Casey Smitherman and Doing Good to Make Yourself Feel Better

Smitherman

The story about Casey Smitherman who made a false insurance claim to help a sick student has been much in the news lately and gets me thinking. Thinking about what, you might ask? Thinking about people who try to do something good largely for the purpose of making themselves feel better, not the person they are supposedly helping.

First the situation. A student in Smitherman’s school district, Ellwood Community Schools, missed some days of school and Smitherman went to the home of the student and took the boy to the doctor. There she used her insurance card and claimed the student was her son. This is insurance fraud.

I would guess the average person reading this story will laud Smitherman as a hero. While what she did was illegal, it was with the best intentions of the student at heart. This demonstrates an idea I wrote about a while back called Relativistic Morality but I don’t want to rehash that topic in this blog. What interests me in this case is that Smitherman has resigned and at least one family member of the boy who was treated is happy about it. Why? Because Smitherman came into the family home, took the boy, got medication, and gave it to him without permission from his guardians.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know all the facts about the case. I don’t know the circumstances of the boy’s life or the responsibility of his guardians but that fact bring into doubt Smitherman’s motivations. Basically, it’s possible she was simply doing it because she wanted to feel better about herself and was less interested in helping the boy. That’s the idea I’d like to examine in this blog. People who claim to be helping others when in fact they are trying to make themselves feel like better human beings.

How many of us are guilty of the same thing? We see something that appears to be an egregious situation and step in, without permission, to right the wrongs. How many of us stick our noses in the business of others where it does not belong?

If we see a parent disciplining a child in a way we deem to violent, should we step in? Most people want to be helpful and kind. It makes us feel good to help others. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads people to overstep their authority and place. We jump into someone else’s life with the hope of aiding them but in reality, we are just trying to make ourselves feel like a good person. They did not want nor need our help.

There are no easy answers here. Sometimes it’s very important to step in and help people. Other times we are doing it for the wrong reasons and we are making a situation worse. One of phrases I like to think about in these circumstances is: Don’t criticize the way another person goes about doing her or his business. Before intervening, I suggest you consider why you are doing it. Is it to help the other person or is it simply to make yourself feel like a good person?

I think Smitherman crossed onto the wrong side of the line when she took the boy without permission and her actions should be taken in that light. You may feel differently.

Tom Liberman

Nello Bans Single Women from the Bar Illustrating Compound Stupidity

Nello Restaurant

There’s a news story making the rounds about an upscale restaurant in New York City called Nello which has instituted a policy wherein they have banned single women from sitting at the bar. Such women must sit at a table. It’s a double-dipping, moronic, Libertarian Triggering, nightmare of epic proportions!

The reason for the new policy is that prostitutes sometimes sit at the bar in the hopes of attracting customer. The management of Nello doesn’t like having these ladies in their establishment so they’ve taken to seating single women at tables rather than the bar. Why is this so incredibly stupid, you might ask me? I’m so, so happy to tell you.

Nello is banning all women because women are engaging in a banned profession despite the fact that the banning of prostitutes is clearly not working in the first place! But, obviously, the banning of single women from the bar will work where the banning of prostitutes hasn’t. Oh, the joyous, glorious, Libertarian irony. I’m figurately giddy. Or is that literally giddy? You’ll have to read my recent blog on the difference between the two to know. As for me, I’m just so darned pleased with myself that I’m going to continue to ramble.

You see, the banning of women because the other banning isn’t working is not the only problem with the Nello policy. All single women wanting to dine at Nello are being punished for something someone else is doing. This is the misguided thinking behind the so many useless, freedom defying laws that dot the legislative slates across our country. Some people might waste their money playing poker or betting on sports, ban gambling! Someone might become addicted to a substance, ban marijuana! Kids might be vaping more than is good for them, ban Electronic Cigarettes! Someone might use a firearm in a crime, ban weapons!

Nello, my dear fascist enforcers of moronic policy, if there is a lady of the evening in your restaurant, kick her out. She’s the one causing the issue. Personally, I have no problem with prostitutes. They are providing a service to a willing clientele. However, I absolutely support Nello’s right to have in their establishment who they want; if they don’t want ladies of the evening so be it.

Now, before you start telling saying, ‘Hey, dumbass, you’re being hypocritical because Nello can ban single women at the bar and you should support their right to do so’. I agree Nello has every right to ban single women from the bar, the owner of the restaurant can make any decision in that regard he or she wants although Constitutional protections for gender might well be something to consider legally. I just think it’s a poor business decision. They are alienating a certain portion of their clientele.

Stupid decisions? Those are theirs to make as well. If it affects their business, perhaps they’ll change the policy. That’s the reality of the situation. I can’t tell Nello how they run their restaurants. I can choose which restaurants to patronize. That’s freedom.

Tom Liberman

DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship Mayhem

DraftKings

During the recent DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship held in New Jersey an interesting situation involving computer technology is causing a bit of a fuss and I find the whole thing very interesting from a legal, sports, and Libertarian perspective.

Recently the Supreme Court ruled the prohibition against sports betting was unconstitutional and the various states immediately went to work to allow it. I wrote a blog about this not long ago. In any case, New Jersey was early on the bandwagon and DraftKings hosted the event in which the winning prize consisted a cash payment of one million dollars. The entry fee was $10,000 and two-hundred gamblers paid the fee to enter.

The rules of the event are relatively unimportant for consideration here but basically each of the players wagered money on various NFL playoff games that weekend. Whoever accumulated the largest winnings during this time would receive the prize. The problem happened because the morning game ended only fifteen minutes before the afternoon game started. Betting was only allowed before a game began.

Some of the players were able to take their winnings from the early Sunday game and apply them to the bets on the afternoon game. However, because of a computer glitch, others were not able to make wagers on the second game. This severely impacted their ability to win the tournament. One player in particular, Rufus Peabody, would have won the first prize if he had correctly wagered an all or nothing bet on the second game. He was prevented from doing so because his winnings from the first game didn’t register until after the second game began.

This, in my opinion, created an unfair playing field. It will be interesting to see what the courts have to say and I wouldn’t be surprised if DraftKings didn’t offer a refund to those who were locked out of betting.

That’s the important thing. The courts can make a determination. Before the gambling prohibition was lifted such events were run as illegal operations and if anything went wrong there was no lawful recourse. The group running the event could move on their merry way. Now that we have legalized gambling, we also have legal remedies.

This simple fact proves the benefit of allowing adults, of their own volition, to engage in activities that might cause them harm. Laws against gambling didn’t stop people from making wagers or ruining their lives. The gambling went on as before but under the auspices of illegal operators. Because the activity is now legal, we are in a much better situation. Yes, people still ruin their lives gambling but society is better able to address the wrongs associated with the activity.

This is a lesson that should be applied to other areas of our legal code. In trying to prevent people from doing harm to themselves we only make the situation worse.

Tom Liberman

North Macedonia and the Libertarian Fight Against Nationalism

Macedonia

An absolutely fascinating situation regarding Nationalism played out recently in that the Republic of Macedonia hoped to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They were blocked in these efforts by Greece. Why? Largely because of tribal Nationalism. Let me explain.

The reason for the refusal was the people in Greece think of Macedonia with pride in regards to Alexander the Great and a province in Greece is named Macedonia. The Greeks regard this as part of their heritage and are extremely proud of it. Many of the people of the Republic of Macedonia feel the same way. In order to get into the EU and NATO the legislature of the Republic of Macedonia agreed to change the name of their nation to the Republic of North Macedonia. This change was a matter of great controversy and many people are extremely upset.

The point of Libertarians is largely that it doesn’t matter what you call something. The individual is greater than the state. As a writer I’m aware of the power of words. I’m not here to say it doesn’t make any difference to the pride of the people of both Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. I’m just saying the name we choose to call something makes no difference. I’m proud that I’m from Missouri. From a municipality called University City. That I went to the University of Idaho. That being said, the names of those places have nothing to do with my pride.

I’m proud to have played Water Polo, Swimming, Soccer, and Tennis at University City with a bunch of the best guys in the world. I wasn’t the most social fellow in the world and it wasn’t all good times, almost exclusively my own fault, but those guys, those times, that’s what gives me pride. The idea of a name change is relatable to me. When I played sports at University City, we were the Indians. The awards I earned, to be found somewhere around here, bear that logo.

Long after I graduated, the school board changed the mascot from Indians to Lions. There was the usual attempt to prevent the change but the name alteration went through and now we are the Lions. Does that change any of my memories? Does that change the good times I had with all those great friends? Does that change the victories or the defeats? The simple answer is no, it doesn’t.

Alexander the Great and Macedonia remain as they were regardless of what a nation calls itself today. People are who they are, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or their current living conditions.

I’m not telling you to stop being proud of who you are or to forget your heritage. I am saying the name you choose to call something is irrelevant. It changes nothing. What is past is irrevocable. The Greeks were wrong to deny the Republic of Macedonia entrance into the EU and NATO because of a name. The people of the Republic of Macedonia were wrong to care so much about changing the name.

It just doesn’t matter. The state is merely a name, a circumstance of birth, a way to communicate information. It means nothing and hopefully, someday, all nations will dissolve.

The individual is paramount. You are not a name, a place of birth, a high school, or a college.

Tom Liberman

Sports Leagues Draft Systems are Libertarian Hell

Draft

With the conclusion of the NFL regular season we are once again talking about the draft. The draft exists for all professional sports leagues in the United States and it is a horrific affront to my Libertarian sensibilities on a number of fronts. I figured I’d spend the last day of 2018 tilting against that indestructible monstrosity that is the draft.

The very idea that a young professional exiting their schooling is drafted by one company and they are only allowed to negotiate and sign with that company should bother anyone who believes in freedom. The courts somehow decided because collective bargaining agreements were made between unions and the various sports leagues this means entry drafts are not subject to anti-trust and restraint of trade laws. Poppycock! If someone writes up a contract that gives me permission to kill, roast, and eat them, that doesn’t exempt me from murder laws.

Many people will argue that sports leagues could not survive without the draft. At the risk of repeating myself, poppycock! This sort of draft system largely only exists in North America. Everywhere else in the world the teams sign players from development leagues according to their financial capabilities. Even here in the United States, college athletics works on this type of system. Every top high school athlete is recruited by a number of colleges and the player decides freely where to play. It seems to work well enough everywhere else so the idea it can’t work in the United States is nonsense.

Then there is the very nature of the vile atrocity itself. The team that finishes in last place gets the first pick! What sort of horrible system is this? We reward failure and punish success? Where else would such a system be tolerated? At your work place? In your home? Hardly.

The solution is ridiculously simple. Get rid of the draft altogether. Each young player can negotiate with whatever team they want for a spot on the roster. If they don’t get a good offer, they can go to another team and try again. Eventually the market will find equilibrium. This is how life works everywhere else except in sports.

Tom Liberman

Baby It’s Cold Outside and Political Affiliation

Baby It's Cold Outside

The latest political controversy involves the song Baby It’s Cold Outside and whether or not radio stations should be playing it this Christmas season. I think the divide neatly illustrates a strong political division that embroils our nation. Basically, we have Democrats and Republicans on one side and Libertarians on the other. This is the special frustration of Libertarians because if you ask most Republicans and Democrats, they will vehemently deny they are on the same side of this issue. I’ll explain.

Whether your want a radio station to play Baby It’s Cold Outside or not is irrelevant. If you are making posts on Social Media, urging people to listen to or boycott a station because they are or are not playing the song; you are attempting to enforce your sensibilities on other people. You are one in the same either way. You are a force of coercion. Republicans and Democrats will come up with every excuse in the book to pretend they are not part of this concerted effort to enforce their will upon others who disagree. I’m not actually telling them, I’m not holding a gun to their head, I’m not passing a law about it. You are bringing pressure to bear in order to force others to do as you want.

The other side of that coin is a Libertarian. If a radio stations wants to play the song, go right ahead. If you don’t want to play Baby It’s cold Outside, that’s just fine also. If I have strong feelings one way or the other, I will listen to that song when it comes on or I will turn the channel. I will not attempt through boycott or other method of coercion to force my sensibilities on you. I trust you, as an adult, to make your own decision on the matter.

This misconception about Democrats and Republicans being on the opposite of issues is apparent in many different musical ways. One group has no problem with a country song that glorifies killing one’s wife and watching her bleed to death while the second has no problem with a hip-hop song encouraging the killing of law enforcement officers. And, of course, they absolutely decry and attempt the reverse from playing on any radio station because we must protect the children!

In summary: You are a lowly worm, afraid of your own shadow, thinking you are better and kinder than others, you believe that which you support should be forced upon everyone and that which you despise should be forbidden to all. I am a Champion of Freedom. When someone comes to take your music, I will stand against them regardless of the nature of that music. Despite this I extend my hand to you, join me, climb aboard, you are welcome here.

Should you decline my offer and continue on your current course; that’s fine also, you be you.

Tom Liberman

Thanksgiving and the Cell Phone Basket

Cell Phone BasketShould people use a Cell Phone Basket during their Thanksgiving Celebration this year? I’m seeing a trend toward this sort of thinking on my various social media platforms. The idea is simple enough, people are talking on their cell phones rather than participating in conversation with those present at the table. The idea of collecting phones using a cell phone basket goes beyond Thanksgiving but the family friendly holiday is certainly a focal point for the concept. Is it a good idea?

I think the majority of people will think it is. I disagree. It’s a concept that strikes directly at the heart of freedom. Some people abuse freedom and in order to stop them from doing so, the do-gooders of the world punish everyone. They are essentially saying: I don’t like it when you talk on your cell phone during dinner. I don’t talk on my cell phone during dinner. I’m going to force you to behave in a way that I think is appropriate. This is not just a problem at the dinner table but among the mainstream thinking of both major political parties. We think we know what is best for you, we think we know how you should behave, and we have no compunction about passing laws and putting pressure on you to conform to our way of thinking.

This mode of thinking is largely associated with Liberalism but I find that so-called Conservatives are just as, or even more, likely to try and force others to conform to their way of thinking. More and more, people think nothing of forcing through coercion, social pressure, or even legal maneuvering to conform to what they think is an appropriate standard.

Your standard is not my standard nor is mine yours. If you want to talk on the cell phone during Thanksgiving dinner, I think you are rude but I have no business forcing you to stop. If I don’t like it, the choices available to me are to leave the table or, should I be the host, not invite you in the future. As a host I think there is nothing wrong with suggesting people keep cell phone use to a minimum but I think it’s absolutely wrong to either force or pressure people to put them in a cell phone basket.

The world we live in today is filled with things very much analogous to a cell phone basket. How I position my body during patriotic songs, who I marry, what chemicals I ingest, what firearm I am allowed to own, if I should or shouldn’t visit the White House, if I talk on my phone during Thanksgiving. It’s just not your business. You certainly don’t have to be my friend. You don’t have to invite me to your events. You can ignore me. You can dislike me. You can even hate me. Don’t try to shame me. Don’t try to coerce me. Don’t try to force me. Ask me politely if you must. Be assured, I’ll do you the same courtesy.

Tom Liberman

Mike Gundy and Kids Today Nonsense

TMike Gundyhe head coach of the Oklahoma State football team, Mike Gundy, is not happy the young football players under his charge are allowed to transfer from his school to another without his permission. Gundy made his displeasure known by claiming, among other nonsense, that kids today don’t have the toughness to stick with difficult things.

Hey, I can just do what I want and I don’t have to really be tough and fight through it.’ You see that with young people because it’s an option they’re given. We weren’t given that option when we were growing up. We were told what to do, we did it the right way, or you go figure it out on your own.

This is not the first time I’ve heard an older person wax poetically about their youth. How they all paid attention to their elders, how they all knew right from wrong, how all kids today are spoiled and soft. How it was my way or the highway world. It turns my stomach every time I hear it. First off, Gundy is a liar. He knows darn well he, and lots of young people he knew, did not always do what they were told or do things the right way. That coaches often cut them slack. It’s utter crap and everyone knows it. You know it, I know it, and Gundy knows it.

Young football players work harder and longer at their craft than kids did when Gundy was at school. The National Championship team of thirty years ago would be blown off the field by a good team today. The players are stronger, faster, and most importantly, far more educated in their craft. I say this not as a knock against former players, who were great kids also, but they didn’t have access to the training resources available today.

Young players today spend countless hours studying film. When you explain to a football player why this technique in this situation is better and then show them on film, you get better players than if you just say, do it this way. Not only do the kids work harder but having an understanding of why they are doing something makes them better players and better humans. Kids today have lots of stick to it, just as much as kids from bygone years.

As for the underlying reason for Gundy’s moronic statements; the fact a football player can’t simply decide to go to another school without the permission of the first school is antithetical to all my Libertarian thoughts. Coaches can, and frequently do, transfer schools without permission in chase of higher paychecks. The young football players just want a chance to play. Most transfers occur because the player in question is not getting playing time in his or her current situation.

Can you switch jobs without getting your current employer’s permission? Answer me that and then explain what about your personal life philosophy wants to take that freedom away from others.

Kids today, they’re great. Adults with bad memories and a chip on their shoulder, not so much.

Tom Liberman

JR Smith, a Tattoo, and the NBA

JR Smith TattooA fascinating story involving basketball player JR Smith, his new tattoo, and the National Basketball Association is making the rounds on various news sites this morning. Smith got a tattoo on his leg depicting the company logo for an apparel company in New York called Supreme. The league has a rule against players displaying company logos on their body or shaved into their hair.

I have several problems with this rule. In the first place I think a player should be able to put whatever they want on their body and the league should have no say in the matter. I go as far as saying if an athlete wanted a swastika, a racist term, a misogynistic image, or anything else offensive on their body, that’s their business. Now, a particular team has every right not to sign such a player, that’s the team’s freedom to decide.

My second problem is the rank hypocrisy of the rule. The NBA makes an enormous amount of money through its various endorsement contracts. The Nike logo currently appears on the jerseys of the teams and all sports leagues have similar financially lucrative deals. For them to be pulling in money hand over fist and deny individual players the same right when it comes to a tattoo strikes this Libertarian as grossly biased although certainly legal. The players have all sorts of their own apparel contracts in which they support various companies and are financially remunerated for doing so. Why shouldn’t this apply their own body, the mostly uniquely individual and privately-owned thing of all?

My third issue is that the NBA has allowed several players with tattoos to play without fines for the last few years. This means they are engaged in selective enforcement of their rules. I’m not sure if it has to do with the fact the tattoo is of an apparel company as opposed to a television show but one has one’s suspicions.

In the end, the league is free to make their own rules and that’s a good thing. I just wish people and organizations would realize the freedom they enjoy to do as they please should extend to everyone else as well. JR Smith’s freedom is my freedom.

Tom Liberman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

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

Have your Starbucks Coffee any way you Want

Starbucks CoffeeIs there a wrong way to order Starbucks Coffee or a bagel? That certainly seems to be the conclusion of the great democracy that is the internet. My various social media outlets have recently been filled with people ridiculing other people for exactly how much flavored sugar they want in their coffee or what sort of strange toppings they want on their bagels.

It’s more than just outrage. It seems to my degreeless psychological perspective that people manage to inflate their self-esteem because they don’t order that many pumps of Cinnamon Pumpkin Cotton Candy in their Starbucks Coffee or have the audacity to put capers on their raisin filled bagel.

I find what other people eat to be disgusting at times and my non-oyster and non-sushi loving friends certainly don’t pay me compliments when I ingest two of my favorites. Does this make me better than them or them better than me? Does it really make any difference whatsoever what someone else chooses to eat?

I remember as a young lad being somewhat disturbed when a friend mixed a bizarre combination from the soda fountain at a fast food restaurant. I remember something more important as well. Some of my other friends started to ridicule the choice my first friend made and that struck as being wrong. I wasn’t a Libertarian back then, or at least I didn’t know about the concept of being one. I’m fairly certain I didn’t fully understood why it bothered me, but it did.

Now that I’m older, and presumably wiser, I know it is makes me the lesser person when I make fun of someone, pretend I am better than someone else, simply because of the strange soda blend they choose to drink. If someone enjoys a Starbucks Coffee with a million pumps of sugar in it, then let them enjoy it. Yes, it’s not particularly healthy. Yes, it sounds vile.

It’s quite easy to ridicule other people for their choices in life. Try to refrain. Sometimes people make really dumb decisions. I’d say someone who drinks a Starbucks Coffee with an outrageous amount of sugar in it is doing themselves no favors health-wise. All that sugar doesn’t taste particularly good to me but their drink is not my problem.

To sum up, don’t be so quick to judge other people. Spend more time worrying about how you conduct your own life. Part of a being a decent human being is to stop denigrating everyone who does something differently than you.

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

Rich Give Almost Fifteen Billion in Charity Despite Crony Capitalism

Charity GivingThe nation’s top fifty donors scraped up $14.7 billion to give to a charity this past year. What sort of things are the rich trying to do with their money? How can we encourage them to give more?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alone donated $4.8 billion to charity organizations with a large hunk of it going to education. Educational organizations dominated the donations this year. The reason largely given is that it’s vital to have an educated workforce in the coming generations. Menial jobs are going away and highly skilled positions are going unfilled.

It won’t surprise you to learn that the biggest donors these days represent Technology Industries. They have supplanted finance donors in recent years and they, more than anyone, know their source of income is being generated by skilled workers. Without such workers, their income evaporates. It is in their interest to have educated workers but it is also in the interest of the people getting an education. A symbiotic relationship that highlights the ideas of Enlightened Self-Interest and Rational Egoism. In other words, charity isn’t just helping someone else.

At its heart is the idea: What is good for me is generally good for those around me. Anyone who runs a business isn’t going to do well without good employees and customers with ready cash. At least it used to be that way. We’ve perverted things in the United States with Crony Capitalism.

Business leaders today also spend a great deal of their money attempting to bribe, that is to say finance, politicians in their campaigns in order to influence policy. The reason business leaders do this is that political leaders determine the success and failure of business through legislation. Politicians hold the reins and with the stroke of a pen can promote one business and destroy a competitor. This forces businesses to spend money buying influence instead of running their company.

The cause and effect relationship here is infinitely interesting to me. The ostensible reason politicians were given this ability to regulate business is the impression that corporate leaders are going about their jobs in a manner detrimental to the consumer. Politicians must save us from such evil! This, in turn, led to businesses becoming overly involved in politics. It was a matter of survival.

Despite having to give enormous sums of money to politicians, these fifty people still managed to donate nearly fifteen billion to charity. I wonder how high that number might be if they didn’t have to worry about bribing, I mean donating, to politicians. If politicians can’t decide the fate of a business, then business leaders don’t care who is elected. They can go about improving their company. This means giving customers what they want and training better employees.

What started with good intentions, regulating egregious and criminal business practices, has become egregious and criminal of itself. If my competitor gives more money, that business will win through the efforts of legislators who don’t care about good products or educated workers. They create winners and losers with regulations.

We didn’t solve the problem, we made it far worse and have taken away who knows how much money from charity in the meantime.

If the solution is making the problem worse, it’s not a solution at all. Something to think about.

Tom Liberman

Terrell Owens and the Football Hall of Fame

Terrell OwensTerrell Owens was recently elected into the National Football League Hall of Fame and, in an unprecedented move, has decided to skip the induction ceremony where he would normally give a speech. He is the first living NFL player to do so. The best thing about this story is the reaction of Hall of Fame President, David Baker. That’s what I’d like to discuss.

First a little background information. Owens is clearly worthy of selection with statistics that stand up with the best wide receivers in the history of the game. He had a cantankerous relationship with the press during his career, some undoubtedly his own fault, and it is those writers who vote on candidates to the hall. They did not choose Owens in his first or second year of eligibility and that is what rankles him. He is of the opinion they did not respect him during his career and then used their position and their dislike to delay what was certainly a deserved honor.

People can, and certainly are, taking Owens to task for his pettiness in refusing to attend the ceremony. Many people don’t like Owens and are not shy about making nasty comments. Others support him and his decision and they do not hesitate to make their opinion of the various writers involved known.

But it is what Mr. Baker is saying and doing that tickles this Libertarian’s fancy: He’s got a mind of his own, he’s a grown man and we need to respect his right to make that decision. Baker goes on to say: If he doesn’t come to the enshrinement, he’s welcome here every day for the rest of his life. Our job is to honor the heroes of the game.

Mr. Baker, if you are not already a Libertarian I hereby formally extend an invitation to our little group. His attitude is, to some degree, the embodiment of what I think it means to be a Libertarian. Every person has a right to make their own decisions, even if these are childish, petty, and ultimately self-destructive. This stands in stark contrast to what I see everywhere in the United States these days. In almost every article I read it seems people from the President of the United States on down think they know best what others should do and that laws, rules, social pressure, and who knows what else should be brought to bear to make everyone else stand in line.

This is wrong. When it is choice between personal liberty and an action that does not directly harm others, we should almost universally choose freedom. No one is being harmed by the fact Owens will not be attending the Hall of Fame ceremony. We should respect his decision even if we disagree with it. Certainly, we can suggest another course, we can ask why he is doing so, we can point out the potential problems, but in the end, it is his life to lead, not yours.

Mr. Baker might have sought to punish Owens by refusing to put his banner up at the ceremony, not having images of Owens at the stadium, cutting video of him in television promotions, and who knows what other method of coercion. A lesser person might well have done all those things. Mr. Baker chose otherwise.

Well done, Mr. Baker. Well done, indeed.

Tom Liberman

Papa John Schnatter Assumes Colonel Sanders was a Racist

Colonel SandersAn interesting story making the rounds these days involves the founder of the Papa John’s Pizza chain, John Schnatter, who assumes Colonel Sanders was a racist. This assumption appears to me to be based solely on the fact that the restaurant chain Sanders founded, Kentucky Fried Chicken, is from the south and that Colonel Sanders was therefore clearly a racist who must have often used racially charged language.

From everything that I can find about Colonel Sanders he was a plain-spoken fellow who didn’t hesitate to criticize and had little good to say about the changes that took place at Kentucky Fried Chicken after he left. While owner he was known to push food onto the floor in surprise visits to chains if it didn’t meet his standards.

Yet I can find nothing indicating he was a racist or ever used derogatory language to describe minorities. That’s what I find so interesting in all of this. Schnatter seems to be under the impression every white man from the south is a racist. He figured, well, Colonel Sanders is from Kentucky, by the way he’s from Indiana, and he was a white man, so he probably said terrible things and got away with it. I find that to be a disgusting insult to not only Sanders but to fine and decent people all over the south.

Yes, there are racists in the south and in the north as well. The assumption itself sheds light onto the character of Schnatter and also brings to mind a deeper issue we have in this country as a whole. People from the rural areas often assume people from urban areas are ill-mannered and irreligious. People from urban areas often think people from rural areas are uneducated and overly religious. People from southern states think people from northern states hate them and vice versa. People who are Democrats think Republicans are stupid and vice versa. None of these assumptions are true.

People are individuals which is, to some degree, the heart of Libertarian beliefs. I cannot and will not assume anyone is anything until I have seen them speak, read the words they have written, or spoken to them. A person’s geographic location does not define her or him.

It seems to me more and more people are unwilling to make the effort to understand other individuals and, because it is simple and easy, lump them into some negative category so they can dismiss them.

There are huge numbers of wonderful people all over this world and artificial divides created by those who profit from our hate keep us apart from one another. These assumption about each other prevent us from finding friends with whom to share our lives. All these assumptions are a terrible shame.

Screw you Schnatter and screw your assumptions.

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

Landon Donovan should Root for Anyone and So Should You

Landon Donovan MexicoThere’s an interesting story in the world of sports involving Landon Donovan starring in a commercial that urges United States soccer fans to root for Mexico in the 2018 World Cup. There are fairly many people angry at the former star of the United States Men’s National Team and about an equal amount supporting him. I think this story has implications for all of us beyond sport that speaks directly to my Libertarian sensibilities.

The gist of this situation is relatively simple. The soccer, I’m going use soccer throughout this article rather than futbol, team from Mexico is the traditional rival of the U.S. team. The fans of El Tri include a number of hooligans and they have engaged in disgusting and distasteful displays against the U.S. team in the past. There is a great deal of animosity between the two teams. Because of these facts those who dislike or even hate the Mexican team feel betrayed by Donovan and his support for them.

On the other side is the simple reality that the U.S. team didn’t qualify for the World Cup this year leaving fans without a team to support. Mexico is our neighbor and many people who live in the U.S. can trace their heritage back to Mexico. These are reasons enough for many to embrace Mexico and wish them well in the World Cup.

For me, it’s not a difficult question to answer. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and as such my feelings toward the Chicago Cubs is quite similar to many fan’s thoughts for the Mexican team. In the 2016 World Series I was most decidedly not rooting for the Cubs, darn it all.

Those who are lambasting Donovan might think this means I’m on their side in this debate, they’d be wrong. The most important factor in all of this are the concepts of liberty and freedom. I should root for and against the teams I want, and so should you. I have no say in your decisions. Whether or not you root for Mexico hurts me in no fashion and is none of my concern. Just as it was when my sister was rooting for the Cubs to break their long drought.

This simple understanding of freedom goes far beyond sports. If a PGA Tour player or a NASCAR driver doesn’t want to visit the White House when President Obama is there or if an NBA or NFL player likewise chooses not to go when President Trump is in residence, that’s their choice. It’s not my decision and I absolutely should do nothing to coerce anyone into adopting my position.

It is the same for whom you should cast your ballot. It is the same for how you choose to listen to the National Anthem before the game. It is the same for who you decide to marry, what gender your decide to be, which bathroom you use, or what chemicals you put in your body. Our lives would all be better if we stopped worrying so much about what other people are doing.

I respect your freedom to decide matters as you desire. I’d certainly appreciate it if you’d do me the same courtesy.

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