Pizzagate, Media Accountability, Personal Responsibility

facebook-fake-newsTwitter, Fake News, Facebook, Mainstream Media, Conspiracy Theory, Alt-Right, BLM, Obama, Trump, and on and on. What is real news? What is fake news? What is partially real news? What is mostly real news with a few fake facts. What is a mistake? What is mostly fake news with a few real facts?

Crazy people do violent things based on false news.

What can be done about all this fake news? I’ll tell you what can be done about it but you’re not going to like the answer.

Nothing.

There is nothing to be done about people who spread false information, people who lie. There has never been anything to do about them. Because of enormous advances in the ability of people to communicate with one another using social media; the limitations to disseminating information are largely gone. Anyone can say anything and broadcast the message anywhere instantly. That cat is out of the proverbially bag, if there ever was a bag.

So are we doomed to an endless series of people acting on false information to hurt and even kill innocents? Probably but not necessarily.

There is a solution. It doesn’t involve jailing people who lie or controlling the media. It’s actually relatively simple. Teach children to think critically. Make people understand that facts are important. Teach everyone that you cannot just believe whatever theory you come across because it matches your political ideology.

If you are a critical thinker that is not enough. When one of your friends or relatives puts out false information call them on it. I’ve done so and I’ve been unfriended on Facebook for it. I’ve been attacked. Vilified. I’ve been called all sorts of names, mostly involving my intellectual abilities or lack thereof. So be it.

I give out this warning to all my friends. All my family. All my social media acquaintances. If you say something stupid I’m going to point out the stupidity of your post with arguments. If you post false news stories I’m going to reply with facts. If you don’t like it … well … don’t get mad at me. Get mad at yourself. Or, get mad at me, I don’t care. The only person I can control is myself. I will do so zealously. You’ve been warned.

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

Charleston Church Murders – Completely Fathomable

charleston-church-shootingIn watching coverage of the Charleston church murders I’ve heard any number of talking heads, sheriffs, and law enforcement officials talk about how “unfathomable” was such a thing. It’s a lot of things. Heinous. Sick. Vile. Insane. To name a few. But it’s hardly unfathomable.

I grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood. I’m college educated. I’m white. I’ve spent the majority of my life around people in the same social class as me.

I cannot tell you how many times acquaintances, friends of friends, and even friends have espoused ideas exactly like that of Dylann Roof. I’ve had people say directly to me that Hitler had the right idea, wrong group. That killing all the blacks in the United States wouldn’t take long, that someone just had to get it started. I’ve had people tell me all gays should be executed, that we should kill all the Muslims. I’ve heard sentiments like this from people who go to church, who are teachers, upstanding members of society, and all too frequently.

The thing that bothers me is that the people who are saying it’s “unfathomable”, that they “can’t understand it”, that it’s “beyond belief” are the one’s who probably have heard such sentiments more often than have I.

The talking heads and law enforcement people who stand up there in front of microphones expressing this “disbelief” are the very same people who hear similar ideas all the time in their weekly poker game, on their fishing expeditions, on the golf course, and even in their homes.

None of the people I’ve heard express such ideas has reached such an insane point in their lives that they carried out such thoughts but I have no doubt it is within them. That under the right circumstances they would do it.

What I would respect from law enforcement officials and the talking heads is if they told the truth. That such ideas are fathomed all the time. That they’ve heard their friends say such things. That in the future they will stand up and denounce friends that express such ideas. That such horrors are completely fathomable and that anyone who expresses such ideas must be told firmly and immediately that they are insane.

That would be news worth watching.

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

Tim Lambesis – The Murdering Christian/Atheist

Tim-LambesisThere’s apparently been a big story roiling the Christian Rock world for the last year or so although until I spotted a headline I was completely unaware of the turmoil. It seems the death-metal band As I Lay Dying’s lead singer, Tim Lambesis, was arrested for trying to hire someone to kill his estranged wife. Happily the person he tried to hire was an undercover police officer.

Good job San Diego Sheriff’s department!

The arrest and accusation apparently sent deep shock waves through the Christian Rock community. Now Lambesis is saying that he actually was no longer a Christian but had forsaken his religion for Atheism.

So why am I talking about this? Because I’m an Atheist and in reading the comments about the story I found what I think is a common theme among many Atheists and Christians. The Christians were all blaming his Atheism for his “turn” in behavior while the Atheists were all blaming his Christian underpinnings. I see this quite a bit in the Atheist community and the religious community. Both sides blaming a person’s religion or lack thereof for that person’s lack of ethics and criminal behavior.

An Atheist will argue that religious fervor has been responsible for an incredible amount of violence throughout the history of the world. A religious person will argue that an Atheist has no moral compass at all because there is not the carrot of heaven or the stick of hell to keep them ethical.

I have a different take.

Some people are without morals or ethics. Some people will hire someone to kill their estranged wife because they lack the ability to control their emotions. It has nothing to do with their religious beliefs. There are wonderful religious people in the world who are kind, caring, considerate, and would never hire anyone to kill their spouse no matter the provocation. Many Atheists fit that profile exactly as well.

We are quick to lump people into classifications these days. Christian? You must hate homosexuals. Atheist? You must hate Christians. I drive a Prius. On at least a dozen occasions since I’ve been driving my 2006 Prius I’ve parked near a large vehicle as the owner of said vehicle was emerging or going into it. They’ve rather sheepishly asked me if I hate them. I don’t. I think people should drive the car they want to drive but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

It’s this general lumping of people together that gets us into a lot of trouble in life. The car a person drives, the religion or non-religion a person practices, the suit he wears, the beard on his face, the tattoos on his body; where he lives, who he votes for; these things mean nothing. What is important are a person’s actions. Is he kind to his wife? Does she help co-workers when they ask her? Does she help her friends when they need something? Does he call his mother when she’s not feeling well? (Get better soon, mom).

Lambesis, murderous scum. Why? Because he tried to hire someone to kill his wife. That’s all I need to know.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Suspended for Tweet – Reid Sagehorn Story

Reid-SagehornI’ve written in the past about social media and the dangers it presents because our words are forever preserved and a case involving Twitter and a young student suspended from school is making the news in Minnesota. It’s an interesting case from a legal perspective but my take is that it never should have come to what has happened. Read on!

In this case the student, Reid Sagehorn, was subject to anonymous tweets that he had kissed one of the teachers at his school. He responded to this with a tweet reading, “Actually yes.”

Other parents apparently saw this tweet as confirmation of the idea that he was engaged in an illegal sexual relationship with the teacher in question and reported it to the authorities. An investigation ensued. It was determined that there was no such relationship and Reid says his reply was intended to be sarcastic.

The problem is that the teacher in question had her reputation unfairly besmirched and the school had to institute an investigation which took time and resources. Thus they decided to suspend Sagehorn. First for five days and then for ten days. Eventually they even moved towards an expulsion which forced him to enroll in a different school to finish out the year. Now he has filed a lawsuit claiming the school violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

The legality of the suspension is a fairly interesting question in its own right because schools are generally given pretty wide latitude in dealing with speech that causes a disruption in the school. The tweet clearly caused a disruption and just as clearly was not taken as sarcasm even if it was intended as such. I’m of the opinion the school does have the right to suspend and even expel Sagehorn. I’m also of the opinion that doing so was absolute nonsense.

Sagehorn’s tweet was potentially damaging and ill-advised to be certain. The school pretty much had to institute an investigation and I think Sagehorn owes the district and the teacher in particular a big apology. However, that’s where I think things should have stopped. It would have been a good “teachable moment” as we like to say these days. In my opinion punishment should have been a public apology to the assembled students, a private apology to the teacher in question, and a one day suspension. End of story. Move on with the business of educating young Sagehorn and the rest of the students.

Such an approach was not taken and now we are where we are. Sigh.

What do you think? Was the long-term suspension merited? Is this a First Amendment violation?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Wealth Transfer – Misleading Headline

Wealth TransferI spotted this doozy from Business Insider and it’s only Monday.

We’re on the Verge of the Greatest Transfer of Wealth in the History of the World screams the headline. With wealth inequality making headlines all over the news and being a talking point of the Democratic party one cannot be blamed for making the assumption that the article will be about that subject. Wrong.

The article is about the fact that the Baby Boomer generation is reaching the end of their lifespan and their wealth is passing on to their heirs. This large amount of money will transfer largely from parent to child. That’s the entire article. It’s such an obvious headline troll I couldn’t leave it out of my Misleading Headline of the week series even though it’s only Monday.

Even at it most raw form I’m not sure the headline is even true. While there is more currency in circulation now than at any time in the history of the United States I’m not sure that translates directly to wealth. I suppose it is probably true as there are more people and that means more people will be dying and passing their money on to their heirs.

Still, it’s an awfully misleading headline and a rather dull story at that. Don’t bother reading it. Just head on over to my Books Page and transfer your wealth to me $2.99 at a time!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Dr. Mehmet Oz Testifies about Weight Loss Scams

Dr OzI’ve long known that most diets are merely money-making scams designed to fleece desperate people from their money and I don’t really follow the industry with much interest. Today I spotted a blog post about a fellow named Dr. Mehmet Oz who has been invited by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill to testify to the Senate about weight-loss scams.

I’m a bit jaded when it comes to irony, hypocrisy, and outright lying from our elected officials but when a senator from my home state invites possibly the biggest purveyor of fake diet scams to the rather less than hallowed halls of Congress to testify about the dangers of weight-loss scams, well, how can I not write a post about it?

The original post from Orac at Science Blogs does a great job of providing all the links you need to determine for yourself the nature of Dr. Oz and his various business operations. Oz is a recipient of the Randi Pigasus Award for Refusing to Face Reality and his various forms of weight-loss and medical advice are cited as doing more harm than good.

All that is well and good. It’s clear to me that Oz is a charlatan preying on people’s desire to lose weight quickly and easily so as to fleece them of money. As far as I’m concerned he’s allowed to do that as long as his actions don’t cross over into criminality. Apparently he has not yet crossed that line so he continues to sell goods on his television show without interference.

We live in a free country and if people are gullible enough to believe his obvious fabrications and exaggerations and want to hand him their money then that’s their right. Those who see through his lies don’t give him money. That’s the way freedom works. You’re free to do what you wish even if it’s foolish.

What really bothers me is this invitation to appear before the Senate. It’s not even that he is going to be railing against that which he is himself guilty of that bothers me. It’s not that I think the Senate still has the gravitas of the old days and that anyone who testifies there must be of good character. Those days are long gone. Still, why should he be a given legitimacy by our government that he clearly does not deserve? Are my tax-dollars going to house him, feed him, and transport him to these sessions?

Why does the United States government need to be involved at all? There are laws on the books about false advertising both from the Federal government and from various states. If Oz is breaking the law, arrest him. If he is skirting the law then it is up to people like Orac and the Randi Foundation to spread the word. It is up to people who want to lose weight to do due-diligence when looking for solutions.

The government can’t protect us from ourselves. If you’re foolish enough to purchase Green Coffee Bean extract in order to lose weight you deserve what you get. If Oz lied about the studies which showed its value in weight-loss he should be charged with a crime. Our politicians should focus on the real problems that this nation faces and not on inviting likely snake-oil sales representatives to speak to them about weight-loss scams.

The entire visit is a classic example of our politicians doing things that appear to be good in order to gain political capital. Look, we’re here to help you, they say. Vote for me.

I’ve got news for Congress. They are not here to help me. They are here to run the country properly.

I’ve got news for all my readers out there trying to lose weight. It’s hard. You have to cut your caloric intake not just today, not just this month, but long-term, day after day after day. You have to exercise regularly. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Go to the gym at least four days a week. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s hard. You can listen to me or you can listen to Oz. Your choice.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Hidden Oceans – Misleading Headline Conglomerate

Blue RingwooditeThere is a science story making so many headlines it’s impossible to pick just one so I’ve included a Bing Search showing the plethora of them. It’s likely you’ve seen the headlines as well.

Basically the story is that there is a huge ocean inside the earth’s core which holds about three times the water in all the world’s oceans. There are elements of truth to the story but the premise itself is very misleading. If people just peruse the headlines or read the stories without close attention to detail it is clear the impressions is that this “ocean” is a massive body of water deep below the surface of the earth.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This discovery isn’t even really a discovery, it’s just more of a conformation that the mineral Ringwoodite exists as expected.

Ringwoodite is named after Australian scientists Ted Ringwood and was first discovered back in 1969. Even then scientists suspected that this layer in the earth’s mantle was ubiquitous. About 2% of Ringwoodite’s mass is water. The material is so common in the mantle that this 2% adds up to as much as three times the water volume on the surface of the earth.

That’s what the headlines are referencing. It doesn’t mean there is a massive ocean beneath the surface of the earth. It means there is a huge amount of Ringwoodite circling the globe and if the 2% number holds up that indicates a vast amount of water.

The big scientific “discovery” that the headlines references is a study of earthquake waves traveling through the earth’s mantle that seem to prove the presence of Ringwoodite as was expected.

It’s still quite an interesting story and I learned a great deal reading about it but the headlines are very misleading, at least I think so.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Arrested for Bumper Sticker – Misleading Headline

Misleading HeadlineFlorida man charged with vandalism after bumper sticker protest of judge who handled his divorce case reads the blaring headline from Yahoo Odd News. It certainly makes me want to see what crazy nonsense the police are up to today.

The implication is that the authorities in Pinellas County, FL are vindictively going after a man because he put a bumper sticker on his car lambasting the local judge. That’s not even close to the case. Joe Mazzara is angry at Judge Jack Helinger over events during the former’s divorce proceeding. He did make a bumper sticker that calls for firing the judge. It’s where he put the bumper stickers that the headline convenietly omits.

He put them all over public street signs. Hundreds of them. This is clearly not only a violation of the law in that he is defacing public signage but it’s also ridiculously dangerous depending on what part of the sign he chose to cover up. It’s even possible to argue that that accidents could happen because people are reading the signage when they should be focusing on driving.Bumper Sticker Sign

I’m not only not sympathetic to Mazzara but I think he needs to spend a little time in the county lockup. Maybe five days or something like that. He has the nerve to claim it is a First Amendment issue! If this is his general entitled attitude to life I’m not surprised the judge ruled against him.

Of course the real problem is that Yahoo is trying to convince people to click the story because it is another example of police and government abuse of power. I think there are plenty of times when people in authority do misuse their power but when they are doing their job properly we shouldn’t be trying to paint them with a damning brush.

Shame on you Yahoo. You win the Misleading Headline of the Week Award.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Veterans Bill Moves Quickly Through Congress

Work Hard and TogetherI wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about how Congress seemed united in an effort to solve the problem plagued Veterans Administration. Today comes the news that the Senate has passed their version of a bill that attempts to address some of the issues the VA has encountered. It will likely be merged with the bill passed by the House of Representatives and put into effect immediately.

I’m not going to discuss this particular bill. It might do some good but then again it might be a simple and useless band-aid to a much larger problem. Both are possibilities but the reality is that Congress immediately threw aside their partisan bickering and, with astonishing speed, is in the process of passing legislation designed to fix the problem. They stopped going on television and tossing out lies, distortions, and half-truths.

When the news of the problems at the VA first came out there was the usual attempt to blame anyone and everyone with whatever lies seemed likely to sound true. Republicans blamed Democrats and President Obama. Democrats blamed Republicans and the House of Representatives. Political pollsters immediately began to poll their constituency to see if this was the sort of issue that could win elections. If people would fall into the usual trap of believing the lies. It quickly became apparent that everyone understood there was plenty of blame to go around, that lying about it wouldn’t be good political fodder, and that people just wanted a solution. They wanted our veterans to get medical care as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This polling resulted in what we see today. Legislation passed without political bickering, lies, and rancor. Legislation quickly moving through the House and Senate and towards the President’s desk. Legislation that compromises on the hard-coded principals of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Can we as citizens of the United State take a lesson from this? Can we see that playing the blame game only hurts us? That buying into the lie and distortion filled rants of our elected officials is not good for this country? We are the deciders. We vote. When we allow lies and distortions to drive our votes, when we blame everyone but ourselves for the ills of our nation, we accomplish nothing.

When we work together towards a common goal nothing is beyond us.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

John F. Kennedy said that and I think it’s far truer today than it was then. Our politicians fear that the people of this nation, with the power of the vote, might actually insist upon real solutions. So they fill our heads with well choreographed lies and hope we forget about solving problems and focus on blaming each other.

Contrast that to the legislation we see today. Do you see what happens when we demand real solutions?

What would happen to this nation if we put this attitude towards all of our problems? What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Fear Strikes Out – Joseph Wilcox and the Las Vegas Shooting

Joseph WilcoxA fellow by the name of Joe Wilcox was shot and killed Sunday afternoon when he attempted to stop a maniac at Walmart. He wasn’t afraid and it cost him his life. Fear is an overwhelming force in our lives these days but somehow Mr. Wilcox managed to overcome our politicians telling us to be afraid and the talking heads on the news whose primary message is fear.

When the politician of your chosen political party tells you that those on the other side of the political aisle are destroying your country they are promulgating fear. When the talking heads on the news stations warn you of the evil that will be done if someone from the other side is elected they are promulgating fear. Fear and more fear. That’s all I see on politics. That’s all I hear from friends and colleagues. Those evil Republican/Democrats are trying to turn American into a Tyrannical government ruled by the rich/lazy. I see fear oozing out of almost every Facebook post I read. I hear fear in conversation next to me when I’m riding the stationary at the gym. It’s everywhere. It’s prevalent. It’s what the powers that be desire. It’s what they scheme to bring about, a mass of frightened people who outnumber the brave. When that happens were all in serious trouble.

Mr. Wilcox wasn’t afraid.

A while ago I finished my fourth novel, The Sword of Water. That’s a novel all about fear. It’s about how evil uses fear to try and have us give up our freedom, to convince us to hate our neighbors, and to drive us into giving them more power. It’s a novel in which a young girl named Silenia has two guiding influences. One who promulgates fear and the other who is the embodiment of courage.

When I was reading about the life of Mr. Wilcox I thought of Silenia and her fear and courage. The decision she has to make in my novel is not that different than the one Mr. Wilcox made. You’ll have to buy the novel to find out what happens to Silenia but we know what happened to Mr. Wilcox.

He chose to ignore fear and stepped up to battle violence and insane rage. While Mr. Wilcox may have died his spirit lives on. We must stop being afraid. We must stop hating each other. I’ve been all over this great country. I’ve made friends with small-town conservatives in Idaho and rural Missouri. I’ve made friends with big-city liberals in San Francisco and St. Louis. They have a lot in common. They want to do their jobs, make a little money, raise their children, and enjoy their lives.

You know who wasn’t brave? You know who lived in fear? The miserable bastards that killed Mr. Wilcox and two police officers. They let fear rule their lives. They were so afraid they decided they had to start killing people in order to save themselves. That’s fear. That’s abject, total fear. It’s not brave to walk into a restaurant and shoot people sitting at a table. Those who defend such deeds are frightened little children.

Don’t let fear rule your life and your decisions. Be brave.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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NCAA Settles on Player Likeness Used in Video Games

Johnny-Manziel-Ncaa-Football-14I’ve written a number of times about how I think the NCAA is an organization wherein everyone except the athletes make money. One of the points I’ve made is that the NCAA takes money from video game makers like Electronic Arts who use the likeness and mannerisms of players in their games. Until today the NCAA and the game manufacturers have never paid the players a penny for doing this. Until today.

If you purchase EA NCAA Football 2013 and load up, say the Texas A&M v. Missouri game you’ll see #2 leading the Aggies onto the field. The avatar bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Manziel. In the game #2 throws with his right hand and is a bit short for a quarterback. He runs a lot. He plays just like Johnny Manziel. The only real difference is the back of the jersey where you see just the #2, not the name Manziel.

The reason you didn’t see that name is because the video game companies figured if they left it off they wouldn’t owe Manziel, or any of the other players, money for using their likeness in the games. Those self-same video game companies do have pay to someone though, that someone is the NCAA. In fancy legalese designed to keep them from having to give money to the actual players they pay for the right to use the NCAA logo. Tricky, those lawyers. The NCAA has said they will terminate this agreement with the game manufactures once the current contract expires later this year.

Those who disagree with me will argue that the players get a scholarship and signed a contract in which they agreed not to collect money for the use of their likeness. If that is the case then why did EA and the NCAA just agree to pay $60 million to the people whose likeness was used from 2005 or 2003 to the present time. They fought and fought until the moment the case was headed to trial and then paid up.

There is another huge case on the dockets now filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannion and there has been no settlement to date. That case argues the players have the right to sell their likeness directly to the video game makers. It’s a big one to say the least and I’ll be keeping my eye on it. But it’s not the point of today’s column.

Those who rail against today’s settlement argue that it will “ruin” college football. It will drive the game out of existence. I can’t categorically say this is wrong although I’m certain that it is incorrect. There is money to be made. Lots of money. If the NCAA, the media, the stadium builders, the broadcasters, the coaches, and everyone else has to give up a bit of that to pay the players they’ll do it. They might not like it, but they’ll do it. And the games will go on.

Either the doomsayers or right or I’m right. Time will tell.

As far as today’s settlement goes I have only this to say. About time.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Belmont Stakes – Whining or Complaining?

No WhiningI’ve been a hose racing fan since that magical summer of 1973 when Secretariat raced to the Triple Crown. I was nine years old and my mother took us on a vacation to a wonderful resort in French Lick, Indiana. We happened to be there when Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in what many people consider the greatest single athletic performance ever. Five years later I watched Affirmed battle Alydar in what might have been the greatest head-to-head competition in the history of horse racing.

Why do I mention this? Yesterday afternoon a horse named California Chrome raced in the Belmont Stakes hoping to duplicate what Secretariat and Affirmed accomplished by winning the Triple Crown. No horse has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont since Affirmed did it in 1978. California Chrome came up short finishing in fourth place. After the race the owner made some comments that are being fairly roundly criticized and it got me to thinking about the difference between complaining and whining.

In this case the owner of California Chrome was upset the horses that defeated his horse did not race in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes and thus were rested and fresh for the grueling Belmont which is the longest of the three races. That such tactics make it all but impossible for a horse to win the Triple Crown and this accounts for the fact that it’s been thirty-six years since the feat has been accomplished. I think that Steve Coburn has a legitimate point but his tone was very bitter and he used words like “cheaters” to describe his competition.

He has a legitimate complaint but he clearly came across as a whiner and few people have been, so far, sympathetic to his cause.

I don’t want to get into an in-depth analysis of whether Coburn was right although a quick perusal of Wikipedia indicates that some of the horses that Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed faced in the Belmont Stakes had not run in the earlier races.

My real question is when does legitimate complaining become whining? It’s a question that speaks fairly clearly to my Libertarianism. As a Libertarian I strongly believe in both personal responsibility and accomplishment. I don’t like it when people complain about the state of their lives when they could improve things simply by taking a more proactive look at how they behave. But there are certainly times when a person is blocked from doing something. When they are cheated. When is it right to complain and when it is better to simply put your head down and fix the problem yourself?

Let’s say a two children are playing and one takes a toy from the other. Should the first child take the toy back or complain to adults about the situation? Let’s imagine someone at works gets ahead of you through subterfuge or devious behavior. Should you complain to the bosses or should you take measures to make sure you get ahead in the future?

I think for the most part people respect someone who handles the situation themselves. Someone who chalks up a defeat as a life-lesson and goes about their business with their chin out and their eyes firm. We don’t like a whiner. We like someone who attacks a problem and defeats it.

Let’s take it a step further. The children get into a physical confrontation over the toy. Your rival at work refuses to give you information needed to accomplish a task despite repeated requests. When does complaining become legitimate?

My feeling is that complaining is largely only legitimate after you’ve give a strong, good-faith effort to solve the problem yourself. Even then it’s dangerous territory. No one likes a tattle-tale.

I think it’s a very difficult and tricky aspect of being an adult. It’s a complex issue that I can’t solve in a single blog or probably ever.

My advice is that when you face adversity take it head on yourself. Don’t accept defeat and say oh well. Don’t go crying to the boss. Deal with it. If that fails then you can consider taking it up the chain of  command.

I think we’ve all encountered situations like this and the first thing your foe is going to to do is make you out to be a complaining whiner. If you can honestly show that you attempted to resolve the problem without interference from a superior you will be better off when the confrontation finally happens. Heck, a lot of times attacking the problem personally results in a solution without involving higher-ups.

Does anyone have any stories to share? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Let me know!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Police Search Parked Car because it Smelled of Drugs

Police NoteThere’s an amazing case making the news in Tampa, Florida where the police searched a parked vehicle because they smelled the odor of marijuana coming from it. At least they so claimed.

The truck in question belongs to Matthew Heller and is painted with the logo of his business. In their search of his car they tore out panels and did significant damage to his electrical system. They left a hand-written note on the truck telling him to call the police department if he had any questions. Are you kidding me? This was the guy’s business vehicle. There is no way the officers who performed the search could not have identified Heller and tried to contact him but that’s not even the most egregious violation.

The Tampa police claim the search was perfectly legal and have so far refused to pay for the damage they caused although it seems obvious to me that they will have to do so eventually.

I’ve written on a number of occasions about the War on Drugs and the seizures laws and I have no doubt that if they had found even trace amounts of drugs they would have seized his car and everything in it. The fact that an officer can simply claim to have smelled marijuana in a car that was parked in a parking lot at a concert, break in, and search it should give everyone pause for alarm.

This is the police state that the Founding Fathers lived under when we were a colony of England. This is why we have the Fourth Amendment. This Amendment protects me from a vindictive police force bent on destroying me.

The War on Drugs has provided such a bounty of money to law enforcement agencies over this entire country that local municipalities no longer use enough tax dollars to support the agency. This means the police are becoming more and more dependent on seizures to fund their operations. They become creative in their methods of getting revenue. I’m of the strong suspicion that the police simply wanted to steal Heller’s truck so they could sell it at an impound auction. That there was likely no smell of marijuana at all. That they troll parking lots of concerts looking for vehicles to steal … I mean impound.

This is madness. This is not good for citizens and it’s horrible for the police. When officers become not the protectors or our people but their enemy this country is in serious danger. The liberties we enjoy are in jeopardy. I’m sure the vast majority of police officers would much rather spend their time investigating and preventing real crime rather than trolling for funds. This sort of thing must make good officers sick to their stomach.

I still can’t get ever the hand-written note I’ve used as the image on this post. Are you kidding me? What is happening to our nation?

Are we so frightened that we’re willing to trade all our liberties for the illusion of safety?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Medicare Cheated out of Billions by … the Rich

Medicare FraudThere’s an interesting case slowly making its way through the courts about a company that is accused of stealing potentially billions of dollars from taxpayers in the form of medicare overcharges. The case isn’t about all the stealing, it’s about the guy who got fired because he tried to fix the problem.

You can read the story for all the details but basically a new guy was hired by an insurance company and almost immediately found evidence of chronic over-charging by filling out forms fraudulently. He claims to have discussed the issue in significant detail with corporate officials who recognized the problem and began putting away cash for what they assumed would be eventual fines. None was forthcoming and so they took the more expedient solution of firing Josh Valdez.

That’s what the case is about. A whistleblower who was fired. It’s not about the potentially billions of dollars that were stolen from taxpayers by insurance companies in Puerto Rico. This was merely one division of the much larger Aveta Inc. The charges were filled in April of 2011 and are only seeing the light of day now.

The suit filed by Valdez uncovered the fact that the fraudulent practices of Aveta are likely happening in many places. There are few audits of the Risk Score of patients which determine how much money goes to the insurance company. These scores can be artificially altered to ensure more money is paid out. According to Valdez up to $350 million of the $1.4 billion paid out was fraudulent for the each of the years between 2007 and 2011.

Remember, this is a single insurance fraud scam in Puerto Rico. Think big and then remember the financial crisis that this country is facing.

It is my opinion this kind of fraud occurs all the time and has contributed significantly to the growing debt our nation faces. This is the sort of situation that I think sets Libertarians apart from Democrats and Republicans. Democrats will scream and yell about corporate greed while Republicans will do the same about government waste. Here’s a newsflash for you … it’s both! And you are the reason it continues. Those who insist on voting for Democrats or Republicans just perpetuate the situation. They’ve both got their hands out and are grabbing the money as fast as they can scoop it up.

None of the alleged activity has been proven in court yet and it’s all speculation, but anyone who thinks this sort of thing is rare is just fooling themselves. The United States government is enormous beyond comprehension and the lack of oversight is shocking. The company involved claims it is just a disgruntled employee. We’ll see what the courts say but I’m expecting a relatively small fine against the company and some monetary reward for Valdez but nothing that will approach the amount that has been and continues to be stolen.

Greed is good, welcome to the United States.

As usual I’m not going to just talk about the problem. What are the solutions?

The idea behind Medicare is sound. We don’t want older people to miss out on medical care because of lack of money. That is a reasonable use of government money. Yet the amount of money involved will always be a magnet to those who want to steal.

A big part of the problem is software. The government is running on antiquated software and generating the reports necessary to discover this sort of activity isn’t easy. There is also a lack of inspectors so most insurance companies are allowed to self-report.

The only real solution is for people to actually want it solved. The solutions are there. More inspectors, better reports, tougher enforcement. As long as government officials are being bribed by the self-same companies that are defrauding us there will be no remedies. Being a good-guy will just get you fired, as Valdez discovered.

If you think voting Democrat or Republican will change things … best of luck.

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

Well that's it for Android – Stupid Headlines

Knockout AndroidApple Just Delivered A Knockout Blow To Android with IOS8 blares the headline from Forbes. Yes, we have the Stupid Headline of the Week award winner. Hooray for Forbes.

In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention lately the people over at Forbes have been whoring themselves out for clicks for a number of years now. They basically allow anyone to sign-up for a Forbes blogging account and that person gets to have the word Forbes in their URL.

The people writing the blog posts have no association with Forbes whatsoever. It’s like the URL in this blog post that mentions WordPress because the site is hosted by WordPress.

I’m not associated with WordPress nor is the person who wrote this headline associated with Forbes. Ian Morris just wrote a really stupid headline hoping you would click it.

For all those grieving over the demise of Android, well, don’t start crying just yet. Ian is engaged in both wishful thinking and headline trolling.

As an added tip to Dr. Headline writer: Don’t capitalize words like “a” and “to”.

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

Well that’s it for Android – Stupid Headlines

Knockout AndroidApple Just Delivered A Knockout Blow To Android with IOS8 blares the headline from Forbes. Yes, we have the Stupid Headline of the Week award winner. Hooray for Forbes.

In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention lately the people over at Forbes have been whoring themselves out for clicks for a number of years now. They basically allow anyone to sign-up for a Forbes blogging account and that person gets to have the word Forbes in their URL.

The people writing the blog posts have no association with Forbes whatsoever. It’s like the URL in this blog post that mentions WordPress because the site is hosted by WordPress.

I’m not associated with WordPress nor is the person who wrote this headline associated with Forbes. Ian Morris just wrote a really stupid headline hoping you would click it.

For all those grieving over the demise of Android, well, don’t start crying just yet. Ian is engaged in both wishful thinking and headline trolling.

As an added tip to Dr. Headline writer: Don’t capitalize words like “a” and “to”.

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

Facebook Post leads to Ticket for Dog Walking

Facebook crimeThere’s an interesting little story in the news today about a woman who made a Facebook post about walking her dog in a dog park which requires those who use it to have a permit.

I’m certain the park in question requires a paid permit because someone must spend the time, effort, and money to keep it nice. The people who walk their dogs there pay for this service. When someone goes to the park without paying their permit fee they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

Presumably one of the people who actually pays their permit fee saw the post from the woman and reported it to the authorities who issued a fine. It turns out the woman was lying in her post and hadn’t actually used the park in several years and the fine was rescinded. That’s not really the point though.

People seem to be pretty upset that the fine was issued in the first place but it doesn’t bother me at all. If you confess to illegal activity be it on Facebook, to an undercover officer, to a friend who turns you in, or in any other way there should be ramifications. Frankly, if you break the law then you should understand there might be penalties involved if you are caught.

I do think the fine shouldn’t have been issued until an investigation was conducted but I have no problem with police using their investigative capabilities via Facebook or any other legal method. We are protected in this country from unreasonable police activity by our Constitution and I think these rights must be guarded with vigilance. I don’t think this is an example of the police overstepping their bounds.

It seems pretty straight forward to me. The woman confessed to a crime on a public forum. The police failed to investigate the incident and issued a fine. She complained and the fine was rescinded.

This is not an example of the police state that I rail against in my posts all the time. If she had actually been guilty of walking her dog in the park without a permit then she should have faced the exact same penalty as someone who was physically caught walking their dog in such a manner.

My advice, use Facebook to talk with friends, not to confess to crimes.

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

When $500 means more than money

herb-kohlThere’s a feel good story making the rounds in the sporting world and I feel compelled to write a blog about it. The owner of the Milwaukee Bucks sold the team for $550 million after having purchased it for $18 million in 1985. That’s a good return on his investment to say the least. That’s not the nice part of the story although it is certainly good for Mr. Herb Kohl.

Mr. Kohl was a rather reluctant purchaser back in 1985 only agreeing to buy the team to keep it in Wisconsin. They were at the time playing in the smallest arena in the league and no other local investors were stepping forward. Eventually a new arena, the Bradley Center, was donated by a local couple.

There was much pressure over the years to sell the team for a lot of money to investors in larger cities who hoped to move the team but Mr. Kohl refused to make such sales even spurning a very generous offer from Michael Jordan’s group. He didn’t have much success as an owner during his years and Bucks won no championships and often did not make the playoffs. This past season they finished with the worst record in the league.

Mr. Kohl agreed to sell the team to a pair of investors from New York who have pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee. It seems likely he could have sold it for more to other investors who wanted to move the team to a larger city where profits would likely be higher. He chose not to do so.

All that is really just background to the nice part of the story.

After the sale in which Mr. Kohl realized a very nice profit of $532 million for a 39 year investment he decided to send each of the employees of the Bradley Center a check for $500.

I know the cynics out there will suggest the amount is small compared to his profit but I don’t see it as such. Judging by the reactions of those who received the money; from the president and CEO of the building to an usher, they don’t think so either.

The employees of the BMO Harris Bradley Center are like family to Senator Kohl, and this was a way for him to demonstrate his appreciation.

I am not quick to shed tears. I sat there and shed tears for maybe five to 10 minutes because nobody just walks up, gives you $500.

I think the main trap that those of us who like to quote Ayn Rand fall into is equating money to achievement. They think Mr. Kohl should be praised for making so much money. It’s fine and good that Mr. Kohl made all that money but his real goal was to keep the team in his city and provide entertainment for the fans. It’s a real shame that the Bucks weren’t better under his stewardship.

Mr. Kohl didn’t buy the team because he loved basketball. He didn’t purchase them to make any money. He did it to keep them in his town. He did it because it was the right thing for him to do. It ended up being the financially right thing for him as well. Funny how that happened, isn’t it?

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

Pay to Pee – Good Idea?

Have to PeeThere’s an interesting little case roiling the internet about a school in Vancouver where a couple of third grade girls urinated on themselves in the classroom. They claim they were denied access to the bathroom although the school district says no one is ever denied such access if they declare it’s an “emergency”. We’ve all been there.

What makes this case interesting is that the school has a policy in place where students earn currency in exchange for doing various things like homework. They spend this currency on various items including snacks and going to the bathroom during class. The idea being to teach kids the value of money.

One of the girls in question spent all her money on other things and was unsuccessful in her attempt to control her bladder.

I’m ambivalent on this. I really like the idea of teaching young students money management skills but I don’t think going to the bathroom should one of the fee items. Basically the kids will always try to hold it to avoid paying the fee. This is not a good idea.

I suspect what happened here is that the girls in question ran out of money and didn’t ask to go the bathroom because they thought without enough money they wouldn’t be allowed to go. Perhaps they were embarrassed to ask without having enough money.

I’m sympathetic to teachers who get frustrated when students ask for bathroom breaks too frequently but who is to say if someone has to go to the bathroom? If you gotta go, you gotta go. Not that I think that’s what happened here. I think if the girls had told the teacher it was an emergency they would have been allowed to go. The teacher can’t be expected to read minds.

I can even see some objection to the monetary rewards for doing homework and being “nice” to each other. Who decides what is nice and what the payment will be?

My final take is that there is nothing wrong with this sort of system as long as the rules are spelled out and there is some oversight to make sure teachers aren’t playing at being little kings.

In the end, sometimes people can’t hold their bladder. Sure it’s embarrassing to pee yourself. Life is filled with such unhappy events. It’s not the end of the world.

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

 

 

Don’t Mistake the Locker Room for Misogyny

MisogynyI like to think that everyone is horrified by the events of the Friday night when a misogynistic nut-job went on a rampage with a knife, guns, and car that left six people dead and more injured.

However, a lot of people in the United States are not aware that a fellow by the name of Richard Scudamore is being accused of misogyny in England.

I’m not going to use this post to decry Elliot Rodger or try to put a political spin on his actions. He was a full-blown misogynist and his hatred for women overwhelmed his reason. He was not a Republican or Democrat, he was insane. I wrote a long blog post about how the best gun control this nation can implement is better mental health care.

I do want to compare Rodger, Scudamore, and the very idea of misogyny.

Misogyny comes in many forms but it boils down to the idea that women are an inferior specimen of the human race. That men are simply better. I’m of the opinion that this attitude has done more damage than all the wars in history. Spousal abuse was an accepted practice everywhere in the world until the last fifty years. It is still is in many places. If a woman is murdered it’s very likely her husband or boyfriend did it.

This attitude is quickly changing in western, modern countries and we’re all the better for it. Women get an education, join the workforce, have fewer babies, have a bigger say in events. Women aren’t perfect of course, they’re just not inferior to men. They’re not equal to men, they’re different from men but they are not inferior.

Rodger truly hated women. Scudamore wrote a couple of sexist emails in jest. I tell a joke now and again to my friends that scientists finally discovered the cause of insanity, chromosomal imbalance. Ha ha.

In the locker room, among men and boys, things get said. Penis size is joked about. Women’s attributes are compared. We might make a joke about a woman and the shaft of our golf club. It doesn’t mean we’re misogynistic. In fact, men capable of saying such things are probably not women-haters. Those that truly hate women don’t say such things in jest because they don’t want anyone to know how they really feel.

My mother always told me that people are only mean when they like you (yes, I’m beloved). There is truth in that. It’s easy to see through someone filled with hate telling vile jokes as opposed to locker room banter. When a friend of mine calls his wife a “dirty whore” I know he means it as a compliment. He loves his wife. It might sound crazy in a stark email or in print but it’s not.

The other guys laugh and tell him how lucky he is.

It’s not hard to spot real misogyny, I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have as well.

My big problem is that when we throw men like Scudamore to the wolves for what is pretty clearly locker-room banter we lose track of the Rodgers of this world. The real misogynistic men who are capable of doing horrific things.

We are so eager to throw blame and find scapegoats that we miss the real danger. Rodger and Rodger alone.

We spend all this energy trying to attack someone like Scudamore and this time and effort is unavailable to root out deranged scum-bags like Rodger.

It seems like a far-fetched comparison but I think that as a nation we are more interested in placing blame than finding solutions. I’ve written about this over and over again so I won’t reiterate.

Rodger did what he did because he’s insane. Scudamore did what he did because he’s a guy. It’s that simple.

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