Race, Religion, Geography and Chris Soules

chris soulesNot long ago a fellow by the name of Chris Soules smashed his truck into the rear end of a tractor and killed the driver. He then fled the scene and was arrested later that evening after refusing to come in voluntarily. Soules is a minor celebrity having participated in the television show, The Bachelor. He was a man of strong Christian faith. He is a Caucasian. He lived in a rural community in Iowa.

While reading the comments from a relative of the victim, it struck me how willing people were to find an excuse for Soules. He didn’t flee the scene, was merely driving away to go get help. That sort of thing. It’s clear to me people would not have been fooling themselves with irrational explanations if Soules had been of a darker skin color, from a city rather than rural environment, and if he didn’t express belief in Jesus as his savior.

I’m not pulling the racism card, the religion card, or the geography card. I’m just stating what I think is obvious fact. If Soules was black, a city dweller, and a Muslim; most people would not be looking to exonerate him. They would be laying down the blame, insisting on putting him in jail, throwing away the key.

We have perceptions of people in our minds because of these external things that, while not valid, drive our reaction to their deeds.

Let’s imagine we are going to a movie that received rave review. We’re excited, we think it’s going to be great, and our expectations are high. The movie is merely good. We come away disappointed. On the other hand, if the movie got awful reviews and we expected it to be bad; we come away elated. That wasn’t bad at all. I enjoyed it. That’s the affect expectations have upon us and there is nothing wrong with that. That’s reality.

However, this is where critical thinking, pragmatism, and being a decent human being come into play. Yes, we have expectations but it’s important to overcome those expectations and treat each situation as the facts dictate. If the movie was fairly entertaining but not great, then that’s what it was. That’s how you should describe it to friends when they ask you about it.

It’s not looking great for Soules. He wasn’t seeking help when he drove away from the crime. The police had to seek him out and execute a warrant on him. One of the main reasons people flee a vehicular accident is to cleanse their system of alcohol or other capacity diminishing drugs. Some five hours passed after the accident before Soules was arrested.

The accident was almost certainly just that. However, if he was driving under the influence when it happened and fled to avoid testing, then he is guilty of a terrible crime, regardless of race, religion, and geography.

Check your expectations at the door.

Tom Liberman

Legislating Job Interview Questions Hoping for Gender Pay Equality

gender payThere are a number of cities and states considering legislation barring interviewers from asking you questions about your last or current salary. Some have already implemented it. This is being done in an effort to eliminate gender pay inequality. The basic idea is that women are paid less than men, and this particular question contributes to that problem.

I’m not going to get mired into a discussion about pay equality for women because it’s a complex topic. There are arguments that such inequalities do not exist, and other arguments indicating they do. What I’d like to discuss is if the proposed solution is going to solve the problem, and what sort of ancillary issues it will engender.

The idea is that a woman who is currently being paid less money than her male counterpart won’t have to reveal her salary, and thus an employer will offer her the standard amount given to a man. There are a number of problems with this plan.

A woman doesn’t have to accept a lower salary offer initially. She could easily say no.

If an employer doesn’t have any idea of previous salary, then she or he is probably going to lowball to start off. This could result in exactly the opposite of the desired outcome. The employee might well accept this initial offer.

Such laws are an attempt to protect people from themselves and, as a Libertarian, I’m almost always opposed to legislation of this nature. It is up to the employee to know their value and negotiate for a better salary. When we try to legislate things like this, we create a false sense of security. An employee is under the impression they are protected, when they are not. A potential employee in that situation might well be more vulnerable to being underpaid.

Let’s also take a moment to examine the unintended damage such legislation might cause. Mainly, the employer is less able to judge the potential employee. By understanding the prospect’s current salary, the employer can make various value judgments. The employer might make mistakes in their hiring process without this information. They might hire the wrong person and that can be extremely damaging to a business, particular a small business.

Finally, there is the idea this information is no longer as secret as it once was in this world. There was a time when no one really knew what anyone else was making. People kept that information secret. In this modern world with internet connectivity, people are much more aware of what their counterparts within a business and in similar positions with other companies are earning.

Nowadays, a business is much more likely to post basic salary information with every job opening. The potential employee is far better equipped with information than at any time in the history of the world. This means the part of the problem we are trying to fix, women getting offered a lower salary based on previous remuneration and not knowing it is a lowball offer, doesn’t really exist.

I know my opinion is going to cause certain people to shove me into particular categories and that’s up to them. What I want to be clear about is my feeling on wages. People should be paid based on their work. Sex, religion, disability, and all those other supposed factors don’t have much of a role in salary determination.

In summation, the fix doesn’t really solve the gender pay issue and could potentially cause other problems. Don’t do it.

Tom Liberman

Dancing with the Stars and Democracy

dancing with the starsThere was an enormous surprise in the television show Dancing with the Stars when the competitors who turned in arguably the best performance of the evening, were eliminated. The determination of which dancers remained is combination of judge’s rating and fan voting. The events of the other evening give us insight into the workings of a true democracy, and it ain’t always pretty.

Exactly why the viewing audience was not enamored with Heather Morris and Maksim Chmerkovskiy is open to speculation. The reality is that they were not. Despite performing exceptionally well according to the judges, they received the smallest percentage of the popular vote and were eliminated.

This is democracy in action. When the people vote for something you’re generally not going to see the most qualified candidate win.

Here in my hometown of St. Louis there used to be a yearly Best Of … article in a local publication. The Best Italian Restaurant. The Best Athlete. The results were eventually so out of touch with reality that the publication turned the decision over to a panel of experts. Wise move.

If you sit any random group of people down at a table and present them with a tasting of wines, they will choose something sweet and awful. I’m not saying their vote is invalid, it’s accurate. Most people like sweet wine because they don’t have a palate accustomed to the more complex flavors of a rich wine.

If a random group of people sat down and was asked about their favorite restaurant, we’d likely see a mid-level chain get the most votes.
That’s democracy and that’s why the Founding Father’s didn’t establish one. I could say a lot about it but I’ll go with one of my favorite quotes from a fellow named John Witherspoon: “Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state – it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.”

One result of the vote on Dancing with the Stars was, arguably, the best dancers were eliminated. A second outcome is the dancers people really want to see, continue on. Therein lies the beauty of democracy. Fans of the show get a chance to have their input determine winners.

In a democracy, we get what we want.

There are places in this world where a democracy is certainly a reasonable method to determine things, Dancing with the Stars is one of those places.

The results are plain for all to see. So, you tell me; where else do you think we should let a large group of people make decisions by voting?

Tom Liberman

Turkey and the Dangers of Foreign Entanglements

George Washington Foreign EntanglementsWe’ve been warned about foreign entanglements but no one is listening and we haven’t been for a long time.
Recep Erdogan is the President of Turkey and one of the key players in the Middle East. On April 16, 2017, the nation voted Erdogan broad executive powers as the leader of Turkey and replaced the existing Parliamentary System. Shortly thereafter he attacked Kurdish and Syrian forces who are in alliance with U.S. interests.

Turkey is an important ally to the United States in this region. We have a strategically important military base at Incirlik. There are about fifty nuclear weapons stored at that base.

This attack is a message to President Trump although the exact meaning is not easy to decipher. Perhaps it signals a shift in allegiance toward Russia. Certainly, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, well understands the strategic importance of Turkey and has been working to improve relations between the two countries.

Turkey has a long and violent history with its Kurdish population. The Kurds strongly desire independence from Turkey, and other neighboring countries, where their population primarily resides. These Kurdish forces, the YPG, have been some of the most effective fighters against ISIS in the region and the United States has backed them to some degree.

That they desire their own nation is without question. This territory would come primarily from lands claimed by Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. If these forces are successful in destroying ISIS they will certainly annex at least some of the territory so captured. This is something that Erdogan must consider in his own policies. The Kurds currently have a government in northern Iran largely independent of that country.

Turkey doesn’t like ISIS but they don’t like the YPG either, this despite the fact that the Kurds have been effectively leading the fight against the Islamic State. President Assad of Syria is an ally of the YPG as they help him with the Syrian rebels.

To say the issues are complex is to put it mildly.

What message is Erdogan sending when he bombs United States allies? It’s impossible to say but I do think of George Washington and his advice about foreign entanglements. Foreign nations have their own best interest in mind in regards to policy decisions. Whether said nation is an ally or an enemy, the leaders are not doing what is in the best interest of the United States. The leaders are making decisions that will best position their own nations.

Washington reminded us in his Farewell Address to avoid foreign entanglements for many of the reasons that are on stark display in the Syrian Civil War. We’ve seen this so many times before. We supported the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were fighting our enemies. We essentially overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and we’ve been embroiled in that mess ever since.

Will we never learn?

The situation in Syria is incredibly complex with any number of factions allying or fighting one another from one moment to the next. Any force we back today could well be our enemy tomorrow.

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Tom Liberman

The Sad Message of Ann Coulter and Berkeley

ann-coulterThere’s been an ongoing situation with a woman named Ann Coulter who was invited to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. The lesson to be learned is that those who promulgate violence can sometimes win. It’s an important lesson to learn for those of us who preach tolerance and the peaceful exchange of ideas.

The reason Coulter eventually had to cancel her speech was because of the threat of violence. That threat largely comes from two ideologically motivated groups that don’t much care about Coulter or whose side she represents. They want violence and travel around the country looking to instigate it.

I’m a Libertarian and well acquainted with these two groups.

One is the Anarchists. Some of them call themselves Libertarian and I get to read their anti-government, anti-globalization nonsense on websites I frequent. They are angry, irrational, and extremely violent. You can spot them in a crowd wearing black with a stylized A symbol somewhere on their clothes.

The second is the White Nationalists. I’m familiar with them because they post racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic comments on Libertarian websites hoping to find those of a like mind. They are angry, irrational, and extremely violent. You can spot them in a crowd wearing a swastika on their clothes.

They are spoiling for the fight because it gets them publicity. They get to be on the news and they love battling each other. They find locations where their counterparts are protesting and immediately instigate a brawl. They have goggles and other equipment designed to defeat police suppression. They avoid carrying weapons and firearms knowing law enforcement officers will simply gun them down.

Between them they are far outnumbered by the rational and reasonable; however, they make up for it with violent fervor. There are plenty of people on the both sides who might not agree with Coulter, or a speaker from the other side, but are more than willing to promote civil discourse.

It’s important for those people to come together and sponsor talks from speakers like Coulter. Not just from one side but from both. The extreme right and left, frankly I don’t think there’s much difference between the two, benefit from the breakdown of civility. The losers are the moderates, those willing to listen and compromise.

The violent-prone extremes hope to bait us moderates into combat. They yell terrible things and posture angrily, hoping for a reply that will allow them to unleash their rage. And, of course, they love seeing their supposed opposites protesting nearby. The violence they desire is all but ensured.

The bad news is that Coulter eventually cancelled her speech because the moderates that invited her in the first place realized the lunatics on both sides were hoping to use the event to engage in violence.

Berkeley itself tried to accommodate the speech by moving it to a place better controlled by law enforcement officers. That was an excellent step forward by the University but it was not enough.

In order to stop the march of violence promoted by the extremes, people on opposite sides of the debate must come together. Those who oppose Coulter should try to make arrangements for her to speak safely at Berkeley. Those ideologically in line with Coulter should invite someone from the other side to speak as their guest.

Work together to promote civil discourse, engage in a dialectic with those opposed to us, band together against violence. These are the ways forward. These are the methods required to defeat the irrational and violent.

It is extraordinarily important to defeat those who promulgate rage and violence as a political means. Understand that rage and violence can win. Act accordingly.

Tom Liberman

Cheese Rolling and the Modern World

cheese rollingI just learned about a wonderful little festival called the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake held in England in spring. The event involves rolling a nine-pound round of Double Gloucester cheese down a steep hill. A group of pursuers tumble after, hoping to be the first to reach the bottom and get the prize, the cheese.

The tradition has continued for many years but the modern world of litigation recently intruded in a fashion that I find quite interesting. Prior to 2010 the event was run in what is called a semi-organized way. Basically, the same group of people got things ready and monitored the event but didn’t really have an official role in doing so.

This became an impossibility as crowds to the rolling grew larger and the possibility of liability raised an ugly specter over the organizers. The event itself is dangerous, often times competitors are seriously injured as they fall while in pursuit of the cheese. The cheese itself attains high speed as it tumbles down the hill and spectators are at risk. With larger crowds came the need for spectator control. Boundaries had to be marked to make sure people weren’t trampled.

These dangers are not made up. They are quite real and the organizers faced no small financial risk for running the event without the proper safety measures. In 2010, there was an attempt to restrict entry by charging a fee and other rules were put in place to keep the crowd under control. These measures met a great deal of hostility from the people of the town, and eventually the organizers had to simply throw up their hands and disavow themselves.

Since then, the event has occurred spontaneously with no official organization. This means if something happens there is no specific entity to sue. Some people will find this a sad commentary on the state of the world. That we can’t even have a nice little cheese rolling competition without risking financial disaster through lawsuit.

Not that many years ago people could gather like this for an event and if some tragedy occurred, there would be general sadness but no call for financial remedies. Those days are gone for good or for ill. If a child is trampled, if a spectator falls and breaks a hip, if the course isn’t properly marked and someone is seriously injured, if any number of accidents occur; there will be lawsuits. That’s reality. We can’t deny it.

I don’t begrudge the former organizers their desire to abandon the event and I don’t blame the contestants for continuing it in an open fashion. I would imagine, as the event becomes ever more popular, some formal organization will have to come in and take control. That being said, there is something about a bunch of people coming together and having some fun that warms the heart of this Libertarian.

Just a bunch of folks having a good time chasing cheese. If a few legs are broken or an ankle sprained, that’s the way of it. Ambulances are standing by, but lawyers are not.

Tom Liberman

Jeff Sessions, Hawaii, Stupidity, and Humor

jeff sessionsI wasn’t planning on writing about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his comment about being amazed that a judge in Hawaii could put a hold on an Executive Order. Then he tried to pass the entire thing off as a joke, complaining that no one has a sense of humor any more.

So, anyway, now I’m going to comment. This strategy of covering up for a stupid statement by pretending you are joking is a clear indicator of lack of character. Sessions said something stupid in two ways. He referred to Hawaii as an island in the pacific as if that made if somehow less of a state, then he stated amazement over a point of law that he should well understand, he being the top law-enforcement officer in the United States.

If Sessions parents had taught him a little something called personal responsibility he would have handled his statement differently. He would have admitted that the word amazed was improperly used. Perhaps he doesn’t like the fact that we have a system of checks and balances in the United States but he certainly should not be amazed by it. He was also clearly making a derogatory statement about Hawaii and the judge in question. He should have apologized. That’s what a man of character would do.

It’s not up to me to speak for Sessions. He can speak for himself. However, I do get to judge a person by their words. Again, the original statement was rude and he probably misused the word amazed. I’m angered by his trying to pretend he didn’t make a mistake at all. That he didn’t insult the state of Hawaii.

I said something wrong, insulting, and stupid. To cover up this fact, I’ll pretend I was telling a joke. Shame on you for not having a sense of humor. Nope, not shame on me. Shame on you for a complete lack of personal responsibility.

This seems to be the standard way people excuse their mistakes these days. Well, it’s not really a mistake, I was just telling a joke, and it’s your fault for not getting the joke. I hear it all the time in conversations with friends, the highest levels of political discourse, from various media sources, sports figures, and on and on.

The attempt is to change the course of the conversation away from your misstatement. Rather than admit a mistake, it’s better to attack your opponent with whatever weapon you have available. Accusing someone of not having a sense of humor forces them onto the defensive. I do too have a sense of humor. I like to laugh. Suddenly we’re no longer talking about the original statement. We’re talking about my lack of humor.

It would be pleasant if people had the character to admit mistakes. It’s one of the most telling things you can learn about someone. When they make a mistake, do they admit it or do they attempt to cover it up by accusing you of lack of humor? You can’t change them. Sessions is the man he is, there is nothing I can do about it. The only person I can change is me. I now understand Sessions is the sort of fellow who won’t admit a mistake.

Good to know.

Tom Liberman

Faith Healers in Idaho and the Law

Faith HealersThere are a number of people in the United States who don’t believe in seeking medical attention because they think such efforts should be left to a divine being. These Faith Healers die quite frequently and so do their children. That’s where we run into a difficult situation involving the Constitution of the United States and the obligation of government to protect children.

If a legally capable adult foregoes medical treatment, there is nothing to be done about it. Faith Healers base their actions on religious beliefs. In the United States the government is not allowed to interfere in such cases. However, children are not legally capable of making their own decisions. If a parent is physically, mentally, or emotionally harming a child; they are generally breaking laws.

In many states, it is possible to intervene in a situation where a child’s life is being endangered by withholding medication, but not in Idaho, where I went to college. Many of the people in western states, including Idaho, strongly believe in individual liberty. I wrote a blog not long ago about how one of the most important lessons I learned while at the University of Idaho was avoiding interfering in another person’s business. It’s not right to tell them how to live. Thus, is not surprising Faith Healers have legal protection in the state.

Any metric based study of modern medicine indicates, without a doubt, medical intervention saves many lives. Many of the children and adults who die in the families of Faith Healers would still be alive today if they were treated.

Where does Idaho have an obligation to step in? Where should we mind our own business? Is it proper to stand by and watch a child die when they most likely could be saved with medical intervention? Is it proper to allow families to treat their children as they see fit?

Much as it pains me to say, I think the state should stay out of these situations. The children have no say into what family they are born into and their fate is avoidable and terrible. The onus for their death falls not on the state, not on me, but on their guardians who chose not to seek medical care. Horrible as it is.

One would hope that children who survive in such a family, who witness their siblings’ avoidable death, would choose to leave such a religion. That eventually no one would believe in Faith Healing and no children would die unnecessary deaths. Sadly, their death is the price of liberty, of freedom. It’s a terrible and painful price. An awful price for children who had no say in the matter. I do not deny this.

It’s not always easy to believe in individual liberty when the people practicing it are incredibly stupid. When this stupidity results in the death of their children.

Tom Liberman

Whoppers, Wikipedia, and Google oh My!

whoppersThere are a lot of people angry about a clever advertising campaign created by Burger King for Whoppers that uses our connected technology in an innovative way. I’m not as upset as everyone else, I think it’s pretty cool. Heavy-handed certainly, but it demonstrates possibilities.

What the executives at 3G Capital, owners of Burger King, authorized was a combined arms attack. The technologically savvy among us know that many people have devices that respond to voice commands. The executives authorized an advertising campaign that starts with the phrase, “Ok Google.” This command triggers anyone’s android device to assume it is the target of the communication. The advertisement then asks, “What is the Whopper Burger?”. This further prompts the device to search Wikipedia for Whopper Burger.

Staff writers at 3G Capital had prepared for the advertisement by editing the Wikipedia page to include an ingredient list for the Whopper.
Most of the world – Horror.

Me – Coolio!

The basic idea is strong. Advertisers are trying to reach their intended target. The person who owns the electronic device suddenly sees a picture of a mouth-watering Whopper on the screen. Some of them investigate the ingredient list, a few are hungry, and some small percentage head on over to Burger King to get some food.

There are problems here. The usurpation of someone else’s device and the editing of your own content on Wikipedia. If the advertisers had simply shown a little more deftness, all would have been fine.

The advertisement should have instructed the user to ask their device about the new and wonderful Whopper. 3G Capital should have released information about their product publicly and waited for the Wikipedia page to be updated organically. Basically, have a person monitoring the Wikipedia page until the desired change appears, then release the advertisement.

This strategy allows advertisers to reach their target audience and, this is the important thing, those who want to eat the new Whopper are made aware of its existence before they normally might have been. I can certainly think of a few improvements to this strategy right off the top of my head. Direct users to the website where a coupon resides, show the Wikipedia page on your device to servers at Burger King for the next hour and get a free Whopper with your purchase, I’m certain creative people can come up with more such ideas.

There is a lot of anti-advertisement sentiment in the world but there is nothing wrong with making people aware of a product they wish to purchase. No one buys anything under some sort of hypnotic spell engendered by the advertisement. We have laws against false advertising and that’s a good thing.

I love that targeted advertisement is aware of my search habits and offers me up choices that match said queries. I’ve been alerted to any number of price discounts through this sort of direct marketing. I see nothing wrong with a business informing their consumers of various products that might be of interest.

When I browse Facebook, I don’t see advertisements for women’s products. Why? I’m not a woman. I’m not interested in such things. It benefits us all when advertisements are targeted, both company and individual.

Sure, this foray was a bit brutish, but it’s a sign of things to come. I say that in a good way.

Tom Liberman

Mortgage Relief Scams and Why Lawyers are Good

lawyersThere is never a shortage of people trying to figure out ways to take your valuables and lawyers are your ally. The financial crisis from a few years ago created a large group of people who needed mortgage relief. These people fell far behind in the mortgage payments and became vulnerable targets.

While the mortgage crisis has largely abated, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people who remain in financial trouble. These people go to lawyers in an attempt to restructure their loans and obtain financial relief. The problem is that lawyers give good advice. This means there are no miracle fixes. Scammers, on the other hand, are not in the same way restricted. They offer fixes that are too good to be true.

Sadly, desperate people are vulnerable.

In full disclosure, I come from a family of lawyers. My father, uncle, brother, sister, cousins, and others make their money in the legal profession. I have always held lawyers in high esteem. I’ve seen my father and other family members help people out of terrible situations. There is, unfortunately, a large segment of society that does not feel the same way about lawyers as do I.

People love a good lawyer joke, and there is a general perception that lawyers are out to scam people from their money. I’m not denying there are unethical lawyers in this world, but one of the first things scammers will ask you to do is fire your current lawyer. People are often willing to do this because their legal bills are piling up and the resolution offered by the scammer has the appearance of easily solving the debtor’s issues.

Once you are without proper legal representation you are in trouble. The same goes for many situations in life. If you find a reputable lawyer you will have to pay for legal services, and that isn’t cheap. It might seem like a better idea to try and work your way out of issues without a lawyer but that way leads to danger.

The average person doesn’t have the ability to read a legal document and understand what they are signing. When you are presented with a complex document that promises to fix all of whatever financial troubles you are facing, it’s far better to pay a lawyer than to risk total disaster.

I’m well aware that a charge of potential thousands of dollars for someone already in financial distress is a painful price to pay. That it’s pretty easy to tell yourself you don’t need a lawyer. That’s one of the things scammers count on. They know their victim is vulnerable and can be convinced to forego sound legal advice. That’s when they have you.

There are many great lawyers out there who help people in financial distress. They’ll setup a payment plan that will be painful. They’ll help find a way for you to move forward although it won’t be pleasant. The old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true is as accurate today as it was in the past. Perhaps even more so.

If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation my advice is simple. Find a good lawyer.

Tom Liberman

Bill O’Reilly and why Money Matters

bill-oreillyThe slow unraveling of the career of Bill O’Reilly has an important lesson for everyone. Money matters. At least that’s the angle I’d like to examine.

O’Reilly made a lot of money for a great many people including himself. O’Reilly’s top rated show generated enormous income for Fox News but also for the advertisers. They weren’t spending tens of millions on his show for no reason. Everyone who worked at Fox and far beyond benefited from the ripple effect of his money printing machine. Camera operators, commercial actors, executives, other personalities at Fox, the list is almost endless.

That’s why it took so long for Fox to finally fire O’Reilly. Imagine O’Reilly was a simple camera operator. How many incidents with women would it have taken for him to get fired? I think we all know the answer to that one. How many people would have risen up in support of O’Reilly under those circumstances? Again, we all know the answer to this question.

We can lament this situation all we want. We can complain about the extra chances someone in O’Reilly’s position gets, the opportunities many others would not, but reality must be considered. Someone who is generating huge amounts of money will almost universally get the benefit of any doubt and even be allowed to continue long past the point of uncertainty.

I think it can be argued that simply being in the position O’Reilly was in encourages the sort of behavior in which he engaged. If you are immediately punished for wayward behavior then you just don’t get an opportunity to repeat it, you’ve been fired.

There are lessons to be learned for those who have a pragmatic mind. Sure, the ideologically motivated will attempt to lay blame on one group or the other but that’s really beyond the point. The reality is people who generate a lot of revenue are going to get more chances than those who do not.

If someone in a position of power does something reprehensible to you, you might want to seek financial rewards rather than taking the high ground. No matter your principles, the person who wronged you is going to avoid consequences, at least for a while, until multiple allegations begin to pile up.

Certainly, you should report the situation to whatever authority you can but if nothing is being done about it, you must be a pragmatist. Get out of there as quickly as your legs can carry you, like Megyn Kelly. The old adage about life giving you lemons has validity in today’s world.
There are people like O’Reilly everywhere in this world and they often crush those who get in their way. They don’t hesitate to use their wealth and power to get away with many terrible things. That’s the lesson. Don’t let yourself be crushed. Understand that life is extraordinarily unfair. That many times you’ll be in the right but won’t be rewarded for it, you might even be punished.

The final lesson to consider is your own behavior. If you find yourself in a position of power, a place where you are allowed to get away with things, don’t do it. Take the high road, you’re the only one with the option to do so.

Tom Liberman

Can an ICBM be Intercepted?

ICBMI’m of the opinion the general belief of people is that the United States is currently capable of intercepting Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). That such attacks heading toward our country from an enemy like China, North Korea, or Russia can be stopped.

The U.S. military has certainly claimed, via the Missile Defense Agency, that such interceptions are completely possible. To date, tests against ballistic missiles have been fairly unsuccessful. In controlled environments, the interceptions have been successful only sporadically. These tests don’t include all the variables of a real attack.

The Israeli Arrow system has been proven effective against Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM) and that’s a good thing. However, such missiles are moving at significantly lower speed than ICBMs.

The reality is somewhat disturbing. ICBMs are coming in at a speed of around seven kilometers per second. This velocity means any intercepting device has to calculate the course of the incoming attack, pass the information to a computer, analyze an interception path, and implement said path very quickly. Perhaps too quickly.

There are absolute laws in this world, the laws of physics. I’m not a mathematician and I also don’t want to underestimate human ingenuity. That being said, it seems likely to me that such an intercept might well be impossible. I’m not saying we should stop attempting to create a system that intercept such attacks, I’m just suggesting that we understand the difficulties involved and the fact that, currently, such attacks cannot be thwarted with any reliability.

I think it is important in our decision-making process to understand these facts. If our leaders, military commanders, and even the general population is under the impression we can stop such attacks, then we are likely to engage in activity that risk them.

Reality is sometimes unkind. It’s wonderful to imagine we can intercept ICBM attacks and prevent nuclear devastation. It’s even nicer to imagine that if we can’t do so today, with a lot of hard work and dedication, we will be able to do so in the future.

I think it’s entirely possible that it is physically impossible to prevent an ICBM attack on our country. That no matter how hard we work at it and how much money we spend on the problem, we will never be able to do so.

I certainly hope I’m wrong. It would be wonderful if a defensive umbrella could be created to prevent any country from using ICBMs on another country. Nuclear devastation is a bad thing. We shouldn’t want to use nuclear weapons on another country and obviously, we hope they are unable to do so to us.

An unpleasant reality is that we cannot currently prevent an ICBM attack on our country. This being the case, we need to base our political policies upon this fact. Anything else is foolish.

Tom Liberman

Investor Bombs Borussia Dortmund Bus

Borussia-Dortmund-BombIt wasn’t a sports fan. Go figure. The desire for money rather than sporting ideology drove an investor to attack the Borussia Dortmund football club’s bus as they were driving to a match with Monaco in what is called the Champion’s League.

The bomber attempted to misdirect authorities by leaving terrorist-like notes in the hopes that Islamic radicals would be implicated in the attack. Instead it was merely an investor who hoped publicly traded shares of the team would drop after he purchased a large number of options. Had the shares gone down, he would have realized a large profit.

All of this is reprehensible, but I’d like to take a moment to discuss why this sort of thing hasn’t happened to sports teams or players in the past.

Why don’t fans attack athletes of opposing teams? Why don’t they attack the team bus? Why hasn’t some crazed Chicago Cubs fan attacked players for the St. Louis Cardinals? Or vice-versa?

I’m of the opinion it’s inherent in the very nature of sport. Sport is better than religion, better than politics, better than wealth. People kill and maim each other in the name of these things all the time. But they don’t when it comes to sporting events. Yes, fans fight one another, but the athletes are left alone.

It’s no coincidence that sport is about as close to an example of a Libertarian Utopia as we have in this world. The better athlete plays. The better team wins. If you are good at kicking the ball; it doesn’t matter what you look like, what your politics, what god you worship, your gender, your age, the color of your skin, your nationality, or any of the other superficial things that falsely divide us.

I may hate the Cubs, really, when you think about it, everyone should. I certainly agonize when my beloved Cardinals lose. I rage against the other team and their misguided fans. I’m equally certain such fans feel the same way about me. But no one does the obvious and violently attacks the star players of other teams.

In an open system where everyone is allowed to compete fairly, frustration does not arrive at the fever pitch of violence. In politics, particularly in repressive regimes, there is a sense of hopelessness. In sport, anyone can win. It’s just a matter of managing your team and the game properly.

The reason the Cubs won the World Series is because they built a better team. They played better baseball. There is nothing to prevent the Cardinals from doing the same. I have no need to resort to violence.

If we had a world where the best individuals and businesses succeeded without interference, I think we’d see the same deficiency of violence prevail. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Tom Liberman

If you Like Sports you’re not a Capitalist

capitalist-sportsI’m a Libertarian and there is not much about socialism I find enticing as a political philosophy. I also like football. Finally, I’m a realist. Sports organizations exist today almost completely as a conglomerate of policies that can only be described as socialistic and communistic.

Drafts are one of the most anti-capitalistic entities that exist in the western world. Imagine if young college students were drafted upon graduation by a particular corporate entity, their salary was predetermined by some equation, and they were unable to negotiate with anyone else. Should they choose not to sign with the company that drafted them, they could not sell their skills elsewhere for one full year, upon conclusion of which they were back in the same situation, hoping to be drafted by a company for whom they wanted to work. Yikes.

The process young high school students endure is slightly better. They can at least choose which college to whom they sell their services. However, once that letter of commitment is signed, it’s a different story. They are largely stuck. If they want to leave, their boss must approve of the school they transfer to and even then, they must sit out for a full year. And, of course, they can’t negotiate their salary.

Everyone on the team earns exactly the same amount. From the star quarterback to the third string strong safety, not that I’m picking on safeties, they all get room, board, and tuition. That, dear readers, is communism.

The amount of money each team in the NFL, NBA, and NHL is allowed to spend on salary is strictly controlled by rules. No one can spend as much as they want, each team is limited to the same value. This means each player gets remunerated at a rate that fits into a predetermined structure rather than a fully capitalistic system.

A portion of the total amount of money each team earns over the course of the season is subject to division and split among all the teams in the league equally.

Can you imagine such a system anywhere except sports? The thought is horrifying, but we accept it without thought when it comes to the various leagues. The structure is different from league to league but it is fairly similar from one to the next.

The alternative is to treat athletes like everyone else. Every school and team can offer whatever incentives they want to each player. You’re a star eight-grade basketball player? Perhaps a top school in another state wants you. Maybe they’ll move your family to a nearby home and pay you. How is that bad for the athlete?

At the end of the college season each player is free to negotiate with every professional team and arrive at a contract that is acceptable to all parties. How can that be bad for the players?

Yes, the wealthy high schools, colleges, and professional teams will get all the best athletes. That’s how a business succeeds in this world, they get the most talented players.

We must consider personal gain as well. The second-best running back would almost certainly sign with a different team than the best running back for the opportunity to play more. Teams would have to manage their expenditures within their economic means.

I have no illusions that such a system will ever be implemented for athletics across the country. I don’t deny that almost everyone reading this will call me an idiot, and they won’t hesitate to tell me why. However, in addition to being a Libertarian, I’m a dreamer. Maybe one day we’ll have a system designed to benefit the individual. That’s my dream at least.

Tom Liberman

Why does C.B. Bucknor have a Job?

c-b-bucknorThere’s a lot of uproar in baseball over an umpire named C.B. Bucknor who has a long history of making terrible calls and he hasn’t disappointed this season. What I’d like to discuss is the idea that no matter what sort of job you perform, someone is the worst at it. When is it time to give up and let go of that person?

Let’s accept the idea that Bucknor is the absolute worst at his job in the Major Leagues. Why hasn’t he been replaced? Should he be replaced?

It’s not as easy a question to answer as you might imagine. The first thing you have to evaluate is if there is someone better that can step in and do the job. This is not always apparent but must be determined. If you put someone even worse than Bucknor in his place, you certainly haven’t solved the problem.

The second question to ask yourself is what sort of potential for improvement is there with Bucknor? I think it goes without saying that someone new to a job won’t have as much skill as another person with much more experience. That someone with little training won’t do a job as well as someone who spent a lot of time practicing. We don’t want to fire people immediately without evaluating their potential.

The next thing to take into account is something called loyalty. I know that sounds strange, but it’s actually an important consideration. Has Bucknor performed better in the past? Has he been loyal to us? If the answer is yes, then it is often times a good thing to return such loyalty.

The rest of your employees will see this loyalty and return it down the road should you make a mistake. If you simply fire a loyal employee at their first mistake, future employees certainly take this into account. Would you want to work for someone who shows no loyalty? Being disloyal reduces your pool of eligible candidates.

There is also the idea of creating an environment of fear. If the league fires umpires after a few mistakes, that creates such a workplace. This not a healthy place to work. If you are afraid of making mistakes, rather than simply doing your job, you are much more likely to err.

Finally, you must consider contracts. You cannot break such binding legal documents. If the employee has a contract through their union or other agent, then you must gather the proper evidence in order to fire that person. Otherwise you risk legal issues.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Bucknor has proven his incompetence for long enough that a young umpire should be brought in as a replacement. I’m certain I don’t know all the answers to the questions I’ve posed above, but I think it’s high time Bucknor was sent on his way.

It’s easy to see an egregious error, or multiple such mistakes, and demand a firing. We sports fans are notoriously quick to call for replacements in such situations.

Before you do, just take a moment to think about all the reasons why Bucknor might still have a job.

Tom Liberman

The Irony of Congress Being Upset by Tax Debt

tax-debtThe United States is owed about $138 billion of tax debt by millions of taxpayers who never sent in their checks. That’s a lot of money and Congress has tried to collect it on numerous occasion. It strikes me as ironic that Congress is so angry about people who can’t pay their bills. You see, the reason Congress desperately needs the money is because they themselves can’t pay their bills.

Congress recently passed some legislation that allows third party companies to collect that debt with a twenty-five percent collector’s fee. This is the third-time Congress has tried to recover this tax debt and each time it ends up being a money losing endeavor.

These attempts at hiring private collectors have completely failed because the biggest share of the money owed is attributed to people living on or near the poverty line, they just can’t afford to pay.

It’s true the uncollected tax debt Congress is trying to recoup amounts to only a tiny percent of what is owed. It’s true that most of the debt is basically uncollectable. It’s true every dollar collected is money taken out of the economy which would otherwise be spent on food, rent, or other items. A lot of people are writing about these things.

That being said, I’d just like to wax poetic about the irony of it all. Congress has now driven the United States into a nearly $20 trillion hole.

Why would anyone willingly pay money into this black pit of debt? Congress has shown complete irresponsibility in spending your tax dollars and now is irate that you are getting a little bit tired of paying? They want to send debt collectors after you?

How about someone sends some debt collectors after Congress? Would you be all that upset if you found out angry and forceful debt collection agencies were calling member of Congress and their families every day? If they declared in no uncertain terms they needed to see payment on that debt? Hey, bub. It’s been a while since your last payment, think you can go without that sporty new F35?

I understand that the United States is paying interest on their debt and the two situations are not analogous. Still, I can’t be the only one who finds this situation borders on the ridiculous. It’s like some sort of situation comedy. A criminal accosts you and steals all your money, spends it foolishly, and then is angry because when she or he tries to rob you again, you’re broke.

We’re not only dealing with people who just can’t afford to pay their taxes, we’ve created an environment where people consider paying their taxes simply contributing to an out of control spendthrift. Why should I give money to you when you’re just going to spend it unwisely?
If the government spent our money with some care, it seems to me that we might have less uncollected tax money. I’d certainly be happier about paying my taxes if I thought it was being wisely used and I don’t think I’m alone.

Ah, the irony of it all.

Tom Liberman

Starling Marte Suspension and the Reality of Cheating

starling-martePittsburgh Pirate outfielder and burgeoning star Starling Marte was suspended for eighty games by Major League Baseball. As a result, we see the typical laments that always come with such revelations.

The crowd screams about what an awful human being and cheater is Marte. They fill comment posts with remarks about how he should be banned for life from baseball and how he betrayed his teammates. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, masking techniques are far ahead of detection methods. The vast majority of athletes are using performance enhancing drugs. This issue does not just encompass professional sports. There is every chance the high school track and field event you’re watching is being dominated by athletes using PEDs.

Every other player on the Pirates is fully aware Marte was using such substances because most of them are as well. So are most of the players on my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. So are most of the players on whatever professional, college, and likely high school team you follow. In addition to chemical cheating, we are now fully engaged in the era of mechanical and electronic cheating.

Cyclists have tiny motors embedded in their bikes. It is highly probably all sorts of cheating in this regard is going on that we don’t know about. Perhaps a device in a hockey goalie’s glove that tracks the moving puck and moves a few millimeters to catch it. The possibilities are as limitless as the human imagination and technology allows.

There are certainly operatives in the stands watching opponents and passing information along to allies on the bench with communication devices. Is equally undeniable that some organizations are using electronic devices to spy on opponents in the locker room as they make strategic decisions.

I’ll be honest, I suspect there is cheating going on at a grade school level with the full approval of parents and coaches. There is so much money available in professional sports it’s inconceivable to me that people are not doing so.

The advantages to be gained are both subtle and lucrative. A young athlete might gain a scholarship to a top prep school instead of a competitor. Another athlete might get a college scholarship. Perhaps another might make the major-league roster of a team rather than be mired in the minors. A coach might get a long-term contract because of a few extra wins a season based on information gleaned from a small listening device on an opponent’s bench.

At every level, there are rewards to be had for athletes and coaches who take advantage of methods we consider cheating. To live in a fantasy world where only the other team use these means, is a life of delusion.

More importantly, the methods to gain advantage whether it be PEDs, electronic surveillance, or mechanical aids, are not going away, they are multiplying. It is easier and easier to cheat and more and more difficult to catch someone using these techniques.

The final question is simply if anything can be done about it? The answer is basically no. Certainly we can take precautions. We can install anti-surveillance devices, we can test athletes for PEDs, we can use devices to look for suspicious equipment, we can apply spotters looking for spies. All these methods are quite reasonable. The reality is, cheating is here and no matter our efforts to thwart it, it will stay.

The cheaters will prosper. Those who don’t will languish. That’s an unpleasant truth.

Tom Liberman

Loperamide and Why Drug Laws will Never Work

loperamidePeople are overdosing on a drug called Loperamide, which is meant to be used as an anti-diarrheal medication. Loperamide has been available over the counter for many years and there are currently no restrictions on purchasing it. I suspect that will change in yet another misguided chapter of the War on Drugs.

I find this new, supposed, crisis, to be extremely illustrative of the problem with drug interdiction. No matter how many drugs we restrict, there will always be something else that people will take. People will inhale gases from whipped cream dispensers. People will overdose on Loperamide. There is no way to stop people from seeking out chemical stimulants through interdiction. We must accept that those who wish to do so, will find a way.

A far better solution is attempting to treat the person’s desire to use chemical agents. This is the root cause. If we can help people not want to use such agents anymore, then we alleviate the underlying problem. Will we ever completely eliminate drug abuse? Of course not, if that’s your goal then you are doomed to a life of disappointment.

Let’s examine what government’s solution to the Loperamide crisis is likely to involve. Much like Ephedrine, there will almost certainly be regulations to limit the amount purchased. Basically, anyone who attempts to buy more than two boxes at once will be turned away. What is the result? The people who want Loperamide are forced to go to alternate sources.

Enterprising people, seeing profits, will hire teams of young people to purchase single boxes at every retail outlet for miles around. They will then sell these to users at a great profit. Police will then start arresting anyone who purchases boxes at different retail outlets. Anyone who wants to buy Loperamide will have to give personal information in order to make the purchase.

It will be a cycle of interdiction that largely fails to achieve its goal. Then a new drug will be found by addicts to substitute for Loperamide. The cycle will repeat endlessly.

I think it’s incredibly important to understand these facts for they explain, in no uncertain terms, why the War on Drugs has been, and continues to be, an abject failure. This after countless lives have been ruined, not by drug abuse, but by the attempts to save people from drug abuse. This after untold billions of dollars have been spent.

We try the exact same solution again and again despite its many failures. There are reasons for this and they mostly involve the vast amount of money interdiction provides for law enforcement, government, the penal system, and others. The War on Drugs is profitable for certain groups of people while it simply destroys others.

The question we must ask ourselves is if we truly want to help people? If we find the horrors of drug abuse and the atrocities engendered by drug interdiction to be unpalatable, perhaps we need to try to different solutions.

If that’s the case, if you are a decent human being. If you value lives more than money. We need to abandon interdiction as a method. We must embrace other tactics.

Tom Liberman

Facebook Murder a Reason for Censorship?

facebook-censoredA sick fellow drove around Cleveland on Easter Sunday while recording video and murdered a person walking on the sidewalk. The video was then posted on Facebook where it received a great deal of attention.

Facebook deleted it and also the entire account of the murderer not long after it was first posted, but that was basically too late. Other people downloaded the video and posted it themselves. Thus, thousands of copies were distributed faster than Facebook could delete them.
One of the results of this event was a call to more tightly control content on Facebook. Facebook and other social media platforms like

YouTube and Twitter allow users to post videos as they desire. Some people post videos that are illegal, unsavory, and sick. In this particular case, the video falls into all three categories.

The fact that videos like this are allowed to be distributed on social networks is upsetting to many. Certainly, the friends and family of the murder victim don’t want it posted. People with any sense of decency are offended.

The question becomes whether or not it is the responsibility of the social media website to control all of the content that people post. The current system allows users to post videos without any review. This means heinous things will show up on Facebook. The only way to prevent it is to have some sort of content control where people are not allowed to post a video without it first being studied.

This review would require an army of staffers to look at all of the potentially millions of videos being uploaded each day. It would, to a certain degree, be impossible to implement and still allow people to post in a timely fashion. Your post, innocuous as it might be, could take days or even weeks to clear the protocols.

Even if implemented, this solution has problems. Who is to decide what is offensive, illegal, or otherwise violates content rules? What I might find offensive is something someone else would not. We start to get into censorship at this point.

The internet has brought us many wonderful things but also those that are less savory. People post videos of horrific things; murder, suicide, rape, sexual deviancy, and others. Many of these things are crimes. Whether or not a video was taken doesn’t change that fact.

If such videos are not posted on mainstream sites like Facebook they will find an outlet somewhere else. At this point, there is really no way to stop someone from distributing a video as they please. They might be restricted to a smaller platform than Facebook, but those who are interested in watching such things will find them.

The steps required to prevent Facebook from showing these videos for even a short time burdens both the company itself and users who want to post videos of their cats being cute. And it doesn’t stop the distribution of the horrific videos. Therefore, in my opinion, it’s a mistake to even try to implement such rules.

Yes, it’s horrible. The sick individual who stalked and murdered a stranger while taking a video should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but the platform that person used to document their action is not responsible.

If the solution you are proposing to solve a problem isn’t going to work and is going to result in other issues, then you need to find another solution.

Tom Liberman

Is Discussing an Unanswerable Question a Good Idea?

philosophy-discussionYesterday on Facebook my friend posted a philosophical question about the nature of reality and I replied with a long post. He responded this morning with another interesting question. Is it worth discussing at all?

It’s a good question. The original query is largely unanswerable. Yes, we might be living in the Matrix but there is no empirical way to determine if this is true. Perhaps we are living in the Matrix or some other construct. On the other hand, maybe the evidence we gather with our senses and repeated trials is real. Arguments can be made endlessly but, in the end, neither side can prove their point.

So why bother with the argument, or dialectic, my friend asks?

Why indeed.

If the question cannot be answered, isn’t it a waste of time and energy to discuss it at all? Shouldn’t we move on to something more productive?

This time there is an answer to the question and one that is emphatically true. Yes. We not only should, but essentially must, have such debates. This despite the fact we are aware there is no final answer.

The first reason such debates are useful is because they exercise your mind in the same way a physical workout exercises your body. Riding a stationary bike, lifting weights, participating in a yoga class; all these things make you stronger and better in any number of ways. I’ll not diverge into a discussion of cardiovascular health, I think we can all accept the idea that physical exercise is a good thing.

This training of the mind helps you analyze situation through critical thinking and contributes greatly to your ability to find resolutions. In this case there isn’t one, but frequently in life when presented with a problem, there is a correct solution. It is imperative to think through any obstacles and derive a resolution. This behavior will help you navigate life successfully.

Another reason to engage in such civil discourse is to practice having disagreements without resorting to name calling and general rudeness. People are going to disagree with you on a fairly regular basis. We see all too frequently today an immediate and angry descent into attack dialog. Anyone who dares disagree with me on any point is the enemy. They must be ridiculed and destroyed! This sort of behavior is being exhibited virtually everywhere you look, and it is leading to unthinkable divisions in this nation and the world as a whole. When people can no longer disagree with civility, we are in trouble.

Another reason to have such discourse is that it teaches you to listen to ideas that you might not have considered. When we just shout at each other, there is no learning going on. When we engage in the back and forth of discussion we sometimes learn new things, we sometimes change our opinion, and that’s a good thing. New information doesn’t always change an opinion but sometimes it does. It’s important to get into the habit of listening to those who oppose your point of view, not just to avoid angry confrontation, but to actually increase your own understanding of the situation.

The answer to my friend’s question is simple. Yes. Have the discussion. And maybe a tumbler of Booker’s bourbon while you’re at it.

Tom Liberman