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April 19, 2014 / Tom Liberman

Not Enough to Eat for Scholarship Athletes

Follow the MoneyThe true nature of the NCAA was on full display when the president of that organization agreed that certain rules about food were “absurd”.

What I’d like to talk about today is why the NCAA has rules about how much food the student-athlete gets. Before I talk about that I’d like to honestly discuss many of the misconceptions people have about the “full-ride” scholarship that the student-athlete receives.

When I read through the comments on stories like the one above, I find there are many people honestly misinformed. Here are some of the most basic misconceptions.

Assumption

The scholarship entitles the student-athlete to a free college experience including books, classes, food, room, and travel to games.

Reality

An athletic scholarship is based on a certain formula and the average Division I scholarship student-athlete pays $2,951 to attend the school.

Assumption

The student-athlete receives a four-year scholarship.

Reality

Four year scholarships ended in 1973 and all athletic scholarships are for one year. When a student-athlete is injured or sees a performance drop such that they will not be able to compete for the team, they are generally not offered a scholarship for the subsequent year. This is waived if the injury appears to be short-term in nature and the student-athlete will recover to be able to contribute the following season.

Assumption

A four-year education is worth millions of dollars.

Reality

Tuition inflation means that most students do not pay anywhere near the full tuition to attend a university. As an example, my niece attends Case Western University which has a stated total annual expense of $60,129 of which $42,766 is tuition. The reality is that almost 98% of the students receive financial aid that cut costs more than in half. The stated cost of an education in this country is far higher than its real cost.

My Point

What I really want to talk about today is why the NCAA has a rule about whether putting cream cheese on a bagel constitutes a meal. Yes, that’s the rule that the original article is about.

The NCAA argues that they are defending the integrity of the sport by preventing schools from “bidding” on a student athlete’s service. That if the field is anything other than exactly equal those schools with a larger a financial base will get the best players to the detriment of the sport in general.

Thus they have a massive rule book filled with things that define how much food a school is allowed to provide to a student. A school is allowed to feed them three times a day and student-athletes are forbidden to remove any food from the cafeteria to be eaten at a later time (another misconception). Students are allowed to be given snacks although the amount of food is strictly regulated to prevent rule-breakers from sneaking food to the kids.

These kids are young, growing men spending a great part of their day in vigorous physical exercise. I was once a young man who spent hours a day practicing and playing sports. I was hungry constantly. From the time I arrived home from school until I went to bed I was basically eating. I’m 5′ 7″ and weighed 130 at the time (not anymore).

My point is that the NCAA’s stated goal of keeping one school from having a competitive advantage over another school is merely a smokescreen. The reality is that college football and basketball generates huge amounts of revenue from sources that will be a surprise to many of my readers.

Texas A&M auctioned off replica helmets signed by Johnny Manziel and other team stars for $15K each. Johnny Manziel, unlike every other non-student-athlete, is not allowed to sell his signature.

Schools auction off seats at their various alumni dinners for thousands of dollars. The more someone pays the better table they get with the star athletes sitting with them.

Athletic apparel companies give millions to the schools which “redistribute” it to the coaches. This new strategy came into being in 2010 when the nature of Shoe Contracts became public. The athletic companies used to give the money directly to the coaches but the rank hypocrisy turned people off.

Coaches get paid in exclusive country club memberships, “Ask the Coach” media contracts, and a plethora of other non-salary revenue. The President of the NCAA is paid well over seven figures. The entire organization is tax-exempt.

I think it’s important not to lie to ourselves. The NCAA is not in the business of keeping the integrity of the sport intact. They are in the business of ensuring their cash-cow keeps churning dollars.

A lot of people benefit from the way the NCAA currently operates from the fans, to the construction companies building stadium, to politicians sitting for free in luxury boxes, to NCAA employees jetting around the country on private jets provided by the wealthy who want access to the glory of the athletes, to the seven-figure salaried announcers, to the fans who enjoy the game, and to the players who get to go to school.

All I’m asking for is a little equity between all those interested parties.

I don’t begrudge the networks their advertising revenue, the construction companies their profits, the coaches, athletic directors, sideline reporters, and countless others their salaries.

The current system strikes me as grossly unfair to the student-athletes who are the underpinnings upon which all other profits are based. It’s strikes me as anti-American. It hits me in my Libertarian guts.

The value of a NCAA Division I football and basketball player has increased by an almost astronomical amount in the last twenty years and their remuneration remains unchanged.

I don’t like it and I don’t like the lie the NCAA tells to justify it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

April 18, 2014 / Tom Liberman

Scientists Clone Two People – Misleading Headline

Clone Adult CellsAnd we have a winner!

U.S. Scientists Clone Two Adults screams the headline looking for clicks.

I generally read the Science sections of various news outlets and have been following this story for a few days. It’s hardly what the headline purports.

The real idea here is that they took genetic information from adults and produced embryonic cells identical to the adults in question. This has actually been done before but the success ratio in this particular experiment was significantly higher than in other attempts and thus represents a step forward. The idea being that we will eventually be able to use the cells within our own bodies to heal various ailments.

Here is a more realistic article that explains the process.

The headline is even more misleading in suggesting that it was U.S. scientists responsible for the new study. While the work did take place at the Research Institute for Stem Cell Research at CHA Health Systems in Los Angeles it was funded by the government of South Korea.

I’m not saying that such medical science doesn’t have ethical repercussions. It does. There is the potential to take such embryonic cells and attempt to grow them into an exact genetic replica of the donor. That’s just not the case here.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

 

April 17, 2014 / Tom Liberman

Kim Dotcom Gets his Stuff back – Two Years Later

Kim Dotcom Gets StuffThere’s a lot going on in the news lately with insane people murdering strangers and babies. I’m letting all that stuff sink in before I write anything. In the meantime there is a news story where I know exactly how I feel. Over two years ago at the behest of the big money in the United States the police in New Zealand set up an illegal surveillance operation on a man named Kim Dotcom. They eventually raided his house and stole, I mean seized, all his stuff.

Well, the courts have finally ruled that the police can’t keep his stuff forever. Hooray. It only took two+ years!

I’ve written about this case on several occasions but I’ll recap quickly for those not fully aware of the circumstances of the legal trouble in which Dotcom finds himself embroiled.

Dotcom was the main owner of a file sharing site called Megaupload. The site was used by many legitimate people and businesses to store various files in a secure, cloud environment. It was also used by many others to share files illegally. One person purchased a song or an eBook or a movie and then shared it with other people who had not made such a purchase.

This sort of file sharing has long been regarded by the movie and music industry as a drain on their profits. The argument over whether sharing reduces actual purchases is quite interesting in its own right but most of what I’ve read indicates it has little or no effect on overall sales. While some people download a file they would have otherwise purchased the evidence suggests this is generally not the case. The person who downloads either ends up making the purchase later or would never have made the purchase at all. This can be argued but it’s not really the point of my blog.

The point here is that people with a lot of money, the recording and movie industry, decided to put pressure on U.S. politicians and politicians in New Zealand to put an end to Megaupload. This money and influence purchased police action. Dotcom was raided and still faces extradition orders from the United States. His business was destroyed. Servers with information were taken and the files eventually destroyed.

This in itself is frightening. That people with money can influence a government into arresting people and destroying their livelihood. The corruption of the enforcement and judicial branch of any government is not something to be taken lightly. If a wealthy person can buy the arrest of another person, are any of us safe?

Even worse, in my opinion, is that the authorities held onto Dotcom’s possessions for well over two years and he still hasn’t been brought to trial. They illegally watched his home, raided it in an extremely overzealous and publicity minded fashion, took his stuff, and still haven’t brought him to trial.

Whether you support file sharing or not it seems to be me that anyone who believes in freedom cannot support a government acting in this manner, particularly at the behest of moneyed interests.

When politicians have too much influence over the judicial and enforcement agencies of our government there is the real possibility of freedom being taken from us. Where justice is just a word, not a beloved and cherished idea, there is danger to everyone.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

April 13, 2014 / Tom Liberman

German Tank Sale Story – Stupid Headline

Leopard 2It’s a bit of a stretch but I’m awarding my stupid headline of the week to an article about how Germany recently refused to sell up to 800 of their mainline battle tanks to Saudi Arabia. The article itself is interesting and there is nothing wrong with the headline which actually describes the contents pretty well.

So, what’s my problem with the story? The picture accompanying the story is a World War II Tiger tank! I’ve included a picture of the Leopard II, to which the article refers here in this blog (click the picture or my link above to see the original article).

It’s an interesting decision by the German government based on the fact that Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state that exports terrorism all over the world. The thinking being that maybe Germany should not be selling Saudi Arabia formidable weapon’s systems like the Leopard II even if it means foregoing as much as $25 billion dollars.

There are a lot of other countries in the world where they turn a blind eye to the politics of the nation as long as the cash is green and the gold … well, gold.

I’m not sure who gets the congratulations for the stupid headline victory though. The article was written by Agence France-Presse but reprinted in Yahoo. Either way, nice story but getting the proper picture would not have been difficult.

And to our true allies the Germans I say: Gut gemacht.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

April 12, 2014 / Tom Liberman

To Protect and Serve or to Raise Funds?

Policing for ProfitAll across this great country of ours police officers are being put into a terrible position and the situation grows worse every day. The double attack of less money available to run the department and more money spent on fancy equipment is leaving more and more police departments with revenue shortages.

The solution to this gap seems to be to fleece as many people as possible.

For communities along major thoroughfares the best method is to charge passersby with small crimes and impound everything they have and extort them for more money. This directive comes from corrupt politicians and departmental leaders who see dollar signs in their eyes.

Even communities who are nowhere near criminals now gear up and scour the country not looking to make arrests but simply to seize money from as many people as possible.

It is very likely that your state politicians have passed laws allowing police to seize anything and everything from your car under the flimsiest of suspicions. Trying to get back your property and money will take a huge amount of time and effort.

That’s hardly the end of the story. More and more police departments are funded almost entirely through their ticketing systems. Not only are the departments funding themselves but they are funneling that money back to City Hall. As politicians see this revenue stream increase they place money-seeking officers in charge of departments and these leaders create quotas that insist upon more and more traffic stops. Officers who simply want to Protect and Serve are ostracized, put on desk jobs, and fired.

In order for a police department to be legally forced to stop this scam the entire municipality must get 50% or more of their revenue from such stops. Anything less than 50% and they can continue to steal your money.

After reading what I’ve written so far I’m sure some people will leap to the conclusion that I’m against the police and law-enforcement in general. This could not be further from the truth. I think the police do a dangerous job and I well appreciate their efforts. I’m of the opinion that this revenue grab hurts the police department and the officers tremendously. They are prevented from Protecting and Serving but more importantly they lose the trust of those upon whom they depend.

Without the trust of We the People the police become nothing more than a thuggish paramilitary operation preying on the weakest members of society. Officers generally join the force out of idealism and hope. When they throw away these wonderful ideas they destroy their own sense of self-worth.

I’ve ranted now about the problem for a while and I’d like to offer a few solutions before I get ready to watch The Masters golf tournament today.

I largely think it’s a matter of where the seized money goes. If the money doesn’t go into the coffers of the politicians then we solve most of the problem. All money obtained from traffic violations should go immediately back to the community as a refund. None of it should be used for any other purpose. Communities should apply tax dollars to completely fund their departments with no consideration towards eventual ticketing revenue.

Seizure money presents a bigger issue because even if said money was to go to the community, voters would feel monetary pressure to seize as much as possible. I think the best solution might be to have all seized money and assets go to various national charitable organizations. Communities could vote on which organizations to fund based on some sort of list of reputable charities.

I think the key is to remove the element of profit from the situation. When we do this I think both We the People and the law-enforcement officers will be the better. Money might not be the root of all evil but I’m hard pressed to argue that it isn’t.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

April 9, 2014 / Tom Liberman

A Glint of Light Equals Aliens … Why?

Mars speck of lightThere’s a news story making the rounds which I’ve been ignoring because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to add to the conversation. I’ve changed my mind.

About a week ago Curiosity took a picture on Mars in which there is a glint of light on the horizon. A picture taken a day later from the same position did not show the glint. There are a number of explanations as to what caused the glint but I’m not going to talk about the rational explanations. Nor am I going to spend much time talking about the theories that it represents aliens living underground on Mars who somehow caused the anomaly.

I want to talk about why anyone would think that a speck of a light in a picture taken on Mars might be evidence of alien life. Not whether or not the light is or isn’t such evidence, but why anyone would think that it was such proof.

Mars is a barren world with barely any atmosphere. We’ve landed any number of vessels on the planet itself and spaceships with high-resolution cameras are constantly orbiting Mars taking pictures. We first sent a robotic ship by Mars in 1965.

Earth bound telescopes have been trained on Mars since 1672 and have only gotten sharper in resolution and more available to amateurs. Radiation bombards the planet relentlessly. Water is likely present but only deep below the surface. There are no signs of a civilization on the surface, no signs of animals or plants, no chemical signatures indicating living creatures.

So why, why would anyone think that a glint of light in one picture is anything other than sunlight bouncing off a shiny rock? Or an illusion of photography? Anyone who has taken a picture with a camera on earth knows that light is a tricky fellow.

When you go to the store and a somethings inexplicably falls off a shelf nearby do you assume that it was Bigfoot lurking in the next aisle using telekinetic powers to alert you of an upcoming Supervolcanic eruption? Or do you shrug your shoulders and assume that something was perched precariously and a small vibration sent it to the ground?

What is the psychological makeup of someone who immediately leaps to the most unlikely explanation? What are they thinking? Are they thinking at all?

That’s my question. I don’t know that I have a good answer. I know that my mind always looks for the most logical explanation to any event and a thriving community of intelligent creatures living beneath the surface of Mars and pointing their flashy lights at the rover would never, ever, have crossed my mind when I saw that picture.

That being said, I think this sort of thinking is not unusual. Everyday I read about or actually experience someone who believes absolutely unlikely things in lieu of a very reasonable explanation.

I’m of the opinion that people largely believe what they want to believe over factual evidence. If a person wants there to be Martians then that person is going to grasp at every ridiculous explanation to believe Martians exist.

I ask you an important question: What would the world be like if people only believed what the evidenced suggested and threw out their preconceived notions?

It’s a world I dream about. It’s a world that I believe can exist. I’m certain people are capable of thinking rationally all the time. Of making decisions based on factual evidence.

I see a world like this in our future. When disease is eradicated, energy is abundant and cheap, the population static with food for all. Automated machines doing the work people don’t want to do. Free people living eternal lives dedicated to achievement.

The novels I write are about a Sword and Sorcery fantasy world but there are characters in that world seeking the same thing I’m seeking in this one. There are those that thwart them. You should read my books and maybe you’ll see that same world I see in my mind’s eye. That endless Utopia where humans stand astride the galaxy always striving to be better, ever better.

Do you want to live in that world?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

April 6, 2014 / Tom Liberman

The Broken Throne – Available Now!

The-Broken-ThroneIs it better to rule in Tyranny or live in Freedom?

My new novel, The Broken Throne, is now available to everyone for only $2.99.

Read about the book, download a sample, watch a video, join my Goodreads Author group, like me on Facebook, and most of all – Purchase a copy today!

Thanks for your interest!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

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