Pam Oliver had a Bad Day

Pam Oliver

There’s a bit of an uproar in the sporting world because veteran sideline reporter Pam Oliver had a tough go of it at the Packers and Rams football game the other day. I did not see it live as I’ve pretty much quit on football, but during the game there were any number of reports about her troubles.

Pam Oliver has been a fixture of sideline reporting since she joined Fox Sports back in 1995. Her performance at the most recent game included stumbling to get out sentences and a general appearance of incoherence. Many people expressed concern, and because it’s the Internet, some poked fun at her.

Then I saw an article about the entire thing written by Donovan Dooley of Deadspin and I felt the irresistible compulsion to enter the fray. Dooley is angry that people would dare question Pam Oliver after her many years of excellent performance. My problem isn’t with Pam Oliver, who clearly was out of sorts, but with Dooley and his inane article.

Pam Oliver is a legend who doesn’t need anyone to defend her. Is the opening line of the article which then goes on to both defend her in every paragraph and attack both those who expressed concern and those who made light of the situation. If your opening sentence is a direct contradiction of the entire tone of your article, it’s a hint there is a problem.

Even Dooley admits she had an off day. After watching some of the links, it is clear her inability to properly express her thoughts was more than a little alarming. The idea she had some sort of medical condition, or perhaps a bad reaction to medication, or something else was entirely reasonable and those who expressed this seem to me to be far more concerned with her well-being than Dooley. Dooley presumably would stand idly by, pushing away emergency crews, while she collapsed onto the turf and began convulsing, claiming she just needed a moment.

I don’t care how great you’ve been historically, if you’re clearly struggling in the manner Pam Oliver was, expressing concern is the normal and appropriate reaction. Sure, some people were making fun of the situation and if Dooley wants to take those people to task, so be it. He makes no distinction between those expressing concern and those poking fun.

Frankly, if you’re going to be a public figure, you better be ready for some ridicule. Believe me, I blog plenty and write novels so I’ve heard plenty of criticism, particularly when I make mistake, rare as that might be.

One thing Dooley gets right is that Pam Oliver doesn’t need anyone to defend her. She’s a capable, professional, and talented sports reporter. She doesn’t need anyone to defend her, especially a wannabe savior like Dooley. I’m sure she can defend herself quite nicely.

Were I Pam Oliver, I’d be more pissed at Dooley than any of those who expressed concern over her performance.

Tom Liberman

What does Freedom Feel Like?

Freedom Feel Like

While watching the aftermath of the events in Washington D.C. I was struck by one of the protestors who said this is what freedom feels like. It struck me because it is a question worth exploring. What does freedom feel like?

The person who said these words certainly believed them, as they were spoken with passion and almost ecstatic enthusiasm. I think there is a common confusion that doing what you want to do is the answer to the question. What does freedom feel like to the protestor? Me doing exactly what I want, to whomever I want, and forcing them to do the same.

Naturally, it becomes quite clear when we examine the entirety of the answer as I’ve restated above, it is fundamentally wrong and almost the exact opposite of the correct reply. It seems paradoxical and it’s easy to understand the confusion. Freedom does mean, to a certain degree, being able to do what you want without interference from, particularly, the state. So, when someone is beating a police officer to force their view of the world onto those who disagree, it understandably feels like freedom. I’m doing what I want and getting my way.

This, happily, is only half the answer to the question as to what does freedom feel like. The other half of the answer is allowing other people to do as they desire. That’s the full answer to the question. Yes, I’m free to do as I want but to experience true freedom, I must allow others to do as they want, I must not use personal, or government, force to coerce others into doing something they do not want to do.

This is the conundrum of government as a whole and one of the driving forces of the Libertarian ideology. If we understand some people do bad things, anything from traffic violations to murder, then we must have rules and ways to enforce them. Government and law enforcement largely being the solution.

It is the implementation of those rules and enforcements that are of concern when we try to answer the question of what does freedom feel like. How much should we force people to do as I want. Where does your freedom to drive 100 mph down a neighborhood street infringe on my right to walk to the grocery store?

These are not easy questions to answer but I can state, with unequivocal certainty, that beating police officers, coercing politicians, violently telling half the population that you will bend them to your will is not the feeling of freedom, it is the glorious and disgusting feeling of unchecked, violent power, enforced with fists and guns.

We have elections, we have courts, we have law enforcement officers. Because they, through normal processes, decided that your candidate lost an election is not taking away your freedom. It is you who is taking, it is you who is stealing, it is you who is crushing freedom; despite your feelings to the contrary.

Tom Liberman

Ken Jennings Replacing Alex Trebek

Ken Jennings

The last episode of the game show Jeopardy hosted by Alex Trebek aired this past Friday and speculation has been rampant that Ken Jennings will be his replacement. Ken Jennings is largely considered the greatest Jeopardy contestant of all time and, as such, seemed to many people, a natural replacement for the iconic Trebek.

It was clear to me from the beginning that Ken Jennings wasn’t a good fit for the position but the speculation and expectations give me an opportunity to speak on a subject I find quite interesting. Being good at one thing doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at anything else.

Sports fans like myself are well aware of the old adage that those who cannot do, teach. Generally speaking, the best managers of baseball teams are those that weren’t particularly great players. This fact translates to most athletics. Yet, there is a common, I’d almost say universal, perception of exactly the opposite. People think a great player will make a great manager and are shocked and disappointed when it fails to happen.

I’m not going to talk about Ken Jennings and his various social media statements as a reason to disqualify him from hosting Jeopardy. I want to discuss the qualities that make a person good at one thing and why people seem to think those self-same qualities will translate to something else.

Ken Jennings has a fantastically well-rounded knowledge of many subjects. We call this trivia but that is not really a fair assessment. He has knowledge and a lot of it. He is also coordinated enough to be able to click in at the right moment which is no easy task on Jeopardy. Often times you have to click quickly before your mind even truly processes that you know the answer. You have to understand the pattern of the question, match it to your general knowledge, and come to the conclusion you will likely know the answer before you click the button, as there is a penalty for incorrect answers. That Ken Jennings is elite, perhaps the best in the world, at this, is unquestionable.

Asking the questions is a completely different skill set. Hitting a baseball is completely different than understand when a starting pitcher has had enough, especially when he’s your ace and he’s damned pissed when you come out to the mound to take him out of the game.

What I’m trying to say seems obvious and I think most people agree. Being a game show contestant is a completely different skill set than being a host. Ken Jennings is a bit awkward; his body language is stilted; he doesn’t provide a comfortable personality which draws out the best of contestants. He’s just not going to be a good host, that’s reality and it’s relatively obvious.

So, why? Why do people think he’ll be the best host of Jeopardy to replace the fantastic Trebek? Why do humans seem to connect excellence in one thing with greatness in another? Why do we think a world class expert in one subject has anything useful to tell us about another topic? And, most importantly, why do we put someone in a position of power in a field for which they have no knowledge?

Dr. Ben Carson, current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is a brilliant neurosurgeon. He also believes the Great Pyramids were built as grain silos. This is the folly of believing because someone excels in one field, they must be fully qualified to do something else. It’s a dangerous way to make decisions.

Yes, Ken Jennings is a great Jeopardy contestant. Of this there is no question. However, he’s almost certainly not a great Jeopardy host and this is the lesson.

Tom Liberman

Josh Hawley and the Book Publisher

Josh Hawley

I, once again, get to discuss the implications of Freedom of Speech thanks to Senator Josh Hawley and his disagreement with Simon and Schuster. Apparently, Josh Hawley planned to release a book but after his involvement in the riots at Capital Hill the publisher decided to cancel the project. Hawley believes this is a Freedom of Speech, First Amendment issue and he’s right, sort of. Let me explain.

Josh Hawley argument goes as follows: This could not be more Orwellian. Simon and Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition. Only approved speech can now be published. This is the Left looking to cancel everyone they don’t approve of. I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We’ll see you in court.

Simon and Schuster is a private company that publishes books. It is quite clear they can publish whatever books they want and they can choose not to publish other books, say twelve fantastic Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels written by a fellow I know. That’s their right and while I can certainly argue that said twelve novels are among the greatest in human literature, I can’t force them to publish any more than Josh Hawley can do so.

From a Freedom of Speech there is an important difference in me ranting about how unfair it is and Hawley trying using his position as a government official to force Simon and Schuster to publish his book. He is violating the Freedom of Speech clause of the First Amendment. It is quite unambiguous to interpret but that doesn’t stop Josh Hawley from getting it completely wrong, his understanding of the clause is actually the opposite of its real meaning.

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech ….

That’s it. That’s the wording. Josh Hawley is a member of Congress. Simon and Schuster is not a member of Congress, it isn’t even a person. It’s a private company that gets to choose what they do and do not publish which is at the very center of our freedom from government interference.

When Josh Hawley claims Simon and Schuster must publish his book, he is in direct and obvious violation of the Freedom of Speech clause. His ignorance in regard to the meaning of the Constitution of the United States is disheartening although entirely expected.

Tom Liberman

Debt Slave

By Tom Liberman
Copyright 2020

The sailors lined up on the aft deck as the bursar doled out pay accumulated over the long journey, “Coin or days?” he said to the young man in front of him. The paymaster wore a long black cloak against the brisk breeze of the great Channel Bay that was the largest in the nation of Sea’cra.

“Coin,” said the young man with a large grin as he looked back at the que where a dozen other youngsters cheered loudly. He also wore a thick wool coat although with the collar down, seemingly oblivious to the icy gale that swept across the harbor.

“Good on you,” said the bursar with a wide grin and counted out several large golden coins and added some silver to the mix before putting it in a little pouch. “Spend it all quick and come back in six weeks after we’re fitted out.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” said the lad nodding his head and reaching between his legs for a quick grab. He winked at the others behind him, “An eight-month sail makes a lad hungry and for more than food!” He turned and raised the pouch over his head with a wild yell. “Come on boys, the harbor of Sea’cra awaits, delights to tempt even the most holy soul. Coins! Coins!” As he yelled out, he spotted an older sailor waiting patiently near the end of the line, his hair was still dark but his face showed years at sea. “Come now, Gedder! Join us for one night at least, take some coin. Live a little, join us, you old tar.”

The sailor smiled ruefully and pulled up the collar a threadbare jacket, patched at the elbows and frayed so badly it looked ready to fall off, “Next time.” His voice was clear, strong, and firm although his face was gaunt with sunken cheeks.

“All right, all right, old Gedder No Fun it is. You took my watches in the hole, you gave me your rum rations. Come on, one tumble at the old Anchor and Dragon at least, I’ll buy you a whore I will. She won’t be the prettiest but she’ll do you right, come now. Take your days for the Merchant Executors but I’ll buy you a girl, I will. Meet us there, after you’ve bought off your days.”

Gedder waved at the young man and nodded his head gently as the boys continued to move along in line, taking their coin. Soon he was the last to reach the paymaster; as the younger lads roared off to the city along with some of older sailors and even an officer or two.

“Days then, Aaronson?” said the bursar as Gedder came to the front.

“Days,” confirmed Gedder with a nod of head.

“Not even ninety days for every ten coin? Eight months at sea, no rum, skipping a meal each day, taking the worst watches,” the man said looking down at the log in front of him. “You’ve got a lot of days, old friend. A lot of days. Just a bit of coin, a bit of fun? It can’t hurt. A new coat, a night in a good bed at least. A chicken dinner.”

Gedder shook his head and repeated himself, “Days. Just days.”

“You know, Gedder,” said the bursar shaking his head. “If you keep this up, I do believe you’ll actually pay off the family debt, you’ll be a free man. I’ve seen it done once or twice; I have. Well, I’ve heard of it at least.”

“What other choice is there?” asked Gedder quietly. “Take on more debt? Add to what my grandfather left my father? More days? Thousands of days. Tens of thousands? Enough is enough, my friend.”

“How many days do you still owe the Merchant Executors?”

Gedder shrugged, “You never know, they add on for my brother, my father’s dead, thank the Gods so it stopped adding up from him. My sister married so that’s off my shoulders as well but they never give you an accurate account, do they?”

The bursar shook his head as he took a thick piece of parchment out from a little box next to where shining piles of coins sat, “Here you go. That’s a lot of days, Gedder. A lot of days. Mind the alleys, the docks ain’t safe, but you know that. A cutthroat will kill for days just as well as coin. Plenty of folks take days in exchange for services, though it ain’t rightly legal, they still do it. You got your knife with you?”

Gedder nodded and put his hand to the smooth handle of the blade on his belt, “I’ve got my knife and my wits. No rum for me. I’ll be careful.”

“Captain wants to see you,” said the bursar with a look up to the bridge above the wheelhouse.

“About?”

The man shrugged, “Do I know what the officers want?”

Gedder smiled, “You probably do but I won’t ask you to let on. You’re a good fella, always treated me right. Maybe you’ll pay off your debt someday if you keep that cushy job of yours. Plenty of coin and days for a bursar.”

“Never, but I’ve kept the accounts fairly square, won’t be passing more along to my sons than me dad did to me. Fair is fair. Now, go on up and see the captain. Maybe he’ll have something good to say. All the officers ain’t bad, ain’t all of them work for the Merchant Executors. Do their bidding for more coin or whatever bribes they offer. Some of them is good men, the captain, he’s a fair one.”

Gebber turned and looked at the bridge as he tucked the heavy parchment into a narrow slit in his waistband and secured it with a thick button. A moment later he knocked on the door to the bridge, “Gedder Aaronson, cap’n. Bursar said you wanted to see me.”

“Come in,” came the voice from beyond the door.

Gedder opened the door and saw the captain standing by a large desk where portraits of a woman and some small children rested. He turned to face Gedder and smiled quietly.

“Aaronson,” he said with a smile and nod of his head.

“Cap’n.”

“Were to refit. Three months at least, despite what they’re telling the sailors.”

“Yes, cap’n.”

“I’d like you to stay aboard, you’re the best sailor on the ship. Saved the life of more than one man, but I can’t pay you unless you take a promotion. I can only offer you a commission as a midshipman, but it’s a big raise from the lower decks.

“I’m awful old to be a midshipman, begging your pardon, cap’n.”

“Damn it, Gedder. You’ve been on five trips with me now. Five. More than any of my officers even. You’ve taught hundreds of lads how to tie a knot properly, run up a sail, coil a rope, swab the deck. You’re a born leader but you take the worst jobs.”

“Days, cap’n, days.”

“I know you want to pay off your debt, hellfire, I’d pay off your debt just to make you a third mate if the Executors didn’t have rules against it. I’ve given you a plus thirty days for this tour, it’s the most I’m allowed. Damnit, gods be damned, I know you can’t sit ashore for three months with no coin in your pocket, but I don’t have a job to offer, we’re to pay off the entire crew. Only good lads from good families to maintain the ship.”

“Good lads from good families.”

“Neither good lads nor good families, the lot of them. I’ve had a hundred of the spoiled brats foisted off on me. They’ve killed good men, I’ve seen it. Not directly with a knife but with stupidity, ignorance, incompetence. I want good sailors aboard my ship, good men. I know taking a commission is another thousand days but that’s just three years and the pay is better. You’ll have a good coat, stay at a warm inn at port, not have to work every second you’re ashore. Drink rum at the officer’s mess, by god. It’s worth the days and then some.”

“Isn’t though, cap’n,” said Gedder firmly. “It just is not. Not for me at least. I want to be free of my family debt, free to do what I want, free to lead my own life. My own decisions. My own … just my own.”

“What do you want to do? All you know is sailing. You’ll ship out on another vessel even if you somehow manage to pay off the debt.”

“True,” said Gedder with a nod and a smile as he looked down at the deck beneath their feet. “It’s all I know, since I was a lad even. It’ll be me though, deciding to do it. Not the Executors with their tallies.”

“They’ll find a way to add more days, somehow, they will. Damnit all, Gedder. They find a way. I’ve seen it before. Good men, ruined by the Executors for no good reason other than it gave them a laugh or some stupid wager, or maybe even a wife or daughter. They’ll burn down your family’s house, add five hundred days. They’ll claim your brother stole something, hell, they’ll take his job away from him so he has to steal to feed his family. They’ll make up some crime, add days. Thousands of days, who knows?”

“They don’t care that much about me, cap’n,” said Gedder shaking his head with that same little smile. “I’m just a sailor. Been a sailor for twenty some-odd years. Don’t know me but from a line in a ledger somewhere. Just a bunch of scribbles, that’s all I am to them, that’s all I aim ever to be, at least until I’m free of them, clear of their accounts. Then maybe they’ll know my name, yes, maybe then. But then there won’t be a thing for them to do about it.”

“You’d be a captain. Captain Aaronson, how does that sound? If you just let me help you. Now, I’m not pretending it’s all out of generosity, like I said, you’re the finest sailor with whom I’ve ever had the privilege to serve. It’s for the good of my ship, of my men, of me. Let me help you, it’s just a few more years and then you’d be truly free.”

Gedder shook his head yet again, “I know you mean well, cap’n. I know you do and I don’t mean to insult you by saying no. I don’t want the Executors to know my name, not even it means I’m a captain of Sea’cra. No, that I’ll not be. Maybe a captain someday, I have dreams too, when I’m washing out the bilge, no food in my belly, I dream too. But not to serve this corrupt nation, no, not that. To serve myself. That’s what I aim to do.”

The captain nodded his head, “I had to ask, old friend. If you’re in port in three months, you’re welcome back aboard. If not, maybe you’ll be a captain someday, a free captain. Maybe I’ll come to you, looking for work. You’ll take me on?”

Gedder nodded, “That I will, cap’n. I served a lot of captains over the years, from back when I was a boy on the old Sunsprite. The captain was an old drunk, liked to pick us by lot and have us bent over the railing and beat, every Sunday, for our spiritual well-being. Between you and me, he liked the backside of a young boy exposed to the sun more than anything. You’re a good captain, if I’m ever free, you’ll have a place aboard my ship.”

“Fair enough, Aaronson. I fear this is goodbye then,” said the captain with a nod of his head and extended a hand.

“I fear so, cap’n,” said Gedder taking the hand for a firm shake. “I fear so.”

“Good fortune.”

“And to you, cap’n. To you the same.”

Gedder saluted, left the bridge, made his way down the ladder to the main deck, over to the railing and down the walkway that took him ashore. A dozen other ships were lined up in their moorings and sailors, already drunk, staggered past as merchants, girls, urchins, and others lined up to offer various services. Gedder walked past them all with barely a glance.

“Sailor,” said a girl as he walked by but Gedder knew she was no girl. A woman well beyond girlhood but still up to her old trade, all she knew, but was getting too old to practice anymore. Her rouge and petticoats hiding a face and figure that was no more girlish than he was a raw sailor on his first ship. “Hey now, sailor. A tumble, me mother is starving, she is, the Executors turned us out, this is my first day on the docks, show me mercy.”

Gedder walked by without a word and the woman made an obscene gesture and spat out a curse before she moved on to another sailor.

The wind from the sea slowed considerably as Gedder left the exposed portion of the docks and headed deeper into the city. It was vibrant with life as sailors, visitors, and even families made their way through the well-patrolled regions just off the docks. Fish hawkers sold their goods to housewives and tavern-keepers alike, all under the watchful gaze of the Sea Watch, hard men paid by the Merchant Executors to make sure no thievery, at least unauthorized by that body, took place.

A couple of guardsmen watched Gedder closely as he walked but said nothing to him although he felt their eyes on him until he turned the corner. A young family; father, mother, and three children skittered to the other side of the walkway at his approach but he didn’t pay them much attention nor did he hear the mother’s words of warning to her children.

Eventually his feet took him past the dock’s and into the city proper. He knew where he was going and didn’t look at the delights the city had on offer. At one point he passed a couple of rough looking fellows in a narrow alley but his hand went to the knife in his belt and his eyes grew dark. If they had any violent intentions this proved enough to dissuade them of such notions.

Eventually he arrived at the front of a large tavern from whence lights, song, and the smell of piss and food wafted out. He walked past the front entrance and down the long block before turning into the alleyway behind the building. The stench of vomit was thick in the alley and a body, perhaps dead but maybe not, lay unmoving in a gutter where a trickle of thick, watery something barely flowed.

Ahead he saw the little stairwell down that he knew from many previous stays. He ran his fingers through his hair and felt the salty stickiness of another journey finished and then plunged down and rapped loudly on the door with a little pattern. A grate opened and then shut again. A moment later the clicking of a bolt and the door opened. A shadowy figure stood at the entrance and waved him past, “Gedder has returned.”

“Loftkin,” said Gedder recognizing the burly fellow. “Still watching the back door?”

“And whatever else the lady wants,” said the man as they stood looking at one another in the dim light of a candle that rested on a shelf nearby. “You’ll want your old room?”

Gedder nodded, “If you can call it a room.”

“How long before you ship out? The lady won’t put up with less than two weeks of work for her hospitality.”

Gedder shrugged and spoke quietly, “I’ll stay a month perhaps. No more than that, once I get a ship, then I’m off again. To see the world. They say that giant fellow is up to something on the big isle across the channel.”

“The Merchant Executor’s won’t put up with the likes of him for long. Once they’ve got a fellow in their grasps, he can’t escape. Go on then, the Mistress is up in the office. You know the way.”

Gedder nodded and moved past the man hearing the door shut behind him and then the scraping of the heavy bolt into place. He walked a few steps and then turned a corner into a narrow hallway where a mop and bucket leaned against the wall. He could hear the sound of knives and pots ahead where the kitchen staff was always busy at work but turned away from that and down another little corridor and then another before he arrived at a little wooden door that stood slightly ajar, the lock no longer worked, hadn’t ever worked perhaps.

Inside he dumped his duffle and saw the crates and boxes where supplies were kept to keep the tavern running. He climbed on a crate and reached behind an old wooden shelf to pull out a folded hammock. It took him only a few seconds to string it on the thick nails that he embedded in the wall studs all those years ago, when he first found work at the tavern between stints at sea. The smell was as always, stale and wet at the same time and there was a dead rat on the floor that he tossed into a bucket before leaving.

From there he went down little passages until he arrived at a creaky set of stairs that was barely wide enough for him to climb. At the top he turned to the left and opened a door that lead to a wide, carpeted corridor where lamps illuminated his view. The upper floor smelled fresh, a little alcove displayed pictures, well-painted of various men and women. He traversed this until he arrived at a large oak door where he knocked loudly on it.

“Come in, Gedder,” came a woman’s voice, not young but strong. “I’ve already heard you’re back. I’ll not take less than two-weeks of work. I can’t have you galivanting in for a few days and then shipping off. It disrupts the routine.”

He opened the door and saw the woman sitting at a heavy desk with parchment spread out in orderly little piles. Her dark hair was long and well-coiffed as it trailed across her narrow face, cascading onto the shoulders of a dress patterned with flowers. “Miss Aillendail,” said Gedder stepping forward with a little bow.

“Gedder,” she said looking up from her parchment, her bright blue eyes and pointed ears speaking of at least one elf in her lineage. “You heard me, two-weeks at the very least. I’ve got a business to run here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Gedder. “A fortnite you’ll have before I ship out again.”

“Good,” she said with a smile and leaned back easily in her leather chair. “It’s fine to have you back. Hardest worker I’ve ever had. I can’t get these spoiled kids today to mop up the vomit or clean the back room. They’re too good for it, but not my Gedder.”

“Room and board,” said Gedder still standing before her, not even moving toward the chair sitting in front of the desk. “The usual?”

“Room and board,” said the woman with a nod. “But I’ll not give you either until you give me work. You can head down to the back room and start cleaning it up right away. Two meals a day, no more. None of the booze in stock and no hanky-panky with the girls. I know they like you and want to give you a free tumble but that’s time and that’s money. Work and I’ll treat you fair, like always but just because I like you doesn’t mean you can get away with anything.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Gedder bowing his head. “I’ll work, you know me.”

“People change,” said the woman and dipped her head back to her work. “You must show me every time that you’re worthy of my generosity.”

“Yes, ma’am,” repeated Gedder and then slowly backed out of the room without saying anything else. He headed down the stairs to the back room where the patrons did their business. It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that he finished his work and returned to his room to wash up as best as possible in the leftover bathwater from a well-paying customer who stayed with one of the girls.

He slept for four hours, his body used to the rhythm of sea watches, and woke to the screech of children at play. He rolled out of his hammock, washed his face with the self-same water, scraped his cheeks with his straight blade, felt his various pockets to make sure everything was where it was the previous evening, slipped on his coat, and headed back through the dark corridors of the inn until he stood once again at the alley entrance behind the tavern.

In the early hours of the morning there was little traffic although the smell of freshly baked bread hung over the city like a bright cloud of pure white after a dark storm. He waved at a baker he knew along the route and was rewarded with some crusty bread from the day before. “Thank you, mate. Thank you,” he barked before continuing his journey.

He arrived at the little pawn shop not more than twenty minutes later but it was not quite open yet. He took a seat on the stone walkway outside the shop, his back to the brick wall that needed mortar, perhaps he could spare a few hours to get that done. The pawn shop was one of the few business’s in the city that could legally pay in days. He leaned back to rest his head for a moment.

He heard the approaching footsteps and opened his eyes to see if it was the owner of the shop, they generally opened early to accommodate for desperate customers in need of coins after a long night of incautious spending, but it was a militiaman wearing a thick wool coat stitched with a little badge of the city, a sailing ship. “You there, no sleeping on the sidewalk. Get moving,” the man punctuated his remark with a non-too-gentle kick.

“I’m waiting for the shop to open,” said Gedder with a glance at the door but he was already getting to his feet, for he knew what sort of answer lay ahead.

“Not my problem, we’ve got an ordinance against vagrancy here. Shop keepers don’t like your lot, keeps away customers.”

“I am a customer,” repeated Gedder now standing before the man and feeling his cheeks flushed with the rage of a decade but he managed to tamp it down, as he always did.

“Don’t rightly care,” said the officer with a shake of his head. “Move along.”

“Did you even hear what I said?”

Now the officer stood up to his full height, put one hand on his nightstick, and brought a whistle up to his mouth, “Did you hear me, boy?”

Gedder took a step away from the officer and began to back away but the man followed him and prodded him with a finger, “Git moving a little faster, you lazy skunk. I told you to get and I meant it, I’ll bust your head wide open. Think I ain’t done it before?”

Gedder turned and began to walk faster, but not fast enough as the man gave him a kick in the butt that nearly sent him sprawling. He didn’t turn around to see the smile but he heard the laughing all the way until he reached the corner and began to circle around the block, the long way.

By the time he returned the little placard in the window told him the place was now open. There was no sign of the officer but another of his ilk was likely not far away. Gedder pushed open the door carefully and walked in. The place was overly warm, an oven near the center of the floor with a pile of wood nearby. “Morning,” he said to the man who stood behind the counter. The man was nearly bald and wore a diamond earring in one ear and a heavy gold chain around his neck.

“Ah, sailor. Got some old coin found on a wreck? The knife of Sea Raider? We take anything of value, sale or pawn.”

Gedder approached the counter and reached into the pocket of his jacket, “I’ve got something sewn into my jacket, gotta cut it out, don’t mean trouble.”

The man nodded but took a step back, “You look like the honest sort, been here before? You look familiar.”

Gedder nodded as he sliced open the inside of his jacket and pulled out a little pouch. He spilled its contents on the counter. Several large coins of unusual design and a beautiful black pearl.”

The man behind the counter whistled, “That’s a nice pearl there. Stolen?”

Gedder shook his head, “Sea Raider came aboard the ship from the deeps one night. Killed him, didn’t tell the cap’n. Didn’t tell no one. Threw the body overboard and took the coins and pearl.”

The man looked back and forth and then spoke in a low tone, “I could report you, I could. Your captain might have a thing to say about that.”

Gedder stood in silence in front of the man, said nothing, and looked at the coins and pearl.

“All right, all right. I’m a fair man. That pearl is valuable it is, the coins too,” he said picking one up and examining it closely. “I can give you … say five-hundred.”

“I want days,” said Gedder.

The man snorted, “I can’t give you more than nine days without recording who it came from and those Executors don’t mess around. If I lie to them, they’ll take my business, I’ll be in debt enough for my grandsons.”

Gedder nodded, “I know the rules. Nine days for the pearl and five more for the coins, two separate transactions?”

“You’ve done this before?” said the man but Gedder didn’t reply.

“Nine it is then.”

“And five more for the coins.”

The man nodded, and reached below his counter for a thick ledger that was covered with dust that he brushed off. “Not many sailors interested in days. It’s a lost cause. Might as well enjoy life, eh. Debt slave for life but they don’t stop you from having fun.”

“I’m not most sailors,” said Gedder as the man carefully pulled out two pieces of the thick parchment, wrote the accounts on them and signed them with his official seal. “Thank you,” said Gedder although he noted on the man’s gaze on the pearl.

Gedder didn’t have to hear the man call him a damn fool to know that’s what he was thinking. He headed out of the pawn shop and then began to walk purposely toward the Seaman’s Union building where the account of days was kept. It only took him ten minutes of walking to arrive at the magnificent stone building, built who knows how long ago, by debt slaves no doubt.

He wiped his boots on the mat at the entrance and turned right, past the open room where dozens of sailors waited hoping to find a berth on a ship. Eventually he arrived at the exchequer where a bored looking clerk, sleep still in his eyes, sat behind a desk twirling a ball on a string.

“Ahem,” coughed Gedder.

The man looked up, “Ho there, don’t startle me. Jobs to be found back there.”

“I know,” said Gedder. “Gedder Aaronson. I’m here to pay off some of my days. Long cruise.”

“Aaronson is it,” said the clerk and yelled over his shoulder to a young lad who was sitting on a barrel picking his nose. “Aaronson!” Then he turned back to Gedder. “How old?”

“Thirty-two or thereabouts,” said Gedder.

“Thirty-two,” shouted the man and the boy went scurrying towards a large bank of shelves and began to walk down them looking at the letters and numbers written on the drawer fronts. Eventually he stopped at one and opened it. A few more seconds riffling through the contents and he pulled out a worn piece of paper and then a second.

“I ain’t never seen this many payments before,” he said plunking it down in front of the clerk. “You musta owed a lot?”

Gedder nodded and pulled the little parchment papers from his pocket and put them down on the table in front of the clerk who ran his finger down the column of figures. Then he looked at the parchment and his eyes widened. “Nothing stolen here?”

Gedder shook his head, “Long cruise, extra duties. Sold some personals at the pawn shop.”

“I’ll be damned,” said the clerk shaking his head. “Hey, fellas. Take a look at this. You ain’t gonna believe it.”

Several other clerks came from different parts of the building as the man looked up at Gedder, “Son, you’re a free man. What do you think of that?”

Gedder said nothing but he felt the tears on his cheeks and wiped them away with the back of his hand.

“I’ll be damned,” said another clerk, this one older, with an aura of authority about him. “The Executors always say it’s possible. Now, wait, there fellow,” this last looking at the ledger. “Aaronson. Gedder. Wait a moment, don’t go anywhere, we’ve got to get you tattooed properly so one will bother you again, make it official. Phillip, run down the street right now. Get that fellow from his bed if you have to. This free man ain’t gonna wait long, not on my watch. Damnit, free man. Good on you. By the Gods, good on you. Good on this corrupt world.”

An hour later he found himself at the front door of the inn, his mind still whirling, as he made his way through the entrance for the first time. A young lad saw him and the boy’s eyes opened wide, “Gedder, what are you doing?”

“Miss Aillendail around?”

The boys opened his mouth to say something but no words came out, “You ain’t supposed to be coming in the front, begging your pardon, Gedder. You’ll get docked meals, you will.”

“I’ve come to quit,” said Gedder.

“Is that so,” came the voice of the owner of the tavern as she came over from a table of finely dressed patrons. “You promised me two weeks and it hasn’t even been a day. Get in back and clean the kitchen or it’ll be one meal and I’ll make you sleep in the alley.”

“I paid off my debt, I’m a free man, and I won’t work for meals and a rat-infested closet for a room anymore.”

The woman stepped back for a moment from the intensity in his eyes but quickly regained her composure, “Well, good for you, Gedder. Good for you. You’ll still need money, a job. I’ve been good to you in the past and I’ll be fair with you now. You’re a good worker and I’ll pay you a fair wage.”

“You have taken advantage of me from the moment we first met. You’re a snake living off the sickly shells of a thousand rats delivered to you by the policies of Merchant Executors. You live off their tyranny. You might as well be one of them. You could have helped people with your wealth, with your influence, with your time. Instead, you chose, willfully, to use people for what you could extract from them. I do not say give them your coin, I do not claim you should sacrifice yourself; I do not ask for anything other than human decency and you have none to share, you have nothing except insatiable greed and a lust to see those less fortunate suffer for your own amusement. You sit at a fine table, laugh at their suffering, and devise schemes to make them more miserable. Then you go to church and pat yourself on the back for dolling out a stale piece of bread to a beggar in the streets. I quit you, I quit all those like you, and thank the Gods I don’t cut your throat on my way out.” With this he drew the knife from its sheaf and took a step toward her.

Her eyes opened wide and she stumbled to the ground before pointing at him, “I’ll call the guards, I’ll have you arrested, you’ll owe ten thousand days, you’ll come crawling back, begging.”

Gedder turned and strode out the door, not looking back, although he heard her shouting out invectives and threats as he headed down the street toward the docks.

Soon he was there and spotted a sailor with a familiar face although the named eluded him, they’d sailed together years ago. “Hey, there, sailor. I’m Gedder, we shared a berth long ago.”

The man nodded, “I remember, you taught me how to splice a hawser. What can I do ya?”

“The sea giant, they say he’s fitting out a ship, sailing across the channel to the big island. Do you know his slip?”

The man nodded and pointed, “Best be cautious, the Executors have banned Debtors from serving on that ship. They won’t pay in days, only coin.”

Gedder smiled and shook his head, “I’ll be cautious no more.” He followed the direction pointed out. Soon he came across the vessel tied up neatly and bustling with activity. “Hey! The ship, do you need a seasoned hand?”

A slim fellow with a wide grin and the pointed ears of an elf came to the taffrail and looked down at him, “You say you know your way around a ship?”

“I do.”

“Come aboard then, we need good hands although we pay in coin and the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.”

Gedder climbed up the gangway and studied the elf in front of him, “I’m Gedder.”

“Glengarious,” said the elf with a nod. “Do you have bags? Gear?”

Gedder shook his head, “Nothing. I’ve left it all behind. Is that a problem?”

The elf shook his head, “You look hungry, get down to the mess, tell the cook to make you something, and then report to the bosun for your duties.”

“You do not wish to see me work first?”

“The captain has funny ideas about treating a man like a man until he proves unworthy. You’ll see soon enough. Now, there is much work to be done. Get yourself fed and get to it.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Alien Planet Signal Misleading Headline

Alien Planet

No one likes a Misleading Headline more than me and if you wrap it up in an alien life story, you’re sure to catch my attention. Scientist believe they’ve detected mysterious radio signal from alien planet blares the highly misleading although technically accurate headline.

The headline from Chron, and other sources to be fair, that’s just the one I clicked on, in no small way tries to entice the unwary clicker to a story about radio signals from an alien race residing on said alien planet. Nope, as you’ve probably already guessed by the fact this article is my weekly series of Misleading Headlines. The planet itself vibrates in such a way as to be detected from Earth based telescopes.

This is actually an interesting and important breakthrough in the search for exoplanets, that is planets not in our solar system. If the signal turns out to actually be an alien planet, that means we should be able to detect other such planets in the future. This is useful information to have and might well increase the number of such planets we can find by a considerable amount.

The story itself is fairly interesting but the intentionally misleading headline earns my disdain. Again, the headline is actually perfectly accurate. The radio signal does come from an alien planet or exoplanet. This is the kind of headline that is subtly misleading while the author of it can claim, in all dishonesty, hey, I wrote the truth, it’s not my fault you can’t interpret the words correctly.

It’s a headline designed to deceive someone into clicking the link and getting to the article. The main problem I have with an accurate but misleading headline of this nature is that many people don’t bother to actually read the story or even click on the link and thus misinformation can spread.

Interesting story, interesting astronomy, misleading headline.

Tom Liberman

Government Money Well Spent for the SS United States?

SS United States

Back in 1952 U.S. taxpayers footed a $50 million dollar bill to build the SS United States and it gives me an opportunity to examine the value of government spending. Was it worth it to taxpayers to get the SS United States or was it a giant boondoggle with no value?

At the time of construction there was a competition called the Blue Riband for the fastest passenger liner to regularly cross the Atlantic Ocean and the SS United States was built with this award at least partially in mind. Aluminium was used extensively in the design lightening the weight and it was equipped with extremely powerful engines, making it almost certain to receive the award. Upon completion it did so, as expected, in both the eastbound and westbound directions.

However, with the advent of air travel, the financial feasibility of luxury liners diminished to almost nothing and the SS United States was soon unprofitable and eventually pulled from duty in 1969. Since then, the ship has cost various owners enormous sums of money; thankfully not tax-payers although such money was requested on multiple occasions.

For $50 million dollars the United States got a couple of awards that soon drifted into obscurity and seventeen years of presumably moderately profitable service for the owners, who provided the remaining $28 million in financing.

Was it worth it? That’s my question today. The only reason the United States government got involved in the project was for the prestige. Yes, they made noise about it being able to be converted into a troop ship but I’m interested in reality, not government gibberish designed to fabricate a reason for the way they do business.

Was a couple of awards worth $50 million? This question goes to the heart of a great deal of expenditures made by the U.S. government. The entirety of the manned space program as it currently exists is justified by the same logic.

It’s quite clear to me this money was wasted on a project that had little value to the tax-payers who footed the bill. Was it a source of pride? Sure. Did it help the ship workers at Newport News understand how to work with aluminium? Yes. These are not reasons enough, in my opinion; although I’d like to hear what you think as well.

Did tax-payers get value for their $50 in building the SS United States?

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Tom Liberman

Oh contraire Alan Dershowitz you can Count on the Courts

Alan Dershowitz

Esteemed lawyer Alan Dershowitz seems to be of the opinion the Supreme Court sent a message to Donald Trump that he cannot count on the court. The full quote is: The three justices that President Trump appointed, his three justices, voted not to hear the case. I think it’s a message to him and his team that you can’t count on the judiciary, you can’t count on the courts.

I cannot begin to tell you how this quote by Alan Dershowitz displays his utter disregard for the law and for the courts, a sentiment he mouths in ever-growing examples. Sorry, Alan Dershowitz, President Trump can count on the courts. The courts uphold the law not your personal vendetta, that’s the entire point of the legal system. A fact that Alan Dershowitz seems to have either forgotten or completely abandoned in his towering arrogance.

The courts are not here to do favors for those who appoint judges and, sadly, the entire political spectrum of the United States seems to have forgotten that vitally important fact along with Alan Dershowitz. It is has led to what I consider a Supreme Court that is wholly invalid and without legal standing.

Now, I’ve had my troubles with decisions of the Supreme Court all the way down to defining a tomato as a vegetable but my understanding of the court differs wildly from that of Alan Dershowitz. In rejecting the case in question, they were not sending a message, they were upholding the law, their job.

I’m reminded of my novel, yes fair readers, self-promotion time, The Sword of Water. In it, Jon Gray is explaining the nature of trust to Tenebrous the Shade. Jon trusts Tenebrous to do what is in his self-interest even if that is not in Jon’s interest. That is the point of the courts. They are not there to do the bidding of one party, one president, one befuddled and aging jurist. The entire court system can be counted on to uphold the law. That’s what this entire episode proves.

Jon relies on knowing how Tenebrous will react to a situation, and this allows Jon to further his own goals, even if they are diametrically opposed to that of the shade. We must have that same opinion of the Supreme Court and the courts in general. That is trust, that is counting on something, that is reliability.

No, Alan Dershowitz, the Trump administration and lawmakers can count on the courts, that’s the lesson to be learned from this sorry episode of United States history.

Tom Liberman

Johnny Manziel Misleading Headline

Johnny Manziel

I admit it, I clicked on the Johnny Manziel Misleading Headline. It’s one of those Misleading Headlines that isn’t overtly deceitful but is designed to lure the unsuspecting news junky. The Football World reacts to the Johnny Manziel News is the wording and, if you know anything about the mercurial life of Manziel, you might make the assumption I did.

The news about Manziel is rather pedestrian if you read the article. He’s signed to play in a potentially new football league but he’s been bouncing around from one league to another for a while now so it’s not really worthy of a major story. However, because of Manziel’s history of mental difficulties it’s entirely possible a foolish fellow clicked on the link based on the thought that perhaps Manziel had finally managed to kill himself.

Now, I hope this new football opportunity works out for Manziel although I’m skeptical, as is I’m sure everyone else. I hardly think the football world, whatever that might be, is spending much time reacting to anything Manziel does.

So, the Misleading Headline of the Week award is given to The Spun. Well earned!

Tom Liberman

Haim Eshed says Aliens waiting for Sane and Understanding

Sane and Understanding

There’s a story making the rounds about a fellow named Haim Eshed who says aliens are waiting to disclose themselves to the people of earth until we are sane and understanding. He makes a number of other claims and his credentials are being touted as the former head of the Israeli Space Security program although I’m not sure what that means.

Some research indicates he was the first director of the Challenge Program, a division of the Department of Defense’s Office of Weapons Research, Development, and Technology Infrastructure, although again, I’m not really certain how that makes him knowledgeable in this field.

In any case, the qualifications of Eshed are not what I’m here to debate today. He makes quite a few outlandish claims but even that is not the focus of today’s talk. I want to discuss one claim in particular, the aliens are waiting for the people of this planet to be “sane and understanding.”

Eshed claims there is a Galactic Federation and they contacted the United States some time ago but don’t want their presence revealed until we reach the sane and understanding phase of our civilization. That if we are not sane and understanding, panic and chaos might result. As many problems as I can find with all of his claims, that’s the one that I couldn’t manage to swallow.

I mean, really, sane and understanding? This is the old science fiction trope dating back all the way to H. G. Wells, that people aren’t ready to know about aliens and therefore they must be kept a secret. Was there ever a time when people would descend into chaos because aliens appeared?

It’s my opinion people are not any saner or more understanding today than they were in ancient Egypt. That being said, we are quite capable of dealing with the idea of alien races, as were the ancients. What are people doing to do? Run out in the streets and riot? My guess is a pretty healthy majority of people would jump for joy at the news.

We are not going to have an epiphany of sane and understanding sweep over the world. The claim we can’t handle the news is just a feeble excuse for why Eshed offers no proof, as is often the case with people pushing nonsensical claims with no evidence. I could show you but you just aren’t ready to hear it. Ha!

If the aliens are waiting for sane and understanding they’ve already waited too long. Our level of sane and understanding hasn’t changed at all and isn’t likely to change in the future. We are what we are.

Tom Liberman

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act Insanity

President Trump just signed into law something called the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act which passed through Congress without so much as a whimper of disapproval. The law allows our government to arrest any athlete, for up to ten years, who uses a prohibited substance or method in any competition in which a U.S. athlete takes part.

The bill passed the house by a voice vote and senate with unanimous consent. That means no one particularly objected to the idea of the United States government arresting and imprisoning athletes from other countries, participating in events in other countries, for such violations. To paraphrase the Sopranos; Where do we get the balls?

For those of you who think this is perfectly acceptable; would you agree to another country passing such a law and arresting U.S. athletes, imprisoning them for up to ten years, seizing their property and forfeiting it to that country? No? I thought not.

Any athletic organization can make any rule it wants as far as I’m concerned but why is the government of the United States getting involved? If some Somali runner tests positive for a steroid while running in a race in France, law enforcement from the United States can swoop in and arrest her or him? Imagine if the United States now had Femke Van den Driessche in prison for her actions in cycling.

The idea we can police the citizens of other countries in this manner is insane. When a U.S. citizen is murdered by a foreign national in a foreign country, it is up to that country to prosecute the criminal, not the United States. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act overtly gives law-enforcement from foreign nations the right to operate in the United States.

In Afghanistan the limit for blood alcohol in a driving accident is a big 0.00%. Can law enforcement in that country come to the United States and arrest anyone who had an accident involving an Afghani? Would you support that? No! Obviously.

By passing the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act we give every law, in every foreign nation, the right to be enforced in the United States regarding the citizens of the original country. No one in Congress managed to think about this? None of our esteemed Representatives and Senators?

Where do we get the balls? Where?

Tom Liberman

Aerosmith was Better on Drugs but for Whom?

Aerosmith was Better on Drugs

A social media friend of mine posited with unequivocal certainty that Aerosmith was better on drugs. By this he means their music was more enjoyable to him. The main point being, when taking mind-altering drugs, the band created better music. He might well be right but I think the important factor in that statement is my friend is viewing what is better through the lens of his betterment, not the members of the band.

I think this willingness to view the state of another person’s life and decision by how you are affected is a common human condition. I don’t blame my friend for saying what he said, and there are probably some reasonably objective standards we could apply to the question but that is not my point today.

Yes, it’s entirely possible Aerosmith was better on drugs then when they gave the lifestyle up. Perhaps their music was stronger, edgier, and better by all objective standards but that doesn’t change the underlying selfishness of the statement. I enjoyed the music more when the members of Aerosmith were blitzed out of their mind on mind-altering drugs. That they might have been shortening their lives, creating significant medical issues, courting death by overdose, hurting those around them with their behavior, is unimportant. Or at least less important than my enjoyment of their music.

Artists, by and large, suggests my friend, are better when they are whacked out of their gourd. Again, I’m not trying to insult my friend with this observation. I think we all look at life through our own eyes and what is good for us. I see nothing wrong with this philosophy, to at least some degree, but I think it’s important to recognize it.

Was Aerosmith better on drugs? For me, yes. For them, arguable. This is one of the fundamental ideas of objectivism and libertarianism, both philosophies my friend ridicules and perhaps why I’m writing this blog. It turns out my friend is an objectivist Libertarian of the first order when it comes to bands producing the kind of music he likes.

Take that, Harris.

Tom Liberman

What to do about China cornering Cobalt Market

Cobalt Market

The Cobalt Market is in the news these days and this fact brings an opportunity for me to make a comparison between political philosophies of China and the United States. China is in the process of gathering an enormous share of the Cobalt Market and this presents a problem in that the element is a key component in the production of lithium-ion batteries. These batteries will drive the future of energy storage.

The fact that China now has control of a large share of the cobalt market is largely because that nation implemented a strategic, long-range plan called Belt and Road which I wrote about a few years back. Belt and Road encouraged economic ties between China and so-called third-world countries for the development of raw material. Almost fifty percent of all cobalt in the world is mined by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and this is because China invested money to build both mines and economic ties with Congo.

Belatedly, the United States realized this is a problem. Companies around the world need cobalt to produce lithium batteries and China, for the foreseeable future, has most of the mineral rights. Now comes the pertinent part of this blog. What can the United States do? There are two competing philosophies on the subject; essentially America First and Globalism.

The America First philosophy is largely promoted by the Trump Administration and its nationalistic backers. They want to encourage cobalt mining in the United States to ensure a supply of the vital element. By encourage, I mean give government money, taxpayer money, to companies to build mines and refining facilities. To ease environment restrictions and pass tax breaks along to companies who do so.

The globalist policy is pushed by a variety of backers and largely suggests investing in soft power, good foreign relations with countries like Australia with proven reserves of cobalt. This policy relies on strong economic ties with allies throughout the world. This is largely the policy that China pursued with Belt and Road and which has secured them enormous mineral rights with allied nations across the globe.

It’s important to understand one of these philosophies is largely socialistic. It relies on government rewarding businesses that behave in a way it desires. It is not direct socialism but crony capitalism which in the end is probably worse than socialism. The government wants cobalt. It bribes companies to mine the element.

The other method relies on capitalism and strong ties with foreign countries. This is a policy that has driven in the United States almost since its founding. We cannot, and should not, try to be self-reliant for all things, for the simple reason that such a policy is doomed to failure.

If we have strong alliances with countries that have natural resources, we will always have a supply chain. If we rely on our government to use our tax dollars to setup a financially unsustainable source here, we are doomed to both supply problems and a forever drain on our economy.

China’s Belt and Road is the proper strategy and its one the United States pursued for over two-hundred years, with great success. Our freedom was exported throughout the world and our alliances were strong.

We can certainly attempt an America First policy and this will, eventually, produce a home built cobalt market but it will never be enough. It is an endeavor doomed to failure and socialistic to boot. I know the America First people don’t like to hear it, but you are socialist, far more dangerous, in many ways, than those who actively promote socialism.

Tom Liberman

A Fall Football Game to Remember

Fall Football Game

Many years back I was invited to play in a fall football game by a couple of friends. Two hand touch. Hard touch. I was a stranger to all the participants except the brothers Burlis who invited me. There was a quite a crowd, perhaps sixteen of us, enough for a little eight on eight.

We played on a big grassy field and the endzones were marked by nebulously noted shrubbery and trees. Sides were chosen not by a captain but a sort of mutual moving to one side of the field or the other until all was arranged. It turned out we had an even number, a harbinger of things to come. A good omen for a fall football game.

In the first series it quickly became apparent my side was not quite as athletic as the other team but perhaps our average player was better than theirs. The leaders of my team were somewhat sports savvy and we arranged a zone style defense to combat their better stars, something even our worst players understood and could carry out with some skill.

Play in that fall football game proceeded apace. The going was tough. Our zone proved nettlesome for their stars and even I managed a juggling pick six to tie the game at one point. The game went on but every time one side managed to push the ball past the aforementioned tree line, the other team would respond in kind.

No more than a single score separated the two sides and the hard touches sent me, and a few others tumbling to the ground in grassy delight more than once. Spirits were high, the competition was equal and while not fierce, friendly and unforgiving.

The hours passed quickly and people began to glance at their watches, this was before smart phones. A next touchdown rule was implemented and both sides failed several times before the ball was pushed across the line in a hard-fought finale.

Nobody on the losing side, mine, was particularly upset and the winners were not overly celebrative, it was a moment of joyous fall football for all, it was all winners and no losers. As we walked off the field one of the brothers who invited me, mentioned that it was a good game. He was not a particularly sport savvy fellow but still recognized the moment for what it was.

I smiled and shook my head. “You have no idea how rare that is,” I told him.

Here’s to wishing everyone a fall football game like that, even if it’s not football.

Tom Liberman

General Relativity Misleading Headline

General Relativity

The Hill clocks in its second Misleading Headline of the Week in a row with a real doozy about General Relativity and research into Einstein’s groundbreaking theory. I’m a science geek, fully admitted, and I find the theory of General Relativity to be a fascinating contradiction of common sense. Therefore I was hoping for some interesting reading. Spoiler: Didn’t get it.

The headline promises a discussion on the subject of General Relativity but the article is all of five paragraphs long with three of them being but a single sentence. To quote a favorite YouTube food reviewer; My day is ruined and my disappointment is immeasurable. Well, not that bad but it was disappointing most certainly.

The article, what there is of it, has the scientist in question Joe Pesce discussing how time travel, which he doesn’t believe is possible, wouldn’t alter the world because the timeline would fix itself from paradoxes. Ok, well, I mean, I guess that sounds reasonable but it’s certainly not a discussion of General Relativity and it was absolutely not what I was expecting from the misleading headline.

Now, if you want to talk about gravitational lensing, the perihelion procession of Mercury, Frame-dragging tests, gravitational waves, or any other topic relating to the theory which my feeble brain tries to understand, well, bring it on! I’m game.

Tom Liberman

General Salvador Cienfuegos Charges Dropped

Cienfuegos

United States Attorney General William Barr dropped all charges against General Salvador Cienfuegos who, among other things, informed Mexican Drug Cartels who was an inside informant resulting in the murder of said person. Why did William Barr do this, well, he claims it’s because Mexico wants to charge Cienfuegos, but the real reason is to make sure that Mexican authorities continue to cooperate with the US in drug interdiction.

Let’s be clear, the United States has many, many Mexican nationals in our prisons related to drug crimes. What makes Cienfuegos special is that he has friends in high places and our completely corrupt government is happy to do them a favor.

In continuing to be clear, Cienfuegos is responsible for far more of the drug trafficking coming into the United States than a thousand low-level drug dealers. Our willingness to lock up a person selling drugs on the corner while ignoring the entire top of the supply chain is a damning indictment of those who bleat earnestly about the dangers of drugs in the United States.

I’m against the War on Drugs for any number of reasons. I don’t think we should be prosecuting this war and I think the interdiction effort has caused more harm to the citizens of the United States than any other policy of government in the history of the country.

However, if you are for the War on Drugs, if you believe this scourge must be stopped, then you should be calling for Barr to be hanged by his neck until dead, I won’t hold my breath. The reason you won’t is because you are not really invested in ending the War on Drugs. This war fills the pockets of not only Cienfuegos but law enforcement agencies throughout this country. We are completely corrupted by the money and Barr’s head is deeply in the trough.

The government takes your tax dollars by the billion and redistributes this wealth to law enforcement agencies across the country. This money is the primary way the Attorney General of the United States controls law enforcement. It is the way government bribes local officials into doing their bidding.

When Barr claims Cienfuegos will be tried and imprisoned in his own country, he is taking part in the grand deception. When Barr funnels money to law enforcement to war on drugs, they purchase equipment that allows them to crush freedom across the country, from Lafayette Square to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Drugs have won, not because they are legal, but because they are illegal. We the People are losing.

Tom Liberman

Arches National Park Misleading Headline

Arches National Park

The family of woman’s right activist is suing Arches National park for $270 million in regards to her death. When I saw this headline, and I imagine you as well, thought the woman was climbing one of the famous rock structures at Arches National Park and fell to her death. That the family is looking for a payout in regards to the woman’s own stupidity.

Well, The Hill, you win today’s misleading headline of the week award. The reason being that she was killed when wind slammed a metal gate closed so forcefully it sliced through her car and she was decapitated.

The headline is misleading not because it is inaccurate, it misleading because it was written for the purpose of deceit knowing the assumptions that would result. The first line of the article further advances the deception by prominently mentioning she was a woman’s right activist. You won’t be surprised to find there are many people looking for reasons to eviscerate social justice proponents and the headline along with the first line of the article is a direct appeal to them.

Many of the people who click the headline or even manage to bring themselves to read the first paragraph of the article will come away with a serious misunderstanding of events and they will spread it far and wide on their social media platforms.

This is the danger of misleading headlines in general. Arches National park owes the family of the woman some money, I’m not sure if it’s $270 million or some other amount but there is not question in my mind that a settlement is in order.

Were you fooled? I was until I took the time to read the article and learn the facts of the matter.

Tom Liberman

Conservatorship of Britney Spears

Conservatorship of Britney Spears

The Conservatorship of Britney Spears is in the news these days because the entertainer was suing to regain control of her finances which her father has controlled for the last twelve years. The issue in regards to whether or not to revoke the conservatorship of Britney Spears is an interesting question from a Libertarian perspective.

First a little background, twelve years ago Spears went through a difficult period in her life that led to losing custody of her two children, serious financial setbacks, and out-of-control behavior fueled by various intoxicants. In order to prevent further damage, Jamie Spears, her father, petitioned the state of California for Conservatorship and was awarded such. It is now 2020 and, according to Britney Spears, times have changed. She thinks she is now capable of handling her own finances and is concerned her father is not managing the money appropriately.

The question about the conservatorship of Britney Spears is a difficult one because it seems quite clear that she was, twelve years ago, incapable of properly managing her life. The state allowed her father to step in and manage her money and life and, judging by events over those twelve years, he has done at least an adequate, if not exceptional, job.

That being said, who is Jamie Spears or the court system to say that Britney Spears is still incapable of managing her life and finances after twelve years of personal growth? The general Libertarian mantra suggests if a person wants to ruin their own life, it is their right to do so. However, if the person is not mentally or physically capable of doing so, the question is much more nuanced.

I have a mentally disabled family member and there is no question she should never be in charge of her own finances. The money would be stolen by dishonest entities and she would almost certainly be left destitute and in horrific conditions without protection.

Britney Spears is not so impaired, physically or mentally. She might well have a substance abuse predilection but we just don’t know one way or the other if she is capable of handling her own finances. It’s possible some con-artist is pulling the strings in an attempt to end the conservatorship of Britney Spears. I strongly suspect Jamie Spears is better capable of handling the finances than his daughter. That suspicion is not enough, in my opinion at least, to keep the conservatorship of Britney Spears fully in place.

In this particular case it is a father attempting to look out for the welfare of his daughter but there are parallels to government trying to look out for me and you. In some cases, the father does know best and, in some cases, so does the government. That does not mean we should allow them to take control of our lives without strong reasons.

Britney Spears has spent twelve years without control of her own money and I think that’s long enough, barring any evidence to the contrary. She should be allowed to manage her own finances. When it comes to controlling another person’s finances or life, we must err on the side of freedom or we risk tyranny.

Tom Liberman

Oregon Leads the Way on Drug Legalization

Drug Legalization

All praise Oregonians and their enlightened stance on drug legalization. Hail magnificent, glorious Oregon for defying an out of control federal government led by decree wielding autocrats issuing executive orders as a way to wage war on the citizens they perceive as the enemy.

Oregon just decriminalized small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and LSD, among others so-called hard drugs. This action, this glorious defiance of an overreaching federal and state governments warms the cockles of my heart, wherever they might be found.

The War on Drugs is a war on the citizens of the United States, there is no question this war has caused more misery than any other federal program in the history of the country. I’ve written numerous times on why this war destroys families, communities, law enforcement, the legal profession, and everything it touches so I will not wax poetic today. Today I shower praise on Oregon for charging forward.

The entirety of whether or not marijuana, or any other drug, is something federal or state governments can regulate is wrapped up in a cased called Gonzales v. Raich and it is interesting reading. Drug legalization is freedom for people.

The point here is fairly straight-forward from my perspective. Those in power like telling you what to do and drug legalization is something they don’t want. The pecking order is Federal, State, Local. The party in power at each level enjoys forcing their view of right and wrong on everyone they control. It is my opinion the Constitution of the United States was written with a full understanding of the nature of humans to want to force others. The powers of the Federal Branch are barely limited anymore, what the Federal Government wants, it gets. What the State wants, it gets.

There are few solutions left to freedom lovers who have no desire to dictate to anyone else how she or he leads life. We are overwhelmed by do-gooders who know what gun I should own, what weed I should smoke, what medical procedure I should have, what religion I should pursue. We the People must pass laws, in our municipalities and states, contrary to the authoritarian decrees of out of control federal and state governments.

This is the power of the people. Well done, Oregon.

Tom Liberman

The Generational Misogyny of Sean Connery

Sean Connery

Sean Connery died earlier this week and while tributes poured in from many sources one of my social media friends brought my attention to his opinion on striking women. Connery felt it perfectly acceptable to hit a woman if she was being annoying. Sean Connery was 90 years old when he died and that means he grew up in the 1930s and 1940s. The general misogyny of the United States during this period is something people seem to have forgotten.

During that era the first women voted in the United States. Women didn’t serve on juries in many states and Mississippi was the last to allow them to do so starting in 1968. The first woman elected as a judge in the United States didn’t happen until 1920. I could go on but I won’t. When Sean Connery was a boy, women were largely second-class citizens, beholden to their husbands, commanded by religion to obey, with fewer legal rights than men.

This is the era of Sean Connery and when he said it was perfectly acceptable to hit a woman if she was being annoying, he was speaking for the majority. I don’t write this to absolve him of blame for this misogynistic opinion, I write it to showcase how little removed we are from such a world. It seems to me women in the United States largely forget their gender was, until relatively recently, not considered legally competent to make their own decisions in life. They were barred from everyday practices men enjoy.

This casual and systemic misogyny has a number of sources, not least of which are religious texts regarding adultery, rape, and other such decrees. I’m an Atheist because I am convinced there is no creator deity but I despise religious doctrine in no small part in regards to its views about women. I don’t want to go too far in that tangent so I’ll get back to my point.

The normal, systemic, acceptable view of women being nothing more than chattel for men is not as far removed as you might delude yourself into thinking. Search through your social media with due diligence and you will find plenty of people who imagine women must be subservient to men, they must be modest, they must follow religious laws, they must bow, they must whimper, they must beg, they must trust men to make decisions for them. Sean Connery is dead but his world is not gone, it lurks, waiting, hoping for a return.

Stand on guard, my friends, do not forget. An individual must decide the path of her life. Those that wish to control, to degrade, to inflict violence and enforce their will, they are the enemy.

Tom Liberman