Conservation in Children Leads to Brawl Among Adults

Conservation

The Video

I watched a fascinating YouTube video on the psychological phenomenon of Conservation in developmental stages of a child. As I scrolled down the comment section there immediately occurred a clear and virulent divide among those who watched.

This divide intrigues me. I enjoy dissecting the machinations of the human mind and the study itself was interesting but the rancor displayed in the comment section, by the various sides, is what I’d like to talk about today.

What is Conservation?

The theory, proposed by Jean Paiget, suggests when presented with various tests of liquid, numerical information, solids, and weights; children of a certain age are able to answer two questions correctly while younger children are generally only able to appropriately answer the first.

I won’t go into great detail but the experiment basically follows a simple outline that involves two equal things or groups being presented side by side and then again with their form changed in full site of the child. Younger children answer the first group as the same but the second group as different. This seems to indicate a lack of understanding the liquid when poured into a taller but narrower glass is still the same amount of liquid despite appearing taller.

The Comments

The comments broke down into three categories. One group of people saw the experiments and were convinced younger children seem to have trouble with the concept of conservation.

The second group of people thought subtle nuances from the experiment encouraged the child to answer one way or the other. Or that the children simply did not understand the concepts of more, less, and the same.

The third group thought it was cruel of the experimenter to present this as evidence for the stupidity of the child.

All three groups tried to explain why they were right and things degenerated, as comment sections often do, into personal insults and demands for sources. There was various forms of yelling at the stupidity of anyone who did not agree with the commenter.

I don’t think anyone’s opinion changed.

What did I Learn from all of this?

First off, let me say the idea of Conservation makes sense to me. I believe younger children have difficulty understanding flattened playdough has less volume than a ball of playdough. I think Conservation is real and also understand it is not done to judge the child but to understand the development of cognitive thinking in humans.

I’m also of the opinion I’m never going to make people who disagree change their mind with a comment or a simple blog post. Others are going to remain convinced their opinion is correct and there is little I can do about that.

So, should I stop writing novels, this blog? Should I stop commenting on posts? Will I stop trying to convince people my political and ideological philosophy is best for the United States and the world? Should I shrug my shoulders and give up on humanity?

The answer is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, no. It’s really not up to me to decide how you think, even if you are being stupid. Your stupidity is your own to have and if you think something ludicrous is true; I’m going to explain why you’re wrong but having done so, it’s all on you. My responsibility is over.

In short, prepare yourself for more blogs, more novels, and more smug self-righteousness.

Tom Liberman

Why the Simp Shamer is Worse than the Simp

Simp Shamer

What is a Simp Shamer and a Simp?

A Simp is someone who donates money or other gratuities to an entertainer on streaming services like Twitch. The general term of Simp indicates a male who donates to the stream of an attractive female who then says their username in an affectionate way.

The term has significant negative connotations; so much so that Twitch has banned its use in chat. People who laugh at and otherwise denigrate so-called Simps are to be found on virtually every stream but I find a Simp Shamer to be far viler than those who donate the money.

A Simp Shamer is someone who denigrates the Simps at every opportunity, apparently in order to show the world how much better a person are they.

Why is a Simp Shamer such a Douche?

The problem for me is the so-called Simp is donating money of their own free will. It is certain the often-attractive female streamer is using her sex appeal to illicit such donations but a lot of people donate to streams on Twitch.

People donate to chess streams, game streams, music stream, ASMR streams, and plenty of others. Yet the derogatory term seems to only apply to men donating to the streams of attractive women. Listen, I spend money on role-playing games, my gym membership, chess site memberships, and plenty of other things that others certainly would not spend their money upon. Good for them, spend your money on the things you enjoy.

The Simp Shamer goes onto streams essentially to pat themselves on the back for being better than the Simp. The reality is they are worse, far worse in my opinion. Why do you care how other people spend their money? Why do you think your stupid hobbies are somehow better than mine? What weakness in your own character makes you have to shame others to make yourself feel better?

You’re a douche, Simp Shamer. Let me say that I’ve never donated to the stream of an ASMR artist but who cares? Maybe someday I will. They work hard, I enjoy their efforts. It’s like any other voluntary expenditure and completely my decision to make.

Conclusion

What is it with our willingness to negatively judge other people in this world for the things they enjoy? Why do so many of you derive your sense of personal worth from shaming others?

Shut your yap, Simp Shamer. Mind your business. There’s nothing wrong with the Simp, there is something fundamentally wrong with you.

Tom Liberman

Meghan Markle and Donald Trump Two Peas in a Pod

Meghan Markle and Donald Trump

Narcissistic Personalities

In an attempt to anger the entirety of the human race I thought I’d write about how Meghan Markle and Donald Trump are pretty much the same person. It appears to me they clearly share a few traits; namely a long-term pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and struggles with empathy.

It’s called a narcissistic personality and the way both of them endlessly center their woes on the perceived behavior of others and refuse to accept any personal responsibility for the situations they find themselves in does not sit well with me.

Why You Support One and Not the Other

More to the point of this blog are the people who choose to support Meghan Markle and Donald Trump. They tend to be on the opposite end of the political spectrum. This paradox may surprise you but it does not come as any shock to me.

You see, politics don’t matter when it comes to people of this nature. They exist in a simple transactional environment where the only thing you are to them is a means to an end. Nothing political, ideological, moral, or ethical binds them from their goal of using you to get what they want. And, of course, you oblige.

We all have experience with this sort of person. You run into them after a long absence at some place you frequent. They tell you how great you look, laugh at your wonderful jokes; then they get to the point. What can you do for them? The meeting was no accident.

Meghan Markle used Piers Morgan to get into a party where she targeted Prince Harry, then she had no more need of Morgan so she dumped him. Donald Trump flailed around various political ideologies until he found a Republican base willing to listen to his completely disingenuous ramblings on immigration. When he no longer needs them, he dumps them. Meghan Markle and Donald Trump are largely one and the same.

Enlightened Self-Interest

I thought this might be a useful time to speak briefly on the concept of Enlightened Self-Interest because you might mistake the narcissism of Meghan Markle and Donald Trump for it. Nope. They tend to destroy all they touch in their mindless grasping for the glittery trinket in front of their face.

Someone who act to further the interests of others, or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong, ultimately serve their own self-interest. That’s enlightened self-interest.

Narcissists are Sometimes Right

It’s also important to understand that Meghan Markle and Donald Trump sometimes have good points. They aren’t wrong all the time and just because they are selfish, transactional people doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to their legitimate grievances.

I live in the real world and I’m quite certain Meghan Markle was subject to racist abuse and that Donald Trump was occasionally harassed not for his policies but simply because of his name. When bad things happen to bad people, we should call it out. That doesn’t make the narcissist less self-centered, it just makes us a better person.

Conclusion

When it comes to Meghan Markle and Donald Trump it is likely you hate one and support the other. If you dislike them both you are in the minority but, if it’s any comfort, you have my support.

Tom Liberman

Kristi Noem and Transgender Girls Government Overreach

Transgender Girls

The Situation

The governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, delightedly announced she eagerly anticipated signing a ban on transgender girls playing sports on female restricted teams. For those of you eagerly anticipating a defense of transgender girls’ right to play sports, you should start looking elsewhere. This isn’t a defense of transgender girls but an attack on government overreach.

The problem is the governor of South Dakota is of the opinion that she can force her will upon her constituents in a matter far outside the purview of her office. Why would the state government think they can tell local school districts who can and cannot play on their sports teams? That’s the problem and it’s pandemic among both Republican and Democratic legislatures.

Why It’s Wrong

Trying to legislate who can play on a sports team from the governor’s mansion tramples on the rights of the people in local districts. You must remember, if you support Governor Noem and this law then you must also support the governor of another state who signs legislation stating transgender girls must be allowed to play on the local sports team. If you cede such power to the governor then you deserve a totalitarian state that dictates virtually everything to you, because they think it’s better for you. That they know better how you should lead your life.

This is clearly the sort of situation that must be handled at a local level. If one district wants to allow transgender girls to play on their sports team, as decided by the school board members who were elected by the people of that district, then that is exactly what they should do. If the school board members in another district argue against allowing transgender girls to play then that is likewise perfectly reasonable.

When another school district decides they would rather forfeit a game than play against a school that either allows or disallows such a player, then that’s their business as well.

If the parent of a student disqualified doesn’t like it, they can attempt to sway the constituents of their district. If the parents of a student playing against such an athlete doesn’t like it, they can attempt to sway the constituents in a similar manner.

That’s the way government should work. It shouldn’t be the party in power at a federal or state level simply issuing decrees to the people of their state about everything they get a hair up their ass about. If you’ll pardon my strong language.

Conclusion

I don’t think my conclusion will surprise anyone. Governor Noem and those who voted for this legislation are engaged in enormous government overreach. It’s clearly not a matter for government to be involved in, it’s something for every school district to decide for themselves.

When you permit government overreach with which you agree, you clearly allow government overreach on topics you oppose and which you will certainly start whining about on social media.

Tom Liberman

Wind Power in the United States and China

Wind power

Overview

The recent freeze in Texas, a law in Missouri, and wind power installations in China give me an opportunity to write a blog. Given such a chance I’m not exactly the sort inclined to turn it down.

Basically, wind power in the United States is considered a Green Agenda and largely, although certainly not completely, associated with the Democratic party. The recent freeze in Texas caused enormous power shortages and Republican politicians are using this talking point to attack wind power in general. In Texas the governor blamed frozen wind turbines and now in my beloved home state of Missouri the Republican led legislature has disallowed eminent domain to install wind power lines. Meanwhile, in China they are being installed in ever greater number and soon they will lead the world in wind power.

The Issues

Renewable energy is cleaner than fossil fuels and causes far less, although some, environmental harm. Of this there is no question. Soon wind power and other renewables will provide cheaper power to the communities that avail themselves of its use. There is some debate about this although the trend of ever cheaper wind power is difficult, but not impossible, to ignore.

Because the United States is currently embroiled in a political situation in which what is best for the country is secondary to getting elected, wind power is in the crosshairs. It’s relatively interesting because Texas is one of the leading wind power producing states and when the governor attacked that revenue source, he rather quickly walked back his statements, likely because it is generating enormous profits for powerful players in the state.

However, walking back statements can’t undo harm in our current political environment. It’s clear to me Republicans have largely decided that wind power is good election fodder and bashing it will not stop any time soon.

Wind power installations in the United States have crawled almost to a complete halt in large part because of Trump administration policies favoring coal and gas.

Missouri Law

The Missouri law is a case in point about politicizing such things. I agree eminent domain should be used sparingly and I’m not opposed to the law enacted by the legislature banning its use in bringing wind power to the state.

There are no such laws prohibiting such use for any other energy source. The Keystone Pipeline was largely built using eminent domain to steal farmer’s land in Nebraska, North and South Dakota. Likewise, eminent domain was used to steal the land being used by build a border wall in Texas and other states.

This is a clear example of politicians playing favorites for one industry or one company and subverting capitalism.

Likely Results

The result of our political climate in the United States is clear. Wind power installations will be curtailed and delayed. Meanwhile in Europe and China such installations are moving ahead with great rapidity. This will inevitably put the United States behind in power generation and the costs associated with it.

If you were going to build a large factory and the energy costs in one country were significantly cheaper there, it must play a role in your decision. If the citizens of the region where it was to be built didn’t fight it for environmental reasons, thus saving you court costs and headaches, it seems clear you would build your factory in that country.

Conclusion

The reality of the situation is wind power should survive on its own merits. I’m opposed to the government favoring one form of power generation over another because it is simple a subversion of capitalism. It’s a sad day when China appears to adhere to the capitalistic mantra with far greater fervor than the United States. When the people of the United States want government agencies to determine which business succeeds rather than natural economic forces.

Tom Liberman

Lying About the Texas Power Crisis

Texas Power Crisis

The Question

The Texas Power Crisis of 2021 has engendered a lot of media attention in the last weeks but what I’d like to address is the lying associated with the crisis. Why are people failing to be honest about the causes of the Texas Power Crisis and what are the long-term impacts of such lies?

The Facts

The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, attributed the Texas Power Crisis to the freezing of wind turbines and he was followed largely by Republicans on both a state and national level.

Texas is a big wind power state for the simple reason there is a lot of open space but even at that, wind power only accounts for about 23% of the state’s total power output. When the cold weather swept down into the south many of the wind turbines froze but the primary cause of the power crisis was the loss of natural gas production.

Those in charge of energy production in Texas ignored warnings after a similar crisis called the Groundhog Day Blizzard back in 2011. They chose to hope that such a cold weather crisis would not happen again and are now reaping the consequences of that choice.

Why did Governor Abbot and his fellow Republicans lie about the main cause of the problem? The answer is quite simple, for political gain. Green Energy is largely considered a talking point of the Democratic Party and by blaming the wind turbines for the crisis, Abbot hopes to convince people that Democrats are to blame and, obviously, to vote for Republicans.

Not long ago, I wrote about how the Covid-19 crisis engendered similar lies along an anti-science line. I’ve also written about how green energy will supplant fossil fuels and why that is a good thing for all of us. I’ve also delved into the false belief of a Flat Earth and I think these subjects dovetail nicely with the Texas Power Crisis.

The point is anti-science rhetoric causes people not to trust science. It’s certainly true many people don’t subscribe to the lies Governor Abbot peddled about the Texas Power Crisis and most people believe that we live on a sphere. That being said, every time someone in authority lies to us, there are going to be people who believe those lies and make decisions about their life based on those falsehoods.

That’s the danger of lying in this manner and we have to gauge the benefits against those risks. Is the perceived benefit of political gain for one political party worth the potential losses that will certainly be sustained by a country that refuses to follow science and begins to fall behind the rest of the world in many ways?

I don’t doubt for a moment Governor Abbott and those like him think the risk is well-worth it. They believe if they come completely into power, they’ll be able to make the world a better place. They believe the ends justify the means and they are not alone. There are opportunists in every party and my own Libertarians fall into the same trap. You should read some of the crypto-currency nonsense floating around out there. And I’m a believer in the eventual rise of said monetary system.

In any case, that’s the question each one of us has to face. Are the lies worth it? Will enough people believe the lies to elect my politicians and few enough to avoid catastrophe for the United States?

Conclusion

My answer is, of course, tell the truth no matter where it leads. If I make a mistake, if my actions are responsible for the negative outcome; then I must show personal responsibility. I understand the consequences to an entire nation that devalues truth and science. I see the writing on the wall. I’m not willing to sacrifice my integrity for a few votes. Your opinion may differ.

Tom Liberman

All Creatures Great and Small versus Miss Scarlet

All Creatures Great and Small

The PBS shows All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Scarlet wrapped up this weekend and their run gives me a chance to speak on their relative merits. I think a fair analysis of the two shows is in order because Miss Scarlet clearly has a Woke Agenda while All Creatures Great and Small displays many of the themes associated with that movement but with a significantly gentler touch.

The problem is that Miss Scarlet isn’t very good, in fact I’d argue it’s awful, while All Creatures Great and Small is rather a delight. Because of the Woke Agenda displayed by Miss Scarlet I suspect many detractors will lay blame on this theme while apologists will defend the show’s shortcomings as actual strengths.

I’d like to take a more objective look at the two shows and what makes All Creatures Great and Small what I would call good and Miss Scarlet bad. I’ve spoken of subjective and objective in other places so I won’t go deeply into them here.

What makes a show objectively good? Characters, cinematography, plot, theme, acting, directing, the ending, and other elements; not our subjective desires for a show to be good or bad.

The characters in Miss Scarlet are strikingly one dimensional. We know little about the titular character other than she was raised by a father and wants to be a detective. We know even less about The Duke, her love interest. Meanwhile, James, Tristan, Siegfried, Helen, and even the minor characters of Hugh, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Pumphrey, and a host of others are more fleshed out than the main characters of Miss Scarlet. I have more empathy for the farmers whose cow is sick than I do for Miss Scarlet. One farmer stays up all night rubbing salve on his sick charge and that tells me more about him and his wife, who never lets James leave without a meat pie or two, than I know about anyone in Miss Scarlet. The most developed characters in Miss Scarlet are her patron and Moses, two side characters. Sadly, the director apparently chose to have Moses speak with such a heavy Jamaican accent I often don’t know what he is saying.

The chemistry between the Miss Scarlet and the Duke is akin to Anakin and Leah if you’ll permit me a Star Wars reference. I’m mystified as to why anyone would be attracted to either of them other than their appearance. Meanwhile the tension between James and Helen is palpable from the start. They care about the same things, they ask one another questions, they show interest in each other’s lives, if they bicker it’s just a good-natured jibe here or there, not a constant bombardment of quips designed to show us how clever is the writer. Even Hugh, the romantic rival, is portrayed as a real human being who cares deeply about Helen.

The acting in Miss Scarlet is atrocious. Both main actors display no range of emotion and their constant flirt/bickering takes the tension out of every scene that is designed to be tense. Someone is pointing a gun at them, time to throw quips at each other and grin condescendingly. Meanwhile I can’t think of a bad performance in All Creatures Great and Small. Tristan starts out as an obnoxious, entitled, moron, and by the end he is a lovable, if flawed, fellow. The minor characters are believable and add to the show at every step.

The music in Miss Scarlet is overbearing and attempts to force us into emotions. It’s time for action, time for fear, time for joy. It’s loud and obtrusive. I barely notice the music in All Creatures Great and Small. It is subtle and enhances a scene rather than dominating it.

The cinematography in Miss Scarlet is boringly repetitive. Almost every shot in the entire series is a front on close-up of a character as she or he speak. Not to mention the bleak, dark, washed out background which are clearly designed to contrasts with what must be the focus of our attention, the vivid and bright Miss Scarlet. The vibrant country life depicted in All Creatures Great and Small is colorful and stunning although some scenes are dark and gray as appropriate. It is never dull, predictable sameness. Just look at the images I picked for this blog. One is sterile and one is filled with life.

The sets in Miss Scarlet are stark and tell us little about the inhabitants. There are few nick-nacks on shelves, few paintings on the walls, few personal items scattered about. Even Miss Scarlet’s office has barely a picture of the father who supposedly so influenced her. Meanwhile the sets of All Creatures are filled with personal objects from the opulence of Mrs. Pumphrey’s house to the peeling wallpaper in the home of the interracial couple whose dog is having trouble with her puppies. I believe real people live here, people with lives outside of the shot required for the show.

The story in Miss Scarlet makes little sense and the finale was so convoluted I completely lost track of what was happening. It was as if multiple pertinent scenes were left on the cutting room floor. As an example, Miss Scarlet has been put in a cell for her protection, although it’s not clear why the villain wants to harm her, and suddenly, she is in the detective’s office working on solving the case.

The story in All Creatures Great and Small certainly takes liberties with reality in order to further the plot but largely remains believable. I was regularly unsure of what would happen next. Would Helen go through with the marriage, would James turn around, would the cow die? I didn’t know and I was invested in finding out.

The ultimate villain in Miss Scarlet is sprung on us at the last second and I’m not even sure why or how he managed it all. So much was unexplained I was left utterly baffled and dissatisfied. The ending in All Creatures Great and Small was bittersweet and totally in line with all the events that happened before it. I was left satisfied even though there was no final resolution.

In an English period piece, the clothing and scenery is almost always fantastic but in Miss Scarlet the tone was dark, darker, darkest with little of London on display. The clothes, you ask? Miss Scarlet and the Duke are always impeccably dressed in clothes that look like they just came from the tailor, this despite having been locked in a dirty cell all night or having been investigating in filthy brothels for hours. Speaking of brothels, I was instantly turned off to Miss Scarlet when she threatened to burn down the brothel and kill dozens of working girls and patrons because Moses stole her purse. I mean, she’s vile and selfish, she doesn’t think about others. Why would I like her?

Meanwhile the wardrobes in All Creatures Great and Small looked like clothes people actually wore all day. People got dressed up for fancy events but it was clear their fineries were not new from the tailor. Shirts look rumpled and lived in. Everything looked alive and real, as if these were real people from real life who happened to come across the camera that day.

I’ve gone on too long. You can certainly subjectively like Miss Scarlet and the Duke and subjectively dislike All Creatures Great and Small. That’s your decision to make. However, an objective look at the elements of both shows comes to but a single conclusion.

Tom Liberman

The Bleating of a Conservative about Taxes Funding Our Communities

Taxes Funding Our Communities

The other day on Social Media one of my self-proclaimed Conservative friends posted a missive about taxes funding our communities. After I cleaned the vomit from my mouth, I decided to write an article about why this is utter insanity rather than berate said bleating Republican in a scathing reply.

You see, loyal readers, my social media friend can certainly call himself a Conservative but his attitude about taxes funding our communities shows his true colors as nothing more than an odious Republican who long ago gave up on all but the word Conservative.

The post in question was in regards to a mall that had long ago lost most of their stores through natural economic forces, a process I discuss in other blogs. The space was being used as a sporting venue for citizens to play games. My self-proclaimed Conservative friend wrote: It is a frequent re-purpose but sad for the economy. The drop in property value, lower property taxes, and less sales taxes to fund our communities.

The mere idea that it should be taxes funding our communities, let alone the delusion they are actually funding our communities is the worst sort of liberalism. Taxes do not fund our communities. They are collected by the government in order to provide services for the citizens. The community funds the government not the other way around.

Government does not build the roads. Roads, pipes, electric lines, green spaces, security, and fire protection is built because of our needs. Yes, the government uses funds collected through taxes to pay construction companies, police officers, and others but that is not funding our communities that is merely streamlining from a central point.

Let me illustrate with the example of the original social media post. My self-proclaimed conservative friend laments the loss of tax revenue from giant malls that no one has an interest in going to anymore. Doesn’t that say it all. Darn it, I can’t steal your money to prop up a business endeavor no one wants while paying myself a hefty salary to do so. Why should we pay taxes for utilities, roads, parking lots, emergency services, and a myriad of other things that go to a place no one uses anymore? Hint, we shouldn’t.

That’s the misguided role of government in a declining nation. To prop itself up with money stolen from citizens for things they don’t even want and certainly don’t need.

We want roads that go places useful to us. When a sales tax isn’t collected because no one is going to the store, that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a loss to the community. It’s a natural economic impact and the idea government is responsible for that store in the first place is misguided at the least. We were responsible for the store’s existence and now we don’t need it anymore. Good riddance.

It’s ass-backwards what my so-called Conservative friend advocates. It is not taxes funding our communities. It is our communities funding government and we should only fund what we need, not its bloated and endlessly empty belly.

Tom Liberman

Cancel Culture Collides with Gina Carano

Cancel Culture

Oh what a tangled Cancel Culture we weave when we try to cancel a person on the opposite side of the debate. The Cancel Culture insanity is in full view in the Gina Carano situation which I will avoid detailing because in the immortal words of Tripper; It just doesn’t matter.

Carano was fired from her show because the producers didn’t like something she said. Those who like what she said now want to cancel Disney+.

But, but, but they started it! Remember Dixie Chicks? No, no, it didn’t really start until Confederate Statues! You’re the one trying to cancel me! No, I’m not! You’re trying to cancel me!

Let me be clear. I hate each and every one of you in my own, special, Libertarian way. You’re all part of the Cancel Culture and the more rage you toss at the other side, the more you reveal your own fervor in that regard. You love the Cancel Culture. You adore it. You worship it. You eagerly embrace it when the person being canceled is on the other side of the political spectrum. Oh, how you wail and weep against it when someone with your point of view is being canceled.

First off, you miserable cretins, no one is being canceled. No one! Decisions in regards to a statue or an actor are being made. The free market is determining what networks survive.

Everyone is perfectly capable of deciding if they want to watch the Mandalorian for themselves. It becomes Cancel Culture when you try to orchestrate a movement against an actor on the show or the network that produces the show. You are the Cancel Culture, if you weren’t, you’d stop watching the Mandalorian or cancel your Disney+ without mouthing off about it all over Social Media in a desperate attempt to get more views and destroy those with whom you disagree.

Did I mention I hate you all? Because if I haven’t, I’d like to reiterate it here. I’m quite clear about my feelings on this subject. However, please continue to go about your business canceling everyone. That’s your own prerogative. I’ll choose if I want to continue to follow your social media or relegate you to the ignore bin, most of you are there already, because, I hate you. In case there is some confusion in that regard.

Now, I’m going to watch some chess.

Tom Liberman

The National Anthem before Sporting Events

National Anthem

The Dallas Mavericks haven’t been playing the National Anthem at the start of their games this season and apparently no one even noticed until recently but now, of course, it’s a big deal. The question I ask is why do we play the song in the first place? What sort of failed patriots are we that we need to play it to affirm our patriotism?

I’ve always thought it was pretty silly to play the awful song anyway. Not horrible in its symbology but in the actual song. It’s awful. Singing it is difficult. It’s all over the place without a chorus. I mean, seriously, listen to Oh, Canada sometime to hear a decent anthem. I digress.

When did we start playing the National Anthem before sporting events? Why did we start doing it? What does it have to do with my beloved St. Louis Cardinal playing the hated Chicago Cubs?

The Star-Spangled Banner didn’t even become our National Anthem until 1931. It all started back in 1918 when it was played at the World Series and people seemed to like it. Keep in mind, it was just a song then, not any national symbol of pride.

It didn’t really start as a tradition before games until after World War II when the NFL commissioner ordered it played at the start of games and other sports soon followed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If team ownership wants to play the National Anthem before a game, more power to them. Go right ahead. It’s your team, play whatever song you want as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t want to go to games because they aren’t playing the anthem, that’s your business. You know you don’t listen to the song when you’re at home watching, you take a pee break.

Of course, Texas legislators want to remove tax breaks to American Airlines, owned by Mark Cuban who also owns the Mavericks. They think they get to tell private companies how to run their business all the way down to the song played before games. If that’s not government involvement in private business then I don’t know what is. Don’t get me started on government overreach.

The willingness of government and the average person to force their traditions onto others is growing ever more disturbing in this country supposedly founded on freedom.

I digress again. Personally, I’d like to see a song relevant to the team in question if anything at all. I just don’t think a sporting venue a particularly pertinent place to play patriotic songs. I’m sure many disagree.

Tom Liberman

Batwoman Criticism Legitimate or anti-Woke Propaganda?

Batwoman

The second season of Batwoman on The CW is getting universally bad reviews for any number of reasons but is any of it simply anti-Woke backlash? What makes this interesting for me is that I’m just about ready to write a negative review about Miss Scarlett and the Duke which also includes a Woke objective.

This is a real problem when a television show or movie is objectively bad and is also being used as a platform for social issues. When someone like me; as white, male, and privileged as you can find in the world, writes negative thoughts about Miss Scarlett there often follows accusations of being hostile toward such social issues.

When someone like HeelvsBabyface, Nerdrotic, or TheCriticalDrinker makes similar complaints about Batwoman, they sometimes come across as anti-Woke rather than simply critical of the show in question. The show has numerous problems but the focus of the criticisms from people often is the subversion of good writing and logical plotlines in order to present Woke issues. The fact the producers of some of these show state quite clearly this is their objective muddies the water further.

The reviewers I’ve listed above are rather caustic in their tone and brutal in their assessments and do come across, fairly or unfairly, as anti-Woke. Ryan George of Pitch Meeting fame is far gentler in his criticism and includes a great deal of humor which makes him appear less negative.

This all leads to the answer of my question if the criticism of Batwoman is legitimate or simply the raving of anti-Woke activists. It’s both and it’s neither. Some of the criticism is certainly coming from an anti-Woke bias while a great deal of the criticism is legitimate and concerns other problems with the shows in question. Who gets to decide which is which? You. That’s the point here.

There is no question that raging Incel, anti-Woke nut jobs look to certain videos as validation for their misogynistic and misguided hatred. There is also no debate that some of the people who watch these reviews are not so inclined.

If a reviewer has a caustic and negative style that’s their business. Perhaps they do have an anti-Woke bias against Batwoman or perhaps they just find the show intolerably bad regardless of its Woke agenda. You get to watch the reviewer you want to watch and if you think they are overtly anti-Woke then stop watching. If you like the reviews, continue to watch.

I like to consider myself Woke and my novels address some of those self-same issues although I try to put logic, plot, character arc, and general theme above those ideologies. I also think my upcoming negative review of Miss Scarlett is not based on the Woke aspect of the show but other elements that are sorely lacking.

The question of Anti-Woke or legitimate review is largely for you to decide for yourself. I can’t decide for you, nor do I want to make such an attempt.

Tom Liberman

When you Throw the Constitution out the Window

Throw the Constitution out the Window

What happens when you throw the Constitution out the window? It’s a fair question these days because both Republican and Democrats, about 95% of all voters in the country, are fully on board with ignoring that document whenever they find it convenient.

Our sordid tale didn’t start with one president or one particular Executive Order but it escalated to new heights under President Trump and his endless national emergencies and is continuing in that direction under President Biden.

One example of this is the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A few years back Saudi Arabia blew up a busload of school children in Yemen and our brilliant members of Congress thought to themselves; hey, why exactly are we selling Saudi Arabia the means and giving them the training required to do this? So, when the sale of arms to that country came up, the members of Congress voted against it. Done deal, right? I mean the Constitution of the United States is clear. Purse strings equal Congress.

Oh, how wrong you were. President Trump simply said screw Congress. It’s a national emergency, I can do whatever I want; here you go Saudis have it, kill as many school children in Yemen as you want, it’ll all be good.

Now President Biden has said, now wait a second, I might not want to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates so I’m putting those sales on hold. Well, sorry to say, self-righteous Democrats, that’s not within his authority either.

I’ve written a number of articles that touch on the idea Congress and the President seem quite happy to throw the constitution out the window when it serves their purposes. The expansion of executive power, whether or not government should control our energy policies, and if we should be involved in the idea of economic sanctions at all.

All of these thoughts swirl around the fact we largely allow government officials to do whatever they want and whenever they want; because we agree with the policies so enacted. The problem, of course, is the politicians aren’t always the ones for whom we voted. Sometimes the other party comes into office and uses these powers in ways we don’t like. Oh, how we cry then.

The underlying problem is that no one cares. Everyone is happy, eventually, when Congress and the Executive Branch does whatever they want without any regard for the Constitution of the United States. Sure, you don’t like Biden cancelling the contract, sure you didn’t like Trump making the contract, but by supporting either, you are supporting both, not that you seem capable of thinking that broadly on the topic.

Virtually every unconstitutional executive order Biden signs is simply counteracting unconstitutional executive orders signed by Trump.

What happens when you throw the Constitution out the window? Dictators come into power. The Founding Fathers? They knew it and cared deeply about preventing it. You know it also; you just don’t care.

Tom Liberman

Everything Wrong with a Bigfoot Hunting Season

Bigfoot Hunting Season

Oklahoma state representative Justin Humphrey filed a bill to open a Bigfoot Hunting season and people are apparently angry about it. Why are they angry? Because Bigfoot might be killed in the Bigfoot Hunting season. Well, there are quite a few things wrong here and I’m the fellow to tell you about it.

It’s fairly difficult trying to pick a place to start. Shall I succumb to my Libertarian outrage and focus on government involvement in something it has no justification? Perhaps I should start with the stupidity that are people concerned with disrupting the non-existent lifestyle of a mythical creature.

I don’t want to bog down in a debunking article talking about fossil evidence, climate, food source, genetic stability in a small population, or other common arguments about why Bigfoot cannot exist. I’ve already written about why people are prone to believing such nonsense.

Anyone who is outraged that Humphrey wants to institute a Bigfoot Hunting season because they are worried about the safety and well-being of such creatures is an idiot.

Then there is Humphrey and those who think this is a good idea to generate tourism and revenue to the state of Oklahoma. This group of people are completely wrong but in a different way. Humphrey is a representative of the state of Oklahoma and a government official. He should not be generating revenue for the state by selling hunting licenses for a mythical creature. That’s something private industry should be doing.

What, what, what? You ask. That’s right, I have no problem with the scheme as a whole, if people want spend their money on hunting licenses for a mythical creature, that’s their business. If some private entrepreneur wants to cash in on this myth, great, have at it. I approve wholeheartedly. People spend their money on a lot of stupid things and my role-playing games and video games certainly strike many as a waste of money. I enjoy it, I’ll keep spending my money as I see fit.

Obviously, the company so involved needs to make sure they use private property for their fun, ensure no one is using a working firearm, and pay for insurance in the inevitable eventuality that some idiot trips over a log and breaks their neck. That’s all part and parcel of living in a free society.

When government is the one to institute such activities, it has gone far beyond its intended role. Humphrey completely misunderstands the role of government in society and he is not alone. Government officials think they are in the business of generating revenue rather than serving citizens. Most of their schemes involve getting money and if they happen to help the citizens, well, that’s a nice bonus.

It’s a government run Disney Land, nothing more and nothing less.

Tom Liberman

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