No One Elected Jack Dorsey and that is the Point

No One Elected Jack Dorsey

No one elected Jack Dorsey who is the co-founder of twitter and, Senator Ted Cruz, that’s the entire point why he’s free to allow whatever sort of speech he wants on his platform. The very fact Senator Cruz is completely wrong about the meaning of Freedom of Speech as defined in the First Amendment to the Constitution is disheartening although expected.

The point of the First Amendment is that an elected official, you Senator Cruz, cannot so infringe upon our freedom of speech. The fact no one elected Jack Dorsey is absolute proof that he can do so however he sees fit.

If the publishers of Jewish website refuse to post inflammatory neo-Nazi and Ku-Klux-Klan messages that is their right to do so. If Breitbart News or some other conservative outlet doesn’t want to let Nancy Pelosi speak on their platform, that is absolutely their right. Why? Because no one elected Jack Dorsey and no one elected the owners of those organization.

It is you, Senator Cruz, you who are restricted by the Constitution of the United States from arresting me for printing this blog. That’s what Freedom of Speech means. It applies to you and your political colleagues in Washington D.C., in the governor’s mansions around this nation, in the municipal courthouses. You cannot infringe what I say or, more importantly, choose not to say. That’s the entire point!

By telling Twitter, or any other media outlet, what they must print under threat of punishment, you are violating the First Amendment. This is the arrogance of government today. Politicians like Cruz tell us; not only can we tell you what to say under threats but we’re happy to do so and cite the very document that explicitly prevents us from doing it as justification.

Madness! Insanity!

The answer to your question, Senator Cruz, is no one elected Jack Dorsey. Now, get about trying to do something to help this country rather than turn it into everything the Constitution is designed to prevent.

Tom Liberman

Jared Kushner and Black People wanting Success

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner recently implied one of the reasons black people have struggled in the United States is they don’t want to be successful. His exact words were … but he (Trump) can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful. The question this Libertarian asks is: how do we define success?

I’m sure Jared Kushner and others will be spinning his comments one way or the other and that’s fine. However, there is no doubt in my mind Jared Kushner was simply repeating a line I’ve oft heard before. Black people have only themselves to blame for their lack of success in the United States. It’s a refrain that ignores a great deal of reality and, conveniently, absolves white people from any blame in the matter.

Now, I’m a white guy. Let’s get that out of the way. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black person nor can I speak for them on this subject. I’m merely giving my thoughts on it and I have at least the background of a racially mixed primary and secondary education to support me.

When Jared Kushner talks about black people having to want to succeed, he’s talking about himself, not black people. How he defines success, how his wealthy New Jersey father defines success, how his culturally Jewish heritage defines success. This is not the same as many other people and cultures.

The inherent problem with this attitude is it makes huge assumptions about the personal desires of other people and the cultural mores they value.

I think it’s safe to say black people have compelling reasons for not wanting to seek success the way a largely white America and Jared Kushner define such. We don’t even need to bring up the subject of slavery. Black people today are oppressed by white people overtly and covertly. One of the hidden oppressions is on full demonstration when Jared Kushner speaks on the subject. You must succeed the way I define it, otherwise it isn’t success. That’s his inference and black people have been hearing that for a long, long time. Many of them aren’t buying it and who can blame them?

Recently a person whose own background and culture strongly resemble that of Jared Kushner, Ben Shapiro, wrote that rap isn’t music. Presumably people who make great rap songs that others enjoy are not successful in his imagination. That’s the problem with trying to define how other people should view success.

For some people having a country house with a big yard to mow and some chickens is success. For others going billions of dollars into debt to purchase real-estate holdings and not paying any taxes is their version of success. For me success is defined by writing books that few people purchase. There is no one path to success and when we try to force our version of it on others, we are being presumptuous.

The fact Jared Kushner thinks he knows how black people should view success is part and parcel of the entire problem. People resent such a patronizing attitude.

It is impossible for irony to be more on display when Kushner goes on to blame black people for protesting the murder of George Floyd by crying on Instagram but not offering solutions. Kushner says you solve problems with solutions. Jared Kushner, instead of telling black people they just need to want to have success, maybe you should offer a practical and pragmatic solution, instead of crying to Fox News.

Tom Liberman

Debates about Government Oil Policy

Government Oil Policy

What should be done about government oil policy? That’s the question President Trump and former Vice-President Biden spoke about at the Presidential Debate on October 22 but it’s not really the question at all. We don’t have a Libertarian Candidate in the debates and therefore we only get to hear answers that amount to the same thing. Both Democrats and Republicans are making the same argument.

The problem is Trump and Biden want the same thing; they want a government oil policy that interferes in the natural capitalistic processes. I know, I know, you think your side is completely opposite of the other side but you’re badly mistaken.

Once you admit you want Trump to use the government to support the oil industry or you want Biden to give government aid to renewable energy; you’ve tacitly admitted the government gets a say in the matter at all. If Libertarian Jo Jorgensen had been included in the debate she would, I feel confident, say the only good government oil policy is to stay out of it.

The government; state, federal, and local, should not be giving subsidies to oil or renewables. Imagine if, back in the day, government officials felt the need to protect horses and the industries that support them by suppressing motor vehicles. What if the government poured millions of dollars into candle productions and put up road blocks to electric lights? Where would the United States be as a world power if it had acted in the interests of either?

I wrote a blog about why renewable energy is quickly overtaking coal and oil as the main source of power in the United States but that’s not what I’m writing about today. The message I’d like to convey is when you agree the government has the power to support a particular industry for the good of the nation, you are agreeing with both Trump and Biden. You are, for all practical purposes, making the same argument.

Once you say there can be a government oil policy to influence one of the base structures of modern society, energy, you give it the right to control everything. If you don’t like Trump then you must tell Biden to stop promoting renewable energy. If you fear Biden then you must tell Trump to stop supporting big oil and coal. If you support one, you support both, though you almost certainly imagine you do not.

The more power government has in our lives the more control someone you don’t like will have when they ascend to the highest offices. Do you fear Biden? Vote Libertarian. Do you fear Trump? Vote Libertarian. It’s the only way to be sure.

Tom Liberman

Troy Aikman and the Flyover

Flyover

The fact Troy Aikman and Joe Buck have their patriotism put in doubt when they question the need for a flyover during an NFL game with low attendance starkly tells us about something called Ego Defense. It’s not about disagreeing; it’s about feeling devalued. It’s not about Aikman, Buck, and the flyover, it’s about your own fragile ego.

I wrote about taxpayer money going to sports teams for various military tributes and a flyover is essentially the same thing, the money being paid for advertisements comes out of taxpayer money. With the country in suffocating debt, exacerbated by the failed Covid-19 response to the tune of $3.1 trillion this year alone, it’s more than a legitimate criticism from Aikman and Buck, it’s a simple fact. Why is the military spending tens of thousands of dollars to perform a flyover for a largely empty stadium?

Why is your self-worth wrapped up in criticizing Aikman and Buck? How is it that you somehow fool yourself into thinking you’re patriotic when you accuse others of not being so? It’s simply an Ego Defense.

In the words of a Psychology Today Article: … criticism is an easy form of ego defense. We don’t criticize because we disagree with a behavior or an attitude. We criticize because we somehow feel devalued by the behavior or attitude. Critical people tend to be easily insulted and especially in need of ego defense.

The article goes on to explain those who feel the need to criticize do so out of feelings of unworthiness. My own anecdotal experience confirms this quite thoroughly. Those who feel the need to criticize others are doing so out of their own feelings of self-loathing. They must convince themselves they are better than others and that’s exactly what is happening with Aikman, Buck, and the flyover.

Taking a knee during the National Anthem, wearing a BLM shirt, an Antifa shirt, waving a Confederate Flag, waving a Rainbow Flag, none of these things hurts you in any way, it’s all about you and your own problems. Your ego is fragile and needs defense. The more fragile your ego, the more you need to criticize everyone who does thing differently than you, the stronger your ego, the less you need to do so.

Aikman did nothing wrong, it’s pretty clear his opinion has merit, something we can discuss at length but is not the point I’m making today. If you think Aikman is less of a patriot because he chose to criticize the flyover, then it’s you with the problem, not him. Get over it.

Tom Liberman

Watching People Argue in a Chess Chat

Chess Chat

Chess Chat is as filled with acrimonious debate as any political forum and, while watching the first round of the Norway Chess Tournament an instructive moment occurred which I will wax on about today. Don’t be too distressed, the topic isn’t primarily chess, or chess chat, it’s how to have a productive debate.

In this case the chess chat included a hearty exchange, including nasty insults as per usual, between two interlocuters debating as to which chess format, blitz or classical was more interesting, or more to the point whether or not classical chess is boring. Of some note but not important to the point is that one of the debaters is essentially the chief sponsor of chess in the United States. He took the side that classical chess was more interesting while an unknown but equally belligerent opponent took the opposite view.

Don’t worry, the chess talk is finished. What is important to understand is the nature of the question being debated and how to arrive at an objective answer. One side of the debate posited that a particular thing was more boring than another thing of largely the same nature.

What is the first thing to understand in order to arrive at a conclusion to this debate? What is boring, how do we define boring in this context, it must be determined. We cannot have any meaningful answer until we do so. Now, there are a number of ways to do this, but what is vitally important to understand is that neither of the two challengers made any attempt to do so.

They simply wrote facts back and forth at one another. This many people watched that tournament, so many people watched the other tournament. The quality of play in this style is better than the other style. It was endless, pointless, and much to the dismay of most of the people in chat, hideously boring. No one got anywhere except to clog up the chess chat with their ranting and most certainly, no one’s opinions were changed. Meanwhile, there was some quite interesting chess being played that the two debaters completely ignored.

The lesson is simple enough, you can’t arrive at an objective answer without defining what it is you are debating. A lesson neither of the two debaters understood or, frankly, are ever likely to understand.

Thus ends the lesson, young Ionians. Go outside to practice your Phalanx maneuvers and we shall return to the problem on the morrow.

Tom Liberman

Why Does Coreg Cost so much?

Coreg

A company called Teva Pharmaceuticals just got hit with a $235 million penalty for selling a generic version of Coreg which can help with congestive heart failure. Teva sells it for 4 cents a pill while the brand name manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline sells it for $1.50 a pill. And you wonder why medical costs are high in the United States?

If you suffer from congestive heart failure then you are forced to purchase your pills at an enormous premium, just to try and stay alive. The entire legal case is fairly instructive in understanding why drug prices are so high in the United States as compared to most of the rest of the world.

Glaxo has the rights to Coreg but the original patent expired. During its use, Glaxo determined that Coreg is also effective against hypertension. They got a new patent on Coreg for that disease which is still in effect. Teva markets their drug with a label that excludes hypertension to avoid patent infringement. Doctors, however, are well aware the generic Teva version of Coreg works well against hypertension as well as congestive heart failure, and, wanting to save their patients a lot of money, prescribe it.

It’s all fascinating from a legal perspective but it is the actual impact that interests me the most. It’s clear if Teva can make a generic version of Coreg for four cents a pill, that Glaxo could certainly drop the price on their version dramatically. Particularly to be noted; Coreg is already out of its original patent and any profit taking should have already occurred, that’s the whole point of a patent.

Sure, Glaxo figured out Coreg had another purpose but that didn’t cost them anything more in research and development. It’s exactly the same drug they originally patented. They’ve had the legally required amount of time to make a profit off exclusive sales. Yet, they are still gouging patients at a rate of $1.46 per pill because they found a new use for it and can suppress competition.

This is part and parcel why healthcare costs in the United States are an enormous problem. I’m not against patents, I think Glaxo has every right to exclusively offer their product in order to recoup development costs. That time frame has expired.

The major drug companies use the FDA and the United States court system as weapons against anyone trying to produce cheaper version of medication. You pay. This case will cost you and those you love.

This is part of the reason insurance costs are so high, this is why tens of millions of U.S. citizens can’t afford insurance, go without drugs, suffer terribly, and often die. The entire reason we have the Affordable Care Act, which is so polarizing, is because of this weaponization of the FDA and the court systems against capitalism in the form of generic drugs.

If companies were allowed to reasonably create generic drugs then we most likely wouldn’t need the ACA, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Tom Liberman

Irish Court rules Subway Sandwiches not made with Bread

Subway Sandwiches

The Supreme Court of Ireland just ruled Subway Sandwiches are not made with bread. You read correctly. What’s important to understand is not the ruling itself but the reason behind the ruling, why is it judges must spend time determining the composition of Subway sandwiches.

The reason the justices were examining the situation is because Ireland has a tax exemption for staple foods like bread but differentiates bread from cake by how much sugar is used in the baking process. A case was brought by Subway wanting a refund for the ingredients they use to make bread. The court ruled the amount of sugar used in making bread for Subway sandwiches is greater than the limit allowed. I’m going to stop examining the actual case here and get to my main point, which has nothing to do with how the bread on Subway sandwiches is prepared.

The problem here is that the courts are looking at the baking process of bread, not what that procedure might or might not be. It’s basically the same reason the United States Supreme Court ruled a tomato is a vegetable. It all has to do with taxes, tariffs, and government intervention.

Now, you are probably thinking, hey, it’s a good thing the government gives tax exempt status to staple foods so that people don’t have to pay extra for a simple meal. I agree. The problem isn’t giving tax exempt status to bread, the problem is taxing food at all. What is the justification for taxes on food?

I’ve written before I’m not completely against taxes. We pay taxes for transport infrastructure because the government uses tax money to build and maintain roads. We find those roads particularly useful and so, rather than have each neighborhood build and maintain their own section of road, we allow the government to tax us for a unified system.

The justification for taxing food is the same as the justification for any product. People need to drive to the store to purchase things. However, the drive to the store to purchase bread is exactly the same as the drive to purchase a chocolate cake. Taxing cake but not bread is an attempt to make people eat in a healthier manner and forces the courts to look into the baking process at Subway, which is time not well spent.

If we decide it is important for people to purchase food and give tax exempt status to those doing so, we should do it across the board. The best solution is to simply stop taxing all food items rather than force the courts to decide what constitutes bread. Simple and efficient, the way government should operate but seldom does.

Tom Liberman

A Failure of Constitutional Obligation

Constitutional Obligation

There is much in the news today about the Constitutional Obligation of the Senate to consider a Supreme Court nomination from the President of the United States. It is important to understand this is a Constitutional Obligation and when Senator Mitch McConnell failed to fulfill that duty upon the death of Justice Scalia in 2016 the entire Supreme Court became unconstitutional. Every decision made by the court from that point forward has no legal standing.

When McConnell made the decision to ignore his constitutional obligation, he willingly poisoned the entire judicial branch of the United States. I interpret this as an attempt to destroy the United States as a whole and such falls clearly under Section 3 of Article Three of the Constitution of the United States. Every time McConnell states he has a constitutional obligation to appoint a Supreme Court Justice to the fill the vacancy of Justice Ginsburg he admits his guilt in the previous appointment. He is, without question, guilty and should face punishment as described in that section.

Every decision made by the court since that failure of constitutional obligation is tainted. The entire court is invalidated by the decision McConnell made. For a while I posited if Justice Gorsuch were to resign and another judge appointed in his place, it would rectify the problem. With the current nomination process ongoing, I see this was a false hope. This version of the Supreme Court, in place and serving ably since 1790, is forever invalid. The situation is far worse than that, the entire judicial branch is poisoned by the fruit from that tree.

Every ruling of the Supreme Court since 2016 is invalid and every precedent used from those decision is likewise meaningless. We cannot fix the situation by appointing another justice. If an umpire makes a bad call on the first pitch of an at bat, it cannot be resolved by making a reverse call on the fourth pitch. What is done, is done. The Supreme Court as we know it cannot be fixed through normal processes.

I’m quite aware my point here is radical to the extreme. There is no Rule of Law and we might as well accept such. The United States is currently a lawless country and until a new Supreme Court is installed, it will remain that way.

We must look to the Judiciary Act of 1789 to proceed. Every Supreme Court justice must step down and be replaced, immediately. President Washington acted in the interest of the country by appointing six justices from different regions of the nation with differing views, I suspect President Trump is incapable of such but I offer him, or his successor, and the United States Senate the opportunity to fulfill their constitutional obligation.

It is also important to understand the current situation is the outcome of the politicization of the Supreme Court for which both Democrats and Republicans are to be blamed. The Founding Fathers established separate but equal branches for a reason and this is an example of why they did so.

Can we appoint new Justices in an apolitical way? I doubt it, but it is the only way forward. Everything else points to the end of the Republic. If the Supreme Court becomes an extension of the Legislative Branch which has become an extension of the Executive Branch, there is no separation of powers, and there is no Republic. That is where we currently stand.

Tom Liberman

The Problem is there was no Crime in the Breonna Taylor Case

Breonna Taylor

The Breonna Taylor case is making a lot of headlines and people are upset only one criminal charge, reckless endangerment, was filed against the officers. The problem isn’t that a single charge was filed, the problem is that everything the officers did, except shooting blindly into a room, was perfectly legal. The problem is that none of them can be charged with a crime.

The problem is that police can, and all to frequently do, murder people legally. It’s vitally important to understand this is a problem for the people and for the police, both are the victims here.

This is the state of our legal system as a result of the failed War on Drugs that allows police to kill with legal impunity, to steal your money with legal impunity, to throw flashbang grenades into baby cribs with impunity, to intimidate, harass, abuse, imprison, torture, absolutely legally. That’s the problem and if you don’t see it, you’ll be a victim soon enough under the unlikely circumstances that you have not been already.

The problem isn’t the police, the problem is our society, our laws, our willingness to give up freedom and reduce safety at the same time.

Many right-wing Trump supporters out there are angry about what is going on to poor people in this nation. What’s happening to poor black people is exactly why you voted for Trump, except it was being done to you. You in West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and lots of other places were left out when the rich got richer, laws designed to protect wealthy people left you out in the cold in a crap job without enough money to feed your kids and no hope for advancement.

Farmers see their land taken by corporate bankers. Energy workers see their livelihood being taken from them. President Trump promised you he’d stop it all but instead he’s redirected your anger to poor, largely minority people, who are being trampled upon in exactly the same way. These people are your allies in this fight. Antifa, Alt-Right, Libertarian, BLM, the police themselves; the Trumps and Pelosis of the world want you to fight each other so you don’t line them up against a wall and put a clip into their center mass.

Breonna Taylor is dead because you gave away your freedom. You stood by and watched as politicians passed laws for the War on Drug, the War Powers Act, The National Emergency Act. You stood by while local officials made it impossible for you to drive to work without violating the law and if you get on the wrong side of the police department, they will figure out a way to fine you to within an inch of your life to finance their bloated government.

Breonna Taylor was absolutely murdered by police who got a stupid no-knock warrant to kick in her door with guns drawn because she was dating a guy who sold drugs. She was murdered and it’s not against the law. That’s the problem. Police officers, everyone wants to kill you because politicians have set you up to take the fall, no matter how much they pretend to be on your side, they are murdering you. They are sending you out to take bullets for them.

You all need to figure this out. All those organizations fighting each other in the streets of Louisville need to get together, then we will actually see change.

Tom Liberman

Jacksonville Strippers and the Case Justice Ginsburg will Never Hear

Jacksonville Strippers

There’s an interesting legal case involving Jacksonville Strippers and I thought with the news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing it would be something that might interest her and certainly does me. In Florida a new law prevents Jacksonville strippers from being under the age of 21 in clubs that do not serve alcohol. This city ordinance is being challenged as unconstitutional and might, if pursued diligently, end up in the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg spent her life championing the cause of women and Jacksonville strippers are in that category. The justification for the law is that women under twenty-one are closer in age to the current limit of eighteen, that the closer a woman is to eighteen, the more likely she is to be unduly influenced into a career she does not want.

In Jacksonville the city representatives decided all strippers must be fingerprinted and licensed before they can pursue their profession. They also came to the conclusion they would not issue such licenses to anyone under twenty-one. They do this in the name of stopping “sex trafficking”.

The reality is relatively simple, for whatever reason we’ve established eighteen is the age when citizens are legally adults and can largely make their own decisions. If someone is eighteen, they can have sex with whomever they want, they can take their clothes off for money, they can model in a skimpy swimsuit, they can do anything any other adult can do and the government should not get involved, no matter how repugnant we, personally, might find the situation.

You’ll notice the do-gooder city hall members in Jacksonville have not asked to fingerprint and license members of the University of North Florida Osprey Division I football team. These young men are playing a violent game and run an enormous risk of personal injury but no one seems all that concerned about their welfare, despite them being under twenty-one. I’m sure you find that as surprising as me, as in not at all.

Today’s question is What Would Ruth Do? Justice Ginsburg lived a life actively and vigorously fighting for women to have the same rights as men in this world of ours, that includes Jacksonville Strippers. Once we’ve decided the legal age of adulthood is eighteen, we must not start picking and choosing particular professions and genders to protect from their own decisions. This is Big Brother at his worst, picking on adult women because Big Brother knows better how to lead their life than they do themselves.

Big Brother says young women are too weak of mind, too easily preyed upon, and we must protect them. Big Brother is, as usual, wrong.

The question is easily answered for me. What about you?

What would Justice Ginsburg Decide in this case?

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Tom Liberman

Two-hundred Thousand Dead is Victory

Two-hundred Thousand Dead

Many people are denouncing that the United States has reached two-hundred thousand dead from Covid-19 or complications from the disease. I see it differently. Victory. Two-hundred thousand dead is a milestone in the triumph of faith over science, of the ends justify the means, of confirmation bias, and of blind obedience over critical thinking. Congratulations in your victory, I say to many of my friends. I concede, you win.

This victory was hard-fought and decades in the making. Perhaps you thought the lack of critical thinking, the bashing of science, having faith in what you wanted to believe was merely going to manifest itself in political victory but two-hundred thousand dead show how short sighted were your goals. You have attained a victory that most thought impossible. Little did you believe you could turn nearly fifty percent of the nation into cheerleaders for such a thing, wanting more, begging for policies that will certainly result in more deaths, more fire, more drought, but even you, with your lack of critical thinking, didn’t imagine it could result in such a triumph.

I congratulate you and admit defeat. Enough of you believe that taking vaccines is more harmful than not taking them. Enough people believe there is a Deep State conspiracy to enslave the children of our nation in pedophile rings led by the monsters of the other party. Enough of you believe GMO food is poison. Enough of you believe climate change is entirely without human cause. Enough of you believe that steel cannot melt in a fire. Enough of you believe aliens are guiding our lives. You have won and now you will be forced to partake in the fruits of your victory.

Rejoice, throw up your arms for two-hundred thousand dead is undeniable proof of your victory. The good news is that this is only the beginning. Decades from now you will laugh at the two-hundred thousand dead as merely a drop in the bucket as to what you will achieve by completely ignoring science, medical advice, climate advice, education, critical thinking.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In the end you will lose. Science will triumph and Utopia will arrive. The Roman Empire ended and scientific advances were stymied for nearly a thousand years in the western world, but they eventually came to fruition, it just took some time. So too will your triumph fade. Nothing is forever.

Enjoy it while you can. Rejoice in the carnage, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, no matter how small your part in it, even if just a lie filled meme now and again or an alien conspiracy earnestly told to friends in private. You contributed in your own small way, take comfort in that.

Tom Liberman

Does the POW/MIA Flag Flap Bother You?

Flag Flap

I can almost guarantee you the reason I’m bothered by the POW/MIA Flag Flap isn’t the same reason it bothers or does not bother you. Here’s the situation. Back in 1972 the flag was originally designed to recognize missing and imprisoned US service members, primarily associated with the Vietnam War. In 1990 a law was passed that it must be displayed on certain days. In 2019 the law was amended to insist that be displayed prominently every day.

It was originally displayed atop the Rotunda but was recently moved to a location dedicated to the purpose which can only be seen from select angles outside the White House. This move is being used for political purposes, largely by Democrats, to show how President Trump disrespects servicemembers. That’s the flag flap that bothers one group of people but not me.

I’m upset that legislation was enacted to force the flying of a flag in the first place. I’m not unsympathetic to the cause of missing and captured prisoners of war but the law and its update in 2019 are clearly the work of people who want you to think they are aligned with you. That’s the pattern of flag wavers in general. Look, I’m waving this flag really vigorously and that means I really care, that I’m really doing something.

Frankly, I find the entire need to show off your allegiance to a cause by making pledges, wearing lapel pins, and flying flags suspect from the beginning. The more you need to pretend you care, the more likely it is you simply don’t care at all. It’s a convenient and easy way to pretend and fool the easily duped, or more precisely, those who are willfully obtuse, who eagerly beg to be lied to in order to satisfy their view of the world.

Here’s the reality. Flying the POW/MIA flag is way for politicians to pretend they care. Another reality is that while there are technically 82,000 missing service members who this flag represents, all of them are dead. Countries like North Korea and Vietnam have large-scale scam operations designed to separate bereaved families from their money much like such operations fleece Christians in Turkey looking for Noah’s Ark.

This is a Flag Flap designed, from the beginning, to enflame political passions and achieves nothing else. The entire thing is a setup to gain support for one politician or another. There should be no laws regarding flags. If you want to display the flag, do so, I will use my constitutional rights to defend your freedom to do so. I understand you are passionate about the POW/MIA situation and you have every right to think the way you do.

Just remember; if the government can require flying a certain flag, you are ceding it the right to enforce it must not be flown. Both laws are wrong, the government should not have this power.

Tom Liberman

How to Answer a Bad Question

Bad Question

How do you answer a bad question? You don’t. Well, that’s this blog all wrapped up. See you next time. All right, all right, I’ll go into details because bad and unfair questions seem to be standard operating procedure in social media and live debates. The thing we must determine is how to spot a bad question and how to not answer it properly, this is actually fairly difficult.

Let’s start with a question I see a lot in the sports world. Would the champion of yesteryear be able to compete against the best players of the game in the world today? This is a bad question but it, like many of its ilk, has the seeds of a very good and interesting question. That is the key to dealing with bad questions, figure out where the good question is hiding.

The problem with the aforementioned question is it doesn’t define the parameters in a way that lends itself to a good answer. The bad question is actually two different questions but not defined as such. What you must do in these situations is attempt to reword or clarify the parameters of the question so that it can be properly and usefully answered.

So, I say, to the person who asked the question: if you are asking me could the athlete of yesteryear compete today without the benefit of knowledge, training methods, diet, computer aids, and other advantages that today’s players enjoy; the answer is no. They’d be crushed. However, if you’re asking me if the player of old were born recently and had all the advantages of the modern athlete; my answer is yes, they might be able to compete although size, speed, and other physical differences can be a factor depending on the sport.

What we did there was clarify a bad question with two responses and turned it into two reasonable queries, both with useful answers, to create the seeds of a good discussion. This is what you must do when confronted with a bad question. You must look at the question and try to find clarification as to what is really being asked.

I fully admit, particularly in social media debates, the question was formed badly with malice and the questioner has a predetermined position that cannot be changed. Still, give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Clarify the question, distill it down, and try to find an answer that is appropriate. If your fellow debater is unwilling to allow this, if they insist on answers to the badly worded or intended question without clarification, simply follow my original advice, don’t answer.

Refusing to answer a bad question is the best reply you can give.

Tom Liberman

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 façade 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