Government to Regulate e-Cigarettes but Why?

e-cigarette-regulationElectronic Cigarettes burst onto the market in 2004 and now the government plans to regulate them in the same way they do traditional tobacco products. This despite the fact that e-cigarettes don’t use tobacco.

Today I’d like to address an issue slightly deeper than just this particular piece of legislation which was announced in 2014 giving producers two years to submit an application for approval. This application costs money and the e-cigarette manufacturers are claiming an approval must be submitted for every flavor and nicotine level available for sale. They claim the costs for such submissions would drive out all the small market e-cigarette manufacturers leaving only the largest companies.

I don’t know if this is true or not but I do know that the justification for such regulations and applications is outdated. There was a time when the internet did not exist and getting accurate information about the efficacy and danger of particular products was nearly impossible. I can understand that government officials felt it their responsibility to prevent essentially toxic products from being put on the market without at least some sort of warning.

I’m not opposed to the government employing a laboratory to test the content and health effects of tobacco, alcohol, and other products. I’m not opposed to the government using my tax dollars to disseminate information about said products on government managed websites. I think those are good things. I’m not under the illusion that a business would never market a harmful product with deceptive advertising and cover up the dangers. That sort of thing happens all the time, greed and human nature being what they are. To pretend otherwise is simply foolish.

However, with the advent of the internet and the availability of information I don’t see why the manufacturer has to provide relatively useless warnings on their labels and apply for expensive approvals. It seems to me that such rules and regulations are not intended for the safety of the population but simply generate revenue for the government and empower Crony Capitalism in order to support the largest manufacturers who fund political campaigns.

This is not the job of government.

The Information Age is a fundamental change in the nature of the world. For a Libertarian like myself it is the opening of a door into a utopia of personal freedom. If I want to use a product I can do my research and find out its nature. If I plan to buy a chicken from the grocery store, I can learn about the factory or local farm that raised it and how that chicken lived its life. Then I can make an informed decision on which chicken to buy. This was not possible until recently.

I’ll repeat, I do think the government has a right and responsibility to inspect, collect information, run tests, and publish the results for all to see. After that it is up to us. Should we choose to smoke tobacco then we know the risks and suffer the consequences of our actions.

We must trust people to live their lives in the manner they choose. We may not like. It might not be healthy. But it is ultimately their life and their decision. If they have the information they need to make an informed choice, that is all we can do. If we try to make that decision for them, even for their benefit, we end up causing far more harm in the long run.

As I point out in The Girl in Glass I – Apparition, freedom is free, it’s just not safe.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

You are Destroying America by Linking too Much (Share this Post Now or Your Family will Die)

Spreading LiesA friend of mine just went on a Facebook rant about how blog posts are often Liked, Shared, Linked, and otherwise disseminated to the public with no one actually bothering to check if what was written has any validity. Apparently he saw one too many miracle cancer cures roll by on his feed.

I’ve sort of spoken on this topic before. Here I talked about our culpability in spreading fake cancer cures on Facebook, and here I spoke about the idea of how the news story you click on drives it up the page. I have a weekly Stupid/Misleading Headline feature on this blog.

My friend included a link to this beautifully written and researched blog post on how to spot lies and distortions on the internet. After reading and admiring the post I didn’t want to simply reiterate the points so accurately made by David Wong.

The ways to spot fake articles listed by Wong are not particularly earth shattering. Whenever we read such a headline or story we generally realize it probably isn’t true. What harm could there be in putting in a Link? A Share? A Like? It’s just one click. Wong eloquently explains how these links, shares, and likes drive a story to more and more viewers, generating more and more hits, causing the information to gain credibility.

So, why am I writing this post? I hope to get people to spend some time thinking about their own responsibility for the plethora of false information out there. There is so much false information that it’s very easy to believe what you read and then spread the lies. When we pass along lies of this nature we are doing no one any favors. It is likely that a friend will believe us and tell someone else who will then laugh at them and correctly call them stupid. When you believe something, particularly something that seems unlikely, without bothering to do any checking of facts; you are stupid.

This problem has become so prevalent that many dishonest people are taking advantage of your clicks. They are using you for their own ends. Wong’s blog goes into great detail. As an example; magazines like Forbes now post the blogs of anyone who signs up. This is designed to drive their click rates up. Anyone can write anything and the blog link appears to go to a Forbes article. By having the Forbes name on it, the link seems legitimate, it is not.

The same goes for completely made up science articles, polls, news stories, and just about anything else you see. People simply make up something attention grabbing and sensational and then count on you to link to it.

The very nature of this fraud goes to my Libertarian philosophies of personal responsibility. Do you really want to link horoscope information? The article that proclaims your least favorite politician is DOOMED? Do you want to spread lies? Most of us would feel extremely guilty if we spread a lie about a friend but every time we Share an article we are spreading that information, if the article is a lie, we are liars.

Each time we do something like this we increase the amount of false information on the internet. This sort of thing cannot be stamped out through legislation. It is up to each of us to examine the information and Share it only if we have spent at least a few seconds confirming its veracity.

My advice is that you should avoid being stupid. Spend some time looking into that article before you share it with friends. And, of course, SHARE THIS NOW!!!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Political Activism in the Internet Age – Your Click Counts

Internet Political ActivismNot long ago I wrote a post about a phony cancer treatment called Aura-Etheric Body-Chi. I wrote about it to expose what I thought was a dangerous fraud being perpetuated on sick and desperate people.

The way I determined it was a fraud was to do a search on Google and Bing and read about the company. The first three or so pages of search results revealed that it was simply a Facebook business with no real presence outside that arena.

Well, if you do a search today for aura-etheric body-chi, and I’m going to explain why you should a little later in this post, you will find my blog post intermingled on the first page of results. My arguments that it is a fraudulent product might be read by a cancer-stricken person tempted to plunk down a few dollars. After reading the post they might choose to spend their remaining time and money more wisely!

I feel very good about that. I can’t begin to describe the joy that fills my body at the thought that I’ve helped someone avoid such a scam. That some desperate, cancer stricken person might not become a victim yet again.

That’s not my point here today. What I’d like to talk about today is how important it is that accurate information make its way to the front of all Google Searches, to the front of all Bing Searches, to the front of all news outlets. There is plenty of inaccurate information out there. There is fraud galore. People with agendas who post anything and everything. The web is filled with lies, hate, and deceit.

If we get accurate information to the front of the web then we inform people accurately about events, about products, about news. If we can shove inaccurate information, lies, and hate to the fifth page of a search result then that information doesn’t have the chance to fool someone, to hurt someone.

In the past people marched on Washington. They boycotted products and had a say in their world. Those days are over. Anyone who organize a march or a boycott is wasting their time. Do you want your voice heard? Do you want people to know what you think? Here’s the strategy, search it, click it.

Do you think my message about aura-etheric body-chi is an important message? Do you think my blog about Good and Evil is worth passing on? Do you want to help me sell my books? Do a search and click, if not, don’t. A few hundred clicks on my post and I’ll be to the top, number one! Now, not every topic is so easily moved in search results but the process absolutely works. What comes to the top of search results is what people are clicking on. It’s all math. The good news (and bad news) is you can’t click repeatedly yourself. The search engine algorithms are too smart for that. But, if you and like-minded people out there do some clicking, your point of view rises. If smart people click then good rises to the top.

Don’t think for a moment that news providers aren’t keenly aware of what terms are being searched the most. Google, Yahoo, and Bing post that information.

What is hot is profitable. If you click it, it rises; if it rises, people see it; if people see it, it makes headlines.

You hold the keys! We hold the keys to real change.

At no time in the history of the world have the people held so much power. With great power, as Peter Parker would say, comes great responsibility. Your clicks matter, each and every one. Use them wisely.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (Search it, Click it, Buy it!!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Internet Sales Tax – Getting Closer

Internet Sales TaxI wrote about this issue back in August of last year but I want to talk about it again. The legislation to put a sales tax on goods you purchase via the internet is moving forward quickly and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of opposition to the idea.

I don’t want to cover the same topics I wrote about last August so I’ll review them quickly and then discuss why this sales tax is not just an example of a money grab but also a real danger to our nation.

A traditional brick and mortar store requires infrastructure that an internet store does not. Roads to deliver shoppers, electricity, plumbing, parking, gas, and maintenance on all those things. The government pays for this and therefore a tax is placed on sales in those stores. This is fair and reasonable. If a company has a warehouse in a state where the sale is made then taxes apply although this should be somewhat reduced as the need for infrastructure is somewhat lessened at a warehouse as opposed to a traditional store. Fewer employees, smaller parking lots, less traffic, etc.

The main argument for the internet tax is that brick and mortar stores are at an unfair disadvantage because existing taxes increase the price of their goods. This is, as I discussed in my earlier post, not an unfair disadvantage, it is a completely fair and normal disadvantage. Internet stores have less overhead and they cost the government of that state less in infrastructure costs. This is a perfect example of capitalism. They have a better business model. The goal of a government is not to make the field perfectly fair for everyone. Did we put a huge tax on cars to protect the horse industry?

That’s what I want to talk about today in this follow-up post. What the federal government proposes to do undermines not only fair business practices but jeopardizes the growth of our country. My example of cars replacing horses seems ridiculous at face value. Cars contributed significantly to the growth of the United States and the world. They were better than horses in many ways. Not to say that they are perfect, pollution, accidents, etc. Still, I’m quite comfortable saying an effort by the government to stop the progress of cars, trains, and planes, would have left this country far in arrears of other countries who were taking advantage of the technology.

Maybe I’m being an alarmist to suggest that manipulating prices to encourage people to shop in stores rather than take advantage of internet sales is as much a danger to our country as would have been banning cars; but who can say what the future holds?

Internet sales offer many advantages. Fewer trips to the store, less pollution, fewer roads, fewer accidents, less law-enforcement, less emergency service, more parks, more people working from home. These are tangible economic, health, and social benefits. This is an example of government meddling that will end up doing far more harm than the perceived good it attempts to achieve. When the rest of the world sees the benefits and the United States does not; where does this lead?

If there are fewer brick and mortar stores and less traffic the government gets smaller. Thus our taxes should decrease! Let capitalism do its job. If internet sales are cheaper, more convenient, and better for society then they should win. Brick and mortar stores should vanish. The government shouldn’t have a vested interest in one or the other. That’s what this tax represents. The government taking sides to artificially alter the market. That’s never going to be good for the citizens of this nation.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (buy it, read it, write a review, buy it again!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Five Star Book Reviews – for a Price

Five Star ReviewThere is an article in the New York Times that strikes directly to my business model in trying to sell my Sword and Sorcery novels. It turns out most of the five-star reviews you’ve read on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords were likely purchased. The going rate was fifty reviews for $1,000.

Supposedly Amazon and B&N have caught onto the practice and banned the main offender but I’m very skeptical. When I first entered the self-publishing world with The Staff of Naught, I joined a number of author groups all over the internet. I was immediately inundated with offers to review my novel for a fee. I gave a free copy of my book for one of these reviews. I got a four-star review that looked as if the person hadn’t read the book and the review seemed based mostly only the blurb I put as the description.

I had a recent experience that shocked me. One avenue that I use to publicize my novels is to self-pirate it to torrent sites. The torrent site that I use is the immensely popular Demonoid which was recently shut-down by the government. While reading an article on ZDnet I ran across an author who wrote a “good-riddance” letter. I posted my own experience with Demonoid wherein the majority of my book sales stemmed from torrented files that the person read and then purchased. The author who posted the “good-riddance” message got into a bit of a flame war with those who supported Torrenting and some of those people posted negative reviews of her book.

Now comes the shocking part. The author asked Amazon to remove the negative reviews and they did! Apparently this is a common practice. So, not only are positive reviews manufactured but negative ones can be deleted.

My books are priced at $2.99 and a reviewer of The Hammer of Fire, one of two neither of which I solicited in any way, pointed out that while this seems like a small sum there are so many terrible self-published books that even such a minor expense is difficult to make without reviewer proof of a good novel. But, if reviewer proof is manufactured where does that leave the consumer?

Personally, I’m not going to pay for a review ever again, not even for just a copy of the book, and I’ve never asked my friends to write positive reviews. I have asked people who read the book to put an honest review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords.

Don’t think for a moment that is positive review practice is limited to books. And don’t think that competitors aren’t out there writing negative reviews. What’s a writer to do? What’s a consumer to do? It’s a dilemma.

I would suggest finding the author’s blog if they have one and read it to find out about their style. Download the sample and read it. See if they have a GoodReads Author Group where they answer questions. See how they respond to reviews. I have a samples of all my books at my site, you’re currently reading my blog, I have an author group (with six whole members), and I respond to my reviews.

I think there’s a lot of a great writing out there but it’s difficult to find. I think anyone who spends $2.99 on my books will find that they get value for the price. But, in the end the market will determine if that’s true.

Don’t trust reviews, particularly five-star reviews that don’t go into details about the book in question.

Oh, and for sure, BUY MY BOOKS!! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

News Stories, Comments, Trolls, and More

Internet TrollI’ve noticed an interesting trend in my news reading habits. I generally try not to click on and read stories that are of a more puerile interest and stick with science, sports, substantive politics, and the like. The reason I do this is because clicking on a link drives that story’s popularity. The more clicks, the more interest and the news organization moves the story up the list. It’s largely a myth that the news outlets force-feed us stories we don’t care about. They are driven by advertising dollars and more clicks equals more money.

But, that’s not the real reason I’m blogging today. I’ve noticed that the comments section of stories have become of great interest to me for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they are amusing. Another is that it sort of gives me a feeling for how people interpret the story which is a mini-version of polling. I must also admit that I get a perverse joy out of reading particularly stupid comments but, that being said, I do also enjoy thoughtful responses.

There are several interesting dynamics at work in the comments section. One is the phenomenon of trolling. Simply put this is someone going to a particular story or shared discussion region and posting the most inflammatory comment possible. The idea is to provoke an emotional reaction. This in turn spawns a long series of attacks and counter-attacks which amuse the original troll (and me, sometimes).

Another dynamic is the person who genuinely cares about the topic in question and wants to post their own views either in support or against the original article or topic. This is a potentially powerful way of communicating with like-minded people and even convincing open-minded individuals of the validity or invalidity of a point.

Then there are the true-believers. Those who absolutely have faith in a particular point of view and want to post about how stupid the article is or the idiocy of anyone who believes differently.

What I find most fascinating, although not surprising, is that the middle group who want to have an earnest, thought-provoking discussion, are squeezed out. There are a number of efforts to counter this trend including forcing non-anonymous posting as we see in the St. Louis Today website. This does seem to cut down on the more egregious trolls but doesn’t seem to have diminished milder trolling or the true-believers who are happy to expound on how anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot even if their real name is attached to the attack.

I’m not really sure I have a conclusion to this blog. It’s just a fact. It’s sad. I wish people would  not denigrate one another with baseless and mean-spirited attacks but I don’t see an immediate solution.

I suppose it comes down to what it always does; teach children how to think critically. Teach them how to make an argument and avoid fallacies. Teach them civil discourse.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Internet – World Wide Web Consortium

W3C LogoThe perception is that the internet is without controls or standards and while there is truth in this idea the reality is that an organization founded by Tim Berners-Lee, The World Wide Web Consortium, is largely in charge. The W3C is located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and manages the standards for the World Wide Web.

Standards might not be exactly what you think they are. It is not an organization concerned with moral or ethical factors. The standards of the internet are the programming languages used by those who create web pages. It is an important organization because there are a number of different browsers like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and others less well-known. Each of these browsers interprets documents or pages which are written in languages like HTML, XHTML, CSS, ASP, and many others. If there were no standards on how to construct pages then browsers would have an impossible task trying to interpret whatever people used.

However, I don’t want to spend this blog in a technical discussion of web site building, alphabet soups of initialisms, and things of that nature. I do want to talk about how the W3C standards function on the basis of what works best. This embodies the ideas of Ayn Rand and Ojectivism. Rand envisioned a society where the most creative and dynamic people were allowed to pursue their dreams without restraint and were rewarded for those efforts. She believed that such a society would develop generation after generation of achievers. I’m not going to comment on her philosophy as a whole here and now, but I do think there is a lot of merit to this idea.

Now, as for the W3C. While the member groups of the W3C decide on the standards there is a specific process of making these decisions that works as follows:

  1. Working Draft
  2. Last Call Working Draft
  3. Call for implementation
  4. Call for Review of a Proposed Recommendation
  5. W3C Recommendation (REC).

The basic gist of this is that proposals are created and sent out to every web developer to use as they see fit. This is what we chess players call Best by Test. In chess it is often jokingly referred to as the first move of 1. e4 but there is deep meaning in the phrase. In this case it means that a web standard has been used by literally millions of people and after an analysis phase deemed to be superior to other methods. Were that everything in life went through such a process. Think about all the things you do at work and at home and imagine if millions of people tested each process first and came up with the most efficient way to do it!

This is a powerful, powerful tool.

This is something that is available to us as a world thanks to the ability to communicate across any distance with anyone who is connected to the internet. The potential to create products, methods, processes, and communicate ideas is open to each person on earth. Everyone can contribute and more ideas, more tests, more people doing crazy experiments increases the potential for better things.

So, in summation, the W3C does things in a fashion that should be emulated. Use the power of the internet and its ability to reach billions of people to test your ideas. Don’t be afraid of the new technology as, sadly, many industries remain. Be a leader at your company. It’s a new way of thinking about things but one well worthwhile!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – W3C

World Wide WebMy weeklong blog on the internet isn’t exactly setting the world ablaze with interest but I’ll continue on despite the complete lack of evidence that anyone is at all interested! I’m stubborn that way.

Tomorrow I want talk about the World Wide Web Consortium that was created by Tim Berners-Lee and how its employees manage the standards for the internet. I am going to get some serious Libertarian and Objectivist ideas into this post so if you are one of the two people who has been keeping up with Internet Week then you’re in store for a treat tomorrow!

See you then,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Internet – Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-LeeTwo days ago I discussed how the DARPA government agency conceived of and funded the creation of the first internet. Then yesterday I spoke about Al Gore’s role in the development of the internet. Today I’ll talk about a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee who was and remains instrumental in the World Wide Web.

First let’s discuss the difference between the WWW and the Internet because I think there is a lot of confusion. The internet is simply all the computers that communicate with one another. This involves an alphabet soup of acronyms none more important that TCP/IP but I don’t want this to get blog to get too technical. The WWW is all the documents connected by hypertext. This sounds strange but every time you visit a web page you are seeing a document and said file is being “rendered” by your browser into images and text.

Sir Tim, as he is now known, wrote a proposal in 1989 that involved using something called hypertext to link documents. He along with Robert Cailliau then refined their proposal envisioning the WWW accessed by people like us using browsers. Sir Tim then created a Web Server, a computer with files that could be interpreted by the first web browser that he also created. He then posted this information and made his server available to all comers. In doing this he created some of the alphabet soup I spoke about earlier, HTTP, HTML, and URL. Again, I won’t go into details but these paved the way for the web we know and love today.

The big turning point came, as I mentioned yesterday, with the creation of the first easy to use web browser, Mosiac, created with money funded by the Gore Bill.

The important factor here is that Sir Tim didn’t charge anyone for any of this. He released the information freely unto the public where everyone immediately began to contribute and the WWW was truly born. If you had to pay a fee for every transfer of information, above and beyond your carrier fee, there is no way the WWW would have sprung to life so quickly.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for a capitalistic libertarian like myself but there is something to be said for the Open Source movement as far as getting tools into the hands of those who can make the best use of them. I’m going to talk more about Open Source later in the week. You can hardly wait, I’d bet!

Sir Tim went on to fund the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which currently sets the standards for the web and I’ll tak about that later in the week as well.

For today, I’ll wrap it up with a tribute to Sir Tim. Without him the internet would not exist today and we all have him to thank. So, if you’ve never heard of him take a moment follow my link to the Wikipedia article or at the very least say, “Thanks, Sir Tim,” when you open your web browser to go about your daily business.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Tim Berners-Lee

World Wide WebAll right you geeks and geekesses who follow my blog. Tomorrow I’m going to launch into praise for a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee. You’ve likely never heard of him but he is largely responsible for the World Wide Web. He continues to be an important figure to this day.

If you thought DARPA and Al Gore were exciting then be prepared to have your socks knocked clean off by tomorrow’s blog. If, by some crazy chance, you didn’t find the previous two days posts super-exciting then you are one strange bird! 🙂

See you tomorrow,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Did Al Gore Invent the Internet?

Al GoreThe answer is no as I wrote about yesterday. A government agency with the acronym DARPA invented the internet. DARPA is an amazing agency and a model for everyone to examine. However, today I want to talk about why Al Gore said he invented the internet and his role in the thing you are using right now.

We have to put on time travel caps to head back … back … back to the 1980’s. DARPA created the ability of one computer to “talk” to another and that idea was expanded on many fronts after 1975 until computers all over the world were communicating with one another but, much like the real world, everyone was using different languages. People who had different computer systems could only communicate with others who had the same system. This is where Gore comes into the picture.

The United States Congress at this time didn’t have many members who understood computers and their potential. One of the few exceptions was Gore who had been championing computers since the 1970’s and was described as an Atari Democrat. That’s my kind of guy! Bring on PONG!

Gore introduced legislation in 1986 called the Supercomputer Network Study Act and after hearing a lecture to congress by Leonard Kleinrock began to work on a piece of legislation that eventually came to be called the Gore Bill although was officially titled High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. This bill led to the creation of the National Information Infrastructure for which Gore coined the phrase Information Superhighway. Upon signing the bill President George H. W. Bush said it would help unlock the secrets of DNA, open up foreign markets to free trade, and a promise of cooperation between government, academia, and industry. Probably much hyperbole there but the fact that the internet has changed the world is indisputable. And the fact that this bill with its various funding arms paved the way for what we see today is also not in question.

Funding directly related to this bill helped a fellow named Marc Andreessen create the Mosaic Web browser. The first browser! Andreessen said, If it had been left to private industry, it wouldn’t have happened, at least, not until years later.

Two internet pioneers you’ve never heard of, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, credit Gore. No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President.

Now, as to what Gore actually said on that fateful day he claimed to invent the internet: I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

Not true. He didn’t create the internet nor take an initiative in doing so. I spoke about all that yesterday. However, what he did do was extraordinarily important and the fact that you are reading this today on whatever computer system you have is thanks in at least some small part to Gore. So, love him or hate him, we can’t deny his important influence in bringing together this thing we call the internet.

Hats off to Al Gore!

Another lesson to learn is that sometimes public speakers don’t convey the idea they mean with the utmost clarity and taking their exact words to task to try to paint them in a negative light is something we see all too often. So, the next time a political pundit or politician attacks a rival for an exact quote, take the time to find out what was actually meant. It’s called critical thinking.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Internet Week – Al Gore

World Wide WebYep, the much-anticipated article about how Al Gore invented the internet! Well, it may come as a surprise to you but he didn’t actually invent the internet. I went over its invention this morning with DARPA where I also got a chance to reference Galt’s Gulch from Atlas Shrugged. It was actually a good article although the title is a bit dull. Go look! I command it.

So, if you hate Al Gore or if, by some chance, you love him; don’t miss tomorrow’s blog because there’s something for everyone!

See you then,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Internet Week – DARPA

World Wide WebIt’s hard to believe that there was no such thing as the Internet and the World Wide Web not that long ago. I’m going to take this week to praise some of the men and women who are responsible for our ability to communicate and transfer information via things like this blogs.

Let’s start with DARPA. According to Wiki, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. It was originally created as a way to avoid being surprised by foreign nations’ technology as had happened with Sputnik. Telling aspects of DARPA are its size and management philosophy. It currently employs about 140 highly skilled people, only two levels of management, and the freedom to hire and fire who it desires without standard government rules. All positions are rotated regularly and people are hired generally for four to six-year terms. They understand failure is a necessary component of innovation and eventual success.

Now, onto how DARPA invented the internet.

A computer scientist named J. C. R. Licklider conceived the idea of sending information from computer to computer as a network and became a project director at what was then named ARPA. He assembled a team to see this vision through. One of his team members, Bob Taylor, then created a plan and opened it up for bidding to contractors. A company called BBN Technologies won the bid.

The first network messages was routed on the campus of UCLA on Oct 29, 1969 about a year and a half after Licklider conceived the idea. It caused the system to crash! In November of that year UCLA connected permanently with another station at Stanford. By 1973 foreign countries, Norway initially, began to connect to the system. In 1975 it was declared operational and turned over to the Department of Defense.

A lot has happened between then and now and I’ll talk about that as the week progresses but for the moment I want to focus on the ideas behind DARPA and some of its successes and past projects.

DARPA is probably as close a thing as we have to Ayn Rand’s concept of Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged. It is a place where intelligent and motivated people are allowed to pursue their dreams. The ideas brought to reality by DARPA include the Internet, The Aspen Movie Map (think about every movie you watch on the internet), drones and other unmanned vehicles which are increasing in use both private, public, and government, something called the Semantic Web which helps us find information more easily and was pioneered by a fellow you’ve never heard of named Tim Berners-Lee. You’ll hear a lot about him later in the week. Well, the list goes on and on.

My point here is to think about what kind of world we would live in if everyone worked in a DARPA like environment. The problem is that most people don’t have the ability of the chosen few in Galt’s Gulch and DARPA. I’ve discussed this before but the way to make it happen is through proper education. It’s important to teach children to think critically about everything to which they are exposed. Critical thinking leads to everything else. We must reward people for achievement and understand failure is a part of that process. This, by the way, is one of my biggest problem’s with Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand’s philosophy in general. Her characters are too archetypal and seem to me to be unrealistic. There are no John Galts in the world but we do everyone a service when we give the John Galt wannabes an opportunity to fail and to succeed.

Dare to dream but make a plan of action, envision obstacles and solutions, hire competent people, reward achievers, and make the world something beyond imagination!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – The Internet

World Wide WebI think I’ll spend next week talking about the internet, its origins, the important figures in its development (yes, Al Gore is in there) and what is it evolving into. It’s an interesting story that has changed the world although I’m not certain how much objectivism and critical thinking come into play. I’m sure I’ll manage to make some tie-ins.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about an agency called DARPA and how its employees created the first internet, why they did it, and they amazing things that they are working on today. At least the ones we know about!

This fascinating topic is sure to gain me thousands of followers. 🙂

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Home Team Blackouts

BlackoutIt was a happy day for me when my Uverse was finally installed after much bickering with AT&T. I gave up my television years ago and streaming sports on ESPN3 was choppy and Hulu television troublesome on my old DSL connection.

My beloved World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are in Spring Training as I write this and I haven’t been able to watch most of their games for the last couple of years. I certainly got my high-speed connection for a number of reasons and watching the Birds on the Bat was one of those.

Major League Baseball offers an internet package where, for $124.99, you can watch every game of every team streaming on your computer, tablet, phone or other device. Imagine my joy. I get to watch my World Series Champion Cardinals play every game! Then I clicked on the little blackout link and read this:

All live games on MLB.TV and available through At Bat are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away.

It goes on to mention the blackout applies even if the game isn’t televised. Home or away? Televised or not? Sold-out or not? I can’t watch the Cardinals!?

I’ve got $124.99 burning a hole in pocket to watch the 11 time World Series Champion Cardinals. Take my money, please?

Ok, wait, catching breath, bulging eyes recessing, fist pounding abating, let’s look at this rational, from a critical perspective. Perhaps MLB is justified in this policy. Think, Tom, don’t scream and rant like a radio talk-show host who would sell his mother into slavery to get a ratings point.

First stop, MLB Blackout policy page of Wikipedia. Have I mentioned my love of Wikipedia? Calmly reading. Keep blood pressure under wraps. Learn rational reasons behind policy. Keep calm … calm … soft music … calming waves … soothing … EXCLUSIVE TERRITORIAL RIGHTS! What? What? What?

Do we live in Communist Russia? Wait, stop , be rational, Russia isn’t communist any more … Do we live in Communist China? Socialism? Media control? Freedom Revoked?

Ok, breath slowly, long breaths, I mean, technically, television broadcast in St. Louis city could somehow be seen to be owned by the local team … the ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA blacked out for Cardinals, Cubs, Twins, Royals, White Sox and Brewers. HEAD EXPLODING!

Freedom being taken away, grab rifle, oh wait unarmed, maybe good thing, calm, calm, soothing sounds, ocean, babbling brook.

I know, let’s look at the easy to understand map of blackouts … ARGHHH … BUNNIES MUST DIE … DIE … DIE!!

Wipe frothing away from mouth, think happy thoughts, don’t kick cat, it’s going to be all right. There has to be a rational explanation, doesn’t there?

What is the idea? Ok, here we go, a broadcaster pays for the right to exclusively show the games on their channel. That’s capitalism, NBC shows, CBS shows, FOX shows. But, wait, don’t they stream on Hulu? I mean, the idea is get as much revenue as possible, isn’t it? Isn’t my $124.99 lost revenue? There are plenty of World Series Champion Cardinals fans all over from the great states of Iowa, Arkansas, Tennesse, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, isn’t that a lot of $124.99s? Wouldn’t it be easy for MLB to distribute a percentage of that money to the broadcasters? I mean, that’s a lot of lost revenue.

If you think I’m a diehard Cardinals fan you haven’t been to Germantown, Illinois! You haven’t been to Busch Stadium after a Cardinals win to see a family of four, kids decked out in Cardinal gear, taking pictures for their once a year trip to St. Louis from Lawton, Oklahoma to see the Birds on the Bat.

This policy is denying all those fans the opportunity to watch the Cardinals. It is denying the children of die-hard Cardinals fans from all over the midwest the chance to learn, like their parents, to love the best team in baseball (Shut yer yaps, yuse Yankee bums). It is killing marketing, it is throwing money away! Do you not want more fans?

Why are the Cardinals so beloved all over the midwest and beyond? Because KMOX radio was a clear channel signal that broadcast the games to all those areas, that’s why. Now, we live in the television era and you want to LIMIT BROADCASTING of games only to areas nowhere near the actual team? Where does that make any sense? MLB, broadcasters, work out a deal, there is money on the table. There are millions of fans waiting to be made. This is capitalism! This is marketing. This is America! Isn’t it?

Why does Fox Sports Midwest care where anyone watches the game? My tv, my computer, my phone, my tablet? It doesn’t make any sense! You want more audience, do you hear me, MORE AUDIENCE! Not less. More. Do you see? Hands shaking … must calm down.

Shower, must have cold shower, brain exploding, stupid, morons, idiots, more audience, spasm-spasm, more audience, more revenue, spasm-spasm, can’t understand, does not compute, spasm-twitch-spasm-twitch-twitch-spasm … more audience … more revenue … twitch-spasm-spasm.

Tom Liberman

Teaser – Privacy

Internet PrivacyThis extradorinaily interesting case brings up a whole bevy of questions about the issues of privacy in the modern, computer age. In the United States there are fairly strong privacy laws but a great many people think they have far more privacy than really exists.

This is an incredibly complex issue and I may have to launch into a multipart examination! I know you can hardly wait. We’ll start it off tomorrow by trying to define what privacy really means, at least here in the U.S.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy from a Libertarian Point of View

Teaser – Internet Chess

You might think that playing chess over the internet doesn’t really have any application to real life problems but you’d be wrong! Tomorrow I talk about how internet chess has given me a new respect for diversity and being a well-rounded person.

Stay tuned for a full explanation.

I know it’s hard to wait a whole day for a blog about chess but you can do it! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist