered at the second stop, who cares? How is processed bologna a threat to the pork industry?

The mere fact that three different news articles had three different explanations for the seizure and fine indicates that the sources of information for the articles probably didn’t know why the meat was seized in the first place and were making things up. Maybe, I don’t know. I do know if we have to stop someone from bringing bologna into the country, destroy it, and steal $1,000 from said person then something is wrong with the country.

I think it’s important to understand the base reason behind the entire incident. Various government agencies; federal, state, and local all, finance their operations through money taken from citizens for supposed violations of the law. This is not the way it was designed to be. We pay taxes to finance our government. If government needs other methods to take our money in order to pay their bills there is one of two things happening. Either we are not paying enough in taxes to finance their reasonable expenses or they are spending far too much and using us to pay for their extravagances. Can you guess which one is more likely?

We have gotten to the point where almost every government agency in our country funds itself one way or another through seizure of our money based on laws designed simply to take that money. This is a never-ending circle. The government needs more money, our representatives don’t have to convince us to support legislation for taxes, they simply pass ludicrous laws and begin to enforce them. It is plain to see, the majority of laws we now encounter are not designed to make us safer, but simply to steal our money so politicians can spend it on things they want.

One of the ways they connive us is the supposed lowering of taxes. We think we are paying less but they simply find even more revenue another way; fees, fines, seizures, licenses, you name it. We don’t care when it is someone else from whom they are stealing, we smile and shake our heads until it is us they prey upon. Only then do we get angry. We should all be angry when government takes money in any way, from anyone, that isn’t justified through reasonable argument.

As long as the people are willing to believe the excuses for the ridiculous laws the government enforces, they will continue to take our money. We must say enough is enough. No one is hurt when someone brings in bologna from Mexico. There is no danger. The government simply took someone’s money, and if you’re okay with that, you are part of the problem.

Tom Liberman

Prison Camps on Coast Guard Ships

coast guardThe New York Times just published an article which detailed how low-level drug smugglers from South and Central America are being held on Coast Guard ships for months at a time under appalling conditions. There is the usual righteous outrage that we could do such horrible things to people but I’d like to focus on the damage it is doing to the young volunteers who serve and protect our country.

What is happening is relatively simple. 1986 a law was passed in the endless and useless War on Drugs called the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. It empowered the Coast Guard to search and seize drugs from any ship in International Waters, even if there was no evidence the drugs were intended for sale in the United States. A small amount of arrests were made on a yearly basis after that but everything changed in 2012 when it was decided to use this law to seize and arrest on a large scale.

These arrests are taking place far from the United States and there is no inexpensive way to bring the suspects to trial. Therefore, the prisoners are kept aboard Coast Guard ships for months at a time. The Coast Guard ships have no facilities so the prisoners are kept chained to the deck and fed at a barely subsistence level. The fellow in charge of all this was General John Kelly, now White House Chief of Staff. He strongly believes we need to expand the War on Drugs.

The men and women who serve aboard those Coast Guard vessels are largely idealistic and want to make the nation a safer and better place. What we are doing is wrecking them. No human can participate in chaining other humans to a deck for months at a time while feeding them little food and come away unscathed. What Kelly is doing is failing to make the United States a safer place and is destroying the moral and ethical compass of an entire generation, our people.

This is the natural extension of the horrors that occurred at Abu Ghraib and lays at the feet of Kelly. Kelly and his allies argue the prisoners are not being mistreated and the law is being followed but they completely forget the women and men who are carrying out their vile orders. These people, the best and brightest our nation has to offer, are learning we can and should treat others like animals. This is not a lesson easily unlearned. I can only imagine the nightmares being forced to do something like this would cause me and I’m a grown man.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of our young Coast Guard volunteers are being ordered to participate in what can only be called immoral actions. They are being told by their superiors, supposedly morally sound officers, to engage in these actions, to watch as men are tortured. In these circumstances the vile among us rise while those who are good and decent must hide, quit, or simply go along because they see no other choice. What horror.

The long-term effect of these actions on the Coast Guard as a whole, on the men and women who issue the commands, and those tasked with carrying them out are incalculable. The people who are being forced to do these things will go on with their lives, they might join other branches of the military, they might become law enforcement officers, they might take roles in our government. They are forever damaged and will carry on with the lessons they are learning. That is a danger to us all.

Shame on you, Kelly and all the others involved in this ruination of the young men and women of the Coast Guard. Shame.

Tom Liberman

Pedestrian Citations versus Pedestrian Safety

pedestrian citationI just watched an interesting video on YouTube about pedestrian citations. Basically, pedestrians are given tickets for various violations including jaywalking and a litany of other things. The idea behind the citations is they are issued for the protection of citizens. Not crossing at a crosswalk is potentially a dangerous activity.

While I’m certain you won’t be surprised blacks and Hispanics receive the majority of these pedestrian citations, that’s not really what I want to talk about today. It’s the government supposedly trying to protect us that bothers me. In reality they are simply financing themselves through citations. The reason I say this is because the studies show these tickets are often given in areas where pedestrians have little choice but to break the law.

In the case of Florida, where the video originated, they are often given on streets where there is no sidewalk to use and yet there are bus stops. People must get to the bus stop but they can’t get there without walking on the street, which is a violation. Many other instances are when people move from one side of the street to the other but not at a crosswalk.

When you examine the region, there are no crosswalks available for multiple blocks. The alternative being to walk three, four, or more blocks out of your way to cross the street. I don’t care how much of a law and order person you are, that’s a law no one is going to follow.

The reality is making the streets safer for pedestrians involves spending money on building better sidewalks, designating more crosswalks, and a variety of other things. If the government actually wanted to make us safer, that’s what they’d do. Citations for these sorts of silly things are merely an excuse to generate revenue for the city.

For example, in my state of Missouri I violate a pedestrian law on an almost daily basis by walking on the left half of a crosswalk. Code 300.385. I’m fairly certain every person reading this article has violated this law many times. Because this law is violated constantly it becomes rife for abuse. The officer can charge whomever she or he feels like charging and let anyone else go merrily on their way. This is the problem with many laws and why we see people of color getting the majority of such citations, although, again, that’s not my main problem here.

The problem is the law. Let’s take 300.385 as an example of a law which continues to exist largely because of its revenue generating potential. The government will tell us the law was written to cut down on inconvenience when crossing the street at a crosswalk. By keeping opposite flowing pedestrian traffic on different sides, it is a better system. I don’t disagree with the principle of the idea. It is a good strategy. It just shouldn’t be a law punishable by a fine.

If someone wants to cross on the opposite side and there is no, or little, oncoming pedestrian traffic; all is well. If, on the other hand, the crosswalk is filled with people going both directions and someone is swimming upstream they are generally given dirty looks and even forced to the other side. That’s enough punishment. We don’t need to take people’s money in order to get them to walk on the convenient side of the crosswalk. Are we going to have laws forcing people to wait before entering a mass transit vehicle thus allowing exiting people to go first?

It is against the law to change lanes without signaling. It is against the law to make a turn and switch from one lane to another while doing so. There is virtually no one in the nation who doesn’t break laws on a daily basis.

The question I’d like you to ask yourself is relatively simple. If law enforcement agents started to enforce these laws on people driving a Mercedes, a Lexus, a Tesla, a BMW, and other expensive cars; if law enforcement agents started enforcing jaywalking laws on people wearing expensive clothes; if law enforcement agents started citing politicians at the state capital for crossing on the wrong half of the crosswalk; how long before the laws would change?

These laws are a tool of oppression on those who cannot defend themselves and serve the sole purpose of financing government agents without making life any safer or better for citizens. That’s just plain wrong.

Tom Liberman

Epic Games Suing Stream Snipers for Cheating at Fortnite Battle Royale

fortniteThere is an interesting situation in the video game world in that a company called Epic Games is suing players of their game, Fortnite Battle Royale, for cheating. What’s that you say, video games and the law colliding? Have I died and fallen into the noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It’s time for a Happy Dance and a blog.

A website called Twitch.tv allows players of video games to stream their efforts for a live audience. One of my favorite streamers, Sacriel, plays the game in question. It is what is called a Survival game with cooperative elements. This means one player or a team of players roam the world finding weapons and battling other players or teams of players.

A player like Sacriel joins a particular instance of the game. This lasts until there is only one player or team left on that particular instance, at which point another game begins. Cheaters watch the most popular streamers and join the same game, this is called Stream Sniping. The cheaters then attempt to defeat the streamer and often use against the rules code supplements to make themselves virtually invulnerable. This is the cheating aspect of the situation. Epic Games bans such cheaters when they spot them but the Stream Snipers generally create a new account fairly quickly. In this case one of the people being sued created at least nine other accounts after being banned.

In the legal system, in order to sue someone successfully you generally have to prove damages. So, you might well ask, how is cheating damaging Epic Games? It’s just a few players being killed and they can just start up another game, right? Not to my way of thinking although we will have to wait until the courts weigh in on the matter.

One of the interesting realities of people using platforms like Twitch.tv to stream games is the revenue thus generated. When an engaging and technically skilled player like Sacriel plays a game like Fortnite Battle Royal, the game gets enormous promotion. When gamers see Sacriel enjoying himself immensely they too want to play the game and make the purchase. They even get an opportunity to test their skills against such streamers which is a big selling point. There is quite clearly direct correlation to game sales and popular streamers.

When Stream Snipers become prevalent, top streamers like Sacriel simply get fed up and quit the game. There isn’t much point in playing whenever you start a new game an invincible opponent arrives and kills you. It’s not fun for the streamer and it is not enjoyable for the audience to watch. Therefore, the streamer stops playing which, in turn, directly affects game sales.

As a Libertarian I’m also quite happy with the way this has played out. Epic Games attempted to simply ban such cheaters but when they were unable to effectively implement this tactic they were forced into legal remedies. I always appreciate trying to solve the problem without resorting to legal or law enforcement agencies, but there comes a time when reason is not an effective tool.

I think Epic Games has a case and I’m quite interested to see how this all plays out in court. I’m not of the opinion the Stream Snipers should be put in prison but hit her or his wallet and I think you have effectively curtailed the practice, and that’s a good thing.

Tom Liberman

Martha Stewart and her Unjust Conviction

martha stewartI’ve been reading a number stories about Martha Stewart and her feelings about being imprisoned in 2004 for conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding, and making false statements in regards to the sale of ImClone Systems stocks. She felt it was a horrible experience and she learned nothing from it.

I think there are a number of things to take from Stewart’s opinion on this subject not the least of which is that she was convicted in what most people would regard as questionable fashion and I would classify as grossly unjust. I find her words about her imprisonment resonate strongly with me. She was not made stronger for her stay in jail, she learned nothing, she did not become a better person. It was horrible in every regard. This is an indictment of our prison system.

First, I’d like to talk about her conviction. She sold some stock shortly before it went down by 16% and avoided about $50,000 in losses. This may seem like a lot to you and me but to a woman of her means, it is a fairly trivial amount. Her broker supposedly was informed by an insider that a drug the company was promoting failed to gain approval. Stewart claimed there was a standard order to sell when it reached a certain price, $60, and had documentation that such an order existed.

An ink expert from the Secret Service testified the ink on the order for the ImClone sale was different than other ink on the document. He lied. He hadn’t even examined the document. Another worker examined it and it was clear she had a grudge against Stewart. The case of securities fraud against Stewart was so flimsy the judge threw it out of court. But, Stewart insisted the order for sale at $60 was real and she was convicted on charges related to these statements. This despite the fact the person who claimed it was different ink was lying. She was not convicted of securities fraud. The civil case was eventually settled with Stewart paying the government the equivalent of triple damages although she maintained her innocence.

So, off she went to a minimum-security prison. Here’s where her comments really caught my eye. She was asked if the sentence and imprisonment made her stronger. If the adversity was essentially good for her. This question reflects what we’d like prison to be. A place where inmates reflect upon their misdeeds and emerge the better for it. No, said Stewart. It was not a learning experience. It did not make her stronger. It was horrible. It was only her own strength of character that allowed her to endure. This confirms my opinion that prison is not making better people but is largely making better criminals. It is not turning criminals into good citizens but conversely, turning good citizens into criminals.

This assessment is coming from an undeniably strong woman who was sent into what is largely considered the least penal sort of prison. Imagine men and women of lesser character getting sent to far worse places. We turn a young person who perhaps robbed a store, got caught with some small amount of drugs, or perhaps got into a drunken fight into a hardened criminal by sending them to our failed jails.

If the goal is to have a better society, to have better people, then we must listen to what Stewart has to say. If we merely want to punish people and ensure they are more likely to commit crimes after their release, then we can safely ignore Stewart’s advice. It’s important to note that Stewart is not merely answering a question, she is unleashing a stinging and startlingly accurate indictment of our entire system. I’m not surprised, she is a woman of tremendous strength.

If you choose to ignore her, do so at your own peril. More and better criminals is not a recipe for a successful society.

Tom Liberman