News Roundup for 9/16/14

Here are some of the important news stories and opinions from recent days.

Hillary the Faker: At a recent political event Hillary “Clinton gamely posed, pretending to grill a steak that had been pre-cooked for her,” reports the Economist, as quoted by National Review. That’s the main problem with Hillary, and the main reason why I think she’ll never be president: It seems like everything is staged with her.

Import-Export Bank: As Steve Simpson reviews for the Ayn Rand Institute, the House reauthorized the Import-Export bank for another six months. Simpson argues that politicians do such things to gain control over others: “When government holds the power to dole out benefits, like taxpayer-guaranteed loans from the Ex-Im Bank, and burdens, like Dodd-Frank and zillions of other business regulations, the only way to function is to plead for special status before the modern-day equivalent of the King’s court.”

City Socialism: My home city of Westminster, Colorado, will decide next month whether to enter into “an exclusive agreement with Oliver McMillan to redevelop” the (now demolished) Westminster Mall, the Denver Post reports. But why is city government even involved with such a thing? The article doesn’t say, but certainly the city’s restrictive zoning has something to do with it. If you don’t play by the city’s rules, you don’t build. As I wrote in 2005, the city declared the property blighted. I also suspect the city will come up with a package of tax discounts for the development. If you want to find free enterprise, don’t look in cities like Westminster.

Military for Ebola: “U.S. Military to Send 3,000 to Battle Ebola Virus,” the Wall Street Journal reports. I understand the Ebola outbreak is horrific, but this simply is not an appropriate use of the military.

Discounts for Churchgoers: The owner of a pizza shop in Arkansas offers discounts to churchgoers. A local group threatened to bring legal action. But the owner has a moral right to run his business as he sees fit, argues Natale Ogle for the Objective Standard.

China Economy: China is currently in the midst of a “sharp real-estate downturn” and “flagging factory output,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Wait a minute: You mean government “stimulus” doesn’t work?

American Tech Economy: This news was surprising to me: Hal Salzman claims for US News that the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workforce suffers from “ample supply, stagnant wages and, by industry accounts, thousands of applicants for any advertised job.”

Militarized… Schools? “Los Angeles Unified School District police officials are considering whether they need the armored vehicle and grenade launchers they received from the U.S. military,” CBS Los Angeles reports (hat tip to Drudge). Huh, tough question.

CO Anti-Abortion Measure: If you had any questions about whether a Colorado ballot measure this year is about bestowing full legal rights—”personhood”—to zygotes, just ask its sponsors. (It is.) See Jason Salzman’s report.

Taliban: From Kabul, Afghanistan: “A Taliban attacker detonated his car bomb next to an international military convoy on Tuesday, killing three members of the NATO-led force and wounding nearly 20 troops and civilians,” the Associated Press reports.

Declaration of War: An article from the Week makes a good point: If Obama wants to go to war with Islamic State, why doesn’t he seek Congressional approval, as the Constitution demands?

Boko Haram: “Boko Haram Declares Its Own Caliphate in Nigeria,” NBC reports.

News Roundup for 9/15/14

Here are some of the important news stories and opinions of recent days.

Boko Haram: In April, Islamic jihadists with Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls in northeastern Nigeria. Since then, 57 girls have escaped, and “not one has escaped or been rescued since then,” the Huffington Post reports. Horrific.

“Moderate” Jihadists? Some people fear many of the so-called “moderate” rebels the United States intends to arm are actually “hard-line Islamists”; see Doug Mataconis’s report. That fear seems warranted.

Prostitution? Police reportedly detained Django Unchained actor Daniele Watts because they thought she was a prostitute, CNN reports. She was with her (white) boyfriend. Oopsie. This illustrates how bad laws allow people to use the police to harass others (the police were responding to a complaint).

Economics: As Coyote Blog points out, some of the same people who believe a carbon tax is a good idea because it will reduce the consumption of carbon fuels, also believe that an increase in the minimum wage will not reduce the employment of unskilled workers. In other words, some people invoke the principles of economics selectively, when it’s convenient for them.

Political Philosophy: John McCaskey defends this thesis: “[D]o not try justifying a rights-violating law with a cost-benefit analysis. If a law violates someone’s rights, it is wrong, no matter how large the benefit to innocent third parties.”

New Blood Filter: A new device now in testing cleans septic blood of pathogens and toxins, Medical Xpress reports. See the report for details about how the device works. Hat tip to Paul Hsieh.

Scotland: I was just thinking to myself this morning, “I wish someone would present a good discussion about the vote for independence in Scotland.” George Will rides to the rescue. I still have little idea of what independence would mean legally and economically, though. Meanwhile, John Oliver makes the case against independence, the Week reports.

Ebola: The struggle to contain the Ebola virus outbreak is not going well, as this Guardian report from Liberia indicates. Meanwhile, “Obama Plans Major Ebola Offensive” (with U.S. tax dollars), the Wall Street Journal reports.

Animal “Rights”: The Oregon Supreme Court seems to be moving in the direction of recognizing “rights” of animals; see the Examiner report. (Warning: The Examiner employs extremely annoying pop-up ads and the like.)

Suspended Animation: “Doctors have begun human trials of suspended animation to buy more time for critically injured patients,” the Economist reports, via Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Sweden: “Sweden’s Social Democrats were poised to return to power after a left-leaning bloc defeated the center-right government in a parliamentary election Sunday that also saw strong gains by an anti-immigration party,” the Associated Press reports.

Diet: Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy thinks the paleo diet probably doesn’t improve health relative to other types of diets.

News Roundup for 9/14/14

Here are some of the important news stories and opinions of recent days.

Another Beheading by Islamic State: Jihadists beheaded British aid worker David Haines, Fox News reports. If Islamic State wanted to strengthen British resolve to fight the organization, it seems to have succeeded.

Cameron on Islamic State: British prime minister David Cameron pretends that the jihadists in Islamic State are “not Muslims,” NPR reports. Rather, he says they’re “monsters.” But obviously, they are both. See also my articles for the Objective Standard, “Obama on Islamic State: Pretend Islam Is Not Islam,” and “Sam Harris: Yes, Islamic Jihadists Are Motivated by Religion.”

The Real Islamic State: The leader of Islamic State is a man named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So who is he? The Week offers some important details: He is an “Islamic scholar” with a “degree in history and a doctorate in sharia law.” He preached “Salafism, a hard-line form of Sunni Islam.” Yes, let’s keep pretending that members of Islamic State are not motivated by their religion. Oh, and, as the Week reports, the U.S. once held this man in captivity but let him go to appease the Iraqi government.

Genital Mutilation: Some 3.6 million girls are subjected to genital mutilation each year, the Economist reported in July (hat tip to Conrad Hackett). The problem is most prevalent in central and northern Africa and in parts of the Middle East. Also: “Child marriage, another custom that destroys girls’ lives, is also common in Africa, and in parts of Asia too.” Horrid.

Sexual Exploitation: Forced sex is a $100 billion per year activity, Conrad Hackett reports. How about governments stop violating people’s rights long enough to actually do something about this horrific problem?

North Korea: This is a strange story: According to a North Korean court, American Matthew Miller entered the country illegally in order to “experience prison life so that he could investigate the human rights situation,” Fox News reports. The North Korean “government” is happy to oblige; it sentenced the man to six years hard labor. Whether this story is as it appears, or whether the man had some other reason for entering the country, we should ask the broader question: Why does the brutally oppressive North Korean regime even exist?

Colorado Beer: The burgeoning Colorado craft beer industry is supporting a growing hops agricultural industry, the Denver Post reports.

GOP Devolution: “Republican belief in human evolution dropped from 54% to 43% in 4 years,” reports Conrad Hacket. The poll results are from 2009 and 2013. See the Pew report from early this year. Does this mean the GOP is changing, or that the GOP is dying? Probably more of the latter.

Courts Shift Dem: “For the first time in more than a decade, [federal appeals court] judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents,” the New York Times reports.

News Roundup for 9/13/14

Here are some of the important news stories and opinions from recent days.

Atlas Shrugged: Read my take on the latest Atlas Shrugged film, in my article for the Objective Standard (I give the film a C-minus).

Child Abuse: Minnesota Vikings football player Adrian Peterson is accused of beating his four-year-old son with a branch, causing cutting and bruising, ESPN reports. Such child abuse should be condemned, obviously. It is worth noting that such violence used to be common throughout the world, and it remains common throughout much of the world.

School Propaganda: A government school teacher in Washington, D.C., asked her students to complete an assignment comparing George W. Bush to Adolph Hitler, UPI reports.

Western Jihadists: Ellie Hall has a report for BuzzFeed about European women who moved to the Middle East to join up with Islamic State.

More on Western Jihadists: Shikha Dalmia argues for the Week, “[I]f all that ISIS and its ilk can dredge up are a handful of malcontents, despite all the sophisticated communication tools at its disposal, Western liberalism must be in pretty good shape.”

Bad Medicine: For some shocking examples of flaws and bias in the “medical literature,” see Dr. Paul Hsieh’s post for Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Venezuelan Squatters: PRI has an interesting report about a 45-story skyscraper taken over by squatters in downtown Caracas. Now the government wants the squatters to leave and go live in government housing.

Scottish Independence: A vote for independence may spell trouble for the region’s business climate; see the International Business Times report.

Udall: The notion that the White House somehow fears Senator Mark Udall is “hilariously wrong”; see the Colorado Peak Politics report.

Read My Lips: Computerized lip reading could be a marvelous advance for communications, and it could be a dreadful tool for the surveillance state. See the MIT Technology Review report.

Islam: Bill Maher makes some good points about the violent nature of Islam in his interview with Charlie Rose.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Some Muslim students feel “disrespected” when Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks on their campuses, reports Ben Shapiro. But I suspect that gays, infidels, and women also feel “disrespected” when they are brutalized or murdered by Islamic regimes or Islamic jihadists.

Boko Haram: Nigerian forces have “killed scores of Islamic” jihadists in Boko Haram, the Associated Press reports. That’s a good start.

Infantile Adults: Vincent Carroll writes an important op-ed about the efforts, both left and right, to impose government controls on young adults on the grounds that they aren’t mature enough to handle freedom.

China Concrete: “China used more cement in the last three years than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century”; see Bill Gates’s report (hat tip to Conrad Hackett).

Two Jews Walk into a Bar: While 42 percent of Jews report that “having a sense of humor” is “essential to being Jewish,” only 19 percent say “following Jewish law” is. See Conrad Hackett’s tweet.

Foreign Policy: News Roundup for 9/12/14

Here are some of the important stories and opinions from recent days.

Harris on Islamic State: Whatever his errors (and they are many), Sam Harris is right in pointing out that, contra Obama, Islamic jihadists are motivated by their religion. See also my article for the Objective Standard on the subject. And see Harris’s mostly-good essay, “Why I Don’t Criticize Israel.”

Lessons of 9/11: In a new thirteen-minute video, Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute sets some of the important context for the 9/11 attacks and Islamic State, and he explains a proper foreign policy to deal with those problems. Regarding the nature and actions of Iran and Saudi Arabia, see Craig Biddle’s “The Jihad against America and How to End It.”

About Those Syrian Rebels: Obama has expressed very different views of the Syrian rebels who aren’t in Islamic State—the people he now wants to arm. Obama also overstates the “broadness” of his “coalition.” See Krauthammer’s op-ed for the Washington Post.

Islamic State Cash: Islamic State takes in some $32 million per day in oil money, the Daily Signal reports.

In other news:

Missouri Abortion Restrictions: “Missouri Enacts 72-Hour Wait for Abortion,” the New York Times reports. This again shows that religious conservatives do not oppose economic controls by government per se; they just want their kind of controls.

Police State: “The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications” to the NSA, the Washington Post reports. (Hat tip for this story and the last to the Week.)

Denver Post for Sale: Read all about it.

Young Readers: Who said social media would kill reading? “Study finds that people under 30 are reading more than their elders,” reports the Week.

Swimming Dinos: Don’t tell Syfy, or we’ll get “Spinosaurusnado.”

Islamic State: News Roundup for 9/11/14

Here are some of the important stories and opinions of recent days.

9/11: Take moment of silence for the victims of the jihadist-perpetrated murders committed on 9/11.

State Sponsors of Jihad: In his article for the Objective Standard, Craig Biddle makes the case that the primary sponsors of jihadist terror are Iran and Saudi Arabia. One thing he points out is that Iran’s constitution dictates a course of global jihad. That is, the nation is founded on a doctrine of religious totalitarianism.

Obama’s Delusions: The White House released Obama’s fifteen-minute speech on Islamic State from yesterday. As I point out in my response for the Objective Standard, Obama’s “strategy” rests on pretending that Islamic jihadists are not motivated by their religion.

Austrian Jihadists: The Independent Journal Review has a story about two girls from Austria who joined up with Islamic State. Hopefully they’ll get what they deserve.

Kurdish Anti-Jihadists: Meanwhile, “Thousands of Kurdish women are volunteering to battle against ISIS, others in Syria,” the Week reports.

In other news:

Neal Stephenson: Nature has an interview with Stephenson about his fiction, science, and the path to a technologically innovative future.

News Roundup for 9/10/14

Following are some of the important news and opinions from recent days.

Syria: So Obama’s plan in Syria, apparently, is to arm certain of the rebels, and to bomb those rebels involved with Islamic State. In other words, the U.S. will simultaneously attack and defend the Assad regime. What could go wrong?

Egalitarianism: Yesterday USA Today published Glenn Reynolds’s op-ed on income inequality, which he regards as a genuine problem. In my reply for the Objective Standard, I argue that, although Reynolds confuses the relevant issues, he is right to point to the problem of rights-violating government policies.

Progressivism: Recent Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute interviewed George Will about “progressivism” in the United States. It’s a great 25-minute introduction. I side with Watkins over Will regarding the appropriateness of challenging the welfare state as such; Will thinks it’s an unalterable fact of life.

Eco Cars: “Colorado has so far spent $8 million in taxpayer money on nearly 240 compressed natural gas vehicles, with dozens of them stationed in places where there is no compressed natural gas filling stations, Watchdog.org has learned.” Read the report.

Cory vs. Cory: U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner made a smart play by advocating over-the-counter birth control pills. But, as incumbent Mark Udall shot back, Gardner’s proposal rings a little hollow, given Gardner has sponsored federal legislation that could outlaw hormonal birth control. Read Lynn Bartels’s report for the Denver Post.

Apple Watch: This looks impressive to me, although the haters are already out in force. (Yes, I’m listening to my new free U2 album, courtesy of iTunes.)

News Roundup for 9/9/14

Here are some of the interesting news stories and opinions of recent days.

Iran’s War on Women: In Iran, “36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be ‘single gender’ and effectively exclusive to men,” the Telegraph reports. I’m not among those who think the left’s claims of a Republican “war on women” is complete bunk; however, I rarely hear leftist who much such claims talk about the actual and severe Islamic war on women.

Udall vs. Gardner: During a recent debate, U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner demonstrated how hard it is to rebut Democratic attacks regarding reproductive rights, when Republicans in fact seek to ban abortion. Watch the video clip.

Inflation: In 2013, it cost the U.S. government 1.8 cents to make every penny and 9.4 cents to make every nickel, the Washington Post reported in March.

Islamic State: “The State Department is launching a tough and graphic propaganda counteroffensive against the Islamic State,” Fox News reports. Apparently this is a “send a graphic designer to a gun fight” model of foreign policy.

Islamic State, Romanoff, and More: News Roundup for 9/8/14

Here are some of the interesting stories and opinions of late:

Islamic State: According to the New York Times, Barack Obama’s plan against Islamic State (ISIS) likely will take three years (translation: an unknown number of years) and involve three main stages: bomb Islamic State in northern Iraq (already underway), “train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes” (doesn’t that involve American “boots on the ground”?), and then bomb Islamic State inside Syria. What could go wrong? Hat tip to Fox News.

Colorado Politics: “Dems throw millions behind Clinton ally” Andrew Romanoff, Fox News reports. My guess is that Coffman will win, although his positions on abortion and other issues are giving Romanoff a real shot.

Indian-Themed Mascots: A Colorado legislature (Joseph Salazar) wants to cut funding to government schools that use Native American mascots without permission from a tribe, CBS Denver reports (hat tip to Complete Colorado). (Which tribe is authorized to grant permission in a given case is unclear to me.)

Getting Rand Wrong: I was surprised by the ineptness with which Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan addressed Rand’s ideas in a recent video for PJ Media. Read my reply, published by the Objective Standard. (No, Rand did not advocate blowing up orphanages full of children! Sheesh!)

Endangered Species Act: I describe a recent action under the Endangered Species Act in another Objective Standard article, “Endangered Species Act Sacrifices People to Frogs.” For the facts of the case I rely on a report by Scott Blakeman for the Heritage Foundation.

Benghazi: “Fox News host Greta Van Susteren said the White House pressured her to get a colleague to back down on a Benghazi story,” reports the Daily Signal.

Terror Funding: “Three hundred U.S. nationals are suing Arab Bank, claiming it knowingly provided services to terrorists and their financiers,” the Daily Signal reports.

Alcohol: Conrad Hacket tweeted an interesting chart showing the fraction of a country’s population that regards drinking alcohol as moral. The United States join Germany, Australia, Britain, Canada, and Japan at the bottom of the list in terms of number of people who regard drinking as a moral problem.

Gage Skidmore on Photography, Creative Commons, and Rand Paul

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Gage Skidmore, a semi-professional photographer from Arizona. —Ari Armstrong

Armstrong: According to your Facebook bio, you started out as a photographer in 2009, when you documented Rand Paul’s Senate run. Your work has also appeared in numerous publications, including Forbes, Wired, and Reason. Do you work as a full-time photographer now, or is that a part-time occupation? Do you mean to make photography your long-term career? What is the scope of your photographic work presently?

Skidmore: I started doing political photography with Paul when I was sixteen years old. I had been involved in the liberty movement since the end of 2007 when his father ran for the 2008 presidency, but I didn’t get involved with his campaign as a photographer until 2011 when he ran for President again.

I’ve never seen photography as a job; I have always seen it as a hobby, something that I do on the side for personal enjoyment or just to make a little money. Recently I’ve done some freelance work for various candidates for office in Arizona, where I live now, and for other organizations like the Western Center for Journalism, as well as Reason magazine, which ran a cover image of mine of Gary Johnson for its 2012 election issue.

I really am not sure where my photography will take me, but I’m always looking to continue my photography adventure as long as I find it to be something that is worthwhile to share with people, and is still fun for me as well.

Armstrong: Every time I need an image of a libertarian or conservative politician or intellectual, I find that the best image is almost always one of yours. Then I discovered that you’ve also photographed celebrities such as Tom Cruise at ComicCon. What prompted you to start releasing so many of your photographs through Flickr under the Creative Commons license?

Skidmore: The scope of my work involves for the most part two things that I enjoy the most—politics and pop culture conventions.

I originally bought my first professional camera for the purpose of going to the San Diego ComicCon in 2009, because I wanted to take somewhat professional photos for the purpose of releasing them under the Creative Commons license, and also because I wanted to see my photos used to illustrate celebrities on Wikipedia on pages where photos didn’t exist.

I’ve always enjoyed seeing my work used in a positive way, and especially enjoy when I’m actually credited for taking the photo. And as far as Flickr goes, I think that is just the most mainstream photography website at the moment, besides Facebook (which isn’t known for its photo quality). But I would really hope for Flickr to make some changes to its business model that would allow its content creators to gain the ability to make money by selling prints, or something of that nature, in the same way that YouTube rewards its content creators for providing content there.

Armstrong: I’ve released a few CC images (my best is of Christopher Hitchens), but nowhere near as many as you’ve released. I find the CC community interesting; I feel grateful, as a blogger, that I have access to so many great images, and I feel a sense of responsibility to contribute my own CC images when I can. What are your thoughts on the Creative Commons?

Skidmore: I can understand people’s reasoning about wanting to tightly control their content, especially if that is how they make their living, primarily by selling photos. I’ve never gotten that serious about it, to the point where I need to sell a photo to eat the next day. I’m not pursuing photography as a college student, either, so I basically see the Creative Commons as a way to release my photos for public consumption, and have them used in the most wide ranging way possible. I have gotten some criticism for this, but I think with the expansion of literally everyone having a cell phone camera, and the fact that someone can easily go to the store and buy a semi-professional camera, the world of photography is constantly changing. These changes will likely have a detrimental effect on the professional photography business as a whole. Depending on one’s perspective, this may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing, but I tend not to consume myself with that type of stuff.

Armstrong: Which shot or shots of yours do you find particularly interesting, or which have a fun backstory?

Skidmore: I had a hard time thinking about a good photo back story, but I thought about when I first started doing political photography and documenting some of the early campaign events with Rand Paul. One of the first events I went to was a Tea Party event in Hawesville, Kentucky. I can vividly remember arriving at the event, and standing out in the cold November or December climate in front of this towering court house. Back then, the Tea Party was really at its peak, but standing among the crowd was Dr. Paul himself, then just a small town ophthalmologist. There was no other media, no other person taking any photos, at least semi-professionally, and hardly anyone even bothered to introduce themselves to Rand except every now and then between speakers at the event. This was actually also the first time I got to shake Rand’s hand, and his campaign handler at the time introduced us to each other.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing a true grassroots movement of liberty-minded individuals who have come to embrace this one time small town doctor as one of the serious contenders for President of the United States. I am so glad to have been able to participate in some way when he first came on the scene, and am especially grateful for the kindness he has shown to me over the years, especially in the beginning when I was just some teenage fan following him around and taking photos.

Armstrong: If someone wanted to hire you to photograph an event, would you be open to that? If so, what’s the best way to reach you, and what sort of processes and costs should a client expect?

Skidmore: If someone would like to hire me for an event, I absolutely would be open to doing so, and the best way to reach me is through email, which I’ve made publicly available on pretty much all my personal websites. I like to make things as easy as possible for potential clients, so they name a price, and I’ll usually accept it, as long as it’s within reason.

News Roundup for 9/6/14

Here are some recent, interesting items of news and views:

IRS: “The Internal Revenue Service has lost emails from five more employees who are part of congressional probes into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status,” the Associated Press reports. Well isn’t that convenient for the IRS?

Islamic State Coming to America? William Forstchen believes Islamic terrorists will likely try to attack “soft targets” in America—movie theaters, schools, churches, and so on. He fears small groups of “professionally trained” killers may be able to “wipe out” an entire school within fifteen minutes. He has a new book out on the topic: Day of Wrath. See his interview with Fox News. Then think about how to protect yourself.

No “Immediate Threat”? Meanwhile, Colorado Senator Mark Udall believes that Islamic State poses no “immediate threat to the homeland,” reports Breitbart.com. I hope that’s not wishful thinking, but it probably is.

Marijuana Welfare: Recently I asked whether there was any good or service that the left does not want to turn into a welfare program. I’m still looking. Here’s the latest example: “The city of Berkeley has mandated marijuana dispensaries donate at least 2 percent of their inventory to low-income patients,” UPI reports.

Bag Welfare: Meanwhile, even as the state of California has banned retail disposable bags, at least one California county offers plastic bags for “free” to dog owners, as Steve Simpson points out for the Ayn Rand Institute.

Ukraine: The Ukrainians and the Russians are mostly not shooting at each other, at least for the moment, the Associated Press reports.

Indian Poop: Many Indian children suffer from a (perhaps surprising) problem: Many people “defecate outdoors” and thereby spread disease, reports the New York Times. (Hat tip to Conrad Hackett.)

Economy: Although the official unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, August job growth was sluggish and “the labor force participation rate fell to 62.8 percent, from 62.9 percent,” the Week reports.

Discrimination: “A husband and wife who were fined $13,000 and told they could not discriminate against same-sex couples after refusing to allow a gay wedding on their New York farm have announced that they will ‘no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property,'” the Blaze reports. It’s wrong to discriminate against gay couples, but it’s wrong and rights-violating for government to force the farm owners to serve people they don’t want to serve.

No Ice for Rowe: I thought Mike Rowe offered some pretty good reasons to consider not participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Myth of 10,000 Hours: Citing the work of Daniel Goleman, Maria Popova points out at Brain Pickings that merely spending 10,000 hours (or any amount of time) doing something won’t necessarily make you better at doing it. You also need focused practice with an aim toward improvement and good feedback on your performance.

Secular Spirituality: Frank Bruni offers a pretty good summary of Sam Harris’s new book, Waking Up, for the New York Times. Bruni asks, “Mightn’t religion be piggybacking on the pre-existing condition of spirituality, a lexicon grafted onto it, a narrative constructed to explain states of consciousness that have nothing to do with any covenant or creed?”

Technology: Check out my Objective Standard take on the video, “Kids React to Old Computers” (meaning the Apple II, which I used in school). One of kids says, “Look at how humanity has used their intellect!”

News Roundup for 9/5/14

Here are some of the important stories from today and recent days.

Al-Shaabab: “The Pentagon has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike conducted earlier this week killed the leader of the al-Shaabab terrorist group in Somalia,” reports Real Clear Defense.

Cookbook Medicine? Dr. Karen Sibert fears, “The surge of uncritical belief in ‘evidence-based medicine’ has led to rigid algorithms—cookbook recipes, really—for patient care.” See Paul Hsieh’s report for Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Debating Government: David Harsanyi asks which is the greater threat to liberty: local governments or the federal government? My answer is, “It depends.”

Campaign Speech: With the help of the Center for Competitive Politics, Colorado’s Independence Institute is challenging federal and state campaign disclosure laws, rightly saying such laws violate the right to freedom of speech. See my write-up for the Objective Standard.

Unions: “US Department of Labor data document[s] that the SEIU spent at least $38 million on the Fight for 15/Fast Food Forward campaign in 2013,” reports Worker Center Watch (hat tip to Fox News).

Brazil: The president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, is a “former Marxist guerrilla,” the Wall Street Journal reports—but she may get beat by Socialist Party candidate Marina Silva. Is it any wonder the country is a basket case?

Benghazi: “A U.S. security team in Benghazi was held back from immediately responding to the attack on the American diplomatic mission on orders of the top CIA officer there,” Fox News reports.

Snowden: Supposedly some of the information released by Edward Snowden has helped Islamic State “evade U.S. intelligence,” the Washington Times reports. Two quick notes: If we had a real foreign policy, such “intelligence” would be mostly irrelevant. And, if the U.S. government were not busily violating the rights of American citizens, Snowden would not have felt compelled to release the information.

Common Core: Colorado Republican candidate for governor Bob “Beauprez says that if he is elected governor, he will ensure that Colorado opts out of Common Core and PARCC” (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career), reports Watch Dog Wire.

Abortion: “Congressional candidate George Leing, a Republican taking on U.S. Rep. Jared Polis [of Boulder], has denounced the [anti-abortion] ‘personhood amendment’ on the November ballot,” Lynn Bartels reports for the Denver Post.

Global Warming: Matt Ridley writes for the Wall Street Journal, “Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began.” Ridley notes that warming researchers have pointed to some forty different possible causes for the “hiatus” in warming.

More Global Warming: A paper in Climate Risk Management (one widely misrepresented in the popular media), relying on various assumptions about what causes climate change, finds that, except for greenhouse gas emissions, “there is less than a one in one hundred thousand chance of observing an unbroken sequence of 304 months (our analysis extends to June 2010) with mean surface temperature exceeding the 20th century average.” That’s a much punier finding than many have reported. (For what it’s worth, Anthony Watts calls the paper “laughable.”)

Gay Marriage: a federal appeals court in Chicago declared the bans on same-sex marriage in Indiana and Wisconsin to be unconstitutional,” the New York Times reports.

Now for a bit of fun:

Marketing: Ikea has announced its 2015 “BookBook.” Brilliant!

Still About that Bass: Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, and Meghan Trainor perform a fun rendition of “All About That Bass.”

Islam, Mars, and More: News Roundup for 9/4/14

Here are some of the important stories and opinions from the past few days:

Muslims against Women: Brutal men in northern England—predominantly Muslim immigrants from Pakistan—(allegedly) sexually abused some 1,400 girls—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as Raymond Ibrihim writes for Front Page. Muslims have also raped and otherwise brutalized women in Australia and Nigeria, not to mention the Middle East, Ibrihim points out. Of course, only some Muslims abuse women, and Muslims are hardly alone in doing so. But, as Ibrihim argues, the sexual abuse of “infidel” women is built into Islamic theology, at least as some Muslims interpret it. See also Rich Lowry’s article on the subject for National Review.

Iran: The United States is actively working with Iran against Islamic State, Mohsen Milani writes for Foreign Affairs (hat tip to Elan Journo). But both Iran and Islamic State are enemies of America.

Indian Jihad: “Al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahari released a videotape Thursday announcing plans for a new wing of the terrorist group dedicated to waging jihad in the Indian subcontinent,” John Bacon reports for USA Today.

Mars: Robert Zubrin recently gave a talk at NASA about sending humans to Mars. He said (among many other things): “I think that this task of opening space, opening the universe to humanity, is the most important thing going on at the world at this time. This time will be remembered, because this is when we first set sail for other worlds.”

Cronyists Target Tesla: “The Georgia Automobile Dealers Association filed a complaint Friday with that state’s Department of Revenue charging that the automaker is illegally selling cars,” CNN reports (hat tip to the Consumerist). Tesla allegedly sold 173, when it’s “supposed” to sell only 150. How about Tesla gets to sell its cars to whomever wishes to buy them?

Smearing Rand: The left hates Ayn Rand because she’s a capitalist; religious conservatives hate Rand because she’s an atheist. Members of both camps routinely smear Rand rather than address her actual ideas. The latest round of smears comes from (of all places) PJTV; here’s the video. PJ also published a reply by Walter Hudson; I may have more to say about this later.

Campaign Censorship: “The Center for Competitive Politics today filed two lawsuits on behalf of a Colorado think tank [the Independence Institute] saying that similar state and federal campaign finance disclosure laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment,” the Center reports.

Regulations: A Florida man complained to his city government about a boy “illegally” running a lemonade stand. Then the government went after the man for illegally running a business out of his home. Read Katherine Mangu-Ward’s report for Reason. God forbid that government actually, you know, protect people’s rights rather than violate them.

News Roundup for 9/1/14

Here are some of the important stories from the past few days:

Islamic State: “Hundreds of Yazidi women abducted by ISIS have either been sold or handed out to members of the Sunni extremist group,” CNN reports. The article describes other atrocities by these Islamic savages, as well.

Immigrant Crime: In an article for Forbes, Robert Scruton picked up the story of men in Rotherham—apparently mostly or entirely immigrants from Pakistan—allegedly have badly abused some 1,400 girls.

Hong Kong: The people of Hong Kong want more political autonomy than China is willing to grant, according to a report from Reuters.

China: Here’s more evidence that China is moving more toward a harder Communist line. “China universities vow ideology clampdown on staff, students,” reports AFP.

Bionic Eye: Okay, it might not be up to Lee Majors’s standards, but it’s still awesome. A new device promises to bring sight to certain people who have lost vision, the Atlantic reports. The producer of the device, the Argus II, offers more information.

Denver Post: Apparently some leftie groups are (ridiculously) accusing Chuck Plunkett of the Denver Post of bias because, in 2010, he delivered some remarks to Liberty on the Rocks. (I recorded his talk with permission and posted it to YouTube.) Read Plunkett’s explanation, and see the video.

PM News Roundup for 8/29/14

Here are even more important news stories and opinion articles published today or within the past few days:

Krugman: Recently Paul Krugman claimed that the risks of drugs and the phosphorus contamination of Lake Erie show that markets must be regulated. In my latest post for the Objective Standard I explain why he’s wrong.

Islamic State: A hard drive recovered from Islamic State militants in Syria reveals plans to develop biological weapons for the purpose of causing “huge” numbers of casualties, Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa report for Foreign Policy.

Ukraine: “U.S. should send military equipment to help Ukraine,” opines the Denver Post. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine obviously is disturbing, the U.S. arming Ukraine seems like a dangerous game to me, and not one obviously tied to U.S. interests. (However, I don’t have a well-developed opinion on the matter.)

EPA: Documents seem to indicate that the Environmental Protection Agency is seeking expanded control over Colorado’s water, Joshua Sharf reports for WatchdogWire.

Grocery Bags: California may “ban single-use plastic grocery bags,” the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Monkey Business: U.S. copyright officials have deemed a monkey “selfie” belongs not to the photographer whose camera the monkey used, but to the “public,” as David Kravets reports for ARS Technica. For why I think that decision is wrong, see my previous post on the matter. Hat tip to Paul Hsieh.

Gun Restrictions: New York now has the most people of any state with a membership in the National Rifle Association, Genevieve Wood reports for Heritage’s Daily Signal. The law largely responsible for driving NRA membership there, the so-called “SAFE Act,” involves (among other things) magazine restrictions and a gun registry; see Wikipedia for details.

News Roundup for 8/29/14

Here are some recent important stories and opinions:

Police Abuse: In an article for the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf describes an instance of police apparently unnecessarily harassing and arresting a black man in St. Paul, Minnesota. Hat tip to Diana Hsieh.

Corporate Taxes: Matt Levine explains corporate taxes for Bloomberg View: “U.S. companies pay the IRS a tax rate of 35 percent on income they earn abroad, but they can credit the amount of foreign tax they pay against that liability.” By contrast, companies that relocated elsewhere do not have to pay the 35 percent rate on all their income, only their U.S. income. Hat tip to Megan McArdle via Don Watkins.

Endangered Property Rights: Writing for Heritage’s Daily Signal, Scott Blakeman describes the curious (and maddening) case of the federal government effectively nationalizing private property for the sake of a the dusky gopher frog—despite the fact that the “frog hasn’t been seen on the land in question for over 50 years.”

Obama on Terror: Regarding Islamic State in Syria, Barack Obama says, “We don’t have a strategy yet,” as the Week reports. That gets my nomination for understatement of the year, and unfortunately it applies to practically everything Obama does.

Child Abuse in England: According to a report cited by Sand in the Gears, “over 1,400 children in the borough of Rotherham were systematically brutalized over the past decade”; apparently the problem largely involves immigrants.

Islamic Jihad: In Syria, Islamic State and al Qaeda are fighting each other, Fox News reports. Is it too much to hope that they kill each other off?

ObamaCare: “A reporter for the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank, asked for a court order Thursday that compels the state Division of Insurance to justify its refusal to release emails discussing the one-year renewal of health insurance policies not in compliance with the Affordable Care Act,” Jeffrey A. Roberts reports for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

Chelsea: “Chelsea Clinton is quitting her job as a reporter,” the AP reports. In other news, I’m quitting my job as the Queen of England.

Volcanoes: Volcanoes in Iceland and Papua New Guinea are “causing havoc,” NPR reports.

Wrapping Up Rational Beacon

[September 7, 2014 Update: Today I moved all the files from RationalBeacon.com to my homepage, AriArmstrong.com. See the "Rational Beacon" category for the contents imported from RationalBeacon.com. —Ari]

Although I’m glad I tried running Rational Beacon, it has been more time consuming and less successful than I’d anticipated, so I’m shutting it down. At first I was upset about this move, but then I thought about it in Edison’s terms: I didn’t fail at blogging, I merely discovered one additional way for me not to blog.

I plan to import all of Rational Beacon‘s contents to my personal page at AriArmstrong.com, where I plan to continue blogging. I also plan to consolidate all my previously published works there, except for my material with the Objective Standard and with Complete Colorado. (In the future I may write material for other publications and not reproduce it on my own page.) Although I’m shutting down RationalBeacon.com, I’m retaining the url into the indefinite future, in case I want to resurrect the site in a different form (something for which I have no plans at present).

A few people may be interested in a fuller account of my reasons for shutting down the site.

Originally, my idea for Rational Beacon was that, as I read the news and views of the day, I would quickly blog about the items that interested me, something I didn’t think would take much additional time. After all, I was essentially aggregating news for myself already, so, I thought, why not simply convert that work to a blog? Not only would that process help me keep in better touch with the news of the day, I thought, it might prove useful to others looking for a filtered news source.

Obviously part of my inspiration for aggregating news was InstaPundit, only I wanted to omit many of the types of stories covered there and to include many stories and opinion pieces not covered there. No one else aggregates stories the way I’d like to see it done, so I end up subjecting myself to the data equivalent of a fire hose each day, mostly via my Twitter feed. That seems to be unavoidable at this point. Very little of the total material published on a daily basis significantly interests me, but I have to sift through a substantial amount of that material to find the few items that do interest me.

Unfortunately, in blogging for Rational Beacon, I soon found myself spending much more time than I’d anticipated writing about certain stories. I thought I’d spend less than an hour, or perhaps up to a couple of hours, writing for Rational Beacon every day; instead, I found myself spending several hours blogging on most days. Especially given that no one is paying me to do it, I just can’t justify spending that much time on it.

Soon after starting the site, I shifted my focus. At first, I thought I’d post two or three dozen very-short posts. But I quickly began writing fewer (often a handful or a dozen), longer posts. Many of my posts are essentially (short) op-eds.

I’ve tentatively decided that I do want to continue aggregating news, although in much briefer form. Yesterday and today I published “roundups” of links, and that’s the way I’ll probably continue to aggregate material at my home page. If I want to say something more substantial about some event, issue, or editorial, I’ll write a dedicated article about it, either for my own page or for another publication (at this point, usually for the Objective Standard).

I never imagined Rational Beacon would be an Internet sensation, but I thought it would be more successful than it has been. After nearly a month of steady effort, the Facebook page has only 91 likes, and the Twitter page has only 75 followers. That’s just not enough of a following to justify the effort. (I have received some very positive feedback from several people, which I appreciate. I also appreciate the numerous “Rational Bacon” jokes.)

Part of my reasoning for starting Rational Beacon was that I thought a publication name separate from my name might go over better. Apparently I was wrong. So I’m just going to consolidate my offerings on my personal blog and through my personal Facebook and Twitter feeds. Associating my content with my name is fine, I think; that’s what Michelle Malkin and various others do (although Malkin has something like 300 times the Twitter followers that I have).

Of course, part of my problem, in terms of number of readers, is that I advocate some view or other to alienate nearly everyone. I’m not a conservative, or a leftist “liberal,” or a libertarian, or a “moderate”—and in many instances I loudly declare my disagreements with those groups. But I’d rather reach a few active-minded individuals than many cheerleaders.

Over the coming years I plan to write not only op-ed-style articles, as I’ve been doing for many years, but weightier articles on a range of subjects. (I hope my efforts toward that end will help broaden audience.) To reach my main goals in writing, I need to be a lot more careful about how I spend my time. As painful as shutting down Rational Beacon is, the main purpose in doing so is to help free up some of my time so that I can work more on other projects. Stay tuned.

News Roundup for 8/28/2014

Here are some of the important recent news stories and opinions:

Ice Bucket Challenge: The fact that the ALS Association funds embryonic stem cell research is a good thing, I argue in today’s post for the Objective Standard.

Teen Sex: Sex among responsible, older teens who use contraceptives is a good thing, not something to condemn, contrary to the rantings of Colorado pastor Bob Enyart. See my post for the Objective Standard.

War on Patients: The DEA is tightening up regulations on Vicodin and similar medications, reports StopTheDrugWar.org. See also my recent article for the Objective Standard about marijuana and opioid restrictions.

Ukraine: “Ukraine accused Russia of launching a new military incursion across its eastern border on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.

Islamic State: The brutal totalitarians of Islamic State continue to hold American journalist Steven Sotloff captive, reports the Christian Science Monitor, and the man’s mother has publicly pleaded for his release. (Hat tip for this story and the last to the Week.)

More Islamic State: Islamic State is a “hugely successful movement with an apocalyptic, nihilistic philosophy,” writes Steven Bucci for the Heritage Foundation. He offers eleven reasons to fear Islamic State and hope for its annihilation.

Even More Islamic State: In Mosul, in northern Iraq, members of Islamic State publicly stoned to death a man accused of adultery—and broadcast the murder on “large digital monitors they erected in the city center,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Is anyone still confused about the nature of Islamic totalitarianism?

Fracking: A Boulder District Court judge threw out “Lafayette’s voter-approved fracking ban,” reports the Daily Camera. (Lafayette is a city within Boulder County.)

News Roundup for 8/27/14

Here are some of today’s important stories and opinions:

Drug War: According to the Journal for the American Medical Association, states with legal medical marijuana have fewer deaths due to opioid use. I wrote an article for the Objective Standard about that and the broader issue of drug prohibitions and regulations; see “Government to Patients: ‘We Feel Pain Is Best for You.’

Gas Taxes: Starting in January, Californians will pay even higher gasoline taxes, reports Fox News, because of a pointless effort to restrict carbon dioxide emissions in a relatively small region.

Islamic State: “The Islamic State wants more than $6 million to free an American woman the Muslim extremists kidnapped a year ago while she did humanitarian work in Syria,” USA Today reports. How about U.S. special forces rescue the woman, then unload $6 million worth of artillery on these barbaric bastards instead?

More Islamic State: A Westpoint study says Islamic State has been growing and organizing for several years, reports Fox News.

Al Qaeda: Al Qaeda Islamists want to hit “casinos in Las Vegas, oil tankers and military colleges” in America, Fox News reports.

Common Core: Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has sued the Obama administration over Common Core education standards, “accusing [the administration] of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards,” the Associated Press reports. But it’s unclear to me how Common Core is any worse, Constitutionally, than W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

Coal: Frank Wolak claims, “[E]xpanding western U.S. port capacity to allow a significant increase in exports of Powder River Basin coal to Asia will likely lead to reduced global greenhouse gas emissions,” PERC reports. The idea is that exporting coal to China would cause Americans to burn more natural gas to generate electricity, thereby on net reducing global carbon dioxide emissions. (Whether reducing global carbon dioxide emissions is a worthwhile goal is a separate question, of course.)

Socialized Medicine: “Paramedics will give patients whose heart has stopped a dummy drug as part of an ‘ethically questionable’ study into whether adrenalin works in resuscitation or not,” the Telegraph reported earlier this month. Paul Hsieh writes about this for Forbes.

Climate Treaty: Guy Benson claims for Townhall.com that Obama may try to commit the “United States to an anti-climate change international treaty without even attempting to seek formal approval from the Senate.”

Ministry of Truth: “The National Science Foundation has embarked on a little-known project to create an online database of ‘political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution,’ reports Elizabeth Harrington of The Washington Free Beacon,” re-reports Edward Morrissey for the Week. See Harrington’s original piece. But we don’t need a Ministry of Truth. American bureaucrats seem to forget that works such as 1984 and Brave New World were not intended as templates for government. Aside from speech directly relevant to government action, government bureaucrats have no legitimate business deciding which private speech is accurate and which is not.

Gaza: How many “ceasefires” is this now?

Christie Corruption? Despite his hard-leftist views, David Sirota might actually be onto something regarding Chris Christie’s cozy relationship with Wall Street. “There is a curiously overlooked story from David Sirota that examines the mutually profitable kinship between Gov. Chris Christie and Wall Street hedge funds,” opens an editorial from the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Burger King, Eh?

As Daniel Ikenson writes for the Cato Institute, “Burger King plans to purchase Canadian doughnut icon Tim Hortons and move company headquarters north of the border, where corporate tax rates are as much as 15 percentage points lower than in the United States.” See also the Washington Post‘s write-up.

When will the idiotic, economically illiterate, self-destructive members of Congress stop driving American companies oversees with their punishingly high corporate tax rates? In the mean time, I say, Good for you, Burger King.

See also my recent post about Microsoft’s efforts to reduce its tax liabilities.