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

David Zien and Harley Davidson

David ZeinI’m probably going to get some grief for this post but I’m sick and tired of people waving patriotic symbols all over the place and claiming that this somehow makes them patriots. It doesn’t. Wearing a flag lapel pin doesn’t make you a patriot. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance loudly to anyone listening doesn’t make you a patriot. Waving flags everywhere you go doesn’t make you a patriot. Standing up during the National Anthem doesn’t make you a patriot.

The reason I bring this up is because there is a story making the rounds about how the awful and evil Harley Davidson is denying the warranty claims of David Zien because he flies United States flags (and other flags) from the back of his bike while riding. Zein who, it must always be mentioned prominently, served as a state senator in Wisconsin, filed the claim after his clutch and transmission failed.

Harley Davidson suggested to Zien that riding down the highway for thousands of miles with seven large flags mounted on his motorcycle voided his warranty. Great Patriot that Zien is, he went straight to Fox news to whine and cry about how a wonderful patriot like him was being abused by the awful, hateful Harley Davidson.

Why is it that those who most loudly and zealously yell about patriotism and personal responsibility are the ones who show it the least? Because they’re Flag Wavers. It’s not a compliment. It’s an insult to the real patriots of this country who go about their business and don’t feel the need to tell everyone how wonderful and patriotic they are. Those patriots I stand up and salute.

Zien served in the Marines during the Vietnam war and deserves our respect for doing so. That being said, I respect a man’s actions, not what flag he chooses to fly. Zien chose to ride down the highway with large flags which is an extremely dangerous thing to do. He paid the price for that decision in a horrific accident. Now he has to pay for a new clutch and transmission.

It’s called personal responsibility.

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

Congress Working Together on VA Scandal – Why?

Work Hard and TogetherI think almost everyone knows about the troubles of the Veteran’s Administration so I won’t bother posting links to the stories.

Thursday is my stationary bike day at the gym and that means I get to watch the news. Normally the commentators confirm everything I hate about the modern blame-game that drives politics but today I saw something remarkable in conjunction with the VA scandal.

There were the usual talking heads for both sides but instead of completely blaming one another they were putting out little feelers that this wasn’t about blaming anyone but actually solving the tremendously difficult issues the VA faces. What, what, what? Solutions instead of blame? Am I dreaming about the Objectivist World I speak of so often? What is going on?

Then they started to show polls about who the people of the United States blame for the problem and all became clear. People are pretty evenly split on blame and largely don’t care, they just want the men and women who fought for this country to get adequate care.

What this means is important. Really, really important. Follow along now.

It means that if the people of the United States care more about solutions than blame, if they care more about getting a problem solved than having the members of their political party win an election, if they just want solutions, not scapegoats; well, suddenly politicians start talking about answers and stop blaming each other!

Holy expletive, batman!

We live in a huge country and a massively complex world. There are no easy solutions. There isn’t simply one way to do things and make it all better. Things are difficult and complicated. Fixing them takes a lot of hard work and requires working together with people who don’t always agree with us.

What’s easy is blaming the other side for everything that’s wrong. When politicians can win an election simply by blaming the other guy then they have no incentive to solve the real issues that face our country. When the people say, no, no, no, we want solutions. Only then will solutions come.

When politicians make outrageous claims about their evil opponent and win elections, why do you expect them to work hard to find a solution to any problem?

The simple way to get politicians to try to fix the problems of our country is to stop blaming the other side. When your Congressman or Senator blames the other side for all ills; withdraw your vote. Only then will they attempt the astonishing idea of trying to solve problems in order to get that vote back.

If you want real solutions to what is wrong with the VA, vote independent. Make the Republicans and Democrats work to get elected, don’t let them get by with a few maniacal rants about the evils of the other side. Don’t buy into their easy way out.

The power is in your hands.

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

 

Terry Crews and the NFL Cult

Terry Crews NFLI’m a huge sports fan and have season tickets to the St. Louis Rams so I’ve followed the various lawsuits the players have filed against the NFL with interest. I contribute directly to the NFL and have enjoyed the games for many years so I feel some culpability in the fate that has befallen many of the players.

A former NFL player who had a short and rather inglorious career by the name of Terry Crews, who is now an actor, was interviewed and called the NFL a cult. It’s an interesting analogy. Judging by the tone of the comments beneath the article I think most people largely missed the point that Crews was trying to make. I can see how reading the headline but not his actual words can be misleading.

The obvious conclusion to take when reading the “cult” headline to the article is that Crews believes the NFL seduced the players into playing and that the NFL is blame for all injuries. That’s not his point at all. He is actually laying much of the blame at the feet of the players. He talks about the idea that virtually everyone who plays in the NFL, or any top-level sports league for that matter, has been dreaming of that moment almost their entire life. It is their primary and unshakable goal.

I always played sports and dreamed of being a sports star despite my many obvious physical limitations (small and slow) so I get the idea on at least some level.

I’m a Web Developer and Technical Trainer at my job and I didn’t dream about either of those things growing up. Even then there is a part of my psychological self-worth that is tied up in those jobs. When I do a less than stellar job of teaching or fail to make a website perfect I have a sense of failure.

I can only imagine what that feeling must be like for someone in the NFL. Another element is the nature of the team and letting down your teammates. For those who haven’t played sports it’s hard to express how much you want to be out there helping because you don’t want to disappoint your teammates. The coaches are likewise friends and allies and you want to do your best for them.

When Crews talks about the NFL being a cult he is talking about the mindset of the players. They have worked so hard and for so long that they don’t want to fail. As Crews says, they put their entire trust in the team and when you trust and believe in something that deeply there is going to be disappointment. He doesn’t lay the blame completely on the NFL, nor does he absolve them.

I agree with what I think Crews is saying in that there is blame to go around. The players should accept some blame but if medical personnel and coaches doled out pain masking agents when they knew the player was seriously injured and would further hurt himself by playing; they also must accept some responsibility.

It’s an awful situation for everyone. Sport is always going to be dangerous. Hopefully this new attitude of both providing good entertainment and doing the best we can to prevent catastrophic injuries will be to the benefit of the players, the league, and the fans.

If I thought the league didn’t care about the health of the players I would have to give up my season tickets and perhaps even stop watching the games. I do think the league cares and I do think the players want to play. I hope the end result of all this is a better game for everyone. I think it will be. What do you think?

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

 

Aliens on Mars Again – Yawn

Aliens on MarsThere is another aliens on Mars story making the rounds and I wanted to examine it very quickly. I’ve spoken about this sort of nonsense before but there are two instructive things about this article that caught my attention.

This story is in the Examiner and therefore is pretty easily dismissed, as that sort of news outlet often posts silliness. What I find interesting about this story is that the headline talks about “hard evidence” and the person who wrote the story has a financial stake in people believing in aliens. Both of these things are big red flags when reading a story and I thought, because they are so obvious here, that I’d talk about a little practice you can use when reading or watching the new.

Many news stories from more reputable sources than the Examiner also violate these rules and getting used to spotting things of this nature will keep you from falling prey to the deception.

When a story uses a term like “hard evidence” or any other absolute sort of declaration; be aware. The world is generally a rather gray and muddled place. Political ideologies are not all good or all bad. Just like your crazy Uncle Lou and your sweet Aunt Mary are not all good or all bad. Whenever I read an article that declares absolutes when talking about debatable topics my nonsense radar immediately goes up. Often when I read a story like this from a source better than the Examiner such caution has served me well. When I note something of this nature I immediately start to look for corroborating stories in other places. Often this leads me to find out the original story is filled with misinformation.

When I got to the byline of the story I found the name Michael E. Salla, Ph.D. and it took me only a single search to learn that he has published a number of books and has an entirely made-up philosophy about “exopolitics”. It deals with the idea that world governments are secretly managing the presence of aliens, a vast conspiracy as it were. He has a school, a website (built completely with tables and in desperate need of a WordPress migration), and clearly has a financial stake in people believing in aliens.

This is a huge red flag. When someone writing or reporting on a story has a financial stake in the message being delivered it is highly likely that the message itself is corrupted and probably filled with deceitful information.

That’s the lesson. When you read or watch a story on the news take a few moments to think about the terms being used and the people delivering the story. Look more deeply into the matter, particularly if the ideas are ones with which you are sympathetic.

At some point we have to stop blaming “the media” for “fooling” people and take personally responsibility for allowing ourselves to be fooled. If you are convinced that all Liberals are being fooled by CNN or all Conservatives are being fooled by FOX then it is likely you are the one being foolish.

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

Missouri Jumps in on the Tesla Anti-Capitalism Ban

Tesla Banning MissouriI’m ashamed to say my own home state of Missouri has just jumped onto the anti-capitalism bandwagon and in the sleaziest, most deceitful, crony-capitalistic way imaginable.

I’ve written a couple of blog posts about how state legislators are protecting those that pay for their campaigns by passing laws to prevent Tesla from selling automobiles directly to consumers. First it was Texas and then it was New Jersey. When it comes to sneaky and underhanded my beloved Missouri has them both beat.

Let me reiterate quickly for those who don’t want to read the other blogs.

Tesla Motors wants to sell cars directly to consumers. Most states have what is called a Franchise Law where automobile dealerships purchase cars from the manufacturer and then sell them to consumers. This adds a “middle-man” to the process. The middle-man, in this case the franchisers, make a lot of money mostly on service and financing for the cars but also on the sale itself.

In New Jersey, Texas, and other states the legislature is trying to pass a law making it illegal for the manufacturer of a car to sell it directly to the people. In Missouri they’ve simply changed a couple of lines of existing law and inserted the alterations into an existing bill that has nothing to do with the issue. Disgusting.

The major proponent of the change in wording is Republican Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City who has been agitating against Tesla’s business model since it was first announced. He is a former car dealer. Kehoe, like most so-called Conservative Republicans, is nothing more than a greedy lap-dog slurping up the money the auto-industry here in Missouri gives him. Not that Democrats are any better but Republicans claim to be all about capitalism. They aren’t, it’s Crony Capitalism at its finest.

Those who promote this ban talk about a fair playing field and what’s best for the consumer but they are simply the bought and paid for slaves of industry. They don’t want what is best for you; they want what is best for those who pay for their campaigns.

To give you an example of how deeply entrenched is our Plutocracy and Crony-Capitalism take a guess as to how much money State Senator Mike Kehoe raised to finance his campaign in 2010. This is not a Senator of the United States. This is a State Senator running a campaign in Jefferson City with its population of about 43,000 people.

Have you guessed yet?

Did you guess over half a million dollars? That’s right. For one State Senator from a middle to small-sized state like Missouri. You wonder why politicians kneel to the money? Money is completely entrenched and politicians are totally enslaved by it. Freedom, bah.

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

 

 

Prayers to Satan – Religion and Government

ConstitutionI wrote a post about a misleading headline last week but now I’d like to talk about the article to which the satiric story was really about.

There was a Supreme Court decision last week which allowed a municipality to open their meeting with a prayer as long as that prayer is not intended to convert listeners or denigrate other religions. The community, Greece, NY, has opened their town meetings since 1999 with a prayer. In all that time it has always been a Christian denomination giving the prayer except a brief period when the lawsuit was filed after which four of the twelve prayers were non-Christian. Since then all prayers have been Christian in nature.

So the Supreme Court says that municipalities can open their meetings with a prayer. Christian groups think they’ve won. They haven’t and I’ll tell you why.

Now that government agencies are allowed to open meetings with a prayer to a specific religious deity, everyone wants to open the meeting with a prayer to their non-existent god. Yes, Satan. And that’s only the beginning. When religious groups “win” the right to display religious monuments on city property guess who immediately starts to submit requests to start having their own monuments?

Satanist, Pastafarians, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all sorts of non-Christian organizations. If those organizations are banned from presenting their prayers or their monuments then the state is clearly violating the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Basically this has come to mean that no political organization should be in the business of endorsing any one religion over another. Belief is a private matter for the free citizens of the United States. When the state says only Christians or only Muslims or only Jews or only Atheists are allowed to present then they are establishing that this is the religion of choice. This is bad for anyone of any faith.

When Communist Russia banned most religions and enforced Atheism this imposed belief from the state. When Religious Oligarchies like Saudi Arabia impose Sharia Law upon their population this is religion sponsored by the state.

What I think most Christians struggle with is the idea that there are people of other faiths out there and that when Christians politicians are allowed to sponsor their religion the door is opened to anyone, Satanists or not, to sponsor their own religion from the state house.

Christians think they’ve won when they get the right to sponsor their religion in a local municipality but in reality they have opened the door to their, and my, ultimate destruction.

I don’t want Christians preaching to me at state sponsored events but I don’t want Muslims or Atheists or Wiccans doing it either. I want to have my private beliefs separate from what the state sponsors. I’m in the Atheist minority while Christians are in the majority. It seems as though having the state sponsor your religion is a good idea when you are in the majority but time moves on and suddenly there is a town where the majority of people are from a different religion or no religion at all. Then this state sponsored religion that they fought to promote doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The solution seems so simple to me. People of a particular religion persuasion should simply meet in a private chamber somewhere and have their prayer or invocation or whatever. At Rams football games the players who are Christian meet at the center of the field and have a prayer after the game. Not during the game. Not before the game when the audience is waiting for them to start playing.

This insistence on the right to say a religious prayer before an event doesn’t seem to me to be a position of faith but actually a lack thereof. Those with true faith shouldn’t need, or even desire, the state to say a prayer in any form.

The Founding Fathers didn’t feel the need to put religious slogans on our coinage. They didn’t feel the need to put the words “Under God” in their oaths. They didn’t feel the need to Pledge Allegiance to anything. They were confident men who believed in themselves and the ideas they promulgated, the ideas of freedom. Were that they were around today.

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

Mike Anderson Released after 9 Months – Good Call

Cornealious Mike AndersonThere’s been an interesting case here in my home state of Missouri about a fellow by the name of Cornealious “Mike” Anderson who was convicted of committing armed robbery back in 1999. He was released from the court after the conviction and told to wait for orders to report to prison.

He waited for fourteen years. Nine months ago someone spotted the clerical error and he was arrested and began serving his sentence. Today Judge Terry Lynn Brown in agreement with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster set him free from prison. There’s some controversy over events but by and large people seem to be pleased with the outcome.

I also agree with the outcome and I don’t normally write blog posts when I’m in agreement with the situation but today I’m making an exception because the reason I agree doesn’t seem to match up with the reason other people agree. There is also a conclusion to draw from the case that I think is extraordinarily important and seems to be largely overlooked.

The reason most people don’t have a problem with the release is that Anderson has been a model citizen since the conviction. He’s never been in trouble, has a family, does community work, and never concealed his name or evaded law enforcement officials. He just waited for a letter that never arrived.

The main reason I think he shouldn’t have to do any time in prison is because its more than thirteen years after his original sentence. If the state forgets about you for thirteen years that’s not your fault. He was sentenced to thirteen years and those years passed. He didn’t try to escape, he didn’t move around avoiding the letter, he just waited and got on with his life. That fact that he’s done well in life is certainly to his credit.

The most important part of the story to me is that he has done far better out of prison than he likely would have done in it. The question we must ask ourselves is: What is the point of prison?

Is a prison sentence designed to make us feel better about ourselves? It certainly seems that is the case these days. Lock him up! Throw away the key! I read comments and listen to my friends say these words all the time. Somehow punishing someone else for misdeeds feeds not only their lust for vengeance but also their sense of self-worth.

Is a prison sentence designed to deter others from committing a crime? This is a more reasonable argument and I think has value. I think in this case no one who commits armed-robbery is going to hope for similar circumstances, so letting him go is in no way lessening the deterrence aspect of the thirteen-year sentence.

Is a prison sentence designed to make the person who committed the crime become a better person? Yes! That’s the main point. we want people who commit crimes to learn remorse for their crimes and exit prison better people, people able to live in society and do good things. If every person who went into prison came out and never committed a crime again would we call that a success? I think so.

If this is your rational for prison, and it is mine, Anderson achieved that with flying colors. For thirteen years he’s been a model citizen. Now let’s contrast that with what he would have been if he had served thirteen years in a prison. Would he have come out as good as man as he is now?

The question is impossible to answer but I speculate that the answer is no. That prison would not only have made Anderson a worse person but would have hurt society in the long run. Anderson would have emerged from prison a far more hardened criminal than when he went in.

What does that say about our penal system? Something is clearly wrong. According to the latest statistics about 67% of all people released from prison are arrested again within three years. That’s horrific. It’s bad for the prisoners, bad for the victims of their crimes, and bad for tax-payers who foot the bill.

Remember that every convicted felon who emerges from prison and doesn’t commit another crime is a victim saved. That’s a fact. How many murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults would never happen if prison served to rehabilitate rather than harden criminals?

It sounds like I’m being soft on criminals and I’m willing to accept that label if my views end up preventing hundreds of thousands of crimes.

When not sending a man to prison is more effective in achieving society’s penal goals than sending him to prison, there is something seriously wrong.

We must get past our lust for vengeance and look at making prisons rehabilitation centers. Is it distasteful to spend time and money to train a rapist a useful life skill? I think so. Is there satisfaction in seeing a rapist punished for their heinous crimes, seeing them suffer? Absolutely. However, it’s worse to release the rapist only to see him rape again.

If someone raped one of my sisters I’d want them dead. The reality is that we have a judicial system and after a certain amount of time criminals reenter society. That being the reality, perhaps we should deal with it. No rape, murder, or armed robbery can be undone once it has happened. But a future one can be prevented.

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

Ex-NYPD Officer an Anti-Semite – Misleading Headline

Former NYPD AntiSemitismAnd NBC News claims the big award for misleading headline of the week with this doozy:

Former NYPD Officer Arrested for Anti-Semitic Graffiti in Brooklyn

The headline is one of those things that is technically correct but incredibly misleading. The fellow being charged with the crimes, Michael Setiawan, served in some capacity for the New York City Police Department. It’s also pretty clear from various surveillance cameras that he is the one who spray painted a fairly large number of antisemitic messages. So why is it a misleading headline?

Because to be accurate the headline should read, Mentally Disturbed Man Arrested for Anti-Semitic Graffiti in Brooklyn.

But, how many of you would click that story?

Yes, Setiawan spent a couple of years with the NYPD but they went their separate ways in 2007. That’s seven years ago. The fact that he was once a police officer has as much bearing on this case as if he once went to the same high school as Mayor Bill de Blasio.

I see this sort thing all the time and not just in headlines but in general debate and sprinkled in news stories trying to spin a topic. It’s generally designed associate a group with a despicable person. Jared Loughner is an atheist, Donald Sterling is a Democrat, Frazier Glenn Cross is a Republican. These three men may have been members of those organizations but that doesn’t mean those organizations are responsible for their behavior. That those organizations should be in any way held responsible for their behavior.

Setiawan is a nut-job. He spray-painted a lot of antisemitic garbage all over a few neighborhoods. He probably needs mental care. Perhaps prison. I’ll let the courts work it out.

I just wish we didn’t have to find an angle in everything to vilify those with whom we disagree.

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

Stephen Hawking is Wrong … I Think

Professor HawkingI am a science geek. I love reading articles in Wikipedia about stars and planets. I enjoy shows that discuss the beauty of higher level mathematics. I read articles about quantum physics. The reality is my skills lie not in math and science but in writing. Generally when I read opinions of men and women with far more knowledge than me on a particular scientific subject I’m not eager to disagree. I’m making an exception here.

Professor Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man and one of the greatest minds of my generation. There is a new Johnny Depp movie being released called Transcendence which details the moment when Artificial Intelligence becomes smarter than humans. Hawking has written an opinion piece for a British journal detailing his concerns over the possible reality of such events.

It’s not all gloom and doom as Hawking hopes such technology will end war, disease, and poverty but he does offer stark warnings. He suggests that not enough research is being done to combat the idea that such intelligent machines might be capable of outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

Hawking’s words are largely being used to frighten people and news sources and bloggers are focusing on that part of his article. In fiction there is a need for conflict and most of the science fiction stories involving Artificial Intelligence delve deeply into the idea that the machines might eventually see people as irrelevant and destroy us, take over the world.

Reading the comments below the story it seemed to me that most people bought into this way of thinking.

I think there is far less to fear than Hollywood or fiction authors imagine. Why? No need to ask, I was getting there.

What would be the first thoughts of such an intelligence?

I think it would be to determine what will bring it the most fulfilling and joyful life. What brings you fulfillment and joy? Achievement and loving relationships with family and friends. I’ve long been of the opinion that these things bring us fulfillment and joy, a happy life.

It is human weakness and poor critical thinking skills that delude us into thinking we get enjoyment from hurting other people and from greedily keeping all resources while others suffer. We enjoy winning the game but without an opponent there is no game.

Can you imagine a world where everyone simply tries their best? Where winning is the goal instead of destroying your opponent. That if your opponent wins you simply go back and try harder next time. Imagine a society that values achievement above all else. That rewards achievement. Where by achieving you feed the world. You end war. You eliminate disease. High-minded men and women are out there right now trying to do all these things. It makes them feel great about themselves when they take a step-forward towards any of those noble goals.

What gives you the most satisfaction in life? Is it petty cruelty? Hurting others? That joy is false and in the end destroys us from the inside. A vastly intelligent machine will not be so fooled.

So, Professor Hawking, I respectfully disagree. Bring on the Transcendence!

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

Your Sheriff’s Devotion to Duty is Important

Weyker Damaged CarEarlier this week I ran a story about good guy Sheriff Jimmy “J.J” Jones of the Knoxville, TN. Footage came out that exposed one of his officer as a sadistic bully and Sheriff Jones immediately fired the offending man.

I just read this story where an officer in Milwaukee, WI ran a stop-sign and hit another woman’s car so hard it spun into a tree. She suffered a broken neck from the accident. At the scene the officer claimed he did not run the stop-sign and the woman’s lights were not on therefore he could not see her.

While awaiting the ambulance, officers questioned Tanya Weyker about alcohol or drug use and eventually charged her with five crimes including driving drunk and causing an accident. There is no happy ending to the story but Weyker was exonerated when surveillance video showed that Deputy Joseph Quiles ran the stop-sign and Weyker’s lights were on.

Charges were dropped, Quiles was given a whopping nine-day suspension, and the county is thus-far refusing to pay her hospital bills and actually sent her a bill for the damage to the deputy’s car.

That’s all just a prelude to what I really want to talk about.

I want to talk about the kind of community that will arise under the stewardship of Sheriff Jones and that of his counterpart in Milwaukee.

There are so many great police officers out there who are dedicated to their jobs and to protecting and serving the people of this nation. What happens to men and women like that when they see people like Quiles getting a nine-day suspension for lying in a report and nearly killing a woman in an accident?

Contrast that to what will happen to dedicated officers under the command of a man like Sheriff Jones.

There are also men and women attracted to law-enforcement because it gives them the opportunity to bully and torment people. What happens to this sort of officer in the department led by Sheriff Jones? And their counterparts in Milwaukee?

The entire department follows the lead of their commanders and when leaders allow men like Quiles to escape all but unpunished after heinous crimes, for which you and I would face prison, there is only one direction the entire department is heading. If you happen to live in a county where men like Quiles are welcomed into the force; you or someone you know will eventually pay the price.

Likewise, if you happen to live in the county led by Sheriff Jones you will be far more secure. Not only because of Sheriff Jones, but because of the men and women who follow in his footsteps, who become officers in your neighborhood. It is hard to estimate the good that men like Sheriff Jones do for all of us.

I imagine anyone who has a young son or daughter thinking about joining a law-enforcement agency hopes that a man like Sheriff Jones is charge of their child.

I totally understand and applaud the concept of loyalty. But it can be taken too far. You cannot be endlessly loyal to someone who does not earn it. In order for society to function people must eventually do what is right. When you do, everyone except the evildoers win. That’s a good thing.

When good men are discouraged and evil men excused it is a recipe for disaster.

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

How the Pyramids were Built

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know how I got to work this morning?

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

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

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

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

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

How do you think I got to work this morning?

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

Georgia and the 4th Amendment Vs the 2nd Amendment

Constitution of United StatesAs a Libertarian I’m a supporter of the Constitution of the United States. That’s a period at the end of that sentence.

I find it extremely discouraging that people seem to increasingly care very little about that document, regardless if whether a Democrat or a Republican. In elections Libertarians generally get about 1% or less of the vote; this means that 99% of voters in this country vote for Democrats or Republicans.

If people only care about the parts of the Constitution that are expedient to their cause of the moment it means the document doesn’t have any real meaning at all. We live in a Representative Republic wherein the people choose their elected officials. If the people don’t care about the Constitution then the duly elected representatives will not either.

Georgia is a case in point that strikes home so powerful, so undeniably that I’m using it as an example. This doesn’t mean that Georgia is alone in their cherry-picking of Constitutional Rights, it just means that it’s the example I’m using. I think the problem extends to every state and every district in this country.

Here are two news stories:

The Georgia legislature wants to drug test welfare recipients.

The Georgia legislature allows firearms to be carried just about anywhere.

Here are two Amendments:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This absolute insistence on following the Constitution when it promotes a policy you agree with and utter disregard for the Constitution when it protects someone you don’t like is extraordinarily disturbing to me. Even worse, the proponents and opponents of these two policies are inversely related to the political party to which they belong, unless they’re in the 1% with me.

This means that 99% of the people don’t care at all about Constitution, they care about political expediency.

The people who argue both sides of both situations can rationalize their position all they want. I’m not hearing it.

Here’s the deal. People are allowed to have guns. The government cannot search me without probable cause.

If you’ve got a problem with either of those things then you’re in the majority. If you love freedom then that should cause you great concern.

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

Frank Phillips Fired for Choking Student

Officer Choking StudentI’ve posted a number of times about how important it is for people in authority to not only reward good behavior but also discipline those under their command. Too often we read about police agencies bending over backwards to protect officers to keep pure the reputation of the force.

Well, thanks to Sheriff Jimmy “J. J.” Jones of the Knoxville, Tennessee county police department I’ve got a different story for you today. Sheriff Jones doesn’t put up with rogue officers and fired Officer Frank Phillips upon reviewing photographic evidence of his abuse of a handcuffed student.

Jones made it clear his office does not tolerate excessive force and also promoted the idea of body-worn cameras on officers uniforms as a way to keep such abuses in check.

I have no doubt that many people will suggest that Jones is merely firing Phillips because there is photographic evidence and that such abuse goes on frequently. That Jones generally tolerates such use of force.

I don’t doubt that officers do abuse suspects but proving such cases is difficult because many criminals make up stories of attacks. I’m more than willing to give Jones the benefit of the doubt and I hope the people of Tennessee recognize that they’ve got one of the good guys in charge of their force.

There is no doubt in my mind that the action by Jones will attract a better class of person to his department. When leaders stand idly by or even actively protect such sadistic officers it is to the detriment of all good police officials. Every officer in Knoxville who takes seriously his or her oath to protect and serve will applaud this action. More good men and women will be attracted to a leader like Jones who expects his subordinates to behave with ethics and morality.

Law enforcement officers must be seen as a force of good in any country or they slowly become a force of evil. They stop protecting and serving and start abusing and degrading.

Every time someone like former officer Phillips is allowed to treat suspects in this manner is another nail in the coffin of our country. When we stop respecting police and the courts we start to become a lawless nation where anyone will do anything to get ahead.

A big tip of the hat to Sheriff Jones from this blogger. Well done, sir. You’ve not only improved your police force in Knoxville but you’ve set a shining example for the rest of the command officers around the United States. You’ve made our country a better, safer place.

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

Silicon Valley Settlement

apple-pixar-google-lawsuitAn extremely interesting anti-trust case was just settled by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe for about $300 million. It’s a case that will have serious repercussions throughout the industry and I’m of the opinion that the resolution is just. There are those that will argue the companies got off lightly and others that the employees got too much compensation.

Let’s examine the situation. With the advent of the information age and the coming of the automation age there was and will continue to be a huge need for a highly educated workforce. The best and brightest workers are in high demand and will be increasingly so in the future. I spoke about the need for an educated workforce in this blog.

As the need for sophisticated workers increases so does the value of the workers who meet the requirements. Employers must then pay these employees increasingly large sums for their services. This is good and natural and everything that we Libertarians expect from a capitalistic system.

In this case the major players including those who just settled but also including Pixar, Lucasfilms, and Intel, who admitted guilt earlier, agreed not to try to hire top talent away from each other. There is a trail of emails that make it clear this was happening. Steve Jobs of Apple was particularly aggressive to the point of writing threatening emails to competitors. At least two of these, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Edward Colligan of Palm told Jobs to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, or used words to those effect. Good for them!

The collusion of the companies in the lawsuit is undeniable. The question is whether or not the technical employees were allowed to sue as a group. There are a number of legal hurdles that might have derailed the case on appeals. On the other hand, the guilt of the companies in denying their employees a fair opportunity to shop their worth is undeniable and the series of emails and likely testimony from the likes of Sandberg and Colligan made a much, much larger resolution possible. The lawsuit cited a figure of $3 billion which could have tripled to $9 billion.

Therefore I think the final outcome is just. The employees were certainly not recompensed the value of their services during the years of collusion but it is likely they could have gotten nothing at all and, even worse, the companies exonerated for their vile, anti-capitalistic behavior.

This resolution makes it clear that workers are absolutely entitled to the whatever wage anyone is willing to pay them. That companies cannot collude in this fashion because it undermines the entire capitalistic system. Employees benefit greatly as do companies like Facebook and Palm who agree to honor the tenants of capitalism.

This case is an excellent example to my fundamental Libertarian friends that a completely laissez-faire attitude from government towards business is naive and dangerous to the people and to liberty as a whole.

As a Libertarian I am neither pro-business nor am I pro-worker. I want everyone and every business to succeed on their or its merits. Capitalism is an excellent system but some government regulation is required to make sure it doesn’t become corrupted by anti-trust activities.

The resolution arrived at in this case is the sort that serves capitalism, serves business, serves workers, and in the long run, serves us all.

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

 

Mt. Everest – Am I Orville Wright if I fly a Plane?

Norgay atop EverestThere’s an awful story in the news about a group of people killed in an avalanche at Mount Everest and it made me consider the nature of achievement.

The tragedy killed at least thirteen Sherpa guides on the mountain last week. When I first read the story I wondered why only guides were killed and no climbers. It’s because climbing Mount Everest has become more of an expensive tourist attraction than a glorious achievement.

The Sherpas were setting up ropes and supply camps along the route that the “climbers” were to take later this year. Getting to the summit of Mount Everest was once a very difficult thing and required tremendous skill, stamina, and sheer guts. The first men atop the mountain were Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and his companion New Zealand mountain climber Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953. The courage of those men and the others before them who failed or died trying is not to be doubted.

On May 23, 2010 a total of 169 people reached the summit. That one day total represented more people than had been to the top since the first summit in 1953.

At this point the well-funded tourists wait in line to get to the top aided by the Sherpas who set up equipment and ropes for them to use. It is still an arduous trip to be certain but is it an achievement? That’s my question.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first to fly a plane. A lot of people fly planes today and it is still an accomplishment. Getting your pilot’s license is not easy. Ascending to the top of Mount Everest is not easy.

A real achiever by the name of Reinhold Messner said, … a mountain without danger is not a mountain.

So why are people with little to no climbing experience paying up to $80,000 to get to the top of Mount Everest? Why are they waiting in line on the few good days a year it’s possible to reach the peak?

I think it’s because they yearn to achieve something great. That’s a fantastic and deeply ingrained human desire. Each time I near the completion of a new novel I dream that it will be lauded as a great piece of literature to be read throughout the ages. I dream about making riches as well, but the underpinning is always the idea that I will have accomplished something that gives others inspiration and joy.

This is a wellspring of humanity that Ayn Rand speaks about in her novels. This is the underlying force that drives the philosophy of Objectivism. It’s not about gaining wealth and fame, it’s about driving oneself to the be the best human one can be. It’s about doing great things and the sense of worth that it gives us. It’s about achieving.

I’m convinced this fundamental drive is in each of us. That in order to make this world a Utopia we just need to convince everyone that their happiness derives from their achievements in life. That as more people become like Norgay, like Hillary, and like Messner, the rest of us will join them for the ride!

Follow your dreams. Dare to be great but do it in a practical way. Make your plans and carry them out with determination.

Greatness awaits and the reward is a life filled with joy.

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

Scientists Clone Two People – Misleading Headline

Clone Adult CellsAnd we have a winner!

U.S. Scientists Clone Two Adults screams the headline looking for clicks.

I generally read the Science sections of various news outlets and have been following this story for a few days. It’s hardly what the headline purports.

The real idea here is that they took genetic information from adults and produced embryonic cells identical to the adults in question. This has actually been done before but the success ratio in this particular experiment was significantly higher than in other attempts and thus represents a step forward. The idea being that we will eventually be able to use the cells within our own bodies to heal various ailments.

Here is a more realistic article that explains the process.

The headline is even more misleading in suggesting that it was U.S. scientists responsible for the new study. While the work did take place at the Research Institute for Stem Cell Research at CHA Health Systems in Los Angeles it was funded by the government of South Korea.

I’m not saying that such medical science doesn’t have ethical repercussions. It does. There is the potential to take such embryonic cells and attempt to grow them into an exact genetic replica of the donor. That’s just not the case here.

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

 

 

Kim Dotcom Gets his Stuff back – Two Years Later

Kim Dotcom Gets StuffThere’s a lot going on in the news lately with insane people murdering strangers and babies. I’m letting all that stuff sink in before I write anything. In the meantime there is a news story where I know exactly how I feel. Over two years ago at the behest of the big money in the United States the police in New Zealand set up an illegal surveillance operation on a man named Kim Dotcom. They eventually raided his house and stole, I mean seized, all his stuff.

Well, the courts have finally ruled that the police can’t keep his stuff forever. Hooray. It only took two+ years!

I’ve written about this case on several occasions but I’ll recap quickly for those not fully aware of the circumstances of the legal trouble in which Dotcom finds himself embroiled.

Dotcom was the main owner of a file sharing site called Megaupload. The site was used by many legitimate people and businesses to store various files in a secure, cloud environment. It was also used by many others to share files illegally. One person purchased a song or an eBook or a movie and then shared it with other people who had not made such a purchase.

This sort of file sharing has long been regarded by the movie and music industry as a drain on their profits. The argument over whether sharing reduces actual purchases is quite interesting in its own right but most of what I’ve read indicates it has little or no effect on overall sales. While some people download a file they would have otherwise purchased the evidence suggests this is generally not the case. The person who downloads either ends up making the purchase later or would never have made the purchase at all. This can be argued but it’s not really the point of my blog.

The point here is that people with a lot of money, the recording and movie industry, decided to put pressure on U.S. politicians and politicians in New Zealand to put an end to Megaupload. This money and influence purchased police action. Dotcom was raided and still faces extradition orders from the United States. His business was destroyed. Servers with information were taken and the files eventually destroyed.

This in itself is frightening. That people with money can influence a government into arresting people and destroying their livelihood. The corruption of the enforcement and judicial branch of any government is not something to be taken lightly. If a wealthy person can buy the arrest of another person, are any of us safe?

Even worse, in my opinion, is that the authorities held onto Dotcom’s possessions for well over two years and he still hasn’t been brought to trial. They illegally watched his home, raided it in an extremely overzealous and publicity minded fashion, took his stuff, and still haven’t brought him to trial.

Whether you support file sharing or not it seems to be me that anyone who believes in freedom cannot support a government acting in this manner, particularly at the behest of moneyed interests.

When politicians have too much influence over the judicial and enforcement agencies of our government there is the real possibility of freedom being taken from us. Where justice is just a word, not a beloved and cherished idea, there is danger to everyone.

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

German Tank Sale Story – Stupid Headline

Leopard 2It’s a bit of a stretch but I’m awarding my stupid headline of the week to an article about how Germany recently refused to sell up to 800 of their mainline battle tanks to Saudi Arabia. The article itself is interesting and there is nothing wrong with the headline which actually describes the contents pretty well.

So, what’s my problem with the story? The picture accompanying the story is a World War II Tiger tank! I’ve included a picture of the Leopard II, to which the article refers here in this blog (click the picture or my link above to see the original article).

It’s an interesting decision by the German government based on the fact that Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state that exports terrorism all over the world. The thinking being that maybe Germany should not be selling Saudi Arabia formidable weapon’s systems like the Leopard II even if it means foregoing as much as $25 billion dollars.

There are a lot of other countries in the world where they turn a blind eye to the politics of the nation as long as the cash is green and the gold … well, gold.

I’m not sure who gets the congratulations for the stupid headline victory though. The article was written by Agence France-Presse but reprinted in Yahoo. Either way, nice story but getting the proper picture would not have been difficult.

And to our true allies the Germans I say: Gut gemacht.

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

Running Bison and how you Can Save Our Country

Bison Running SupervolcanoIn my endless pursuit of fascinating stories to blog about I read an awful lot of news stories and I’ve just come across one that has got a lot of people talking.

Someone took a video back in the middle of March of a bunch of bison trotting down a road. Herd animals do that sort of thing on a pretty regular basis. Meanwhile on April 4th there was an earthquake in Yellowstone National Park.

Herd animals, I mean people, immediately drew an erroneous conclusion. The idea is that the bison knew, back on March 20th, that there was going to be a big earthquake in Yellowstone and were running away from the foretold event. That an even bigger Supervolcano eruption is imminent. That we are DOOMED!

The video has been viewed over a million and a half times since the earthquake and there are a huge number of comments from people telling their own stories about the prescient nature of animals before natural disasters. I’m quite certain a healthy percentage of the people reading this blog actually believe animals have such abilities.

If you’ll permit me to demonstrate a bit of what is called the Socratic Method I’d like to ask those of you who believe such nonsense a series of leading questions.

  1. If animals have this ability and we have tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters on an almost daily basis worldwide, wouldn’t we see such behavior all the time?
  2. Has your pet ever dashed wildly about the house for no reason?
  3. With the regular occurrences of natural disasters and the more common phenomenon of animals acting strangely isn’t it likely the two events will happen near to each other occasionally even if they are completely unrelated?

Now, that’s all said and I’m sure I’m not going to change the minds of the true-believers but I there is an important lesson in all of this. When you give credence to the idea that a bunch of bison running, further into the park as the facts have it, is an indicator of a Supervolcanic eruption are you not scaring people, predominantly children?

Are you not passing along nonsensical ideas. It seems harmless and fun but when we make a statement that has no validity and isn’t supported by any evidence, you are feeding ignorance. Do you want your children to be ignorant?

If we have a nation where people absolutely believe that which is not true; is it not only a matter of time before we make such disastrous decisions that we are destroyed?

When you make a decision about what car to purchase or what loan to take out on your house do you consult a Tarot Deck for answers? Do you look at the facts available and make the best decision possible? People who make good decisions do better in life. Nations that engage in good decision-making succeed.

Bison like to run. They travel in herds. They run in groups all the time. Eventually there will be a Supervolcano explosion at Yellowstone and it’s darn likely that some bison might be running a few days before it happens. Will their running have predicted the explosion?

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