SciManDan Trolls for Flat Earth and Finds Great Kids

Great Kids

What’s Going on?

I just watched a great YouTube video from SciManDan in which he chatted with random people via Omegle in the hopes of finding Flat Earth proponents. What he found instead was a bunch of great kids from all over the world and it was glorious.

SciManDan is a popular YouTube content creator who largely, but not solely, debunks Flat Earth videos. He was trying to disprove the general hypothesis among proponents that their numbers were growing exponentially. While this was successful, the lesson I took from it was something I’ve talked about before, the world is filled with an ever-growing number of great kids.

The Experiment

Omegle is a chat site in which you are randomly paired with strangers in order to partake in presumably interesting conversations. SciManDan went onto the site with a sign indicating he believed the earth is a sphere and wanted people to convince him otherwise.

He spent about fours trying to find anyone who espoused a position against a spherical earth and failed. That’s good news in itself but not really the point of my blog. What I’d like to discuss is the reaction of many of the predominantly young people he encountered on his mission.

The Great Kids of the World

For the most part the young people he encountered all pretty much immediately said the world was, in fact, a globe and they didn’t disagree with his position.

Several of them thought for a moment, declared the Earth is a sphere, but then tried to come up with arguments to convince SciManDan. I found this quite impressive. The willingness to take up a position with which you disagree is a sign of an agile and inquiring mind. The age of many of the young people who proved ready and able to take on this challenge was quite a bit younger than most of the Flat Earth proponents I’ve seen on SciManDan’s channel.

The ethnicities and accents of the various young people he spoke with indicated a fairly broad cross-section of the world.

Many of the youngsters asked pertinent questions about what he was doing. Sure, some were pretty goofy and at least one was stoned off his gourd, but they wanted to know what he was doing. They took the time to look him up on YouTube. One of them even had a sibling fan of SciManDan resulting in a bit of shock and awe that I enjoyed watching.

By and large they wished him well and told him to keep fighting the good fight.

By golly, by George, by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the great kids of the internet with inquisitive minds who are happy to talk with or type to people of all nationalities really gives me tremendous expectations for the future.

Conclusion

Today’s great kids grew up with the internet and largely seem to understand we are not separated by gender, race, religion, sexuality, nationality, and all the other false divisions foisted on us by those in power who wish to stay there.

Kids get it and this boomer is confident the world will soon be in better hands. Frankly, it can’t come soon enough.

Tom Liberman

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

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

The Government wants to be in the Business of Tech Censorship

Tech Censorship

The Congress of the United States is haranguing the CEOs of the top technology companies in an effort to justify the tech censorship itch of every politician. The very idea of government choosing what citizens get to read should hopefully make your skin crawl as much as mine. Tech censorship is a bad idea, read on and I’ll tell you why I think so.

Basically, the internet is filled with a bunch of crazy stuff. Go figure. Some idiots choose to believe this nonsense, again, go figure. Because some people are really stupid, the government has decided that I must be protected and the way to do this is to enforce tech censorship. Now, the government has any number of methods by which they can control content, including limited liability laws, which I railed against elsewhere. I’m not going to get into why limited government is vital but I want to focus on the inherent problems with tech censorship.

I think it’s pretty easy to make my case when we simply examine the words of the politicians as they verbally assaulted the CEOs. The tech companies have “too much power.” That’s a rich one coming from politicians who have brutalized the Constitution of the United States, designed largely to limit government power, into a scrap of tissue paper. It is clear politicians don’t want anyone else to have too much power, they find the thought frightening.

The tech companies are accused of, in the same breath, spreading fake news and censoring political speech. Well, when political speech is fake news, it seems irrefutable that we’ve got a Catch 22 on our hands. The proverbial police officer telling a suspect to freeze and raise her or his hands. Tech companies can’t defeat this line of questioning, which is exactly the point. There is nothing the tech companies can do to stop the spread of false information without also censoring political speech. The result of this is that whatever political party happens to be in power can, for all practical purposes, dictate what is “political speech” and what is “fake news”. Do you want politicians making that decision? I don’t.

The answer isn’t giving censorship power to government, the answer is to stop trying to censor at all, you can’t win. The politicians are hoping to trap tech companies by forcing them to censor fake news while calling them out for censoring political speech. The politicians want more power, they want the power to control what you read, what you see. The politicians will stop at nothing to get this power. They are the evil in this situation.

We must dispense with the idea of censorship altogether; despite the fact some people will post vile lies in an attempt to incite violence. We cannot trust government to keep us safe, we must trust ourselves, we must be personally responsible.

Government’s idea of safety is to put us in a dark cave with a plate of food and a bowl of water and then harangue us when we fail to lick its boot and thank it for doing so.

Tom Liberman

Liability Immunity is Wrong in so Many Ways

Liability Immunity

Federal and State governments provide liability immunity for a number of people and businesses and every single bit of it is wrong. Wrong! The topic of liability immunity is being discussed a great deal lately because of Covid-19 and President Trump’s social media spats but the problem is far deeper and more insidious than that.

State governments have largely made individual law enforcement officers immune from lawsuits in regards to actions taken while performing their duties. Thus, the officer who threw a flash-bang grenade into a crib during a no-knock search warrant couldn’t be sued by the parents whose baby had half its face burned off.

Gun manufacturers are immune to liability. Volunteers working for the government are immune to liability. The government has protected all sorts of people and businesses from liability over the years including social media outlets. If someone harms another person through negligent actions, the place to determine liability is in the courts, not in the legislatures. This seems self-evident to me.

Why should anyone get blanket liability immunity? It makes no sense to me; we have a judicial system to sort out these problems. Certainly, individual cases might be decided in a fashion I think is unfair but the old expression we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water seems perfectly relevant to me.

It’s important to note the liability immunity extended to social media by Congress means, by default, that such liability immunity can be removed, or a threat to remove it can be made. This gives government power they should not have; it gives government the ability to influence what content we see or don’t see. When we give government the ability to extend liability immunity, we explicitly give government officials the right to selectively remove it. They should have no such ability whatsoever.

When the government offers to give businesses liability immunity in regards to Covid-19 they are essentially engaging in force against We the People. If you don’t go back to work in a dangerous environment, we will punish you. We are taking away your right to get redress for crimes committed against you.

I’m horrified by all this liability immunity. If you harm through negligence, or other means, you must face your day in court. Anything else is tyranny.

Tom Liberman

Being a Good Christian

Good Christian

What do I see as Good Christian behavior? Selfish, angry, violent, intolerant, murderous, money-worshipping, self-righteous, arrogant, bereft of personal responsibility. These are the words the immediately leap to my mind. Now, I’m an Atheist so feel free to look at your disgusting religion through rose-colored glasses and ignore me. I’m telling you what I see.

I recognize there are many people, some my friends, who claim the Christian faith and are not these things, but those who think of themselves this way are the outliers. I’ve had many conversations with Christians who don’t agree with mainstream doctrine in regards to transgenders, Muslims, homosexuals, atheist, Democrats; yet you support the leaders that make statements against these people. Good Christians are you, and I see your vile behavior every day in media outlets of all kinds.

That’s not me, you say, I’m a good person. Yet, you sat in your churches day after day listening to the hatred and did nothing. It’s not that you are losing your religion, it’s lost. You sat in silence while it descended into hate fueled, fact ignoring, cruelty and outright evil. You did nothing and now it’s gone. So, don’t tell me you’re a decent human being, you are part and parcel of it all, don’t fool yourself.

Now you try and post kind, helpful things on your Social Media outlets in an effort to pretend you are not part of the disgusting, murderous, cult that, on those infrequent occasions you actually consult your morality, sickens your stomach. You are the problem; you are a Good Christian.

Good Christians are willing to sacrifice anyone who disagrees with their doctrine, they do not care, they do not help, they are invested in hurting anyone and everyone who they see as a threat. Good Christians fund this hate-machine that spews its bile on everything decent and kind.

A Good Christian really isn’t about religion anymore. They are a social movement, a political movement, a monolithic assault on freedom, which is a subject I take quite seriously.

Don’t fool yourself, you are a Good Christian and that’s not anything to brag about.

Tom Liberman

The Sins of Others do not Absolve You

The Sins of Others

I consume a fairly large amount of news, videos, and comments on the internet and something I see often from people who are accused of misbehavior is bringing up the sins of others. The idea is if you accuse me or some famous personality I like of wrongdoing, the basic defense is to bring up the sins of others to excuse, exonerate, or muddle the conversation about the behavior.

If you claim I did something wrong I’ll mention all the things you’ve done wrong in your life as a way to discredit you without having to defend myself. If you accuse someone I like of something, then I’ll bring up the behavior of people that you like to defend that person. The argument is the sins of others absolve me of my poor behavior or at least excuse it.

I most recently witnessed a truly horrific example of this while watching a marathon session of an atheist I follow on YouTube named Jaclyn Glenn. She has a long running feud with a deranged fellow whose YouTube personality name is Onision. This fellow has come to prominence recently because Chris Hansen began an investigation involving him grooming underage girls for eventual sexual abuse.

The fellow in question has been posting many videos trying to explain his side of the story. Glenn watched eight hours of these videos and Livestreamed herself and her fiancé doing so. I certainly didn’t watch the entire thing but from the first seconds, the methodology of Onision became apparent.

Meanwhile, of course, I’ve been following various political and news events and many of my Facebook friends have strong opinions on subjects. When a commenter comes on defending against one accusation or the other their methods follow the exact same pattern: the sins of others.

I wrote a post about Lance Armstrong some time ago that sums up my opinion on this tactic. I don’t really care about what other people have done, I’m here to examine your behavior or the actions of some politician or celebrity. What mistakes the accuser has made in the past are largely irrelevant.

Let’s take the most extreme example possible. Let’s imagine the accuser lied about someone else regarding the same sort of thing they are now accusing you of doing. Even something this blatant doesn’t absolve you of guilt. The sins of the others never absolve you. Certainly, other people are guilty of misbehavior in their lives. I’m guilty, you’re guilty, everyone has acted in regrettable fashion, no one is innocent of past crimes and that is what makes the arguments of Onision and others like him such a ready option.

Such people are aware accusing others is a great way to deflect the conversation away from their own sins. If the politician I like did something heinous then I can point to something the politician you like has done as a way to excuse it.

The bottom line is quite simple, the sins of others have no bearing on your behavior or that of the celebrity or politician you choose to support. Wrong is wrong.

Tom Liberman

Hidden Likes as a Way to Promote Creativity on Instagram

Hidden Likes Instagram

There’s an interesting story roiling the world of Social Media these days in that a photo posting website called Instagram is going to implement Hidden Likes in an attempt to encourage creativity, at least that is the thinking. Basically, in any Social Media platform people post something and other people Like it. With Hidden Likes, only the original poster will be able to see the number of Likes a particular missive gathers.

The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, is implementing the Hidden Likes strategy for a number of reasons. One of those is the following thought: if people are not posting things in attempt to garner Likes they might post more creative and interesting ideas rather than going for the sensational.

The first thing we must dismiss is the idea that Likes do not have an influence on what is posted. If the Hidden Likes update goes into effect it will certainly change what people post to some degree. I post fairly regularly and can tell you, first hand, there is a pleasure in getting more Likes and knowing that others are aware of the popularity of my original post. I often attempt to word my blogs in a way to generate attention. Now, that being said, I generally write about ideas and events that impassion me.

The number of Likes a post generates certainly indicates its popularity in the same way the number of sales of a product shows if there is market for that item. If posts of a certain style generate likes and other people see those likes, then those individuals certainly start making posts in a similar vein.

When a network has opinion shows where in the hosts express outrage and populist ideas it gets far better rating than a pure news channel. That’s the reality of this world. We look for the approval of others and imitate those who are successful in getting such praise. Likes are essentially ratings for all to see.

While Hidden Likes make it more difficult to determine which post gets the most attention, people will find a way to circumvent the new system. The competition to get the most Likes will continue.

Now, all that being said, the CEO of Instagram can implement any policy he wants. It’s his business model and perhaps this update will generate more Likes for the company which is expressed in the number of users on the platform. Perhaps it will drive people over to a competitor’s social media site. Perhaps it will increase creativity, there is no way to know for certain.

My final conclusion? I don’t really have one. It’s an interesting look into the Social Media platform and the power of Likes. You might want to ridicule them but they have power, that much I know.

One thing is sure, it’s generating publicity for Instagram, as seen in my post here. Perhaps that was the plan all along.

Tom Liberman

The Real Value of Technology to Users

Real Value of Technology

I just followed what I imagined was a clickbait link and ended up on a fascinating article describing a difficult economic question about what is the real value of technology to its users. The problem is that nations around the world base their economic policy on things like Gross Domestic Product and Productivity Gains. Yet, we have no way to add things like using Social Media to the numbers.

The article describes recent techniques championed by MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson. Brynjolfsson is trying to quantify how much using search engines, social media, e-mail, GPS, and other technologies add in real value to not only your life but the economic health of the nation and world. These techniques are being used by the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, in an effort to more accurately determine the health of the economy and make better decision about its immediate and long-term future.

It’s my opinion these efforts are long overdue and need to be applied to any number of traditional economic indicators which are becoming less useful in the modern era. I wrote an article about the end of money and another about unemployment not long ago that consider this same idea. Things like inflation and unemployment have long been used to determine the health of the economy but I think the numbers generated by metrics today are slipping further and further from reality.

As our numbers begin to fail there rises the likelihood those determining economic decisions on a worldwide basis will be making bad choices based on poor data.

If you think there is no real value of technology then I quote the last lines of the article: How should we value the luxury of never needing to ask for directions or the peace and tranquility afforded by speedy resolution of those contentious arguments over the trivia of the moment?

I have no great insights today. I’m glad to see the people in charge are looking into such things and I’m hopeful they’ll make important gains in understanding the real value of technology.

Tom Liberman

Thanksgiving and the Cell Phone Basket

Cell Phone BasketShould people use a Cell Phone Basket during their Thanksgiving Celebration this year? I’m seeing a trend toward this sort of thinking on my various social media platforms. The idea is simple enough, people are talking on their cell phones rather than participating in conversation with those present at the table. The idea of collecting phones using a cell phone basket goes beyond Thanksgiving but the family friendly holiday is certainly a focal point for the concept. Is it a good idea?

I think the majority of people will think it is. I disagree. It’s a concept that strikes directly at the heart of freedom. Some people abuse freedom and in order to stop them from doing so, the do-gooders of the world punish everyone. They are essentially saying: I don’t like it when you talk on your cell phone during dinner. I don’t talk on my cell phone during dinner. I’m going to force you to behave in a way that I think is appropriate. This is not just a problem at the dinner table but among the mainstream thinking of both major political parties. We think we know what is best for you, we think we know how you should behave, and we have no compunction about passing laws and putting pressure on you to conform to our way of thinking.

This mode of thinking is largely associated with Liberalism but I find that so-called Conservatives are just as, or even more, likely to try and force others to conform to their way of thinking. More and more, people think nothing of forcing through coercion, social pressure, or even legal maneuvering to conform to what they think is an appropriate standard.

Your standard is not my standard nor is mine yours. If you want to talk on the cell phone during Thanksgiving dinner, I think you are rude but I have no business forcing you to stop. If I don’t like it, the choices available to me are to leave the table or, should I be the host, not invite you in the future. As a host I think there is nothing wrong with suggesting people keep cell phone use to a minimum but I think it’s absolutely wrong to either force or pressure people to put them in a cell phone basket.

The world we live in today is filled with things very much analogous to a cell phone basket. How I position my body during patriotic songs, who I marry, what chemicals I ingest, what firearm I am allowed to own, if I should or shouldn’t visit the White House, if I talk on my phone during Thanksgiving. It’s just not your business. You certainly don’t have to be my friend. You don’t have to invite me to your events. You can ignore me. You can dislike me. You can even hate me. Don’t try to shame me. Don’t try to coerce me. Don’t try to force me. Ask me politely if you must. Be assured, I’ll do you the same courtesy.

Tom Liberman

Are the Samburu Heroes and Horrors?

SamburuAn animal rights activist friend of mine recently shared a Facebook post about the Samburu tribe’s conservation efforts in Northern Kenya, particularly in regards to Samburu National Reserve. If you were to read just this article you might think the Samburu people as astonishing heroes. Should, however, you read the Wikipedia article about their tribal practices in regards to young girls and women you would almost certainly come to the opposite opinion. Which is true?

This question dramatically illustrates the divide facing the people of the United States and those of the western style republics around the world. I’m here to tell you that Samburu are both heroes and horrors. I need not choose, nor do you.

I’m certain if my friend knew of the practices of Female Genital Mutilation and Child Rape associated with the Samburu she would never have shared the article about their wonderful efforts in conservation. Yet both the horrific practices and the heroic conservation efforts are part of the same package. As things currently stand, you do not have one without the other.

There is nothing wrong with my friend’s lauding of Samburu and their efforts protect the animals that share their little part of the world. They have done good and wonderful things. There is also nothing wrong with the many who lambaste them for their vile practices in regards to young girls.

Likewise, we should applaud a politician who does something that works and lambaste her or him when he or she does something wrong. This is, sadly, not the world in which we live. It seems we are becoming increasingly uncaring of actual deeds and the cause and effect of hateful words. We care more about who is delivering the message than the words themselves. We make any excuse to exonerate someone we support and find any sliver of blame to eviscerate those we oppose.

The Samburu are not completely vile nor wholly exemplary. They are a bit of both. We might weigh one against the other and come up with some sort of final balance but why not laud the good and oppose the bad? At the height of election season, I see ads claiming the wonder and glory of one side and the degenerate evil of the other.

Consider voting for the most decent human in the election. That would be the one who treats their opponent with dignity and respect, for isn’t that the way they would care for the nation?

I would, you might say to me with a sad shake of your head, but there aren’t any. I’m sad to agree. Do try to remember, there are more than two political parties.

Tom Liberman

Have your Starbucks Coffee any way you Want

Starbucks CoffeeIs there a wrong way to order Starbucks Coffee or a bagel? That certainly seems to be the conclusion of the great democracy that is the internet. My various social media outlets have recently been filled with people ridiculing other people for exactly how much flavored sugar they want in their coffee or what sort of strange toppings they want on their bagels.

It’s more than just outrage. It seems to my degreeless psychological perspective that people manage to inflate their self-esteem because they don’t order that many pumps of Cinnamon Pumpkin Cotton Candy in their Starbucks Coffee or have the audacity to put capers on their raisin filled bagel.

I find what other people eat to be disgusting at times and my non-oyster and non-sushi loving friends certainly don’t pay me compliments when I ingest two of my favorites. Does this make me better than them or them better than me? Does it really make any difference whatsoever what someone else chooses to eat?

I remember as a young lad being somewhat disturbed when a friend mixed a bizarre combination from the soda fountain at a fast food restaurant. I remember something more important as well. Some of my other friends started to ridicule the choice my first friend made and that struck as being wrong. I wasn’t a Libertarian back then, or at least I didn’t know about the concept of being one. I’m fairly certain I didn’t fully understood why it bothered me, but it did.

Now that I’m older, and presumably wiser, I know it is makes me the lesser person when I make fun of someone, pretend I am better than someone else, simply because of the strange soda blend they choose to drink. If someone enjoys a Starbucks Coffee with a million pumps of sugar in it, then let them enjoy it. Yes, it’s not particularly healthy. Yes, it sounds vile.

It’s quite easy to ridicule other people for their choices in life. Try to refrain. Sometimes people make really dumb decisions. I’d say someone who drinks a Starbucks Coffee with an outrageous amount of sugar in it is doing themselves no favors health-wise. All that sugar doesn’t taste particularly good to me but their drink is not my problem.

To sum up, don’t be so quick to judge other people. Spend more time worrying about how you conduct your own life. Part of a being a decent human being is to stop denigrating everyone who does something differently than you.

Tom Liberman

Bob Ross and the Value of Talent and Serenity

Bob RossI was not surprised to find that painter Bob Ross, eighteen years after his death, is finding a new audience on streaming services like YouTube and Twitch. Mr. Ross, for those of you who don’t know about a PBS television series called The Joy of Painting, was a painter who used a wet-on-wet technique to quickly create beautiful landscapes. His calm and happy demeaner mixed with his skill made his show amazingly popular for the time. I can only imagine how many viewers he’d have to today if Lymphoma hadn’t struck him down at age 52 in 1995. If he was painting live on his channel I’d guess he’d be among the top-rated content providers.

In addition to hosting a popular television show he also inspired countless artists throughout the United States and now that message is being spread worldwide. What I’d like to talk about today is the value of what Mr. Ross provided and what it tells us about humanity as a whole.

What is it about Mr. Ross that is so appealing? His genuine good nature? His skill as a painter? His happy little trees? I’m of the opinion it was a combination of his talent, serenity, and ability to communicate a complex procedure in a way almost everyone finds understandable. Mr. Ross made you feel good about yourself and about life as a whole and that’s a message of astounding popularity.

On the other hand, the internet is filled with people spewing messages of rage and hate against anyone and everyone who disagrees with them about anything. Those people get an audience as well but not as big as Mr. Ross’s. Ask yourself, is watching someone like that helping you? Does it make you happier, better, nicer? Does watching Mr. Ross achieve those ends?

It’s an important question in deciding how you go about leading your life. Do you think you’re helping yourself by calling other people stupid or making fun of their politics? Sitting around patting yourself on the back about how smart you are and how stupid and wrong everyone else is? I think you are not. I think you are harming yourself.

My advice is to head on over to the streaming service of your choice and watch Mr. Ross paint a picture. Especially if you’ve been listening to one of the angry, talking-heads on your favorite news channel or social media network.

Happy is better than angry and Mr. Ross proves it. His popularity demonstrates what people truly want in their lives, even if they don’t know it.

Tom Liberman

Good Intentions with Johnny Bobbitt and Kate McClure

Johnny Bobbitt*EDIT*

I’m sorry to say, it now appears this was a scam involving all three parties. There never were any good intentions at all. Still, much of the blog is applicable.

*END EDIT*

About a year ago there was a feel-good story in the news about a homeless man named Johnny Bobbitt helping a woman named Kate McClure when she ran out of fuel. Bobbitt, a homeless man living under a bridge near where McClure was stranded, walked to a gas station and spent his last dollars purchasing a canister of fuel to get her home. The aftermath is a study of good intentions when there is no plan.

McClure started a GoFundMe campaign in order to help Bobbitt out of his situation. The news went viral and soon enough they collected $400,000. Bobbitt is a drug addict. McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico now had a pile of money to manage and no plan. They aren’t financially savvy nor did they have any idea how to deal with a person in Bobbitt’s situation. They paid for rehab but, as is often the case, he relapsed.

Perhaps McClure and D’Amico had the best of intentions and for the moment let’s assume they did. D’Amico said much of the money from the fund going to Bobbitt was being spent on drugs. D’Amico pointed out that if they gave all the money directly to Bobbitt he’d probably be dead not long after. It’s a valid point. So, they had to manage the money. This takes time and costs money in and of itself. They missed work trying to organize it all and spent time and effort ferrying Bobbitt to his addiction meetings. To make up for this, McClure and D’Amico paid themselves from the GoFundMe campaign money. They took trips, purchased an expensive car, etc.

GoFundMe has launched an investigation into the idea the entire campaign was fraudulent. If the couple can’t account for the money they might well be facing prison. The donors who gave all that money are understandably upset much of it went to the couple instead of Bobbitt.

Meanwhile, Bobbitt is back to living under the bridge and panhandling because he doesn’t have any money. What’s the lesson in all of this? Good intentions are not enough. Grand ideas are not enough. You must make pragmatic and realistic plans. McClure and D’Amico should have immediately hired a financial advisor and a drug rehabilitation specialist to organize their efforts. This costs money, naturally. They chose to handle it themselves and now they face serious legal consequences.

This pattern of good intentions without a realistic plan is part and parcel of the fabric of our everyday life. Look no further than Washington D.C., your local government, or your church. You might well be a good person, a decent human being, and want to help. If you don’t plan you will most likely do far more harm than good.

Tom Liberman

How a Decent Person Reacts when they Accidentally Share Fake News

Fake NewsFake News is an important part of our lives now and it can be difficult to spot at times. I read a lot of stories and my Fake News detector is always at a pretty high state of alert so when someone I’m friends with on Social Media posts something suspicious I’m usually right on it. I attempt to verify the story and, if it turns out to be Fake News, alert my friend. It is the reaction thereafter that is the focus of my post today.

I’d like to begin by talking about how pervasive Fake News is becoming. I see false stories almost every single day going from complete fabrication to subtly nuanced exaggerations to simple omissions of vital information. Some of the fake stories are laughable bad and easy to spot while others are cleverly disguised and designed to pull at the political or social ideology of the reader. It is not always easy to spot Fake News and just because you post something that you thought was good and useful information but actually turns out to be false doesn’t make you a bad person.

That being said, when it is pointed out to you the article you shared is, in fact, Fake News, your reaction says a lot about your ethical standing as a person. This came home to me just the other day when a young woman who is the daughter of a friend posted a story and I immediately leapt to my normal level of jerk-hood and told her the story was both false and racist. Her reply? I’m so sorry. Story deleted. The end.

What a great reaction. I’ve told other, older and supposedly wiser and more moral people, her or his story was false and gotten a universally different reaction. Mostly I’m told, well, it may be false but the underlying ideology matches with my point of view and it is still good information to know so I’m going to keep it up. I’ve been told by people who absolutely consider themselves good and moral they don’t care it is Fake News, it matches their political beliefs and go screw yourself Tom. In all caps no less.

I’ve been completely ignored. I’ve been told I’m the immoral person. I’ve been attacked claiming the news is completely true even when I point out the obvious flaws. Deny, deny, deny. I did nothing wrong. I didn’t write the story, I just passed it along. I’m not responsible. I hate Fake News. I’m a good person. It’s not my fault, it’s the other person. I’m decent. I love my kids. I go to church. I don’t hate foreigners. Endless excuse making and lies, mainly lies to themselves.

To my friend’s daughter, well done. I’m very proud of you. We can all be fooled but it’s our actions afterward that show our character.

Tom Liberman

Vaginal Rejuvenation, Chipotle Gift Cards, Ginger-less Ginger Ale, and Critical Thinking

Critical ThinkingA plethora of news stories in recent days reminded me why I’m of the opinion that the solutions to many of the problems we face today lies in teaching Critical Thinking skills from an early age. Solutions will never come from government warnings and the illusion we are safe because of such intervention does more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at the trio of stories that caught my attention. The Food and Drug Administration is now attempting to shut down various Vaginal Rejuvenation clinics whose services have no known efficacy and, if improperly performed, can cause harm. Many people have been fooled by a fake $100 gift card for Chipotle. Finally, a woman is suing Canada Dry because there is no ginger in their Ginger Ale despite advertisements that suggest there might be such.

What do all these things have in common? The people who are harmed lack Critical Thinking skills. In the first case, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been vociferously lambasting Vaginal Rejuvenation as a scam for over ten years. Anyone who goes in for treatment of their body without doing at least a cursory investigation of the procedure about to happen is clearly not engaged in Critical Thinking.

At least some of the people who fell for the Chipotle scam gave away personal information to the scammers in order to get a free $100. Probably the motto of the Critical Thinking movement should be: Nihil est in vita liber. Nothing is Free in Life. If you thought Chipotle was going to let you purchase $100 worth of food for simply passing along a web link you are clearly lacking in Critical Thinking skills.

In the case of the ginger less Ginger Ale, the ingredients are on the bottle. Certainly, the advertising is designed to fool but if you want to make sure you get your daily dose of ginger, then it is imperative for you to look at ingredients.

All three of these problems require no government intervention. Certainly, if a medical procedure is botched there should be ramifications and the legal system can be invoked, but that would be for doing damage, not for you getting a stupid procedure that doesn’t work when there was readily available information to that effect.

We may look at the people fooled in all three cases and happily pat ourselves on the back for being too smart to avoid it but the reality is more sinister. As more and more people exhibit an inability to engage in Critical Thinking, the fabric of our society becomes unwound. Those of us capable of making good decisions are increasingly harmed by those who cannot. When a certain percentage of people in a society can no longer think critically, the society will most certainly be crushed.

More and more people entertain ludicrous conspiracy theories and act in ways that can potentially harm us all. This is dangerous for me and that’s the person I care about the most. I don’t really care that a bunch of idiots are harming themselves, that’s the way the world works. I care they are harming me.

How do we solve this problem? There is no way to account for everyone’s gullibility and stupidity. Some people will be foolish no matter how much we warn them. However, if we start teaching Critical Thinking skills at every step of the schooling process I’m of the opinion we will do far more good than any number of government regulations designed to protect us.

Nihil est in vita liber.

Tom Liberman

Is it Wrong to Point out Mike Matheny is a Handsome Man?

Mike MathenyI noticed an interesting trend on the Facebook posts of some of my women friends in the aftermath of the firing of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Many of the women commented on what a good-looking fellow is Matheny and that they’d miss him for that aspect at least. Male friends immediately responded that if men made such a comment about an attractive woman coach or manager they’d be subject to attack from Social Justice Warriors.

It’s an interesting point because it’s true. Men who make such comments about attractive female athletes are often attacked as misogynistic. The conclusion that men seem to be drawing from this truth is, on the other hand, completely incorrect. They should be able to make such observations and so should women.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the attractiveness of another person and women have every right to make such observations, as do men about good-looking women. Our looks are simply a trait, like any other.

Certainly, Matheny’s record as a manager and ability to lead the team is a far more important factor in his being fired than his relative attractiveness. The issue is we can’t get angry at someone for pointing out what they perceive to be the truth. We can certainly suggest his appearance shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not he keeps his job although the women posting made no such claims. What we should not do is pretend he isn’t viewed as attractive by women.

I wrote an article about a golfer named Paige Spiranac and how she used her looks to get an invitation to a golf tournament for which she would otherwise not be qualified. That’s all well and good. A person should use all their assets in an attempt to succeed in their chosen profession and life as a whole. There is nothing wrong with noting such things.

It’s important to make decisions based on pertinent factors. For Matheny, his looks have little impact on his managerial abilities. For a model, her or his strategic baseball knowledge is of little consequence to success. The person doing the hiring and firing is the one who makes these decisions and if they decide poorly, they too will suffer the consequences.

If one of my female friends were in charge of the Cardinals and hired Matheny because of his appearance rather than his skills as a manager, she would eventually lose her job as well. That being said, what’s wrong with pointing out a physical feature that doesn’t necessarily correlate to job performance? To my way of thinking, nothing.

A final point as to Matheny himself. He suffered numerous concussions during his career as a catcher and his mannerisms have always struck me as somewhat dulled. I hope he is consulting medical professionals and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Tom Liberman

I was Much the Same Myself

Much the sameWhile watching a clip from the classic Robert Redford film Jeremiah Johnson a bit of a throwaway line caught my attention; I was much the same myself. Johnson is trying to decide on a name for the young boy he took off the hands of a crazed woman who had seen most of her family murdered. The boy is not in a talkative mood as they ride along. Johnson gives him the name Caleb as it is one Johnson has much admired. The boy does not respond. Rather than pursuing the discussion, or chastising the lad, Johnson utters the line in question.

It’s a good line. I’m of the opinion it has a lot of relevance in today’s world. It seems people have always enjoyed being critical of one another but with advances in communication and the advent of social media such has risen to new heights. Much of the criticism involves telling other people how they should think or conduct their lives. This is what I was much the same myself addresses.

Johnson recognizes that, as a child, he wasn’t particularly talkative and when Caleb exhibits a similar attitude, Johnson accepts it without criticism. It is very easy to criticize people making what we deem as similar mistakes to those we made ourselves as children. I think the actions that tend to draw the most outrage are often those things we see in ourselves. The traits we dislike about ourselves and see in others.

Most often I see it in adults, like myself, in criticizing the way younger people are going about their business. Kids today. We were kids once but that is a fact apparently lost upon most of the critical curmudgeons of the world. Even as adults we do unwise things on a fairly frequent basis, but when someone else does something stupid, we are eager to point out their foolishness.

Perhaps it is a way to pretend that we are better than the other person. I wouldn’t do something so foolish, I wouldn’t think that, I wouldn’t act that way, I’d never take a picture like that, I’d never blah blah blah blah blah. The truth is, yes, we would and yes, we probably have at one point or another.

The next time you are considering chastising someone for their behavior or opinion, think about that line. I was much the same myself. Try it out. You might be pleased with the result.

Tom Liberman

One Star Reviews for Ayesha Curry’s International Smoke

International SmokeIf you read reviews for restaurants or just about any other product, the news that Ayesha Curry’s planned restaurant in Houston, International Smoke, is already overrun with One Star ratings might be of interest to you. The idea of false ratings either to promote or denigrate a product is well-established but it’s rarely as easy to spot as on this occasion.

Curry is the wife of Golden State Warrior basketball star Stephen Curry. Said Warriors recently defeated the Houston Rockets in a heartbreaking seven game series, at least heartbreaking for fans of the Rockets. In any case, the series and International Smoke opening in Houston have brought out a plethora of One Star reviews on Yelp. Obviously, with the restaurant not yet open, these reviews are based on personal feelings toward Stephen Curry.

As a self-published author I’m well-aware that many Five Star reviews for novels are purchased by the author. I have been solicited for such on any number of occasions. I also know that business rivals often try to sabotage one another with One Star reviews. Where does this leave us? Frankly, in a tough spot.

It’s not always easy to spot a fake review. As the industry of writing them has become more sophisticated they become increasingly difficult to discern. If International Smoke was already open and someone was a good enough writer, it would be perfectly easy to be taken in by a fake One Star review.

Fake reviews are a subgenre of fake news but one that often has a more immediate impact on our lives. If we make a purchase based on a positive review that is untrue or if we fail to make a purchase based on an equally false poor review, we have incrementally decreased our experience in this world.

I don’t have any real solutions to these problems but I do offer a condemnation to those who write fake reviews. You are potentially depriving someone of a lovely meal. You are harming yourself and others. To those in Houston writing One Star review of Curry’s new restaurant, you are doing yourself no favors. You are demeaning yourself. You are a less decent human. That is your choice but be assured, engaging in such behavior destroys, in small steps, your own sense of self-worth.

Perhaps you find it amusing and think it harmless but the reality is you are damaging yourself on a deep psychological level. You know you are untrustworthy, you are a liar. And whose respect do you need most of all?

Tom Liberman