Taking the Bing Quiz without Reading

Bing Quiz

One of my daily activities in retirement is to take the daily Bing Quiz. Essentially, the search engine Bing has a daily picture on the front page. There is a Bing Quiz associated with this picture if you click a link. It includes a small blurb about the picture and generally at least a few of the questions in the Bing Quiz are addressed in this blurb. I’ve noticed that a fairly high percentage of quiz takers answer such questions incorrectly and that intrigues me.

The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that people are clicking on the Bing Quiz and taking it without bothering to read the blurb. Now, there is an incentive to take the quiz whether or not you get answers correct, you get a small number of Microsoft Reward Points. It’s not much but it’s something.

Now, to the point of this blog. I want to get the answers right, there is a small feeling of pleasure I get from answering the question correctly. I also feel a sense of disappointment when I give a wrong answer. The blurb in question is usually just a couple of paragraphs and only takes a minute to read. Taking the time to read the blurb and answer the questions correctly is of value to me. It is clearly not of value to others, based on the percentage of people that get Bing Quiz answers wrong despite often being given the answer.

Is that a product of the way my brain works? I’m not a neurologist but I feel fairly confident everyone gets pleasure from answering correctly and feels some disappointment in not doing so. Some tiny chemical release generates this pleasure I’d guess. Anyway, I think it is universally human to enjoy being right and dislike being wrong.

Why do so many people trade being right for saving a minute of reading or doing a modicum of thinking? It’s not my place to judge anyone for this behavior and I’m not trying to put myself on some sort of pedestal because I choose to read the blurb and get the answer right more often than not. Whatever, take the Bing Quiz without studying first, none of my business.

I do find it interesting. Can we diagnose more important character traits based on such simple behavior? What about you? Would you take a quiz without studying first?

Would you take the Bing Quiz without reading the blurb first knowing it will result in more wrong answers?

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Tom Liberman

Ben Shapiro and the Social Divide

Ben Shapiro

There’s a lot of chatter on my social media feeds about Ben Shapiro and his comments regarding a song named WAP. I didn’t know much about it, and frankly didn’t care, but eventually I read the comments and it reminded me of when I first learned about the social divide that encompasses the racial divide.

Let me start by saying Ben Shapiro is a smart guy but in this case, he is letting the social divide of music influence his rational thinking which has turned him into, pardon my frankness, a fool. Ben Shapiro wrote: Fact, rap isn’t music. And if you think it is, you’re stupid.

When I read this moronic statement, a memory came to me from high school. I went to University City High School which was then a racially mixed school. There was a clear racial divide in a number of areas and I largely thought myself immune to this divide. There was Honky Hall where all the white kids had their lockers, I didn’t. There was the debate between Good Times and Happy Days as to which to watch, I liked them both. In other words, I basically thought, yeah, I’m white skinned, sure, but whatever, the color of my skin doesn’t mean I’m fundamentally different than black kids.

One day I was having a discussion with a black girl who was one of the social elites, why she was talking to me, a social outcast, I can’t remember. Anyway, I was waxing poetic about a band I liked, I think it was Journey, and she looked at me strangely and said, Who’s that? I was astonished. Who’s that, I replied. How can you not know Journey? Everyone listens to Journey. They are on the radio all day long.

She looked at me and said, Teddy Pendergrass. I replied, Who’s that? She smiled, as I had fallen neatly into her trap, and replied: How can you not know Teddy Pendergrass? That was probably the first time I realized there was more to the racial problems in this country and this world than simply the color of one’s skin. A little research led me to radio stations I had no idea existed. If only I had the internet back then, I would have been turned on to some of the best music ever made but, sadly, I had to wait years to learn about all that.

This is my point about Ben Shapiro and his comments regarding both the song WAP and rap music in general. This is the cultural divide that fuels the racial divide. Sure, we have different skin color but what keeps racism alive are comments like that of Ben Shapiro. Rap is music. I’m not a huge fan of most rap although I do think it provides valuable lessons about such topics as Funky Cold Medina. Ben Shapiro is, at least to some degree, perpetuating racism and misogyny with his remarks.

The mantra of the Libertarian did not begin to appeal to me until I was in my early thirties. If only had known about it back then in my conversation. People who like rap music should enjoy it. People who like Teddy Pendergrass should enjoy his work. People who like Journey should never stop believing. Some people like them all!

Ben Shapiro, enjoy what you enjoy and allow others to do the same without judgment. WAP never hurt you and it never hurt me either. The hate you spew is driven by fear. Decisions driven by fear are to be avoided. Why all the hate, brother?

Tom Liberman

Thinking for Yourself in Chess and Life

Thinking for Yourself

I was on Lichess watching the Magnus Carlsen v. Hikaru Nakamura match of the Magnus Chess Tour Finals when an interesting example of thinking for yourself, and the benefits therein, presented itself. It is often suggested thinking for yourself is better; but if someone else does the thinking for you, and always gives you good answers, why not just do what she or he says? I’ll tell you why.

Many of those watching the games rely on the computer analysis to tell them who is winning at any particular moment and what is the best move to make for either player. Others of us watch without the computer engine analysis and discuss what might be the better move and which player seems to have the advantage at any given moment.

It is clear those using the engine to tell them the best move and who is winning are clearly correct far more often than those of us simply watching the game and relying on our own calculations. Therefore, they are better off, right? Wrong.

Thinking for yourself is not only a great deal more fun, it not only makes you a better chess player, but it also actually gives you greater insight into the game being played at that moment. Here is what happened twice during the match I watched yesterday. Warning, if you’re not a chess fan this might get a little dull.

Basically, during a game there are moments when you can sacrifice a piece in order to gain initiative through tactics. When you are thinking for yourself, you are looking for such tactics. When you are relying on the computer to tell you the best move you largely are not watching for such moments.

In two games there was a potential tactic available for several moves which covered perhaps ten minutes of time allowing time for analysis. Those of us in chat not using the computer mentioned the sacrifice possibility multiple times and eventually, in both cases it was made.

This leads me to the purpose of this entire blog. When the sacrifices were actually viable, the computer engine immediately suggested them as the best move and those relying on the engine began to speculate if the player might see it. These fans thought it was almost impossible to see such a move. When the player made the sacrifice, they were stunned by the astounding ability of the player.

Of course, those of us not relying on the computer had long been speculating on the move and didn’t see it as all that impossible at all.

I guess the point is, yes, if you rely on almost perfect machines and aren’t thinking for yourself, you will win every chess game but once those engines are off, you have no idea how to play at all. You get no enjoyment from predicting the move a Grand Master makes. No thrill of seeing a brilliant sacrifice on your own. Your life is both diminished in enjoyment and your ability to make good decisions without help is irreparably damaged.

Turn off the engine, stop listening to other people, think it through yourself. It’s harder, yes, but more rewarding.

Tom Liberman

Yale University Admissions show the Difficulty of Proving Discrimination

Yale University

The Department of Justice recently filed suit against Yale University for discriminating against Caucasian and Asian students. It’s going to be just as difficult to prove this discrimination as it is to prove against companies that refuse to hire black or homosexual candidates. This is where government intervention often appears to be a force of good but it really is not. Let me explain.

In a nutshell, the discriminating agency can deny the choice was made because of color of skin, sexual orientation, or any external factor. My father argued a Supreme Court case in the 1960s involving discrimination in housing. He won that case but, and this is important, doing so did not stop white people from preventing blacks moving into their neighborhoods. There are plenty of black people in St. Louis who can affirm the practice is still thriving.

In this case the shoe is on the other foot. Basically, kids from impoverished regions of the country who attend schools without the many academic advantages have no little or no chance to score as well on tests as kids from wealthy school districts, or beat them on the football field. The kids with a huge wealth gap advantage in tutors, trainers, equipment, study material, study time, and other things almost always do better on standardized tests.

Let me make this a little more personal so you can see the point of view of the school. Let’s imagine you are hiring for a position. You have two candidates. One candidate comes from an elite educational environment with all the advantages. The other comes from a poor district with no advantages. Now, you give them both a business-oriented test for which the average score is 50. The elite candidate scores 55 and the poor candidate scores 51. But you look in your database and candidates coming from the elite environment average 64 on the test while those from the poor section average 35. So, you’ve got a candidate who scored 16 points above average for their background and one that scored 9 below from their own. One is clearly an overachiever while the other is an underachiever. Who do you hire?

This is what Yale University and other elite educational schools face everyday when they must choose who to admit. Yale University often chooses the minority student despite having what appears to be a worse academic record. Now, it’s also entirely possible Yale University picks the minority student because the admission counselor hates Asians, but this is difficult to prove. People will always be able to come up with some rational as to why the black family can’t move into the neighborhood besides blatant discrimination. We see it all the time here in St. Louis and I’m sure in your part of the world also.

Now that I’ve explained the problem I’m finally getting to the point of this article. The government cannot fix this problem and often does more harm than good when they try. Let’s imagine the Justice Department is successful in forcing Yale University to admit students based solely on their test scores. Are we not removing the freedom of the school to pick who they want to be members? Is it not their school?

It’s also important to understand it was earlier rulings making discrimination illegal that allow the Justice Department to file this lawsuit against Yale University in the first place. If discrimination was not outlawed by the government, Yale is free to do as it will.

To me that’s the important point. Discrimination didn’t stop because government passed a law. People still speed, people still take drugs, people still discriminate, they just hide it better.

Yale University should be allowed to admit whomever it wants, if they refuse overachieving minority students who will undoubtedly succeed, that’s their loss.

Tom Liberman

Who Decides if there will be College Football?

College Football

Will there be college football is a question on the minds of many people these days but I have a different query. Who gets to decide if there will be college football? Coaches? Players? Politicians? The NCAA? Television networks? College administrations?

My question is not an easy one to answer because how far the tendrils of money spread from the game. If there is no college football it will affect a lot of people in a negative fashion and a lot of money won’t be made. In addition, my hatred of the NCAA as a whole undoubtedly clouds my vision. Nevertheless, I will attempt to come up with an answer.

First, I will dismiss the single party that absolutely should have no say whatsoever, despite their bleating to the contrary, politicians. There is no reason for politicians to get involved in this difficult decision in any shape, manner, or form. I tell all lawmakers, whether wanting a college football season to take place or against such, shut your miserable pie holes. Shut them now, stay out. Out!

The moneyed interests are significant. The NCAA makes a huge amount of money from the college football games. The colleges themselves, at least in the Power Five conferences, make enormous sums. The clothing manufacturers who give hundred million-dollar contracts to the schools to showcase their jerseys have a gargantuan financial interest. The television networks and all their employees have a stake. The coaches are paid to coach, not sit on the sidelines and their luxurious lifestyle is in jeopardy if there are no games. The star athletes get exposure and potentially lucrative professional contracts if they play.

The NCAA would certainly like there to be games but if the players intermingle with the regular student body they risk infection and transmission of Covid. The NCAA doesn’t have the luxury of creating a “bubble” like professional athletics. If the so-called student-athletes aren’t allowed to attend school; the entire fa├žade of not paying the players falls apart. It becomes legally clear they are employees of the school, how this reality has evaded the courts for so long baffles me. I shall wax no further on that subject.

So, who decides? Everyone is tainted by financial gain or the potential of such. A clear decision in regards to the health of the players, coaches, and staff of the teams cannot easily be determined by people compromised so. It’s a mess, I readily admit as much, but I have an answer to my question at least.

Each university or college must be the final arbiters of the season as a whole. If a college is unwilling to open the doors to live, in-session classes, then it cannot expect athletes to perform. It is a decision for the boards and presidents of the schools in question. If one Big Ten school says no and another says yes, that’s fine. Schedule accordingly.

Likewise, participation is a choice for each player, coach, and staff member. There are consequences certainly, a player who refuses to play might be removed from the team or have their scholarship revoked. A player who participates, catches Covid, and suffers serious medical consequences has every right to sue for damages.

It’s a messy solution, I agree. It’s a solution that will result in some schools playing and other schools not doing so, I admit. It is, to my mind, the only solution that makes any sense.

Freedom is free, it just isn’t safe.

Tom Liberman

Comrade Trump does not Compute for Either Party

Comrade Trump

Comrade Trump made a statement the other day that was so outlandishly Communistic and Socialistic that neither party wants to talk about it at all. This pretty much sums up the state of the Democratic and Republican parties completely. Let me explain.

Apparently, Comrade Trump is angry at TikTok and there is speculation it is because one of its prominent members makes fun of Comrade Trump on a regular basis or that apparently users duped his campaign into overstating attendance at a rally. In any case, the fact that Comrade Trump is angry is indisputable. He is trying to force the Chinese owners of TikTok, ByteDance, to sell their U.S. operations to a company based in this country or he threatens to ban their services entirely, which is only the first part of the insanity.

If ByteDance manages to sell TikTok, Comrade Trump thinks that a significant percentage of the sale should be paid directly into the United States Treasury. His reasoning being that U.S. citizens by the tens of millions use TikTok and contribute to its profits and therefore its eventual sale price. Comrade Trump uses the wholly misguided National Emergencies Act to suggest almost anything he does is in the name of national security.

Here is where it gets, to use a term favorited by said president, pathetic. What Comrade Trump is suggesting is nothing short of communism. The all-powerful state can force a private company to sell its assets and take a portion of the price paid for that sale.

If Bernie Sanders was making this suggestion his many Socialist and Democratic supporters would cheer loudly and praise him for funneling corporate profits to the people upon whose backs those profits were reportedly earned. CNN would be trying to justify the madness in some sort of Constitutional twisting that makes a pretzel look like an arrow.

Likewise, if Sanders were to make said statement, my Republican, supposed business loving, friends would likely have some sort of apoplectic fit their screaming, ranting, and shouting would be so virulent as to cause dogs to flee and seek shelter under the bed. Fox news would be declaring the end of the world and you’d see pictures of the Constitution burning on their sensationalistic newscasts.

None of this is, of course, happening. Comrade Trump pretends to be a Republican so those aligned with him dare not express the outrage his turn to communism fully deserves. Meanwhile, those who support such misguided policies cannot, under any circumstances, suggest that he has at least one aim in alignment with their own goals.

Welcome to our failing country. Enjoy the comedy.

Tom Liberman

Why the President can Fire the CEO of the TVA

TVA

I just read a story about the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the fact President Trump fired its CEO and one board member. My first reaction was, what what what? How can a political entity fire the CEO of the TVA? It turns out the TVA is owned by the Federal Government although it receives no tax dollars and acts almost exclusively just like a private company. So, my second question is, what what what?

Where is my Time Travel Hat? I have to get to the bottom of this immediately. Did I leave it in the freezer again? No. In the tax document drawer? No. Ah, there it is in the Gloomhaven Box, how did it get there? Oh well, let’s see, still fits, spin three times, fancy colors, bright lights, dizzy spell, and, where am I?

Is that President Franklin Roosevelt over there? What is he saying, selfish purposes, let’s listen in: Never shall the federal government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I’m president of the United States. Hmm, so he’s upset that public utilities are charging high prices. He wants the government to be in charge of electricity generation. Look at all the people applauding him including Republican Senator George Norris who just blocked Henry Ford from building a private dam and utility to modernize the Tennessee Valley.

I can’t believe I’m actually watching President Roosevelt signing the TVA Act which legally prevents competition in the valley. Only the government can build power plants and dams. Oh, I see, look there, in the back room, the politicians know the dams are going to flood out tens of thousands of residents, Native American sacred sites, so they are giving TVA Eminent Domain powers to simply kick people off who refuse to sell. Smart!

Oh, look there, is that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan lambasting the power of the TVA and the fact government controls it instead of private industry, it sure is. Look there, they have their own police force! A net income of $1.12 billion in 2018. They’ve been profitable since 1977.

Uh oh, energy running low, flashing lights, and I’m back home. Whew. Another successful trip. What did we learn? The government shouldn’t own industries like the TVA for a number of reasons, one of them is politicians will feel free to intervene in business decisions for which they should have no authority whatsoever.

Why does President Trump have the authority to fire the CEO of the TVA? Because the government created a monopoly and crushed any chance for private industry competition.

How does the Supreme Court justify this Socialism? The Commerce Clause which allows the regulation of streams to keep them navigable and the War Powers Act because electricity is sometimes used in the creation of munitions. Seriously? I ask. Seriously?

Tom Liberman

Does Ammon Bundy Supporting Black Lives Matter Surprise You?

Ammon Bundy

There’s a little story in the news not getting much play concerning Ammon Bundy who led the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The reason it isn’t getting much play is because Ammon Bundy is a bit of hero to the Republicans and a villain to the Democrats. His support of Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police Movement doesn’t play well with either of those organizations. It doesn’t surprise this Libertarian in the slightest.

His protest back in 2016 was instigated by government’s treatment of ranchers along with a particular case involving Steve Hammond. As for supporting Black Lives Matter, Ammon Bundy had a few quotes that touch the heart of this Libertarian.

You must have a problem in your mind if you think that somehow the Black Lives Matter is more dangerous than the police. You must have a problem in your mind if you think that Antifa is the one going to take your freedom.

I’m not fully in agreement with Ammon Bundy on all issues and I talk about that in my original post on his occupation efforts. That’s not too surprising, it’s not easy to get three Libertarians to decide on a place to eat lunch. We’re an ornery and independent group by nature and we don’t like toeing the line. That’s probably why we have such a difficult time winning an election, but I’ll leave that alone to focus on my topic.

The question that I hope you’ll ask yourself is if you’re surprised by his stance on issues like Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police. We live in what is almost a Cult of Partyality. If you decide you are a Republican or a Democrat it seems actual issues, ideology, philosophy, and policy make little difference to you anymore. What is important is who is saying or doing something. Thus, it does not compute to the vast majority of people that Ammon Bundy might take a stance that appears to be diametrically opposite of what you’d think.

As I’ve said, it doesn’t shock me at all that Ammon Bundy feels the way he does. I’d urge you to read the article I linked for he doesn’t save his criticism or mince his words and that’s something that, you’ll not be surprised, resonates with me.

I’ve said it before, and I flatter myself to think Ammon Bundy would agree, I fear state sponsored violence by the police far more than mob violence by an angry population. We must allow people to protest what they consider unjust government, even if those protests are not completely peaceful. The solution is far worse than the problem.

Tom Liberman