The State can Take your $42,000 Land Rover for a Minor Infraction but Why does It?

$42,000 Land RoverThe Supreme Court is very likely to rule that Indiana violated the Eight Amendment for excessive fines when it took Tyson Limb’s $42,000 Land Rover because he sold a small quantity of illegal drugs to an undercover law enforcement officer. I could talk about the War on Drugs, I could talk about seizures, I could talk about Incorporation, but instead I want to focus on how and why individuals in the state of Indiana, and in many other places, have simply lost their human decency.

What happened to us that we are willing to essentially steal another person’s property for the violation of a law? The attorney for the state of Indiana argues the Eighth Amendment doesn’t apply to states and if Indiana wanted to take your Land Rover for failing to obey the speed limit, they can do so. Let’s say the lawyer is right. Let’s say the protections built into the Constitution were not bolstered by the Fourteenth Amendment; which has largely been used to give said rights to the people against states and not just the federal government.

Imagine the state could take your car for speeding or foreclose on your house for having grass growing slightly too tall. If you were the law enforcement officer, if you were the prosecuting attorney, if you were the judge; would you do that to someone else? Just because you had the power to hurt another person, would you use that power?

Do you say, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime?” Have you lost your humanity and compassion so completely that you’re willing, eager, and downright gleeful when you get to take someone else’s property? When you get to enrich yourself based on the misfortune of someone else do you jump for joy, do so, and blame them all the while?

Because that’s where we are. Law enforcement officers, local politicians, local prosecutors, and local judges happily do this every single day while the people that vote for and otherwise support them not only allow it, but cheer it on.

How can any decent person argue taking the Land Rover acceptable? It’s legal, I don’t deny that. We can pass any law we want. If enough people want to change the Constitution of the United States to reinstate slavery or to make women property, it can be done. No vile and disgusting law is beyond our power to enact.

I’m asking you to look in the mirror and ask yourself why you allow this to happen. What happened to Tyson Limb is happening to other people every single day. Why don’t you care?

Tom Liberman

Is it Wrong to Point out Mike Matheny is a Handsome Man?

Mike MathenyI noticed an interesting trend on the Facebook posts of some of my women friends in the aftermath of the firing of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Many of the women commented on what a good-looking fellow is Matheny and that they’d miss him for that aspect at least. Male friends immediately responded that if men made such a comment about an attractive woman coach or manager they’d be subject to attack from Social Justice Warriors.

It’s an interesting point because it’s true. Men who make such comments about attractive female athletes are often attacked as misogynistic. The conclusion that men seem to be drawing from this truth is, on the other hand, completely incorrect. They should be able to make such observations and so should women.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the attractiveness of another person and women have every right to make such observations, as do men about good-looking women. Our looks are simply a trait, like any other.

Certainly, Matheny’s record as a manager and ability to lead the team is a far more important factor in his being fired than his relative attractiveness. The issue is we can’t get angry at someone for pointing out what they perceive to be the truth. We can certainly suggest his appearance shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not he keeps his job although the women posting made no such claims. What we should not do is pretend he isn’t viewed as attractive by women.

I wrote an article about a golfer named Paige Spiranac and how she used her looks to get an invitation to a golf tournament for which she would otherwise not be qualified. That’s all well and good. A person should use all their assets in an attempt to succeed in their chosen profession and life as a whole. There is nothing wrong with noting such things.

It’s important to make decisions based on pertinent factors. For Matheny, his looks have little impact on his managerial abilities. For a model, her or his strategic baseball knowledge is of little consequence to success. The person doing the hiring and firing is the one who makes these decisions and if they decide poorly, they too will suffer the consequences.

If one of my female friends were in charge of the Cardinals and hired Matheny because of his appearance rather than his skills as a manager, she would eventually lose her job as well. That being said, what’s wrong with pointing out a physical feature that doesn’t necessarily correlate to job performance? To my way of thinking, nothing.

A final point as to Matheny himself. He suffered numerous concussions during his career as a catcher and his mannerisms have always struck me as somewhat dulled. I hope he is consulting medical professionals and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Tom Liberman

The Red Hen and Masterpiece Cakeshop

Red Hen Masterpiece CakeshopRecently the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a restaurant called the Red Hen because they didn’t like her political ideology as expressed in her job. Before that a bakery called Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple because of their sexual orientation.

The two stories are intertwined in an interesting way for this Libertarian. The battle lines have been drawn, as they say. For me the two cases do not present any sort of ethical dilemma. As far as I’m concerned, the ownership of both The Red Hen and Masterpiece Cakeshop have every right to serve, or not serve, who they want as long as they do not run afoul protected classes. Neither homosexuals or political appointees are guarded by the Constitution, so far. From a legal standpoint, I support both businesses.

From a professional perspective and from a human level I would not have done the same if I was the owner of either the cake shop or the restaurant. I think if I am going to start a business of any sort, I should respect both myself and my customers, regardless of their sexual orientation or political philosophy. From a personal standpoint, I oppose both business owners.

It’s really that simple for me. I don’t have to think much about it. I don’t have to worry about my political ideology or my personal distastes. I have a job and I try to do it as best I can regardless of other factors.

I’m aware we can get into nuance here. What if a group of Nazis wanted to have a birthday party at my restaurant? Would I allow it? Particularly if they were going to display paraphernalia supporting hatred of Jews. I’m actually of the opinion that I’d have them although I’d probably require modest, rather than overt, displays of their beliefs.

If a person with a white supremacist or a rainbow tattoo wanted to dine at my establishment I think I’d have no issue and attempt to serve them the best meal possible. I think we’d all be better off if we treated each other fairly and with decency regardless of personal convictions.

Now, if the same person was loudly and belligerently expressing their hatred of Jews or heterosexuals while dining, I’d feel within my rights to ask them to please express their beliefs in a more subdued fashion. If they refused, I’d consider asking them to leave. As long as they were polite and treated my business with respect, I like to think I’d keep any problems I had with their philosophies to myself.

Certainly, many of the people who I helped with software development were of deeply held religious beliefs. I’m an Atheist. I didn’t let that stop me from doing the best job I could. So, I have some evidence to support my convictions as expressed here.

I do find it extraordinarily interesting that, to some degree, those who support Masterpiece Cakeshop are opposed to Red Hen and vice-versa.

I think this is where critical thinking and a consistent philosophical outlook can make the world a better place. Where everyone gets to have their food or cake and eat them too. A boy can dream.

Tom Liberman

Go Ahead and Party Like It’s 1776

party like it's 1776The latest affront to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness took place at Cherry Hills High School in New Jersey when the prom committee decided to have a Party Like It’s 1776 theme. People were offended because the Declaration of Independence did not free slaves. The reasoning being that slaves were unable to party in 1776 and therefore black people, presumably descended from those slaves, were being forced to participate in a culturally offensive prom.

This ignores important factors. The first being that the Declaration of Independence is about the people who lived in the Colonies declaring they would no longer live by rules of the British Empire. If anyone should be offended by a Party Like It’s 1776 Prom it should be people who lived under the banner of said Empire. English, Irish, Scots, Canadians, Australians, Rhodesians, Indians, South Africans; the list goes on and on.

Another factor is that many black people in the Colonies were free and living in the northern states. Recent estimates suggest that the Patriot military was made up of four percent blacks. Crispus Attucks is believed to be the first person killed at the Boston Massacre that was one of the inciting incidents of the declaration. Many of these heroes gave their lives for Independence. Their descendants deserve to celebrate 1776 far more than me, whose Jewish ancestors fled antisemitism to America around the turn of the century.

Speaking of my Jewish roots. Should I be offended by any Egyptian themed celebration? Should Christians be offended by any Roman themed party? Is there any culture that is not guilty of some horrific crime or another?

Now, I’m not suggesting people can’t be offended by whatever they choose; I’m just telling you not to expect me to feel equal outrage or to bow to your unreasonable demands. If the offense is great enough and people join your cause, I will suffer the consequences. However, if we are talking about a bunch of young men and women who just want to party and don’t really care about your cause, then let them go about their business without interjecting your agenda into their fun.

I’m pained I feel the need to state my disgust at the enslavement of blacks in the Colonies and eventually the United States. It is a stain upon our nation. Those who defended it then or justify it today are vile. This should go without saying, sadly it does not.

In any case, the point I’m trying to make is that the prom committee of Cherry Hills is free to choose the theme of their desires. If it was Egyptian or Roman I would not be offended, there might be Jews and Christians who feel differently and they can choose to boycott said prom. That’s their business.

As for the rest of the fine young folks at Cherry Hills, go ahead and Party Like It’s 1776 and don’t worry about the attitudes a bunch of old people are trying to force upon you. If you look hard enough, life is filled with things that give offense. My advice, stop looking and start partying.

Tom Liberman

Jacqueline Ades and the 65K Texts

Jacqueline AdesA woman named Jacqueline Ades sent upwards of 65 thousand texts to a jilted love interest and the various stories seem focused on humor rather than it being an example of a terrible problem with our justice system.

Even a casual watching of her news conference clearly indicates someone in mental distress. She is clearly not capable of making competent decisions on her own. In layperson’s terms, she’s crazy. Not Ha-Ha crazy, but legitimately disturbed and desperately in need of help. Instead our justice system and our mental health facilities did not step in to do anything until long after the symptoms of her mental health were well in evidence.

We laugh at Ades and the thousands of texts but we lament when someone shoots up a school and kills dozens of people. When someone drives their car into a gathering and kills many of the assembled. Why didn’t someone do something? Let us look in the mirror. Let us look at our own uncomfortableness when it comes to mental illness.

Our ability to deal with mental health problems is abysmal. We don’t offer low level solutions when people first start to exhibit the problems. We just don’t care enough or want to turn the other way because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Normally, I’m not one to absolve the perpetrator of an act from the consequences of their action, but insanity is a different matter. When someone truly cannot think in a rational way and commits crimes, we need to be better at finding them help.

We tend to ignore such problems or laugh them off. I’m not making accusations against others here, I do the same. I’ve seen people with clear mental issues wandering around the streets, had bizarre encounters in taverns. I’ve encountered people with obvious rage issues both in social media and on the road. Anger issues that might, someday, lead them to do something terrible.

I say to myself, there’s nothing I can do about it. That seems to be the solution we as a society have arrived upon as a way to deal with such problems.

I’m certainly not suggesting helping people with mental health issues is an easy path. I’m just saying it’s extremely sad that Ades has ended up in the criminal justice system, that it’s not funny. I like to think we can do better. Maybe I’m wrong.

Tom Liberman

Rage at Incel focused on Chad but not Stacy

stacy incelThe murders of ten people by Alek Minassian in Toronto has brought to light a group of self-centered jerks calling themselves Incel. These men rage against society for their inability to have successful sexual relations with women. There’s a lot of ridicule for Incel on Facebook, and rightly so, but it largely seems focused on the Incel version of the ideal man, Chad, rather than about their ideal woman, Stacy. In this era of #MeToo and gender equality I think it speaks volume as to inequalities that persist.

I’m not going to discuss the complete lack of personal responsibility espoused by Incel. What I’d like to talk about is the public’s apparent fixation on Chad at the expense of Stacy. That’s not to say the generalizations attributed to the Chads of the world are less egregious than those of the Stacys, just that we men seem utterly determined to clear our name while women seem less compelled to speak up on their behalf.

Basically, those who call themselves Incel make wild generalizations about men and women. Virtually everyone is insulted by these terms but I’m only reading articles about how horrible these simplifications are when it comes to men. When it comes to the Stacys of the world or other generalizations about women there seems to be utter silence.

What’s that about? There are probably a lot of factors involved and there is no simple explanation but I think the underlying pathology is that we still largely live in a male-centric world. For most of the history of humanity women were largely tied to the fact, should they want to have regular sex, they got pregnant and then produced food for babies. This genetic reality gave very different roles in society to men and women. Again, I don’t want to get too involved in all of this type of thing.

Men are horribly offended by Incels, well, men like me and most of men I know feel that way. We despise the fact we’re either lumped into the Chad category or some other group that hardly represents us in any way. We rather like women and all their lovely bits. We feel the need to defend our gender against these losers. Rightly so. That being said, where are the women? Why aren’t they writing about how they too have been horribly insulted.

Are women used to being lumped into unfair and unrealistic categories? Are attractive women used to being generalized? Are they not at all surprised by the ridiculous terms used by Incel? Is it perfectly normal for them to be treated as a caricature rather than a person? Is this why we don’t see more rage coming from attractive women?

We men certainly aren’t used to such attacks. I’ve been called a nerd but that isn’t gender specific. The idea of either being a Chad or some or subclass of a Chad pissed me off. I wanted to write a blog about how we men shouldn’t be so categorized but plenty of other people took up the pen and did it for me. I had nothing of interest to add to the plethora of enraged fellows, so I wrote nothing.

Wherefore art thou, Stacy?

Tom Liberman

Allison Mack and the Multi-Level Marketing Sex Traffickers

Allison MackA relatively famous actor named Allison Mack has been charged with sex trafficking for recruiting women to join a multi-level marketing company called NXIVM and an associated group called DOS. What is interesting about all of this is the supposed crimes were committed largely against eager and willing victims.

When it comes to the idea of human trafficking, the United States is currently in the midst of a Moral Panic. Supposedly 15,000 people are so trafficked every year but there is almost no actual evidence to support this number. That hasn’t stopped the government and a large number of well-meaning but largely self-deluded citizens from passing useless laws and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to combat the largely non-existent problem.

That’s where Mack and a fellow named Keith Raniere get involved. Raniere is a despicable fellow. He runs a multi-level marketing company called NXIVM which is slightly different than others of its kind. Instead of simply bilking people of their money with barely legal promises, he also uses the company to convince women to serve as his sexual slaves. Under his charismatic control they allowed themselves to be branded with his initials in their pubic regions. Mack served as leader of a subsidiary organization that recruited women to serve sexually. DOS stands for dominus obsequious sororium which is Latin for master over the slave women.

There are allegations that Mack and Raniere used blackmail to keep women in NXIVM and this is against the law. The fact that women joined a group and served as sex slaves is not, much as many would like it to be, a crime. Legally competent adults should be able to choose what they want to do with their lives, even if sexual perversions are involved. Where there are charges of coercion and blackmail, they should be investigated.

If Mack was involved with blackmail she should be so charged. The problem here is we are using laws created to stop a non-existent problem to prosecute people for a particular activity we find distasteful. Something that should never have been illegal in the first place. This is a microcosm of the entire War on Drugs and also the needless traffic crimes which result in the theft of billions of dollars from citizens.

I think it is telling when the government went to Mexico to arrest Raniere, the woman at his compound hopped into their cars and chased the police all the way to the airport trying to rescue him. They are clearly not victims here. Certainly, they are dupes and fools but they are participating in something and they eagerly want to continue to do so. The government should not be trying to prevent us from doing that which we desire, even if it isn’t in our best self-interest. That is our job.

Raniere is scum. Mack is as well. But unless they drug an unwilling victim and keep them imprisoned either physically or through blackmail, they haven’t committed a crime. I know the headlines are shrieking human trafficking but that’s not what happened.

As much as my stomach is turned by the behavior of Raniere and Mack, their freedom is my freedom. If they can be arrested for convincing someone to be a sex slave can I be arrested for convincing someone to purchase my books because the government might not like their content? It’s not as big a stretch as you might imagine.

We must guard not only our freedom, but those who we dislike as well, particularly those whose behavior is most disturbing.

Tom Liberman

King of Donkey Kong Dethroned and it is Big News

billy mitchell donkey kongThere is a story making its way to near the top of the various news sites about a fellow named Billy Mitchell who had his world record Donkey Kong scores invalidated and removed from the site that listed them. What I find interesting about this is that it is mainstream news. I’m sure lots of people didn’t notice it, but the fact it has stayed near the top of my news sites indicates clicks.

I’m not interested in a highly technical discussion about how Mitchell was caught cheating and why the records were revoked. What I’d like to talk about is why the news is generating a lot of interest and what that means to me personally and to society as a whole.

I’m a gamer. I love playing games, watching others play games on Twitch.tv, and I played Donkey Kong in the arcade back in the day. It wasn’t my favorite game, I was a Tempest master, but that’s not the point. Back in those days gaming was a very small subset of culture in the United States and around the world. Most of us were considered nerds. Sure, a few people cared about setting records but not many.

As time has gone on the world has embraced the gaming culture. We are in a Golden Age of both video games and board games. Thanks to Crowd Sourcing, independent designers can create and distribute games that would never have seen the light of day even ten years ago. There are games for people of all different interests and they are relatively cheap. You can venture over to Steam or GoG and purchase an independent game boasting great reviews and in a genre that seems appealing for as little as ten dollars or even less.

This broadens the appeal of such games beyond the traditional young male audience to which I once belonged, I’m old now but still male. This means stories like that of Mitchell and the faked Donkey Kong high scores are making the news. That’s a wonderful thing. Why do I think so? Let me tell you.

One of the driving ideas behind my Libertarian ideology is that people should lead their lives as they choose and associate with others who enjoy the same things. Playing games is an activity that I think everyone enjoys as children. It is a glorious pastime that enriches our lives and helps us learn. Board Gaming was big fifty or sixty years ago with Monopoly and Risk but with nothing compared to the audiences we have today.

Far more people and a much higher percentage of the population are gamers now. They can play their games in person or over internet connections with each other no matter where their physical location. Friendships are being forged, competitions like the quest for the high score in Donkey Kong are raging, and people are having a tremendous amount of fun.

We have this one life to lead and we should try to cram as much fan as we possibly can into it. Gaming is one way to do that. The fact that more and more people are discovering the joy of adult gaming is a wonderful thing.

I encourage everyone to create an account at Steam or GoG or head over to Board Game Geek and find an inexpensive game in a genre that looks appealing. Give it a try. The next thing you know you might be reading complicated technical articles on how people caught a cheater at Donkey Kong, and, trust me, no one will be calling you a nerd, they’ll be laughing and having fun with you.

Tom Liberman

The Subtleties of Racism as Demonstrated by Yadier Molina

molina and lovulloHere in baseball land St. Louis there was an ugly incident between beloved catcher Yadier Molina and Arizona Diamondback manager Torey Lovullo. I’d like to use the reaction to the situation to examine the idea that there is nuance to racism. I’m not talking about Lovullo or Molina but those who are commenting on the story.

Many people are calling Molina a thug and worse for his reaction. It’s my opinion the vast majority of those doing so would be defending, say, Roger Clemens if he reacted to the words in the same way. They’d be calling Clemens a stand-up guy who had every right to react to the ugly words in a physical way. Many are defending Molina and it seems likely some would be less vociferous of their defense of Clemens in similar circumstances. That’s the version of racism I’d like to talk about and why it’s such a difficult word to raise in these situations. There are levels of racism and we tend to incorrectly categorize them as all the same.

If my hypothesis is correct, that the race of the player is a significant factor in the perception of events, then that is racism but a very subtle version of it. It’s not someone out in the streets chanting all people of a certain race are criminal thugs who should die. I think the people who are calling out Yadi and would not call out Clemens are not racists in the classical sense, but they are exhibiting an opinion on which race bears a factor. They are guilty of a subtle and relatively common form of racism.

There is no question we all have particular biases. I think it’s possible because I’m a Cardinals fan I’m more likely to justify Molina’s reaction in this situation than Javier Baez of the hated Cubs. I like to think that I’d support Baez should an equivalent bruhaha occur between him and the manager of some other team. Perhaps I wouldn’t. That’s my point. It’s easy to throw around the word racist in situation like this when it’s not truly applicable.

It’s not easy to come up with a word to describe those lambasting Molina who would not do so should it have been Clemens. As I said, I would not call them racists, but I absolutely think that race is a factor in their opinion. For others its not race but team based, they hate the Cardinals and are eager to find fault in the behavior of the team or its players.

The reason I’m writing this blog post is because I don’t think these reactions rise to the level of racism but I’m struggling to name it anything else. I don’t think it’s fair, given the current understanding of the word, to use it.

We are all guilty of racism on one level or another. Most people know it’s wrong to think this way and imagine they don’t.

I’d love for people to examine their own opinion of this incident and see if they think they are being influenced by race. Does me pointing it out make them think twice? Reconsider? What if someone was posting hate about Molina and read this, examined their heart, and said, yeah, that Tom’s got a point. I’ll have to change my mind on this one. That would be great.

Tom Liberman

Lady Friendly Doritos and why a Gender Trend is not Sexism

DoritosPepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi recently gave an interview in which she noted market research indicated men and women generally have different habits when eating Doritos, a snack made by the company. She said the company planned to release products that catered toward the eating habits of women. Social Justice Warriors Triggered!

How dare a company market a product designed specifically for men or for women besides, say, tampons and jockstraps. What unbridled sexism to suggest research indicates women generally don’t like to lick their fingers of the Dorito residue or pour the crumbly remnants of the bag directly into their mouth.

The problem is groups of people do perform tasks differently, eat particular foods, and otherwise differ from one another for a variety of reasons including gender. If PepsiCo has done market research indicating certain Dorito eating trends in women then promoting a product to that gender’s preferences makes sense. What it doesn’t mean is all women eat Doritos in a particular way. That’s the gist of all the tumult. An angry female says: I’m a woman and I do like to lick my fingers of the Dorito residue. I’m a woman and I enjoy pouring the crumbs from the bag into my mouth.

No one at PepsiCo is telling you how to eat your Doritos. They are simply creating and marketing a product toward particular trends their research indicates. They discovered a certain percentage of women don’t eat Doritos because their fingers get sticky and they don’t like leaving the crumbs behind but are unwilling to pour them directly into their mouths. I’m sure there are plenty of women who do these things just as I’m sure there are plenty of men who don’t like sticky fingers and crumbs.

Let’s imagine the research indicated 70% of women don’t like to eat Doritos in the way described. With there being about 300 million people in the United States and approximately 150 million of them being women that suggests 45 million women out there do not meet the trend. That’s a lot of ladies. It also means about 105 million of them behave as the marketing indicates. Now, I’m making up the 70% figure but let’s work with that for the sake of argument.

What PepsiCo has found is their product is unappealing to 105 million women because of the sticky residue and crumbly product. They want to target that large group of people, who happen to be mostly women. Is that wrong? Is that sexism? Is that terrible and awful? I say absolutely not. I say it’s finding a market and making a product that appeals to it. That’s smart business, not sexism.

No one is saying all women eat Doritos in a particular way or that all women are dainty and all men are rough. It is impossible to deny there are differences in women and men. Savvy companies use those tendencies to market their product to specific segments of society. Does anyone deny certain television shows and movies appeal more toward women than men and vice versa? Does this mean all women love Chick Flicks and hate Action Movies? Does it mean men don’t like Chick Flicks? No. I think Steel Magnolias is a great movie but I love The Right Stuff and Fight Club as well. It’s a tendency, not a sexist agenda.

Men and women are unalike in some respects and their respective preferences in eating Doritos might just be one of those differences. That’s a fact whether you like it or not.

Tom Liberman

Disgusting Behavior at the President’s Club Charitable Trust

president's clubThere’s a pretty interesting story making the headlines in London and throughout England in regards to the President’s Club Charitable Trust where many members of a group of wealthy business men behaved crassly toward the young women who acted as hostesses for the event. What I find fascinating about the proceedings that transpired is problems could have easily been solved by some simple communication.

First, let’s review what occurred at the event for those not familiar with the story. The charitable gathering was attended by only men. The female hostesses were groped, propositioned, pulled onto laps, and otherwise harassed during the occasion. Before the dinner began the women were told their job was to serve drinks and put up with annoying men.

The woman who exposed the activities, Madison Marriage, was working undercover as a hostess and in her article, admits that some of the hostesses, most likely those who knew what to expect and came as a group, had fun and enjoyed themselves during the event but many others were horrified and tried to hide in the restrooms to avoid the situation. These women were escorted out and forced to rejoin the party. This dichotomy of experiences tells us virtually everything we need to know.

The President’s Club planners needed to communicate with the hostesses exactly what sort of behavior they could expect and the men attending needed to understand what sort of activities would be tolerated. I’ll give you an example. Marriage indicates a man in his seventies asked a nineteen-year-old woman if she was a prostitute. Many people find that horrific. I have no problem with it. He asked, she told him no, and he continued on his way; presumably without bothering her further. That is the way the entire event should have unfolded.

The President’s Club should have been explained to the men attending they should keep their hands to themselves unless a hostess acquiesced to whatever he had in mind; maybe just holding hands, or sitting on his lap, or perhaps even performing sexual services for an agreed upon financial return. That any man who violated these rules would be warned and ejected if they persisted.

Meanwhile, the hostesses should have been told men would be propositioning them, hoping to hold hands, sit on their laps, perhaps asked to gyrate in only their underwear but they were under no obligation to do so. It’s clear to me from the story that some of the hostesses knew exactly what to expect, turned down propositions they didn’t like, and acquiesced to those requests they welcomed. They earned money for attending the event and possibly got side payments for particular behavior.

Communication was the key element missing from this entire sordid affair. The women and men were all adults of legal age and competent minds. They just needed to know what was expected and what would be tolerated. If that had been done I think everyone would have had an enjoyable experience.

Sure, the men are pigs. I get that. I’m a fifty+ year old man. A like looking at a pretty young woman. I enjoy it when the attractive waitress puts her hand on my shoulder or touches my elbow. I don’t grab her ass or try to shove my hand up her skirt but I might touch her shoulder and say thank you. Perhaps she wants a larger tip or maybe she finds me attractive and hopes I’ll ask for her phone number; maybe she wants both! That’s her prerogative and I think it’s wrong to tell any young woman she shouldn’t attend an event of this nature; provided she knows what she is getting into and the men are punished for behavior that goes over the line.

The idea older men should not be interested in slap-and-tickle with younger women is a hopeless concept. Some men will always be interested. And the general assumption the women were all harassed, abused, and needed protection is also nonsense. Some women enjoy this sort of event and should be allowed to attend without shame.

Adults should be trusted to make these sorts of decisions on their own. The women don’t need to be protected and the men don’t need to be punished; provided everyone knew what was expected and reasonable limits were kept. That is the fault of the hosts.

The most egregious thing that happened at the event was the President’s Club forcing clearly uncomfortable women back to the party. That is despicable; the rest of it could have been easily avoided.

Tom Liberman

Hell Hath No Fury Like Lindy Lou Layman Scorned

Lindy Lou LaymanThere’s a trendy story about a woman, Lindy Lou Layman, who damaged some expensive pieces of art after being intoxicated at the home of a prominent Houston Attorney, Tony Buzbee. It’s not completely her fault. She’s nuts, I get that, but bear with me for a moment. I’m going to have to do a lot of speculation but I think it’s important to consider our actions and Buzbee needs to think about that as well as Layman.

It is claimed Layman and Buzbee were on a first date and I’m already suspicious of the official story. Why didn’t Layman have her own car? Did they meet at the restaurant or wherever and then decide to drive back to his place in his car? I suspect they simply met while out on the town. Layman is an attractive young woman and Buzbee a wealthy man. Eye contact was made, drinks were purchased, things progressed, and she agreed to return home with him.

She got drunk and Buzbee decided he’d call her an Uber rather than continue the date. Again, suspicions raised. Why wouldn’t she leave when he called her a ride, then hide in the house, and finally begin to destroy property. It seems fairly apparent Buzbee made certain verbal contractual statements. You can stay until morning and we’ll go get brunch. I’m having a great time and would like to see you in the future. In exchange for these verbal commitments some sort of oral or other services were provided. After the completion of services Buzbee decided he’d had enough and wasn’t going to fulfill his verbal, and non-binding, contractual statements. He called an Uber and went up to bed. Thanks for the memories.

Somewhat or completely intoxicated and feeling both rejected and used, Layman began to take out her feelings on the artwork in the house. Hearing the commotion at some point Buzbee realized the girl he treated like crap was maybe a little pissed about it and wanted vengeance, go figure. Police summoned.

What’s the lesson here? I’m not sure. Buzbee might well not have gotten the services he desired if he’d been honest with Layman about his intentions to send her home immediately after completion. He almost certainly lied to Layman in order to get what he wanted. Buzbee shouldn’t be such a douche. She has legitimate grievances with him. Of course, there are few legal remedies to such breech of contract situations. What damages has Layman suffered? A little humiliation most certainly but anything financial? Hardly. In addition, Layman should blame herself for performing services so quickly and readily before understanding the nature of the relationship. Destroying expensive art is a good way to end up in prison and she chose to do so.

Actions have consequences. If you treat another person like garbage that other person might consider doing harm to you or your material possessions.

The question becomes if it was worth it. If I were to ask both Buzbee and Layman, I think they’d both say no. Something for us all to think about when dealing with other human monkeys.

You never know, maybe they’ll end up married. They just might deserve each other.

Tom Liberman

Hero or Bad Example to Save Rabbit from Fire?

man-saves-wild-rabbit-from-fireA video of a young man standing near an intense fire in California and rescuing a rabbit attempting to flee the flames has engendered a bit of controversy that I’d like to examine. One group of people, apparently the majority, think he is an amazing hero while another group think he was incredibly foolish and set a terrible example.

It’s an interesting case. If he had rushed toward the fire to save a baby would the perception be different? If he was a trained firefighter would people view his actions in a different light? The debate seems to largely center around the fact he risked his life, a human life, to save that of a common animal.

There is one group of people who think this was incredibly stupid and foolish and might inspire others to risk their lives for equally insignificant reasons. The second group includes those of the opinion the life of the rabbit is of equal importance to that of the man; that his actions are noble in that regard. Others do not argue the life of the rabbit equivalent to that of a person but still laud his actions as heroic and worthwhile.

A human life might well be more important than the rabbit. I think arguments can be made that given a choice between saving a human baby and saving a rabbit, the objectively correct choice would be to save the baby. Some of my more passionate animal rights friends will argue the rabbit life is perhaps of greater importance than one of the seven and a half billion people living on the planet. There are likely fewer rabbits than people.

To me the life of the rabbit and the life of the young rescuer are of little importance to the question. Likewise, the inspirational impact of the young man is not a primary factor I consider. To me it comes down to my Libertarian principles. He wanted to save the rabbit. He chose to do so. He was not coerced into doing so. He was successful and I think it cannot be debated his life was enriched. Perhaps he will look back on his actions with sheepish regret and realize risking his own life, and perhaps others who might have had to rescue him should he have succumbed to smoke inhalation, was not worth the risk. But, his actions reflect his clearly powerful desires of the moment.

Let’s imagine he did fall while making the attempt. That another person went to rescue him and died in the effort. The same principles I’m applying to the young man work with the hypothetical rescuer. She or he chose to make the attempt. That is what being free is all about. This is the heart of the Libertarian Movement.

The government solution is that we must be protected from doing things that might cause us harm. I would not be surprised to see legislation arise in some states making it illegal to attempt to rescue wildlife from dangerous situations.

It is clear the young man put himself in danger. He might inspire others to do the same. So what? What business is it of yours, of the government’s? It’s his life and, as long as he’s not harming others, he should be able to lead it as he chooses!

If you think he’s a hero that’s great. If you think he’s an idiot setting a horrible example that’s fine also. The important point is that he did as he chose to do, as should we all.

Tom Liberman

Pedestrian Citations versus Pedestrian Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman

Solving Animal Abuse at Intensive Animal Farming Facilities

intensive animal farmingThere are two apparently diametrically opposed sides in the animal husbandry industry. Animal Rights Activists and owners and operators of Intensive Animal Farming Facilities. One of the positive takes I have about being a Libertarian and Objectivist is that I’m not ideologically tied to any particular side in an issue.

On one side are the activists who see the abuse of animals and feel an ethical obligation to do everything in their power to help the largely defenseless creatures. On the other are people trying to provide goods to paying customers, employ willing people, and make a profit while doing so. What we see are two groups of people doing all they can in court, on social media, and in various state legislatures to attack one another.

I, on the other hand, do not see the two groups as necessarily needing to fight one another for the minds of public opinion. I think there is a place for both sides and a happy middle ground. I understand getting the entire population of the world to turn to a plant-based diet is a hopeless endeavor. People will always want to eat meat and someone will provide this product. I am also truly disgusted when I see the videos animal rights activists’ post when they gain access to such farms.

If we take a Libertarian and Objectivist point of view, I think the inevitable conclusion is there will always be such farms but that animals should not be tortured and brutalized while they are living their short lives. When videos come out showing horrific abuse of animals the owners and operators of the facilities always express outrage but I find words to be largely meaningless. I want to see action.

That brings me to the point of this article. How can the owners and operators of Intensive Animal Farming Facilities and Animal Rights Activists work together in a pragmatic way to reach some reasonable solution? This is important. It must be remembered when the two sides attack one another this takes time, effort, and money. These things could be channeled into productive activities that make a difference.

The simplest solution is for Animal Rights Activists to purchase, install, monitor, and maintain cameras at various points in the facilities. If the owners of such farms truly are concerned for the welfare of their animals, as they express time and again, they will have no problem with such a system. It costs them nothing and ensures workers are being monitored for abuses to animals that certainly affect production.

It will also help the public make informed decisions about their purchases. If I can go online and watch how the animal is being treated at the farm before and during slaughter that helps me feel good about my purchase. If I know the animal is reasonably well-cared for and not being tortured, I am happy to spend my money on the product. I imagine that I’m not alone in this feeling. If I knew that an animal was horribly abused before getting to market, I would probably not make the purchase. This ripple effect causes those farmers who practice treating their animals with respect gain market share.

This changes the Intensive Animal Farming industry as a whole. If people are well-informed in their purchasing decisions and farmers who treat animals well are rewarded, then the farmers who have less healthy practices are driven from the business.

This is a desired result. It is good for the ethical farmers, it is good for the purchasing public, and contributes to the welfare of the animals themselves. I don’t think anyone would have an objection to this outcome except those who enjoy abusing animals. Let us not pretend that such people do not exist and are not attracted to jobs that allow them to carry out their perverse desires. They must be curtailed.

From my perspective, the important thing here is to try and work together to come up with solutions to problems rather than simply attacking one another. I find that ideological differences can be overcome when you are willing to examine practical solutions and work with each other. I also believe when you refuse to engage in such compromise you are setting yourself up for long-term disaster.

Neither the Intensive Animal Farming industry or the Animal Rights Activists can truly win this war alone. They need each other.

Tom Liberman

Ending the Lychee Dog Meat Festival

lychee dog meat festivalOne of my Facebook acquaintances who is deeply passionate about animal rights recently posted about the Lychee Dog Meat festival in China. I think it’s fairly reasonable to suggest that most of us in the western world are not particularly comfortable with eating canines. What can be done about it? What is the best way to stop such behavior? This question speaks to my Libertarian ideology.

I recently wrote several blogs about the horse meat industry and I think the comparison is reasonable. When horse lovers lobbied Congress sufficiently, laws were passed that defunded the inspection of horse slaughter houses. Because it is not legal to slaughter animals in the United States without such inspections, the industry was eliminated. Yet, the practice continues.

The efforts of people like my friend on Facebook are used to put pressure on China to outlaw the Lychee festival. In China manipulative legislative runarounds like that which was done with the horse meat industry are unnecessary. They do not live in a free society. If the government wants to prevent a particular activity, they simply issue a ban. There is no Constitution to maneuver around. If my friend and her allies can put enough pressure on China to outlaw the festival, it will happen, but will it work?

In China the government position is that the Chinese people do not hold dogs in the same regard as companions as do Westerners. They find our slaughter of cows and chickens to be far more egregious than the single festival in which a few thousand dogs die. In this, I believe they are correct. More cows and chickens are slaughtered in a single day than die in the yearly festival.

Opponents of the festival argue the dogs die in unsupervised, and horrific fashion. That many of the animals are stolen from their owners. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not but it certainly seems plausible.

Now we get down to the reality of this world. The Chinese people enjoy the meat of dogs. The people of the United States largely find such slaughter abhorrent.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the Chinese government comes around the way of thinking of my friend. They ban the slaughter of dogs, they outlaw the Lychee festival. Do we think that such will prevent dogs from being slaughtered and eaten? The answer is obviously no. As long as Chinese people want to eat dogs, dogs will be eaten. Horses are still slaughtered and eaten in the United States, it is just done via a black market. The price increases, money is delivered into the hands of criminals. The ban is largely ineffective.

It seems obvious to me such would be the case in China. The Chinese government might even give lip service to such a ban but would not bother to enforce it. This is the problem with relying on government to solve problems. Sure, they can pass laws, they can make heroin illegal, they can make speeding illegal, they can outlaw certain variety of firearms, but these laws never stop human behavior. If people want to consume drugs, to drive quickly, to purchase firearms; they will continue to do so.

We only give ourselves the illusion of safety and harmony with such laws. In reality the behavior continues largely unabated or even enhanced by the lure of danger.

What is to be done? My friend is passionate, she is caring, she strongly believes in the rights of animals. I applaud and admire her dedication and think it is people like her who will eventually bring about change, if change is to come. She should continue to make her opinion known, convince one person at a time. It is only when people no longer want to consume dogs, or horses, that the Lychee festival will end. The government is helpless and hopeless.

Do not rely on government to legislate. Convince people, convince the individual. The individual has the power. If you cannot convince the people, then you need to make a better argument.

Tom Liberman

Bob McNair was the Apology a Lie?

Bob McNairThe owner of the Houston Texans, Bob McNair, recently made a comment for which he later apologized. A National Football League player named Richard Sherman thinks the original statement was a true indication of the feelings McNair has and that the apology is merely pretend. What I’m going to discuss is not the nature of the comment itself but the reality of Sherman’s analysis.

To get you up to speed, there is an ongoing issue in the NFL in which players are kneeling or otherwise protesting during the playing of the national anthem. The owners largely do not like this. McNair was quoted as saying something along the lines of: We cannot let the prisoners run the asylum. This equates the players in the NFL to incarcerated people. McNair was apparently confronted shortly after making the statement and he apologized.

Sherman believes McNair truly meant the statement, that he associates the players with inmates. People who should have no say as to how the team is managed. Sherman believes the apology a lie motivated by politically correctness.

Sherman believes McNair is not alone in his opinion. Sherman thinks other NFL owners feel the same way, players are to be used as best as possible and discarded when their productive years are behind them. Sherman also believes not all owners think like this. He thinks the owner of his team, Paul Allen, does not think this way about his players.

We cannot know for certain if McNair’s original statement is his true opinion or not but I think it’s an interesting question. Did McNair mean it when he compared NFL players to prisoners in an institution? Is he bowing to business expediency and political correctness by pretending to apologize?

I think Sherman’s opinion is legitimate. I think there is quite a good chance McNair truly believed what he said and, upon reflection, realized it was a terrible thing to say. Or perhaps McNair is simply pretending to apologize. That he, in his heart, believes what he original said. Again, we have no way of knowing the answer to this question, only McNair can tell us.

Sherman goes on to make an incredibly interesting point. He says he would rather McNair tell the truth, even if it is antithetical to Sherman’s own beliefs. Sherman would rather know the honest opinion of McNair and thereafter avoid him.

Let’s imagine I know someone whose opinions on a subject are deeply offensive to me. Would I rather they pretend not to have those opinions when around me, or would I prefer if they told me exactly what they were thinking? I find myself in complete agreement with Sherman. If you have an opinion, state it. If I don’t like it, well, it’s up to me to decide if I want to be around you in the future. Sure, when you make a statement I don’t like, I can speak up. Trust me, I do. If you refuse to back down then we are at an impasse. The ball is in my court. I can choose to associate with you in the future or I can choose to avoid events at which we might meet. If we do meet, I can choose to circumvent topics of conversation where I know we conflict and focus on areas where we might agree.

I do not disagree with anyone about all things nor do I agree completely with anyone on all subjects. I, like Sherman, would prefer to know you true opinions. Then I can make judgments and take actions that I deem appropriate.

My opinions are in my blogs and my novels for all to see. I’m an Atheist. I’m a Libertarian. I don’t suffer fools lightly. If that offends you, and there are many who are offended, then the ball is in your court. You can choose to engage me or avoid me. You can choose not to be friends with me on Facebook so you don’t have to see my thoughts on various topics. That’s cool. I respect that.

I think that’s Sherman’s point here. He wants McNair to be honest. If they disagree, so be it. What he doesn’t like is saying one thing while behind the scenes doing something else entirely. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t apologize if you say something and upon further examination realize it was truly awful. You are allowed to change your opinion. I certainly hope McNair is truly sorry for what he said, that he realizes the condescending nature of his statement. Then the apology is warranted and should be accepted.

I’m sure Sherman, and others, will be watching McNair more closely in the future. Will his actions down the road support his original statement or the apology? That’s the true test. We can say anything we want. It’s our actions that prove the integrity of our words.

Tom Liberman

Taylor Winston and the Case for Relative Morality

taylor winstonAs an Atheist, one of the things I talk about frequently is the relative nature of ethics. My religious friends believe their morality is handed down from god to them. I argue that morality is not fixed by any being, be it god or the government, but is subject to interpretation. This reasoning usually does not find purchase with such friends. I hope the case of Taylor Winston and stealing might make the point clearer.

Stealing is wrong or stealing is usually wrong. The former statement is an absolute statement of morality and is found pretty much verbatim in the bible. Thou Shall Not Steal. There are no caveats. This is the argument made by my religious friends. The second statement is not so stringent. Stealing is generally wrong but it circumstantially could be the right thing to do. This is the argument often made by Atheists.

I think the case of Winston might resonate with my religious friends. He was attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. He was among the crowd, along with friends, when the gunfire began to rain down upon them. He managed to escape over some fencing while helping others do the same. Then, seeing the many wounded, he went to the parking lot and found a vehicle with keys. He illegally entered the vehicle, started it, and drove it to the hospital with victims of the attack. He then returned and ferried more people in the stolen truck.

The public reaction to Winston and his actions pretty much proves the point of relative morality. If stealing is wrong without question, if we follow the word of god’s morality; there can be no question Winston was in direct violation of the 7th or 8th commandment, depending on the version. Winston should suffer whatever punishment a society based on religion should choose to enforce, perhaps chopping his hands off.

My question for anyone reading this blog post is what did you first think about the story of Winston and the truck stealing? What was your immediate and instant reaction? I’d be enormously surprised if anyone thought Winston committed an immoral act, including the owner of the truck.

I suppose some argument can be made that he simply borrowed the truck but the reality is Winston saw a situation in which he needed something that did not belong to him and took it. It’s that simple. In this particular case he did the ethical thing, the right thing. Not only should he not be punished but he should be rewarded.

This is one of many reasons I’m an Atheist. Please feel free to join me.

Tom Liberman

A Real Apology

apologyI was thinking about the idea of an apology. You say or do something you regret. You say you’re sorry. The natural reaction of the person or people you’ve offended or angered is to accept the apology. It is almost as if some part, if not all, of the original transgression never happened. But what is an apology? Just words. I’m beginning to become skeptical about accepting those words, they are merely a way for the person giving the apology to feel better. I’ve decided I don’t want apologies anymore, I want to see a change in your behavior. That’s a real apology. If that’s beyond you, fine. Let’s both move on.

I’m sure this is coming across as rather cruel and heartless and perhaps it is. It’s just that I often see people giving what appears to be heartfelt apologies for particular misbehaviors and then going right back to repeating the offending behavior in exactly the same fashion.

I’m sometimes willing to believe the apology is sincere. The person does feel bad about what she or he did. But the apology is nothing more than a symptom masking panacea. The offending person is fixed and can go on about their life without further worry, until they do it again. It’s an endless cycle of misbehavior and apology. There is no effort to fix the underlying problem, or perhaps there is an attempt but it ends in failure. The apology is a central part of the ongoing problem.

It seems to me, quite frequently the words are completely phony. The person is only apologizing because the behavior generated unfavorable results. The person isn’t really sorry at all. They are sorry about the consequences but they acted exactly in the fashion they desired. The only thing they’d change about the incident that requires an apology is the resulting upset.

However, if the person actually changes their behavior over the course of the next several years, that would seem to me to be a real apology. I’m sorry I did something and I recognize what I did was wrong. Every time I’m in a situation in which I could repeat the behavior, I react differently. That’s an apology I can get behind.

So, there you have it. If you offend me and aren’t sorry. That’s cool. Tell me you’re not sorry and I’ll deal with it. If you are sorry, change your behavior. If I offend you, tell me about it and I’ll try my best to change my behavior if I feel I was in the wrong. Apologies aren’t worthy of accepting or rejecting.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have a lot of friends, then I remember!

Have a wonderful day.

Tom Liberman

Martha Stewart and her Unjust Conviction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman