How Colorado’s Lax Voter Security Can Lead a Criminal Right to Your Doorstep

bigstock-computer-criminalIf someone is stalking you or seeking to do you harm, the state of Colorado practically hands the criminal your personal home address, if you are registered to vote.

A couple weeks ago my wife showed me how, with only a name, zip code, and date of birth, you can access your own—or anyone else’s—voter registration information, including home address. Obviously, these bits of information usually are trivially easy for anyone to pick up via quick internet searches. What’s more, Richard Coolidge from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office tells me that someone from New Hampshire requested the entire Colorado voting list and published it online (I have not otherwise verified this claim).

Now that a publication for which I write is preparing to republish the Charlie Hebdo covers, it occurred to me that I don’t want every jihadist in the world to have easy access to a Google map to my front doorstep. Several years ago, when I was writing on another matter, I received a very nasty death threat (perhaps better characterized as a death wish), to the effect that the person hoped for my flesh to be lashed from my bones. I set up a mail box (at a UPS store) intentionally to keep my home address hidden; apparently, that was for naught.

There are provisions in Colorado statutes for anyone who has “reason to believe” that he, or “a member of [his] immediate household, will be exposed to criminal harassment, or otherwise be in danger of bodily harm.” You can go to your local DMV, request a “voter confidentiality” form, and pay a $5 fee to process it. Coolidge tells me that, if you have a restraining order against someone or other type of “active case,” you can join an “address confidentiality program.”

I’m glad those safeguards exist. However, I do not believe they are adequate. First, hardly anyone knows about the existing security risk or the existing remedies for it. Second, by the time someone is threatened or at risk, it’s probably too late—his personal home address is already published online.

Right now, the default is for voters’ home addresses to be openly published. I think that’s wrong. I’m as big a believer as anyone of open government records; however, there is a huge difference between the records of a state agency and one’s personal, private information—the release of which could create a life-threatening security risk.

I’m not entirely sure what the legislature should do to fix the problem; Coolidge says “Secretary [of State Wayne] Williams will be working with the legislature to raise this important issue and identify more options for voters.” Offhand, one idea is to list a voter’s precinct, not his home address. Another is to require those who request voters’ personal information to provide their own information to the government and agree to restrict their use of the information.

I understand the need to protect against voter fraud. But I also understand the need not to expose at-risk individuals to unnecessary danger.

I shouldn’t have to endanger my life to exercise my right to vote, and neither should anyone else who may be the target of criminal stalking or plots. I feel like that’s precisely what I’ve done.  I hope the legislature fixes this problem before someone is maimed or murdered with the help of these records.

Colorado Activist Johanna Fallis Dies

johanna-fallisJohanna Fallis, a longtime Libertarian activist in Colorado, died in early January, reports her partner and fellow activist Lloyd Sweeny. She had had health problems for some time.

Fallis was a former treasurer of the state Libertarian Party (LP), a Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State in 2000, and a retired information systems designer.

I spent time with Johanna at an Austrian economics study group hosted by Ken Riggs, at local LP meetings, and at the 2000 national LP convention (at which I took the photo of her shown).

Johanna was both spirited and friendly; she once told my wife, “You get prettier and prettier every time I see you.”

She will be missed.

I Am Charlie

In the aftermath of yesterday’s horrific slaughter of French journalists by Islamic jihadists for the “offense” of publishing cartoons, it is critically important that all defenders of free speech make the cartoons in question as widely available as possible. The jihadists must not win. I am Charlie.


Libertarians Nearly Cost Colorado Republicans the State Senate; Approval Voting Would Solve

In a year when Republicans made large gains throughout much of the nation, Colorado Democrats nearly maintained control of state government—thanks in part to Libertarians. As it was, Republicans squeaked by with a single-seat advantage in the state senate, while losing the state house and the governor’s race.

The Libertarian almost certainly cost the Republicans a state senate seat from District 20, where Cheri Jahn beat Larry Queen by 33,303 to 32,922 votes—a difference of only 381 votes. Meanwhile, Libertarian Chris Heismann earned 4,968 votes. (I’m relying on “unofficial results” from the Colorado Secretary of State throughout.)

Of course, there’s no reason to think that everyone who voted Libertarian would otherwise vote Republican, but in this case it’s hard to believe that Jahn would have won except for the Libertarian on the ballot.

Meanwhile, in District 5, Democrat Kerry Donovan beat Republican Don Suppes by 27,044 to 25,981 votes, a difference of 1,063. The Libertarian earned 2,339 votes (so it’s less clear the candidate cost the Republican).

In District 19, Libertarian Gregg Miller arguably nearly cost Republican Laura Woods her narrow victory; Miller earned 3,638 votes, while Woods won by only 689 votes. (However, Woods, a supporter of abortion bans and so-called “personhood” legislation, alienated many liberty-minded voters, including me.)

In District 24, Republican Beth Martinez-Humenik probably would have lost if a Libertarian had been in the race; she beat Democrat Judy Solano by only 876 votes.

Remarkably, Libertarians did not cost Republicans any state-wide races. Republican Cory Gardner won the U.S. Senate seat (although he got less than 50 percent of the vote), and Republican Bob Beauprez lost by substantially more votes than the Libertarian received. (Each U.S. House victor received over 50 percent of the vote.)

Claims that Libertarians cost Republicans races are nothing new; they crop up every two years. As another example, this year Libertarian Robert Sarvis most likely cost Republican Ed Gillespie a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. “Spoilers” are an inherent aspect of single-vote, winner-take-all elections with more than two candidates.

Is there any alternative? To date, Republicans have attempted, without much success, to persuade Libertarians to stay off the ballot. Then, after elections, Republicans berate Libertarians for “costing” them races. This inevitably leads to nasty exchanges between Republicans and Libertarians, with the end result that Libertarians become angrier than ever toward Republicans and resolve to keep running candidates. Some Libertarians even argue that their source of power and influence is their ability to cost Republicans some elections.

There is a better way, and it is approval voting. Approval voting simply allows voters to vote for more than one candidate. So, for example, someone could vote for both the Republican and the Libertarian (or the Democrat and the Libertarian, or whatever combination). Then the candidate with the most votes overall wins. (Total votes exceed total voters, because many voters cast more than one vote.) There are no rankings and no runoffs; it’s a very simple voting system to understand and to implement.

With approval voting, it might still be the case that some Republicans lose by a smaller margin that the Libertarian’s vote total. If so, Republicans could not complain that Libertarians “stole” an election, because voters had an opportunity to vote Republican as well, yet chose not to.

Another advantage to approval voting is that it would provide a better indicator for how much support the victor actually has. Currently, it is common for candidates to win with less than 50 percent of the vote. Under approval voting, winning with less than 50 percent would indicate widespread dissatisfaction with the victor.

Approval voting obviously would be good for Colorado Republicans. The GOP often faces Libertarian competition, whereas Democrats rarely face left-leaning minor candidates.

Approval voting also would be good for third parties, I think. Rather than regard Libertarians as dangerous competitors, Republicans would see an opportunity to woo Libertarian votes.

Approval voting likely would be bad for Colorado Democrats electorally, at least in the short run, but it’s hard to see how Democrats can in good conscience oppose a voting system that is more democratic in important ways. If it’s good that people are able to vote for one candidate, as Democrats incessantly claim, then is it not better if people are able to vote for more than one candidate in a race? And it remains possible that Democrats will face stiff competition from a third party—remember Ralph Nader in 2000.

My aim, of course, is not to maximize democracy (e.g., mob rule), but to maximize government’s protection of individual rights. But I think approval voting likely would be, on net, both more democratic and (marginally) more supportive of rights-respecting government. Why not implement it?


Notice: I Did Not Authorize “Libertas Institute Colorado” To Reproduce my Content

This morning a user on Twitter asked me if I was involved with, the “Libertas Institute Colorado.” I was horrified to learn that the web site had stolen the last two years’ worth of my blog posts and was reproducing them in full. I did not authorize this reproduction of my content. (The site was also pulling in other content without permission.) After I notified the person to whom the web site is registered, he pulled down the page.

The same Twitter user said she received a late-night robocall on behalf of Libertarian candidate Gaylon Kent, and she thought that the robocall may have been associated with Libertas Institute Colorado.

I do not know if the robocall was associated with the same organization that stole my intellectual property, or if the robocaller is totally unrelated and merely used a similar-sounding name.

Gaylon Kent says he did not authorize the robocalls. See also the 9News story on the matter. I contacted 9News, and reporters there were not sure who originated the robocalls. I have not obtained or heard any audio recording of the robocalls. [See below.]

Obviously I had nothing to do with the robocalls; prior to this morning, I had never heard of Gaylon Kent or of Libertas Institute Colorado or any like-named group. (I probably saw Kent’s name on my ballot, but I paid no attention to it.)

All in all, this has been a frustrating morning, first to have to deal with the theft of my intellectual property, and then to be associated with a dubious campaign effort (even if by accident) of which I had no knowledge.

October 20 Update: I just realized that 9News includes the audio of the call in question. It ends, “This message brought to you by the Libertas Institute.”

Will Tracy Kraft-Tharp Condemn Effort to Turn Horrific Murder into a Political Stunt?

October 13 Update: Although I still have not personally heard from Kraft-Tharp, 9News reports that she stated, “I publicly denounce this ad” (see below for details). Christine Ridgeway, Jessica’s grandmother, told 9News, “I am just totally disgusted by this [set of ads]. When I first saw this I was speechless for like four hours. I was just so angry and so upset that I just couldn’t speak.” Good for Kraft-Tharp for condemning the political mailers in question. However, I’d still like to know her answers to my questions regarding the Fourth Amendment. –AA

Tracy Kraft-Tharp

Tracy Kraft-Tharp

I’ve seen nasty political ads, as have we all. But a recent set of mailers in my Colorado state house district are beyond nasty; they are reprehensible. An independent expenditure committee, Priorities for Colorado (“Jim Alexee, registered agent”) has turned the horrific murder of a little girl into a political stunt.

The ads target Susan Kochevar, the Republican candidate running against Tracy Kraft-Tharp, state representative for District 29. One ad states, “Susan Kochevar refused to cooperate with the FBI in the Jessica Ridgeway case.” The relevant fact, as Kochevar confirmed via email, is that the FBI requested to search her home on three different occasions, without a warrant, and she declined the warrantless searches—as is the Fourth Amendment right of every American. But the smear campaign treats her sensible actions as somehow sinister, asking, “What kind of person refuses to cooperate when a 10 year old girl goes missing?”

But the appropriate question is, what kind of person turns the horrific murder of a little girl into a political stunt? The answer is Jim Alexee and Julie Wells do. They are the “registered agent” and “designated filing agent” for Priorities for Colorado IE Committee. (I will email copies of the ads on request.)

What Kochevar did precisely is follow the advice of the ACLU:

If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. . . .

If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first. If you are asked to meet with FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview, have a lawyer present.

Apparently Alexee and Wells need a refresher on the text and significance of the Fourth Amendment. We’ll start with the language itself:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Quite simply, the Fourth Amendment is our basic protection against living in a police state.

This is a very personal story for me. I live within a few minutes’ walk of Ketner reservoir, where the murderer in question once (before he killed) attempted to abduct a woman who was out for a jog. My wife and I walk the very trails where this murderer walked; the woman he attempted to abduct might as easily have been my wife or someone I know in the neighborhood. My theory is that, after the murderer failed to abduct an adult woman, he turned his sights to a younger, smaller victim in the neighborhood. Before I heard about the girl’s disappearance, I saw crews of people sweeping a local field, so I knew something was up. It was as though a black cloud descended on the entire neighborhood, as first we waited and hoped, then we wept in sorrow and outrage. It was a horrible time, and obviously unspeakably horrific for the friends and family of the victim.

Everyone in the neighborhood was relieved when the perp was caught, and I’m very glad the FBI participated in the investigation. However, despite the fact that the FBI did some great work, the FBI also arguably violated people’s rights in my neighborhood by harassing them if they did not consent to warrantless searches or warrantless collections of DNA. (See my write-up.) In my view, the FBI did these things, not primarily to collect evidence, but to “sweat” people and see what might crack open. Looking at this from the perspective of law enforcement, I kind of understand the tactic. When you’ve got little to go on, and there’s a brutal child killer on the loose, I’m sure it can be very tempting to cut some constitutional corners.

However, nothing about the story justifies American citizens consenting to warrantless fishing-expedition searches. We do not live in a police state. Law enforcement ought not go door to door searching houses without cause, and certainly FBI agents, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, ought not harass citizens for invoking their Fourth Amendment rights.

We already know where Jim Alexee and Julie Wells stand. They are perfectly happy to turn a vicious murder into a sick political game.

What I want to know is, where does Tracy Kraft-Tharp, my representative in the legislature, stand on these issues? Does she stand with the ACLU in support of the Fourth Amendment, or does she believe that people ought to submit to warrantless, fishing-expendition searches and DNA collections? In short, does Kraft-Tharp support the Bill of Rights, or not?

I asked Kochevar and Kraft-Tharp about their views on the Fourth Amendment; so far, I have heard from Kochevar, but not Kraft-Tharp (I emailed her and left her two voice messages). Here are my questions and Kochevar’s answers:

1. Do you believe the government has a moral or legal right to search people’s homes or collect their DNA without a warrant or probable cause?

No, the government must show probable cause to a judge and a warrant must be granted.

2. Do you believe that citizens have a moral and legal right to refuse the request of a government agent to conduct a search or to collect DNA, when such agent has neither a warrant nor probable cause?

Yes, citizens do have a moral and legal right to decline a search or the collection of DNA without a warrant.

3. Do you believe that government officials properly are bound by the Bill of Rights?

Yes, I do believe government officials are bound by the Bill of Rights. Government officials swear an oath to the Constitution.

4. In your opinion, what is the significance of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

The Fourth Amendment is a limitation on the government to protect the people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

I asked Kraft-Tharp an additional question via email: “Do you condemn the effort by an independent expenditure committee to smear Susan Kochevar by turning the horrific murder of a little girl in my neighborhood into a political stunt?”

Regarding the Bill of Rights, if Kraft-Tharp cannot plainly state that she supports the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, then she has no business serving in government at any level.

Regarding the smear campaign, Kraft-Tharp’s answer—or, if I do not hear from her, her lack thereof—will say a great deal about her character.

Why I Cannot Vote for “Personhood” Supporter Laura Woods

I confess that I tried not to look too closely at the Republican candidate for my Colorado senate district (number 19), Laura Woods, because I was afraid of what I might find. After gleefully witnessing the fall of Evie Hudack following her reckless, Bloomberg-inspired campaign against peaceable gun owners (after which Democrats replaced her with Rachel Zenzinger, now the Democratic candidate), I really wanted the seat to turn Republican.

After the fiascos of ObamaCare (implications of which played out in the state legislature), the Democrats’ persecution of gun owners, the Democrats’ war on energy producers and consumers, and other matters, this would have been an excellent year for the GOP to punish the Democrats and win back some seats. But, Republicans being Republicans (aka “The Stupid Party”), Republicans in my district nominated a candidate I cannot possible vote for.

Thus, just a couple of weeks after announcing I planned to vote a straight-Republican ticket, I now have to make an exception and declare that I cannot and will not vote for Laura Woods. The basic problem is that Woods enthusiastically endorses total abortion bans, including the insane and horrific “personhood” measure on the ballot this year.

(I won’t vote for Zenzinger either. I’ll probably just blank that vote, unless I can figure out how to write in “Turd Sandwich.”)

So congratulations to Mainstream Colorado, “Ashley Stevens, registered agent,” for prompting me to take a closer look at Woods and to thereby change my vote. (This is the first time I can recall in which a political ad has actually had any influence whatsoever on my voting.)

I’ll begin by reviewing a couple of campaign mailers I received from Mainstream. One ad cleverly borrows the language of the right by touting, “Freedom. Responsibility. Hard Work. These are the values Coloradans have cherished for generations.” The ad continues (in part), “Rachel Zenzinger believes women have the right to make their own health care decisions [but not their own self-defense decisions] with their family, their doctor and their faith—without government or bosses getting in the way.” Of course, the bit about “bosses” is a reference to the ObamaCare requirement forcing insurers to cover birth control. Although I don’t agree with Zenzinger on that issue, I definitely agree with her that women have a right to get an abortion.

Then comes the ad’s attack on Woods:


Laura Woods would take away a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions. . . . Laura Woods doesn’t think women are responsible enough to make their own decisions [except regarding their self-defense]. Woods supports an extreme plan that would ban all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. The plan would criminalize doctors who treat women and allow law enforcement to investigate women who suffer miscarriage. She even supports a constitutional amendment that could ban common forms of birth control.

Although some of that language is imprecise and incomplete, it is essentially correct.

A second ad from the outfit makes the same basic claims.


So what are the facts behind the claims in question? Colorado Campaign for Life claims, “Laura Woods answered her Colorado Campaign for Life Survey 100 pro-life (sic).” (The organization also likens Woods’s opponent, Lang Sias, to the baby murderer Kermit Gosnell.) And Colorado Right to Life, which asks candidates if they “oppose all abortion,” affirms that Woods “has rigorously affirmed she is pro-life (sic).” As CBS Denver reports, Woods is a “staunch supporter of the Personhood ballot issue.”

As for why women have a right to get an abortion (and to use the birth control and in vitro fertility treatments of their choice),  and for why the “personhood” measure is not about personhood and is indeed anti-life rather than “pro-life,” see the detailed paper on the matter by Diana Hsieh and me.

Roundup on Jeffco Schools

jeffco-protestI’ve written four articles (three for other sites) about the protests and union-board fights in Jefferson County, Colorado:

1. Jeffco’s Julie Williams Seeks to Replace One Brand of Activist Teaching with Another

2. Political Chaos in Colorado’s Jefferson County Schools Illustrates Problems of Government Control

3. The Leftist Biases of the AP U.S. History Course

4. A Lesson on Censorship and Civil Disobedience for Jeffco Students, Teachers and Observers

What’s more, I interviewed three participants in an October 3 protest in Westminster; here’s the video:

In other news, a video from an outfit called “Jeffco Truth” indicates that at least some of the protesting students had no idea what they were protesting. And a video from Corey Scott shows that at least one of Julie Williams’s supporters wished to use the proposed review curriculum to promote religious ideology.

The Denver Post’s Ridiculously Biased Story on Bob Beauprez and IUDs

If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than politicians endorsing stupid policies, it’s journalists writing biased and fact-distorting “news” stories. Frankly I usually don’t expect any better from politicians. But I do expect better from journalists, who are supposed to be the defenders of truth, justice, and America’s constitutional republic.

John Frank’s recent article in the Denver Post, “Bob Beauprez’s IUD Remark in Debate Generates Controversy,” represents the worst kind of biased (and frankly partisan) “reporting.”

By way of background, it is no secret that I advocate a woman’s right to get an abortion and that I strongly oppose the so-called “personhood” ballot measure. Indeed, I’ve spent many hours researching and writing about the “personhood” efforts over the years (see the paper I coauthored with Diana Hsieh). In 2006, the last time Beauprez ran for governor, I endorsed Democrat Bill Ritter over Beauprez, largely over “Beauprez’s religious stand against abortion.” This year, I have (tentatively) endorsed Beauprez over incumbent John Hickenlooper, partly because Beauprez has substantially run away from his efforts to outlaw abortion, and largely because I’m sick of Hickenlooper’s antics.

But whatever my personal positions, and whatever Frank’s personal position may be, intellectually honest people can at least be open and candid about the facts. On that score Frank has failed, miserably.

Frank correctly notes that, in a recent debate, “Beauprez suggested that intrauterine devices, known as IUDs, cause abortion.” Specifically, he said, “IUD is an abortifacient.”

Then Frank writes,

Beauprez drew a rebuke from experts in the medical community who called his assertion false. . . . The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and 10 other physician organizations, as well as the Federal Drug Administration, define IUDs as contraceptives that prevent a pregnancy. . . . Dr. Daniel Grossman, an ob/gyn who does reproductive research and who practices in San Francisco, said the definition of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg is an established scientific standard. He said IUDs are not abortifacient.

But the relevant debate is not whether an IUD can kill a zygote once it has implanted in the uterus; rather, it is whether an IUD can kill a zygote before it implants in the uterus—and for Frank to ignore that issue is journalistic incompetence (or else intentional fraud). Basically, Frank is trying to trip up Beauprez on a definition, rather than address the substantive underlying issues.

So what are the facts? In 2012, Pam Belluck wrote for the New York Times:

By contrast [to hormonal birth control pills], scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.

A web site for Paragard, a brand of copper IUD, states, “The copper in Paragard . . . interferes with sperm movement and egg fertilization. Paragard may prevent implantation.” Implantation of what, you may ask? Obviously, of a zygote. And what happens if a zygote does not implant in the uterus? It dies. The FDA-approved prescription information for Paragard states, “Mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport and fertilization of an egg, and possibly prevention of implantation.”

In other words, the copper IUD can work by preventing fertilization, and it can work by preventing the implantation of a (fertilized) zygote. If it works by the first means, it is a “contraceptive,” meaning that it prevents conception. But if it works by the second means, calling it a “contraceptive” is misleading, which is why the so-called “pro-life” crowd calls it “abortifacient.” But, by the definition of Frank’s “experts,” it’s not an abortion if it kills a zygote before it implants in the uterus. Well, they can define it that way if they want, but the definition used does not alter the underlying facts.

Let’s use another example to illustrate the point. I could define a “journalist” as a writer of news stories who gets his facts straight and who does not omit relevant facts. By that definition, John Frank is not a “journalist” (“hack” might be a better descriptive, at least in this case). But another common meaning of “journalist” is simply anyone who gets paid to write for a news organization. By that definition, Frank is a “journalist.” But real journalists (in the first sense of the term) do not play “gotcha” games with definitions as a way to obscure the relevant issues.

I believe the editors of the Denver Post do have integrity and do try to publish good, factually complete stories, so I call on them to issue a correction to Frank’s story.

Of course, as a matter of policy, it should matter not at all whether an IUD can act to prevent the implantation of a zygote. Women have a moral right to use the birth control methods of their choice and to seek an abortion if they wish to do so. A zygote is not a “person” and does not have rights. Frank does helpfully report that Beauprez said “in an interview after the debate” that “the use of IUDs [is] a ‘personal choice.'” Indeed it is—and it should continue to be.

Jeffco’s Julie Williams Seeks to Replace One Brand of Activist Teaching with Another

julie-williamsRecently in Jefferson County, Colorado (my home county), teachers have staged “sick outs,” and students have staged walk-outs, largely to protest a proposal by school board member Julie Williams “to create a Board study committee on Common Core Standards, PARCC assessments and Advanced Placement U.S. History.” The board met on September 18 to discuss the proposal; see the “Agenda Item Details” for that meeting. (Williams’s proposal was just that, a proposal; on September 23, Jeffco schools superintendent Dan McMinimee stated that “no decisions have been made regarding the curriculum committee.”)

Unfortunately, many of Williams’s critics have badly misrepresented what her proposal states and implies (more on this below). That said, what it states and implies is highly troublesome for anyone concerned about political propagandizing supplanting a sound education in tax-funded classrooms.

Here is what the proposal actually says about how the committee should handle its curricula reviews, starting with “a review of the AP US History curriculum and elementary health curriculum”:

Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.

Aspects of these statements are unobjectionable (and pointless); for example, who would disagree that a presentation of history should be “accurate” and “factual”? It’s not as though anyone is chanting, “Hey, ho, factually accurate history has got to go!” Of course, the questions of which facts are accurate, and how facts should be interpreted, make for rougher going.

Other aspects of Williams’s statements are nonsensical. For example, what does it mean that “theories should be distinguished from fact?” No one confuses a broad theory, which integrates many facts, with an isolated fact. Perhaps what Williams has in mind is that she wishes the committee to distinguish true theories which are supported by facts—as examples, the theory of gravity and the theory of evolution—from propositions or hypotheses which are not supported by facts or which are only partially supported by them. But there is the rub: Why should anyone expect a board-appointed committee to rationally evaluate such things? A controversial proposition is not going to become less controversial because some committee blesses it as a “theory” or a “fact.”

Consider another example: What does it mean for materials to “promote citizenship?” Legally, either you are a U.S. citizen, or you are not. I take it that Williams is not here concerned with persuading people without U.S. citizenship to seek such citizenship, nor with promoting legal changes that would grant U.S. citizenship to more people. What, then, is she proposing? Apparently by “citizenship” she refers to certain attitudes and beliefs that typify a citizen. But what might those be, and, again, why should anyone expect a government committee to rationally determine such things?

Other aspects of Williams’s statement clearly call for advocacy “teaching”; that is, the promotion of ideological views over the presentation of historical facts. Specifically, “Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.”

So here we have a “conservative” school board member asking a government-appointed committee to instruct government-funded teachers to “promote . . . respect for authority” among their students. Students are supposed to respect the “authority” . . . of what? This niggling detail is left to the imagination, but the most straight-forward reading is that government schools should promote “respect” for the authority of government. Remarkable.

Consider another aspect of the proposal. I am a full-blown capitalist, but I do not want teachers in government schools “promoting”—and what can this mean other than propagandizing in favor of?—the “free enterprise system.” Even to the degree that teachers correctly identify what the “free enterprise system” is, history teachers have no business promoting one ideology over another. Instead, history teachers should concern themselves (and I know this is controversial) with teaching history.

Of course, part of teaching history, depending on the era at hand, involves discussion of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism, and the social and economic effects they have had. The problem is that how one evaluates such things, and what facts one sees as relevant in considering them, depends very much on one’s ideology. This is obvious; to see the point one need only contrast the writings of Marx and Mises on the matter. In such cases, what I hope for in teachers, whether they work in government or private schools, is that they fairly present the major lines of thought in the field, along with the relevant facts. For example, it would be wrong of a teacher to discuss only the pollution caused by the Industrial Revolution, without also discussing industry’s profound effects on rising standards of living.

Although teaching is a complex art, the basic point here is that history teachers should teach history, not promote their own (or the school board’s) particular ideological views (beyond the broad views that facts and intellectual honesty are paramount).

If there is to be a committee to review curricula, then, its purpose should be to weed out indoctrination in tax-funded classrooms, not to impose some new type of indoctrination.

Although I oppose Williams’s proposal, some of the criticism of it are far off base. Consider three examples. Jefferson County PTA President Michele Patterson said of the proposal, “Does that mean we’re going to eliminate slavery from class discussions, because that wasn’t a particular positive time of our history? Hiroshima didn’t necessarily look great.” urged people to “stop public school boards from outlawing historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement, Native American genocide, and slavery.” And Caitlin MacNeal claimed at TPM that Williams’s proposal would “remove the teaching of ‘civil disobedience’ in the AP U.S. History curriculum.”

Those are ridiculous misreadings of what the proposal says. The proposal does not say that materials should not cover historical episodes involving “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law”; it says “materials should not encourage or condone [among students] civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” Further, the proposal says that “instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage,” not that they should exclude negative aspects of them.

It should be needless to say, but obviously the point needs to be explicitly stated here, that misrepresenting what Williams’s proposal says does not promote rational discussion of the matter.

Williams’s proposal is bad enough when read straight; why many of Williams’s critics also feel compelled to fabricate “facts” about it is beyond me. Political activists have no more business fabricating “facts” than history teachers do.

Of course, if we employ the “critical thinking” skills the College Board (the creator of the AP history test) is so eager for us to employ, we will note that, just because Williams’s proposal is substantially misguided, doesn’t imply that all of Williams’s concerns are misplaced or that either the College Board or the teachers’ unions are guided exclusively by the angels. But those are topics for another day.

Moving News Aggregation to Twitter

Readers may have noticed that I’ve been trying out different strategies for aggregating news. I do want to track select items of news and views, not only to provide some potentially useful tips to others, but to help myself keep track of the items.

It seems that now I’ve come full circle. I started out using my Twitter feed to collect news stories; more recently I set up an entire new web site (now defunct) devoted to news aggregation (see my explanation); and most recently I’ve posted “news roundups” to my personal page (see this morning’s example).

For now at least, I’m going to go back to using Twitter to track the stories and opinions of interest to me—so now is an excellent time to follow me on Twitter, if you do not already do so.

Of course, if I want to write something more substantial about some article than Twitter will accommodate, I’ll probably do so as a blog post here. And, as should be obvious by now, I may change my mind about this.

People’s Climate March and More: News Roundup for 9/22/14

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

Socialist Climate March: Among the signs displayed at the “People’s Climate March” in New York were these: “Capitalism Is Killing the Planet: Fight for a Socialist Future!” and “I’m Marching for Full Communism.” One might be tempted to believe that socialism was a cure in search of a problem, and that “climate change” is now that “problem.”

Epstein Reports: Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress interviewed people at the march and responded with his own pro-fossil fuel views. See his first, second, and third videos.

A New Consensus? John Fund writes, “One reason the rhetoric has become so overheated is that the climate-change activists increasingly lack a scientific basis for their most exaggerated claims.” Fund also quotes Roy Spencer, a former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA: “[T]he lack of surface warming in 17 years has forced those same scientists to now invoke natural climate change to supposedly cancel out the expected human-caused warming! . . . They fail to see that a climate system capable of cancelling out warming with natural cooling is also capable of causing natural warming in the first place.”

Cheap Solar? Vivek Wadhwa claims, “By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world. Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil fuel-based alternatives do.” He bases his projection on recent decreases in the costs of solar, trends which may or may not continue. His article strikes me as long on wishful thinking and short on technical details. But, if this does happen, it would be wonderful—and the trend would help demonstrate that government should play no role in the matter.

Trees are Evil? Nadine Unger, “an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale,” writes for the New York Times, “The assumption is that planting trees and avoiding further deforestation provides a convenient carbon capture and storage facility on the land.” But that’s wrong. “Considering all the interactions, large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse.” The basic theory is that planting trees in cooler regions may reduce the amount of sunlight reflected back into space. Also, she writes, “Worse, trees emit reactive volatile gases that contribute to air pollution and are hazardous to human health.”

In other news:

Oil Exports: Mark Green writes, “The strong weight of new scholarship and analysis say that allowing exports of domestic crude will lower pump prices in this country—while also boosting economic growth, employment and wages and improving our balance of trade.”

Iran Murders Again: The Independent reports: “Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death.”

Arabian Collapse: “The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago,” writes Hisham Melhem.

Elevator to the Sky: ABC reports, “Japanese construction giant Obayashi announces plans to have a space elevator up and running by 2050.”

McSnorter: According to Neatorama, a McDonald’s coffee stir spoon was a casualty of the drug war, because some people used them to snort cocaine.

Surveillance State: “A rapidly expanding digital network that uses cameras mounted to traffic signals and police cruisers captures the movements of millions of vehicles across the U.S., regardless of whether the drivers are being investigated by law enforcement,” the Associated Press reports.

Why I’ll (Probably) Vote Straight Republican This Year

dems-blew-itYou want to talk about a “war” on certain segments of voters?

I am not among those who think the “Republican War on Women” is entirely a Democratic fabrication; the existence of the “personhood for zygotes” measure on Colorado’s ballot this year (again) is evidence that such a war exists (using the term “war” metaphorically, of course).

But the Democrats have waged their own wars on other blocks of citizens—and those are the wars driving the 2014 elections. Mainly, these are the war on gun owners, the war on energy producers and consumers, the war on doctors and patients, and the war on taxpayers. At the national level, you can add Obama’s war on self-respecting and security-conscious Americans—he has almost single-handedly turned the United States into an object of ridicule among Islamic jihadists and Communist throwbacks around the world—and Obama’s late-term malaise will almost certainly impact numerous state and local elections.

Here in Colorado, I will never forgive Mark Udall (aka Marack Obama Udall) for supporting ObamaCare and for throttling the Keystone Pipeline (an indicator of his general hostility toward fossil-fuel energy producers).

I will never forgive John “What the F**k” Hickenlooper (aka Michael Bloomberg) for supporting the idiotically drafted, rights-violating gun-restriction laws.

I will never forgive Colorado’s Democratic legislators for passing the so-called “Amazon tax” pertaining to online sales—a measure that Hickenlooper defended—and other tax measures. (Yes, I have a long memory on that one. These are just a few indications of the types of issues bothering me.)

I am seeing red this year—and so are a lot of other voters. Obviously Colorado’s Democrats had no idea how deeply they would anger large blocks of voters by pursuing their leftist policies.

I was frankly surprised—although not as surprised as the Democrats were—that the gun-driven recall elections resulted in three turnovers in the legislature. Remember, those were the first recalls in the state’s history.

I was even more surprised to see Quinnipiac polls showing Bob Beauprez up ten points over Hickenlooper and Cory Gardner up eight points over Udall. I don’t know polling well enough to know which polls to trust and which to distrust, but for the Republicans even to be at a dead heat against the incumbents—as other polls indicate may be the case—is remarkable. Just three months ago I predicted that Hickenlooper would easily best Beauprez.

This year, as is the case every year, many outcomes will hinge on voter turnout. In recent election cycles Democrats floated on the Obama Bubble, but now that bubble has burst. Younger voters, I think, are starting to figure out that maybe “hope and change” depends on something more substantial than velvety rhetoric, that maybe we don’t want government continually spying on us (Udall’s work in this area is his main redeeming virtue), and that maybe a Kumbaya foreign policy doesn’t work when the other guy wants to cut your head off. Meanwhile, a variety of indicators, including the recalls and the recent polls, indicate that the right may be especially motivated this year. I for one am spitting mad.

I’ve long described my attitude toward Colorado politics this way: “Which party do I hate the most? It depends on which one I’m thinking of at the moment.” Recently Democrats have given me plenty of reasons to think about them, and, surprisingly, Republicans haven’t.

Both Beauprez and Gardner have more-or-less successfully defused the “war on women” bomb, mainly by running as fast as they can away from the so-called “personhood” measure. I was pleasantly surprised to read these recent remarks from Beaupurez: “Nobody’s taking that [the right to get an abortion] away—that’s a false argument. That’s the law of the land. Some like me are personally pro-life, but I’m not going to deny what the law provides you.” (For once Beauprez’s tendency to “squish” is working to his advantage.) And of course Gardner came out with a proposal to legalize over-the-counter birth control—which is not only the right position policy-wise but a genius political move. Although Gardner is a cosponsor of a national “personhood” proposal, it’s hard to believe he takes that too seriously given his other proposal.

Although I reserve the right to change my mind and to make some exceptions, my default stance toward this year’s election is “vote straight Republican.” I even had a sign made up: “Dems BLEW It: This Year Vote Republican.” (Attention CEW: I did not spend over $200 on this sign, and I did not coordinate with others about it, so you can keep your attack dogs on their leashes.) At first I considered having it read, “In 2014 Vote Republican”—but then I thought I might need to use it again sometime down the road.

I end with a special plea directed at Colorado Republicans. If you do manage to pull off some electoral successes this year, please don’t screw everything up the way you almost always do. Don’t make me replace this year’s sign with one stating: “GOP BLEW It: This Year Vote Democrat.” But if I have to I’ll just get both signs and keep alternating them. Such is nature of Colorado politics.

Ginseng Raid, Another Salon Attack on Rand, Illegal Horse Transport, and More: News Roundup for 9/20/14

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

Ginseng Raid: Based on a report by the Associated Press, this story seems bizarre: “West Virginia natural resources police say they have made 11 arrests and seized 190 pounds of dry ginseng that was illegally harvested.” Articles by the West Virginia Gazette-Mail and by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources offer additional details, yet still leave many questions unanswered. A few details: Ginseng dealers must be licensed, the harvesting season is tightly regulated, and “digging ginseng on public lands . . . is prohibited.” But does the raid in question pertain to ginseng harvested on public lands? On private property without permission? (I may have more details later.)

Salon Attacks Rand (Again): CJ Werleman of Salon claims that Ayn Rand’s view of free markets is a “fantasy,” a “constructed supernatural myth.” But the only fantasies at hand are Werleman’s own statements about free markets and about Rand’s views; see my article for the Objective Standard.

Illegal Horse Transport: To transport horses across state lines, you may need “health papers, CDL license and USDOT number among a list of other requirements,” In Stride Edition reports. Apparently the laws are being enforced more stringently these days. But why do such laws even exist? (Hat tip to Diana Hsieh.)

Islamic State Violence: Charles Krauthammer proposes that Islamic State posted videos of beheadings to “provoke America into entering the Mesopotamian war . . . [b]ecause they’re sure we will lose. Not immediately and not militarily. They know we always win the battles but they are convinced that, as war drags on, we lose heart and go home.”

Tech Revolution: “Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee [and] turning on your home computer to read the day’s newspaper.” Check out this awesome 1981 news report.

Asset Forfeiture: John Yoder and Brad Cates, each a former director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office, write for the Washington Post: “As two people who were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department in the 1980s, we find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.” Good for them.

Medicare Fraud: “Dr. Farid Fata . . . was charged with intentionally misdiagnosing healthy people with cancer and pumping dying patients with chemo to make money. . . . [He
was charged with running a $35-million Medicare fraud scheme that involved billing the government for medically unnecessary oncology and hematology treatments,” reports the Detroit Free Press. Hat tip to Paul Hsieh.

Methane Emission: “Lawmakers and natural gas supporters worry that outcries from environmentalists, led by the influential Natural Resources Defense Council, could led to a regulatory crackdown on methane, a potent greenhouse gas, this fall,” the Daily Caller reports.

Surveillance State: “Despite Apple’s Privacy Pledge, Cops Can Still Pull Data Off a Locked iPhone,” Wired reports (hat tip to Paul Hsieh).

Demon News: Little Green Footballs has some fun with, which ran the bizarre headline, “Exorcists Warn of Danger from Oklahoma City Black Mass.”

Die at 75? Speaking of, the site also features the headline, “ObamaCare Creator: Die at 75!” The article is by Ben Shapiro. The person in question, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, does write for the Atlantic (as Shapiro acknowledges), “I am not saying that those who want to live as long as possible are unethical or wrong.”

Beauprez on Abortion: As Jason Salzman reports, Colorado candidate for governor Bob Beauprez has gone from supporting “personhood” for zygotes to telling the Denver Post, “Nobody’s taking that [the right to get an abortion] away—that’s a false argument. That’s the law of the land. Some like me are personally pro-life, but I’m not going to deny what the law provides you.”

Climate Change: Climatologist Judith Curry claims that “evidence reported by the IPCC AR5 weakens the case for human factors dominating climate change in the 20th and early 21st centuries.” She discusses the “weak linkages between anthropogenic climate change and extreme weather, and the importance of natural climate variability.” Hat tip to Amanda Maxham of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Fibs: Sean Davis of the Federalist offers credible evidence that Neil deGrasse Tyson has made up a few of the quotes he’s used to mock people regarding their ignorance of math and science. This is interesting, and Tyson should check the accuracy of his quotes, but I think Davis is making too much out of the issue. My opinion about Tyson has changed 360 degrees (see the article for the reference).

Scotland, Ebola, and More: News Roundup for 9/19/14

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

Scotland Stays: “Voters in Scotland have rejected independence, but leaders of Britain’s three largest parties have promised Scots more autonomy than they have won so far,” the Associated Press reports. I don’t have a good sense of what “autonomy” means in this context, but here’s a clue: Scotland may gain “the power to raise taxes if necessary to protect the National Health Service in Scotland.”

Ebola: Here’s an indication of one reason the Ebola crisis is spinning out of control: “At least eight Ebola aid workers and journalists were reportedly murdered and dumped in a latrine in a remote village in Guinea in a frightening example of the growing distrust locals have of foreigners coming to help stem the mushrooming health crisis,” Fox News reports.

Voter Fraud? If you try to ensure that voters aren’t voting fraudulently, obviously you’re a racist, or at least so charge the critics of Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Fossil Fuels: Read the first chapter of Alex Epstein’s book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

Apple Security: Apple says it’s not “technically feasible” for the company to hand over their clients’ personal data to law enforcement, which has some police-state advocates in a tussle. Read the Fox News report.

Citizens United in CO: Read my Objective Standard essay about Citizens United’s fight for free speech (specifically, anonymous speech) in Colorado.

Iranian Fascism: In Iran, a “group of six young Iranians . . . were arrested in May for dancing to Pharrell Williams’ hit song ‘Happy.'” “[A]n Iranian court sentenced five of them to 6 months in prison and 91 lashes each, while another was sentenced to one year in prison and 91 lashes. . . . The sentences, however, are “‘suspended’ for three years, which means the six will remain free unless they are found guilty of a similar offense”; see the Mashable write-up.

Al Qaeda in Syria: “A group of Al Qaeda fighters in Syria [the Khorasan Group] is emerging as a rival terror threat to the Islamic State,” Fox News reports. So wait a minute. . . which rebels are we supposed to be arming, again?

Multiculturalism: As Walter Williams reports, several European leaders are coming to grips with the fact that multiculturalism is a failure. “The bottom line is that much of the Muslim world is at war with Western civilization,” Williams writes.

Global Jihad and More: News Roundup for 9/18/14

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

Australia Jihad: “Australian counterterrorism forces detained 15 people Thursday in a series of suburban raids after receiving intelligence that the Islamic State movement was planning public beheadings in two Australian cities to demonstrate its reach,” Fox New reports.

Colorado Jihad: In her latest op-ed, Michelle Malkin discusses a couple women from Colorado who joined Islamic terrorist groups, and several more jihadists with Colorado ties. Frightening.

British Jihad: Stacey Dooley filmed a group of Muslims parading down the streets of a British town (Luton), calling for the implementation of sharia law and hoping for British police officers to burn in hell for their counter-terrorism efforts.

In other news:

Climate March: Alex Epstein responds to the upcoming “climate march” in his Forbes article, “Six Reasons Why the United Nations Should Not Intervene on Fossil Fuel Use (A Response to the Misguided People’s Climate March).” He summarizes, “Proposed bans on fossil fuel use would make billions live shorter, less prosperously, and with worse environments.”

Abolish the ATF? “Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has introduced legislation to eliminate the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives” and “dissolve the duties of ATF to the FBI and DEA,” reports. Sounds like a great idea to me.

Nuclear Scotland: According to Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation, “The UK’s entire nuclear deterrent is based in Scotland, and all Britain’s nuclear bases and warheads will have to be moved out of the country” if Scotland votes for independence.

YouTube Millionaire: Business Insider reports, “This 8-Year-Old [Evan] Makes $1.3 Million A Year By Posting YouTube Videos.” He has help from his dad.



Beauprez Leads, OODA Loop, and More: News Roundup for 9/17/14

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

Beauprez Leads: My previous prediction of Bob Beauprez’s political demise seems to have been wrong. Beauprez, Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, now leads incumbent John Hickenlooper by ten points—at least if you believe the latest Quinnipiac University Poll. See the Denver Post‘s report (hat tip to Complete Colorado). This may be a bad year for Democrats.

Boots on the Ground? Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Geneneral Martin Dempsey said “that almost half of Iraq’s army is incapable of working against the Islamic State militant group, while the other half needs to be rebuilt with the help of U.S. advisers and military equipment,” Fox News reports. He is also “open to U.S. ground troops fighting ISIS,” the Week reports.

Another American Jihadist: “A Rochester, New York, man has been indicted on charges of trying to provide material support to the Islamic State militant group and attempting to murder U.S. soldiers,” Reuters reports.

Islamist Turkey? “Erdogan’s new Turkey requires all students to study the Qur’an,” Jihad Watch reports.

Space Ferries: NASA awarded “$6.6 billion worth of contracts to two different companies [Boeing and SpaceX] that will transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station,” the Week reports.

Skeptic Blog: Michael Shermer’s Skeptic has a new blog out called Insight.

Zubrin vs. Climate Alarmists: Bob Zubrin, the iconoclastic scientists who advocates sending humans to Mars and who now works in the energy industry, has out three new articles arguing that CO2 emissions are good and that environmentalism is bad. See Zubrin’s “Carbon Emissions Are Good,” “The New Holocaust Deniers,” and “Debating Phil Cafaro.”

Paranoia about Kids: As Reason relates, Child Protective Services of Texas harassed a woman and her son because the son was playing outdoors near his home. One of these idiot bureaucrats told the woman, “You just don’t let them play outside.” Sheesh.

Concrete: Concrete is a vastly underappreciated part of modern life, I point out in my recent Objective Standard article.

Unhappy Doctors: “Only 6 percent of doctors are happy with their jobs,” reports John Goodman for the Independent Institute. What, you mean turning doctors into stooges for bureaucrats doesn’t promote job satisfaction?

Poverty: Robert Rector argues, “The War on Poverty Has Been a Colossal Flop.” He writes, “Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.”

John Boyd: My dad uses Boyd’s OODA Loop—Observe, Orient, Decide, Act—in his self-defense training. Now the Art of Manliness has an article out about it. If you can wade through the enormous amount of nonsense philosophy in the article, you can pick up some good tips about preparing for and engaging in conflicts. From the article: “[W]hen it comes to winning a competition or conflict, our actions need to be surprising, ambiguous, and varying; speeding up and slowing down your actions quickly and irregularly can create confusion.”

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.