News Stories, Comments, Trolls, and More

Internet TrollI’ve noticed an interesting trend in my news reading habits. I generally try not to click on and read stories that are of a more puerile interest and stick with science, sports, substantive politics, and the like. The reason I do this is because clicking on a link drives that story’s popularity. The more clicks, the more interest and the news organization moves the story up the list. It’s largely a myth that the news outlets force-feed us stories we don’t care about. They are driven by advertising dollars and more clicks equals more money.

But, that’s not the real reason I’m blogging today. I’ve noticed that the comments section of stories have become of great interest to me for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they are amusing. Another is that it sort of gives me a feeling for how people interpret the story which is a mini-version of polling. I must also admit that I get a perverse joy out of reading particularly stupid comments but, that being said, I do also enjoy thoughtful responses.

There are several interesting dynamics at work in the comments section. One is the phenomenon of trolling. Simply put this is someone going to a particular story or shared discussion region and posting the most inflammatory comment possible. The idea is to provoke an emotional reaction. This in turn spawns a long series of attacks and counter-attacks which amuse the original troll (and me, sometimes).

Another dynamic is the person who genuinely cares about the topic in question and wants to post their own views either in support or against the original article or topic. This is a potentially powerful way of communicating with like-minded people and even convincing open-minded individuals of the validity or invalidity of a point.

Then there are the true-believers. Those who absolutely have faith in a particular point of view and want to post about how stupid the article is or the idiocy of anyone who believes differently.

What I find most fascinating, although not surprising, is that the middle group who want to have an earnest, thought-provoking discussion, are squeezed out. There are a number of efforts to counter this trend including forcing non-anonymous posting as we see in the St. Louis Today website. This does seem to cut down on the more egregious trolls but doesn’t seem to have diminished milder trolling or the true-believers who are happy to expound on how anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot even if their real name is attached to the attack.

I’m not really sure I have a conclusion to this blog. It’s just a fact. It’s sad. I wish people would  not denigrate one another with baseless and mean-spirited attacks but I don’t see an immediate solution.

I suppose it comes down to what it always does; teach children how to think critically. Teach them how to make an argument and avoid fallacies. Teach them civil discourse.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of Fire – Cover Process

Here is the final cover for my new Sword and Sorcery novel, The Hammer of Fire!

My mother finished with the copy-edits yesterday and I’ll be over there tomorrow for Memorial Day. I’ll pick up the changes and finish the book probably by Tuesday and post the novels to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords that day. It usually takes about 48 hours for the books to start appearing on site so I anticipate a release date of Thursday, May 31. I’ll make an announcement then.

In the meantime, here is the finished cover along with the drafts from Raro. It’s fascinating to watch a concept turn into a cover. Raro is an amazing artist!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of FireHammer of Fire Final ColorHammer of FireHammer of Fire First Sketch

The Hammer of Fire – Cover Process

Here is the final cover for my new Sword and Sorcery novel, The Hammer of Fire!

My mother finished with the copy-edits yesterday and I’ll be over there tomorrow for Memorial Day. I’ll pick up the changes and finish the book probably by Tuesday and post the novels to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords that day. It usually takes about 48 hours for the books to start appearing on site so I anticipate a release date of Thursday, May 31. I’ll make an announcement then.

In the meantime, here is the finished cover along with the drafts from Raro. It’s fascinating to watch a concept turn into a cover. Raro is an amazing artist!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of FireHammer of Fire Final ColorHammer of FireHammer of Fire First Sketch

SpaceX and Private Industry

SpaceX Dragon CraftIt was a pretty exciting day yesterday for me and those who follow space exploration closely with the docking of SpaceX’s Dragon craft with the International Space Station (ISS). While perusing the comments below the article I found a great deal of misinformation being bandied about which is something I’ve noted for a while when it comes to President Obama’s plans for low earth exploration.

What I find fascinating about the criticism is that it seems to come largely from those who claim to espouse Libertarian ideals. Obama’s plan, basically, is to rely on private industry (with generous funding from NASA) to provide vehicles to get men and supplies into low earth orbit where the ISS resides. When he announced this budget for 2010 many Republicans immediately denounced it despite the fact that it was one of the president’s few forays into supporting Libertarian ideals. I see these same arguments today now that the plan is successfully coming to fruition.

This sort of behavior angers me. This is the downfall of a nation. When a man who we largely disagree with espouses a plan that is perfectly in line with our ideals we should pat him on the back, support him, tell him congratulations, and then, when the plan works get him to implement more of the same. Instead we see attack after attack aimed not at making the country better but at getting elected.

Getting elected is not more important than doing what is right for the country. I’ll repeat that phrase because it seems as if the voters largely don’t understand it. Doing what is in the best interest of the country is more important than getting elected. When the voters don’t understand this the officials they elect will clearly not either. That’s the point. The politicians aren’t the problem in this country. It’s the voters.

Now, don’t think I’m merely chastising Republicans. Democrats were all aboard Obama’s plan that if presented by President Bush they would have likely denounced. I see not even the faintest glimmer of cooperation towards a better country on capital hill and that reflects our voting habits.

I remember as a young idealistic liberal being very impressed with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program as compared to the get tough prison policy promoted elsewhere. Even then, in my youthful folly, I was able to acknowledge a good idea from someone who I largely disagreed with on most matters. We see how the War on Drugs has worked out. Go Nancy!

So, my plea to you, the voters, is to forget your party. Register Independent, vote Independent.

Go SpaceX and all the other companies propelling us forward into Space and go NASA!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Anti-Hate Hate Critical Thinking Fail

Critical ThinkingIt’s time for another installment of my Critical Thinking Fail series!

This article came across my screen today and I immediately realized it had to come into my blog.

Basically the idea is that a group dedicated to opposing fascist and neo-nazis decided it would be a good idea to attack a group they suspected of fitting into those categories. They arrived at a nice family restaurant in the town of Tinley Park, Il and immediately attacked. Police were called. The restaurant suffered severe damage. Arrests were made. Victims were taken to the hospital.

I’m of the opinion that hating hate-groups isn’t the worst thing in the world to hate but it sort of, by definition, makes you a hate group. I’ve always thought the best strategy was to ignore the lunatic fringe because they thrive on publicity. That’s probably a topic for another day. Tell me what you think in the poll below.

[polldaddy poll=6255585]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of Fire – Available Now!

The Hammer of FireI’m happy to announce the release of my Sword and Sorcery novel, The Hammer of Fire.

Cover art by Raro.


Half-breed dwarf Dol Delius and his friends Milli and Brogus steal the great Hammer of Fire from its sacred resting spot in the halls of the hidden Dwarf citadel of Craggen Steep and head south to find adventure, riches, and fame.

Along the way they travel to Das’von where they hope to meet Corancil, the young conqueror, and join forces for a journey south to the volcanic regions. Once in the southlands they come across the fierce Black Rider who leads the Black Horsemen of The Sands and run afoul his plans to stop Corancil’s armies.

In hot pursuit of the trio are representatives of both the Blackiron and Firefist clans who want to bring the hammer back to Craggen Steep and kill the misfits who stole it. Turmoil bubbles in Craggen Steep from various factions hoping to end the ironfisted rule of the dominant clans and bringing back the hammer seems the only way to prevent revolution in the city.

It all comes to a climax deep on the southern continent where fiery volcanoes are the backdrop for the battle between Dol, the forces of Craggen Steep, and an ancient Fire Elemental from the dawn of time.

The Hammer of Fire is the third sword and sorcery novel in the Tales of Corland Saga.

Purchase Information

AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords: $2.99

Previous Novels

The Staff of Naught at AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords: $2.99

The Staff of Sakatha at AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords: $2.99

Thank you for purchasing and reading! I hope everyone enjoys the books.

Coming Next

The Sword of Water. Jon Gray returns in this epic tale of an ancient sword used to destroy the power of the Elementals. Jon searches for the relic to add to his father’s collection while young prince Jerichi of Cawl comes along to help. Opposed to them is the ancient and beautiful daughter of Gazadum, Eleniak the Golden Flame and her partner Arioch, Prince of Hell.

Website Pages

See more about each of the novels, read sample chapters, and watch videos about the characters and philosophies behind each book.

The Hammer of Fire – The Staff of Naught – The Staff of Sakatha – The Sword of Water

Thematic Elements in the Hammer of Fire

My third book, the Hammer of Fire, will be released within the next two weeks and I go into details about the thematic elements of the book in this YouTube video.

The three main elements are Isolationism, Meritocracy, and the Corrupting Influence of Power. Please take a look at the video and keep an eye on my page to see when the novel is released. It will be priced, as always, at $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook, or any digital device.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Hammer of Fire Cover – Step 4

This is the second to last step in the cover of my new novel, The Hammer of Fire.

The cover is by Raro who also did the cover for my second book, The Staff of Sakatha.

My stalwart editor and proof-reader, mom, is 75% done with her work and I’m about half way through translating her changes to the final product. I’m still on schedule for a release late this month but it might slip a week into next month depending on if mom has time to proof.

Tom LibermanSword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Hammer of Fire Final ColorHammer of Fire
Hammer of Fire First Sketch

The Art of a Molotov Cocktail

Accused TerroristsThere is a big news story hitting today about three anarchists and their alleged plans to attack President’s Obama’s office among other targets. It’s way to early to draw any conclusion but I find myself quickly on the skeptical side of this one. I hope that I’m wrong and that the timely police action saved lives.

The thing about the case that struck me from the very first news stories was the mention of Molotov Cocktail making machinery. Machinery? Really? Don’t you just sort of need a jug of alcohol, some rags, and a lighter?

The criminals also reportedly had a device that could fire mortars, swords, “ninja-like” throwing stars, and trench knives (called brass-knuckle knives in the articles). Assuming the device that could fire mortars was a spud gun the other weapons are actually fairly reminiscent of what my fellow Dungeon and Dragon/Renaissance Fair going friends have laying about their homes.

I’m certainly not saying the alleged criminals are innocent but I’ll continue to follow the case with interest to see what further evidence arises. Others who were not eventually charged were held for 18 hours and some apparently not allowed to use restrooms and verbally abused by the police officers. Now, it is legal to hold someone for various amounts of time, depending on the state, without charge. A lot of this falls under the U.S Constitution Habeas Corpus in Article 1, Section 9 which was not enacted for states until Reconstruction after the Civil War.

However, I do have a problem with people not being allowed to go to the bathroom and police officers being disrespectful to those detained who are not otherwise abusing the officers in question. Again, we don’t know what those others were saying to the officers so it’s impossible to come to any conclusions at this stage of events.

In any case, it is very early in the proceedings but the case caught my eye for a number of reasons. Let me know what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Same-sex Marriage

MarriageI’ve been leading up to this with my History of Marriage and Keep Government out of Marriage columns and now I’m finally going to take the plunge and weigh in on the highly charged issue of same-sex marriage. Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows my Libertarian tendencies and it will come as no surprise that I don’t think the government; federal, state or local, should have more than a minimal opinion on marriage one way or the other.

Still, government cannot allow anyone to marry because there are legal situations that must be addressed. Certainly everyone acknowledges that children must be protected from ill-intentioned adults. Thus we don’t want twelve-year olds being duped into a disadvantageous marriage. There are mentally ill people who can likewise be fooled for a variety of reasons and I do see a need to protect such groups.

The main arguments against same-sex marriage seem to fall into three categories; Slippery slope, marriage as an institution, and religion. I’ll examine each one.

I’ve never been a big fan of slippery slope arguments. The idea is that to allow same-sex marriage is to open the gates to marriage of brothers to sisters and people to animals. I just don’t see it. Firstly, animals have protection in place already that supposedly prevents their abuse although much goes on anyway. As to incest I’m not really sure I care if first cousins get married and it’s certainly legal in a number of states already. These sorts of laws vary from state to state in any case but I don’t see it changing much if same-sex marriages are allowed.

The institution of marriage is the main argument you hear against same-sex marriage and I sort of see a point here. Marriage is ingrained into society and largely a convention for procreation. People get married to have children. With fewer people having children and marriage rates in general decline I’m just not convinced that allowing same-sex couples to marry is going to hurt an already fading institution. But, if this is the main issue for people it seems relatively simple to allow some sort of civil contract that conveys the legal benefits of marriage without calling it marriage. I completely understand that a spouse has rights to make decisions for a medically impaired partner and why same-sex couples would want similar rights. There are a number of issues of this nature that should be addressed. I would have no problem with granting some sort of civil contract that gave the benefits of marriage in this regard but was called something else.

Finally, there are religious arguments and I think these are the most reasonable. I’m sure that surprises people as I’m an Atheist. However, the Constitution of the United States guarantees religious freedom. Marriage has become, like it or not, a religious institution. While Polygyny remains quite common around the world there is little historical evidence for religiously sanctioned same-sex marriage anywhere. I’m not convinced that the federal government is correct to force a particular state to allow same-sex marriage or that even state government should dictate to each county. We have laws that prevent the purchase of alcohol in counties and I don’t really see why a particular county or state shouldn’t ban same-sex marriage because it is against the will of the majority. No state is required to recognize a marriage created in another state although largely they do. The Constitution is silent on the subject of marriage of any kind and should, as far as I’m concerned, remain so.

My conclusion is that if a state or county wants to ban same-sex marriage then it’s within their domain just as it is within their domain to refrain from placing such a ban. If polling is to be trusted this entire issue will fade away into nothingness within one generation as the vast majority of young people seem to not much care if same-sex marriage is legal.

Certainly we already see some states banning and others allowing and this is a good thing. This is one of the founding principles of the United States. Where the Constitution is silent the power belongs to the State and to the People.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Marriage and Government

MarriageAs a moderate Libertarian I find the government’s role in marriage to be a big problem. It is social engineering of the most egregious kind. Sadly, the social engineering is largely promoted by Republicans who claim they hate this sort of thing. Marriage is supposedly “good” for society and thus the government feels the need to pass laws that promote it. With these laws in place it becomes financially, socially, and legally worthwhile to be married rather than to be single.

These legalities are one of the main reasons homosexuals desire the status of marriage in the first place. If the government got out of the marriage business things would improve on a number of fronts. First I’d like to list the ways that people are encouraged to get married rather than stay single.

What are the benefits of being married? Plenty. This article goes into many of them but I’ll try to summarize.

Military spouses get employment benefits, per diem moving expenses, immigration benefits, and property tax relief.

All spouses get increased government benefits from a variety of sources including Medicaid and tax relief from a variety of items including income tax. Spouses get bankruptcy filing benefits, rights to a deceased spouse’s social security, a $100,000 one time payment for spouse killed in line of duty.

Spouses gain rights over children that non-spouses do not have, they get access to hospitals for visiting rights and important medical decisions, alimony, domestic violence intervention, wrongful death claims, adoption benefits, funeral and bereavement leave. I could go on and on here but I think I’ve made my point. The government and the law make it highly beneficial to be married rather than to just shack up.

Another problem is that a marriage isn’t considered legal unless proper protocols are established and certain groups of people are prevented from marrying. I’m not just talking about homosexuals here. Relatives face severe restrictions. Just as an example it is a criminal offense for first cousins to marry in Texas while it is perfectly legal right next door in New Mexico. In England you can’t marry your mother-in-law until your spouse is dead. And of course there are restrictions on the age of an individual who can marry.

I think it would be best if most or all of these laws benefiting a spouse were repealed and if marriage could simply return to a contract between individuals, as it was for most of history, without needing government or clergy approval. Once the majority of benefits for getting married are repealed I think we would see an increase in marriage of people who were more certain of the institution and a decrease in divorce, domestic abuse, and other issues. With such tangible benefits to getting married there is a huge impetus to get married even if the parties are uncertain if this is the best course of action.

Once the government gets out of promoting marriage then it seems to me that people who otherwise would get married when they are unready for such a committment would not get married. Of course, the argument goes that people who don’t marry but live together in essentially a married state without the license are more likely to split. There has always been strong social stigma against a divorced woman dating to ancient times as I discussed yesterday but the emancipation of women through birth control, education, and equal opportunity has really changed the dynamic. I don’t want my discussion to go too far astray here so I’ll come to a quick conclusion.

If government stops trying to promote marriage and if we can grant the same legal benefits to people who engage in some sort of simple marriage contract then I think the institution of marriage will flourish rather than head down its current path where approximately 40% to 60% of new marriages end in divorce. I’m not saying marriage rates will go up, they were around 80% of the population in the 1960’s compared to 45% now but I am suggesting that if we stop trying to socially engineer marriage that the only people who will get married are those who really want it. That has to be good for children, families, spouses, and basically, everyone.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The History of Marriage

MarriageMarriage is in the news a bit lately and I’m going to end my blog vacation with a few posts that I hope will clear up the debate for those of you willing to look at it from a critical perspective. I’m going to start with the origins, history, and general purpose of marriage.

A good start is this article on Wikipedia but I’ll try to summarize.

Marriage has been around for as long as recorded history and certainly seems to date from a time before that. The largest single factor in the concept seems to be that single, sexually active women wreak havoc on society. Sorry ladies. Of course, it’s not really the single, sexually active women wreaking all that havoc; it’s the testosterone fueled monkey-men going bat poop crazy for all those single, sexually active women that causes the trouble. The competition this engenders often turns violent, thus marriage.

There are three main types of marriage throughout history; a single man and a single woman called monogamy, a single man and multiple women called Polygyny, and a single woman and multiple men called Polyandry.

Ancient Israel was a Polygynous society and there are a number of rules set forth in something called the Covenant Code as to how a man is supposed to treat his multiple wives particularly in regard to not mistreating older wives when newer, presumably younger, wives are added. Adultery by a wife, as in most ancient cultures, was a capital punishment.

In Greece and Rome marriage was more of a mutual agreement between two parties rather than a religious or civic ceremony. It wasn’t until around the 300 CE that the Christian clergy took a stronger interest in the concept as an event before god rather than a simple mutual agreement. The state remained uninvolved until around 1545 with the church recording marriages for those who desired records and the state being completely removed from the issue. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that a marriage was not considered legal unless a priest had presided at the event.

In much of Asia and the Middle East marriage was largely an arranged event with Polygyny remaining the most common form until around the 20th century. In many countries it is still perfectly legal to have more than a single wife and the Mormon religion practiced polygyny, which they called Celestial Marriage, from 1830 until 1890. The banning came after a long battle with the U.S. Government which tried to eradicate the practice. When Utah next applied for statehood, in 1896, it was granted.

Biblically marriage is referenced in the Old Testament with Polygyny being the most common form mentioned. Jesus mentions marriage explicitly on several occasions referencing a man and a woman along with monogamy.

In the New Testament there are some restrictions against Polygyny in that particular people; Bishops, Deacons, and Elders must have only one wife. Other people are not instructed as to how many wives they may have and monogamy is never explicitly mentioned.

Biblically marriage seems to be promoted as a way to avoid the sin of sexual congress in an unmarried state. If you can’t maintain celibacy then marriage is required seems to be the message most often mentioned.

Anyway, that’s a quick history of marriage. Tomorrow I’m going to look at marriage from a Libertarian point of view and what I think would be an ideal arrangement.

Tell me what you think.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Hammer of Fire Cover – Step 3

Here are the first three pieces of art on the way to the finished cover for my new novel, The Hammer of Fire.

Artwork by Raro.

I’ll be posting some videos on YouTube soon about the thematic elements of the new book and the important characters. Go here to see videos of my previous books.

Release date later this month!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Hammer of FireHammer of Fire First Sketch