The following articles were authored by ariarm

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.

W. Earl Allen Died Doing What He Loved

earl-allen-1W. Earl Allen, long a libertarian activist in Colorado, died August 9 in a plane crash. The Denver Post reports, “A Broomfield flight instructor and his student died Saturday when the small plane they were flying crashed near Steamboat Springs. Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg identified the two as William Earl Allen, 62, and a flying student, Terry Lynn Stewart, 60, of Houston.” This is devastating news to the many people who knew and loved Earl.

Of those aspects of his life with which I was familiar, three of Earl’s loves stand out: His love of liberty, his love of flying, and his love of public speaking. I knew him from his political activism. In answering a survey a couple years ago, Earl said he read Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose when he was a college teacher, and he owns “three copies of Atlas Shrugged, one of which is falling apart at the seams due to overuse.”

Earl promoted a free-market in health care while at a 2010 rally (see the 2:55 mark in the video). In 2009, he joined me and other activists to protest legal restrictions on beer sales. Following is a photograph from that event; Earl is at left, with Amanda Muell, Justin Longo, Dave Williams, and me.

Regarding his flying, Earl was featured in a 2011 student video about his career as a flight instructor.

Earl’s death is a great loss to his family, his friends, and his fellow advocates of liberty.

August 13 Update: I just received an email from Earl’s wife with the following notice: “William Earl (Earl) Allen was born on March 18, 1952 in Provo, Utah and passed away on August 9, 2014 in Routt County, CO at the age of 62. He is survived by his wife Maralyn Mencarini; his mother Donna Sharp (Norman); siblings Edward (Madalyn), Eric (Ying), Esther (Nathaniel), and Evan (Rachel); eight nieces and nephews; and six great-nieces and nephews. . . . As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made at to the EAA Young Eagles Program.”

Check Out Rational Beacon

Rational Beacon was founded by Ari Armstrong on July 29, 2014, to publishing mini-posts on the news and views of the day and to advocate reason and individual rights.” Check it out!

Would Gessler Have Won the GOP Primary with Approval Voting?

gesslerOn Tuesday Colorado Republicans selected Bob Beauprez to run for governor—again. Queue “both ways Bob,” queue the “war on women.” (I doubt the Democrats will make much of Beauprez’s 2007 support for an insurance mandate, or his 2000 support for anti-gun laws.) I predict that he will lose—again (this time to John Hickenlooper, the incumbent). (This is no courageous prediction; I don’t think any of the candidates would have been able to beat Hickenlooper, despite his mishandling of the gun issue. I could be wrong, of course; general antipathy toward Democrats this time around could swing the governor’s race.)

What’s interesting about the primary vote is that four strong candidates split the vote relatively evenly. With 98 percent of the votes reported, the Denver Post offers the following results:

  • Bob Beauprez: 30.3%
  • Tom Tancredo: 26.6%
  • Scott Gessler: 23.2%
  • Mike Kopp: 19.8%

In other words, fewer than a third of Colorado Republican primary voters, or a little over 111,000 people (in a state with a population of around 5.3 million people), cast a vote for Beauprez—hardly a popular uprising.

Consider what might have happened under approval voting. The basics of approval voting are straightforward: Each voter gets to vote for as many candidates as he or she “approves” of. The candidate with the most votes wins. For example, if I had voted in this primary under approval voting, I would have cast a vote for both Gessler and Tancredo (despite my deep disagreements with the latter).

Although it’s quite possible that Beauprez would have won under approval voting as well, I think there’s a good chance Gessler would have won.

Here’s my reasoning. Beauprez is the milquetoast, establishment candidate, and I think a lot of people voted for him just because he’s tall and grandfatherly, he has congressional experience, and he’s not as ornery as Gessler (a quality of Gessler’s I find appealing) or as weighed down by baggage as Tancredo. (Kopp was never a leading candidate, despite his incessant YouTube ads.) I think that, under approval voting, many people who voted for Beauprez also would have voted for Gessler. I think that many people who voted for Tancredo also would have voted for Kopp, and vice versa, but that many people who voted for those candidates also would have voted for Gessler as their second choice.  And I think that a disproportionate number of people who voted for Gessler would have voted for a single candidate. In this scenario, Gessler may well have pulled ahead.

Of course, there’s no way to know for sure. The only thing we can know for sure at this point is that fewer than a third of Republican voters cast a vote for the Republican nominee for governor, and that doesn’t give me much confidence that the outcome accurately reflects voters’ preferences.

Those who have a different guess as to what the outcome would have been under approval voting are welcome to explain their reasoning in the comments.

Incidentally, Mike Dunafon is also running for governor, as an independent (and I may well vote for him), and there’s also a Libertarian in the race. Although Hick might get more than half of the total votes, he may well win with Beauprez and Dunafon (and the Libertarian) combined earning more than half the votes. If that happens, I will take the opportunity to write yet another post about the benefits of approval voting.

Where Is Dave Brat’s Paper on Ayn Rand?

dave-brat-297x300Recently I wrote a blog post for TOS Blog about Dave Brat’s views (specifically, I compared and contrasted his views and those of Ayn Rand).

In that post, I quote from a summary of a 2010 paper coauthored by Brat about Rand. That four-page summary is available through Southwest Informs, under “2010 Proceedings,” “Papers Listed by Track.” (The summary was not available there until June 11, when I contacted the organization and its representatives made it available.) Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate the full paper.

Lynn Stuart Parramore also went looking for the paper:

We tried to find that paper, which was “presented and published in the proceedings of Southeast Informs, Myrtle Beach, SC, October 6, 2010,” but that publishing venue evidently doesn’t quite make the cut for Google scholar and JSTOR, so we can only guess at its contents.

But Parramore’s remarks are imprecise. Whereas Brat’s college page claims the 2010 paper was “published in the proceedings of Southeast Informs,” the paper was not actually made publicly available. When I asked Ali Nazemi of Southeast Informs if the organization has the full paper, he replied (in a June 11 email), “That [the summary] is all we have. The authors may have the full paper and may have tried to get it published in a journal.”

I have contacted Brat via email, both through his campaign and his college email address, but as of yet I have had no reply. Obviously I’m interested in reading the paper, and when and if I get my hands on it I’ll write about its contents.

The “Common Core” Subtraction Technique Caleb Bonham Criticizes is Actually Useful

I’m a fan of Caleb Bonham’s work. However, in his recent video on Common Core, he gets a little off-track. The subject is a technique for subtracting one number from another. Bonham claims the technique in question was imposed by a Common Core curriculum and that it is overly complicated. In fact, the technique is very old and very useful. The fact that a Common Core program happens to use it is no cause to damn it.

As Bonham explains, the traditional solution to the problem, thirty-two minus twelve, is to first subtract “two minus two” in the “ones” column, then subtract “three minus one” in the “tens” column, for the correct answer of twenty.

The approach used by Common Core, by contrast, asks a student to see the following:

32 – 12 = ?
12 + 3 = 15
15 + 5 = 20
20 + 10 = 30
30 + 2 = 32
The sum of the 3, 5, 10, and 2 is 20.

Bonham thinks this approach is overly complicated, and, in some situations, he’s right. But the approach indicated is, in fact, how I often do subtraction problems in my head (except that in this case I’d jump straight from twelve to twenty, and so get eight plus ten plus two), and it’s a perfectly legitimate approach. It is also an approach that helps students reach a conceptual-level understanding of addition and subtraction, rather than merely learn rules of subtraction by rote.

Of course, in this case, because we’re dealing with two, two-digit numbers that end in the same digit, adults and more-advanced students can easily see that the difference between the numbers is some increment of ten (in this case twenty). But what to do in other cases?

To illustrate the advantage of the approach given, consider the problem thirty-one minus twelve. In this case, the rule-based approach requires that a student “borrow” from the three. It’s much easier to solve the problem in your head by saying, “eight plus ten plus one equals nineteen.”

Or consider the problem seventy-three minus twenty-eight. A good way to do this problem in your head is to think, “To go from twenty-eight to thirty I need to add two; to go from thirty to seventy I need to add forty; to go from seventy to seventy-three I need to add three. The total is forty-five.” There are other good ways to find the answer, of course, but, for me, the way I described is the easiest way to do it in your head.

The broader lesson here is that, just because something is associated with Common Core, doesn’t mean its bad.

Update: I’ve also written about a vague, nonsensical problem from a Common Core-approved test.

An Open Reply to a Pharmacist Regarding Prescription Drug Monitoring

600px-Ritalin-SR-20mg-1000x1000Last month I wrote an op-ed and a follow-up blog post critical of a proposal to expand Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program. I pointed out (among other things) that the program was promoted and financed largely by federal law enforcement; that law enforcement agents can access the information in the database (by warrant) for purposes of pursuing criminal investigations; that the program does little to curb drug abuse, in part because drug abusers easily can switch to different drugs, and in part because some drug abusers steal their drugs (or, I’ll add here, buy them on the black market); and that the proposal seeks to force doctors (and other prescribers) to register with the database.

My main point was that it is not the government’s proper role to save drug addicts from their own dangerous behavior—particularly given the government’s actions in this area inevitably make it harder for some people to obtain the drugs they desperately need to manage their excruciating pain.

On March 31, someone who identified himself only as “John” replied to my web page:

Ari, hello. My name is John and I am a retail pharmacist. I rely heavily on our prescription monitoring program here in Nevada. As pharmacists, we use it to make sure people are not filling multiple controlled substance prescriptions at different pharmacies, using multiple doctors for controlled substances, and that they are not misusing or abusing controlled substances. This tool has prevented abuse and diversion in our state and is a very useful tool. Also, to stress an important point, a good pharmacist understands true pain (cancer) and always strives to take compassionate care of the patient.

Following is my open reply:

Dear John,

As a pharmacist, you are undoubtedly a smart fellow; you must realize, therefore, that you have not actually responded to any of the observations or arguments I make in my op-ed and related post.

I have no doubt that the monitoring programs set up by the governments of various states prevent some drug addicts from obtaining certain drugs from certain sources. (Whether it substantially prevents drug addicts from abusing drugs, on the other hand, is extremely doubtful.) My primary philosophical objection is that it is not the government’s proper role to address or prevent the problem of drug abuse; rather, it is to protect people’s rights, including the rights of consenting adults to contract freely. Although a full defense of that position lies outside the scope of this short letter, I will note here that there are other—and much better—ways to help drug addicts with their problems.

I will also note here that my criticisms of government-run drug prescription drug monitoring programs (run largely at the behest of federal law enforcement agents) do not constitute reasons to prohibit doctors and pharmacists from independently sharing certain information about potentially dangerous situations. And of course nothing in my position implies that reckless doctors should be free from civil and even (if circumstances warrant) criminal liability.

As a pharmacist, your ability to “take compassionate care of the patient” is inherently limited. After all, you are not legally authorized to diagnose any disease or to write drug prescriptions. Thus, there is no case in which you can actually expand the delivery of pain medications to the patients who desperately need them. Your actions can have one and only one effect in this regard: to block or delay such delivery.

Of course, your actions might also have the effect of subjecting the doctors and other medical professionals, who are legally authorized to write drug prescriptions, to the actions of federal and state law enforcement agents. Those agents, in turn, have the power in some cases to arrest doctors and to help other government agents prosecute doctors or strip them of their ability to practice medicine.

As a pharmacist, John, you are not in any danger of having your power stripped to write drug prescriptions (as you have no such power) or of being prosecuted for writing drug prescriptions (as you do not write any). You are, however, quite capable of assisting federal and state drug enforcement agents create a climate of fear and intimidation among those who do write drug prescriptions, such that, on balance, those who prescribe drugs tend to err on the side of legal precaution and not help people coping with excruciating pain obtain the drugs they desperately need. Such a result is possible—and I think likely—even assuming (as I’m sure is the case) that most uses of the monitoring program do not involve law enforcement. And the more the program is expanded, the more substantial will be its effects in this regard.

In using the monitoring program, you act primarily on guesswork and speculation. Consider the activities that you regard as inherently suspicious: people “filling multiple controlled substance prescriptions at different pharmacies” and “using multiple doctors for controlled substances.”

Again, I do not doubt that such behavior describes some drug addicts. But I also do not doubt that such behavior also describes some people coping with excruciating pain due to cancer or other serious diseases.

Consider that cancer patients and others coping with serious illnesses typically see multiple doctors in multiple locations to manage their diseases. They also typically use different types of pain medications concurrently to cope with their diseases. Moreover, cancer patients often end up leaving their jobs, moving to a different location, and switching their insurance companies—developments that can result in them seeing more doctors in more locations. Add to this the fact that people suffering from a variety of diseases often require supplemental surgeries—surgeries that initially cause enormous pain and that involve yet more medical facilities. For all these reasons, people coping with such diseases very often get multiple drug prescriptions, written by multiple doctors, filled at multiple pharmacies—the very behaviors that you claim to “make sure” to treat as suspicious.

As a pharmacist, John, you typically lack access to the pertinent information about such patients, and when you lack such information you cannot possibly “take compassionate care” of them. With respect to such patients, your actions can have one and only one result: to make it harder for them to obtain the pain medications they so desperately need.

I will thus repeat here what I wrote at the outset: “the answer is not for the government to monitor and harass people who suffer from devastating pain—and make it harder for them to manage their pain—in a misguided attempt to save drug abusers from themselves.”

Sincerely, Ari Armstrong

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Real Story of Caprock Academy

Caprock AcademyA student at Caprock Academy of Grand Junction, Colorado, shaved her head to show solidarity with a friend fighting cancer. On that part of the story, everyone agrees.

Then, as the story goes in many popular accounts, the school callously kicked the student out of school, relenting only after media exposure and nationwide outrage forced it to. That part of the story is false.

Those interested in the real story—and that seems to be very few people indeed—may read on. Part of the real story is how irresponsible reporting fed a despicable witch hunt.

True, part of the real story is how a young charter school wrote an ill-planned dress and hair code and then substantially botched a public-relations crisis.

Let us begin with Caprock’s rules. Caprock has an extensive and rigorous dress code. It states, for example, “Clothing should not be excessively tight, or body hugging.” Although the school doesn’t require official uniforms, it does require uniform dress, specifying even the color and type of clothing that may be worn at school. The section on hair reads:

Ladies’ Hair: Should be neatly combed or styled. No shaved heads. Hair accessories must be red, white, navy, black or brown. Neat barrettes, headbands and “scrunchies” are permissible. Hair should not be arranged or colored so as to draw undue attention to the student. Hair must be natural looking and conservative in its color. Radical changes in hair color during the school year are unacceptable.

Personally I think this is overly demanding; if a girl wants to die her hair bright orange, I have no problem with that. But it’s not my school, and, within reason and within Constitutional limits (it is a government-funded school, after all), I think Caprock should be able to formulate its own policies.

The intent behind the “no shaved heads” rule seems to be to prevent shocking or gang-like behavior. Surely I do do not need to point out that head shaving is also part of the ritualistic practices of some very nasty sorts of people (hence the term “skin heads”).

But the rule does not adequately take into account the fact that people can shave their heads for perfectly reasonable reasons—as to undergo cancer treatment or to support a friend with cancer.

The rule book does take this into account to a degree. The rules (of which I have a copy) explicitly mention the concern with gangs—and they also explicitly allow for “medical or religious” exemptions:

Apparel advertising tobacco, alcohol, illegal substances, and/or offensive slogans are not acceptable attire at school- sponsored activities. Clothes making statements with sexual innuendoes are not allowed. The wearing of clothing, jewelry, or a style of grooming that is identified with membership in a gang will not be tolerated in school or at any school-sponsored activity. Apparel that interferes with or endangers self or others while participating in school or school sponsored-activities is not allowed. Dress will not be worn that causes or is likely to cause disruption of the educational process. The final decision as to the safety or unsuitability of the clothing, hair or jewelry will be left up to the Deans of Students. Anyone who cannot follow the dress code for medical or religious reasons should contact the Headmaster.

As has been correctly reported, the school issued a waiver to the student in question on precisely these grounds. The problem is that the rule’s default position is to allow no shaved heads; the default position should be that a “religious or medical” condition is presumed in cases of shaved heads (I mean, it’s not like there’s a racist “skin head” problem among young Grand Junction girls). The school should change its rules to explicitly allow for religious and medical exceptions, sans waiver. [March 27 Update: After more consideration, I think the school should add the following line to its rules: "Exceptions to this dress code may be made for bonafide religious, medical, or humanitarian reasons, as evaluated by the headmaster, acting headmaster, or school administrators."]

It might come as a surprise to many reading about the story to learn that the mother of the student in question is quite supportive of Caprock—although she sensibly argues the school should tweak its rules. Yesterday that woman, Jamie Renfro, posted the following on Facebook:

I would just like to say, from the bottom of our hearts…thank you! We never expected any of the support that we have received regarding Kamryn and Delaney. We are pleased with the decision that our school made to let Kamryn back in school today. She got up, got ready, and held her head high as she walked into her classroom this morning. To say her dad and I are proud, is a total understatement. Nate and I are so humbled from the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and strangers. Our goal was just to get the shaved head policy at Kamryn’s school revised, and let her back in the classroom. That goal is on it’s way to being reached, with a meeting by the board being held this evening, as well as an invitation for Kamryn to return to school today. At no point during this ordeal was Kamryn’s school not supportive of her decision, nor show compassion…they just made a decision to enforce their dress code, which we were asking to be changed. They responded to all of our requests, and have treated us with nothing but respect the whole time. Now that we have seen just how much 2 little girls can change the world and touch so many hearts, we are asking for all of this attention to embrace awareness of childhood cancer. There are so many blessings that have come to light for our family the past couple of days, and we would like to use this as a platform, along with our best of friends…Delaney and Wendy, to remind everyone that Delaney is still in the fight of her life, and needs as much love, support and prayers as she can get. Thank you! Love, prayers, and hugs from the Renfro’s

Contrary to various media reports, at no point did Caprock try to deny the student a waiver. [January 27 Update: On Sunday, March 23, Jamie Renfro claimed that "the school" forbade her daughter to return to school until she grew her hair out. It is unclear to me whom Renfro contacted or what those parties discussed. On Monday the school's administrators announced the exemption hearing; it is unclear to me when precisely they reached the decision to hold a hearing. See the notes below.] Indeed, as Renfro points out, the school was consistently supportive of the student. What the school did do is follow its stated policies and pursue a waiver.

Following is the statement that Caprock sent out March 24:

It has come to our attention that reports have been circulating concerning a Caprock Academy student who has shaved her head to show solidarity with a friend who is fighting cancer. Caprock Academy does have a detailed dress code policy, which was created to promote safety, uniformity, and a non-distracting environment for the school’s students. Under this policy, shaved heads are not permitted. Exceptions, however, are sometimes made under exigent and extraordinary circumstances. While we cannot discuss the specifics of this situation, the Caprock Academy Board of Directors is calling a special meeting March 25, 2014, at 6:00 PM. The Board is expected to discuss this matter in executive session (discussions concerning individual students are conducted in executive session). We expect the Board will vote regarding a waiver of the policy following that executive session.

Catherine M. Norton Breman,
President and Chair of
Caprock Academy, Board of Directors

Although inanrtful, Breman’s remarks distinctly point to the waiver process already underway.

Unfortunately, various “journalists” quoted Breman out of context.

For example, a New York Daily News story from yesterday quoted included only this much: “In a statement released Monday, administrators said ‘shaved heads are not permitted.’” Okay, but the statement also discusses the exception waiver. Such “creative editing” is simply bad journalism. (The News‘s opening paragraph also wrongly implies that the school relented only in response to national outrage.)

Likewise, a story in USA Today quotes only part of Breman’s remarks, ignoring the part about the exception process already underway.

There is a lesson here for consumers of media: Do not assume that the story told by newspaper is the complete (or even an accurate) story, even if it appears in one of the most prestigious papers in the world. It is said that “half the truth is a great lie,” and the reporters for the New York Daily News and USA Today (among others) told only half the truth.

Thankfully, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel has been basically responsible in its reporting; see a first and second article there.

It is worth relating Caprock’s second statement, released yesterday:

Compassion and selfless acts of courage are to be commended and encouraged – in children and in adults -and we apologize that our policies and following our process for exceptions to those policies has, in any way, suggested that supporting any one’s but particularly a child’s, brave fight against cancer is anything less than an extraordinary cause worthy of our highest regard.

The Caprock Academy Board of Directors held a special meeting tonight to discuss a waiver to the dress code policy per the parents’ request. The Caprock Academy Board of Directors voted to approve the waiver to the dress code policy.

Although Caprock needs to tweak its policies, nothing the school did justifies the seething rage directed at the school by swarms of social media personalities. Some people literally called the school to threaten its teachers and the teachers’ children. Such behavior is reprehensible. Shame on the people conducting themselves in such a way, and shame on the “journalists” who are irresponsibly fanning the flames of this witch hunt.

To summarize, Caprock acted within the constraints of its written policies to expeditiously grant an exception to the girl who shaved her head for a good cause. This incident illustrates the need for Caprock to tweak its policies so that, in religious or medical cases, a waiver is not required. That is obvious.

Unlike almost all of the critics of Caprock, I actually know something about the school. Someone I know teaches there, and my nephew goes there. I have been to his basketball games at the school. I have seen his hand-written letters and heard his reviews of his classroom exercises that assure me he is getting a good-quality education.

Caprock certainly deserves criticism over its ill-thought-out rules, and it should fix its rules as quickly as possible. Caprock also deserves praise for acting quickly to grant an exception to its big-hearted student and for offering an exceptional-quality education to its students. As always, a sense of context goes a long way.

5:22 pm Update: As the Denver Post notes, the girl with cancer at the base of this story, Delaney Clements, is receiving care at Children’s Hospital. That facility has treated a number of children whom I personally know, and it is excellent. Please donate now.

Interviews from the Independence Institute’s Founders’ Night Banquet

I attended the Independence Institute’s 2014 Founders’ night banquet March 6 and filmed some interviews. Here they are:

The Problems with Prescription Drug Monitoring

Yesterday the Greeley Tribune published my article, “Prescription Drug Monitoring Punishes the Responsible for the Sake of the Irresponsible,” written for the Independence Institute. That article begins:

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem, sometimes a fatal one. But the answer is not for the government to monitor and harass people who suffer from devastating pain — and make it harder for them to manage their pain — in a misguided attempt to save drug abusers from themselves. Unfortunately, that is precisely the effect of House Bill 1283, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann of Denver.

Here I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer more details about the program and my research of it.

Health Information Designs

One interesting fact about the Colorado database that tracks (some) prescription drug use is that it is operated by a limited-liability corporation, Health Information Designs (HID).

Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) links users directly to HID for information about the Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Interestingly (or perhaps disturbingly), HID originally went into business producing “data mining software” for prescription drugs.

So let us clarify what’s going on here. The Colorado government encourages doctors and pharmacies to enter patients’ personal medical information into a central database, run by a for-profit corporation, and this information is available to a wide range of medical professionals—whether or not patients wish their records to be so distributed—and to law enforcement agents who obtain a warrant to see the records.

One thing McCann wants to do is force all prescribing doctors and pharmacies to register with the database. McCann’s bill would not force prescribing doctors and pharmacies to actually use the register, but does anyone seriously doubt that’s the Drug Enforcement Administration’s eventual aim? The goal here is for Big Brother to be able to monitor every individual’s use of prescription drugs, every doctor’s prescriptions, and every pharmacy’s drug sales. And, of course, the government wants to subject violators of the (ambiguous) prescription laws to penalties, including the penalty of getting locked in a metal cage.

The Funding for the PDMP

Tellingly, the Colorado PDMP, launched in 2005, got its primary funding from the U.S. Department of Justice—of which the DEA is an agency.

The legislator’s fiscal note for 2005 House Bill 1130 states the following:

The bill is assessed at having a conditional fiscal impact of $547,156 . . . in its first year of implementation and $271,484 . . . in its second year of implementation. . . . During the current fiscal year, the Department of Regulatory Agencies has received a $50,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant in support of the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. . . . Additionally, the federal government will make a $350,000 grant available to implement the program once statutorily authorized.

I do not have complete funding details about the program. However, it is apparent that the program is driven primarily by federal law enforcement.

News Sources

I relied on several news reports in conducting my research. 9News published a story about McCann’s current bill. Eli Stokol’s pathetic excuse for journalism on this matter essentially uncritically relates McCann’s talking points, without bothering to raise a single critical question. Hopefully in the future Stokol will take his role as a journalist more seriously and set a higher bar for himself than legislative lapdog.

Over at the Denver Post, I found Felisa Cardona’s 2011 story about the legislature’s renewal of the PDMP that year as well as Michael Booth’s 2012 story about DEA complains of low registry use.

Drug Substitution

As I point out in my op-ed, drug abusers who have a harder time getting one type of drug often switch to another type. My claim is supported by a recent news story from the Washington Post (republished by the Denver Post).

[T]he U.S. government’s decade-long crackdown on abuse of prescription drugs has run an unsettling risk: that arresting doctors and shuttering “pill mills” would inadvertently fuel a new epidemic of heroin use. . . . [A]t the same time that some pain medications have become less available on the street and pricier, many users have switched to cheaper heroin, since prescription pills and heroin are in the same class of drugs and provide a comparable euphoric high.

It should go without saying—but, in today’s political climate not even the most obvious facts may go without saying—that substituting street heroin addictions and deaths for prescription drug addictions and deaths is no great victory.

Drug Thefts

I cut the following line from my op-ed due to space restraints, but it’s an interesting detail: “In testifying in favor of McCann’s bill, Robert Valuck from the University of Colorado offered the example of a woman who robbed a pharmacy at gunpoint—but the expanded registry would promote rather than deter thefts of prescription drugs.” Valuck’s claim is included in 9News’s video, not in Stokol’s written account.

The Magnitude of Prescription Drug Deaths

In my op-ed, I claim that McCann apparently overstated the magnitude of deaths related to prescription drugs. Specifically, she said, ““More people actually die from prescription drug overdose than from traffic accidents.”

I have an email out to McCann asking for her sources, so perhaps she’ll send me something I have not yet considered. However, based on the sources I’ve been able to find so far, McCann’s claim seems not to have support.

This past October, an outfit called Trust for America’s Health published a report, “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic.” (Likening a volitional behavior—drug abuse—to an infectious disease is epistemologically and morally offensive, but I’ll leave that topic for another day.)

That report does not state that prescription drugs are responsible for more deaths than are traffic accidents. Instead, the report claims that “[p]rescription painkillers are responsible for more than 16,000 deaths” per year. The number of motor vehicle deaths exceed 30,000 each year.

Regarding traffic fatalities, the report makes a different claim: “Drug poisoning deaths—the majority of which are related to prescription drugs—surpassed traffic-related crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the United States in 2009.”

My guess is that McCann misstated this report’s (or a derivative report’s) findings.

(I also saw that Dr. Joseph Mercola makes a broad statement about prescription drug deaths surpassing auto deaths, but, if you trace back his links, you find that the statistic pertains only to Ohio. I have not traced the claim beyond a 2011 New York Times story.)

The best statistics I’ve found about the problem of prescription drug abuse are provided by the Centers for Disease Control, which report, “In 2008, drug overdoses in the United States caused 36,450 deaths. OPR [opioid pain relievers] were involved in 14,800 deaths (73.8%) of the 20,044 prescription drug overdose deaths.” (In many cases a death involves the mixing of various types of drugs.)

Of course, as the CDC also report, most people who intentionally kill themselves by overdosing on drugs use prescription drugs for the purpose. But the monitoring program will not pick up one-time drug purchases among suicidal people, nor will it prevent suicidal people from substituting one method of suicide for another.


I have known people who have died from terminal cancer. I know people now dealing with the agonizing pain caused by late-stage cancer and other diseases. The simple fact is that more people with serious injuries and diseases will suffer more pain because of the government’s crackdown on prescription drugs—all to save irresponsible drug abusers from their own poor choices. That policy is morally wrong.

Image of Beth McCann: Wikimedia Commons

Smoking Bans: Private vs. Government Property

Recently a reporter contacted me regarding smoking bans. She did not use my comments in her story, so I’m pleased to make them available here:

I am opposed to smoking bans on private property in general, at every level of government.

When government restricts smoking on private property, including in restaurants and the like (even if “open to the public”), government violates people’s rights to control their property and associate freely with others. Restaurants and other establishments have a moral right to allow smoking in their establishments or to ban it—and their potential customers have a moral right to decide whether to seek to do business at any given establishment. If you don’t want the smoke, don’t go. There’s no such thing as a “right” to use another’s property against that person’s consent. That said, given historical trends of reduced smoking, absent a ban many establishments would have voluntarily banned smoking long ago. (I personally hate smoking and would go out of my way to find smoke-free establishments.)

To give you an indication of how smoking bans violate civil liberties, consider that some bans prevent people from smoking on stage, in the course of presenting a work of art, and hence violate rights of free speech and expression. Moreover, the First Amendment recognizes “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”—but smokers are often denied this right.

Smoking bans regarding government property are more complex. Government may legitimately ban smoking in government buildings and tight public spaces, such as court houses. Government has no good reason to ban smoking in open outdoor spaces controlled by the government, such as sidewalks. As to what government property ought to be converted to private property, that is a broader subject for another day.

Regarding campuses, the fundamental problem is that many campuses are government controlled. Private colleges—like all private establishments—have a moral right to allow, restrict, or ban smoking, at their discretion. Regarding government-controlled campuses, often there is no clear way to protect everyone’s rights—quite simply because government controlling a college campus inherently violates people’s rights, primarily by forcibly seizing people’s wealth. When government does control a college campus, the best the government in control can do is seek to draw up rules that balance different people’s interests while not horribly trampling the Bill of Rights. To my mind, colleges can reasonably ban smoking inside, but not outside. If a college wants the ability to ban smoking everywhere, it should first stop violating people’s rights, stop collecting people’s money seized by force, and become a private institution.

Image: Van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons

My Smart TV Odyssey

After not owning a television for nearly a decade and a half, my wife and I recently purchased one. My conclusion is that the “smart” technology in so-called smart TVs is totally worthless, although modern TVs are otherwise amazing machines. Perhaps my notes will help other consumers pick out a television system that works for them.

My New TV

I first bought a Vizio 40-inch “smart” TV at Costco. But where was the web browser? The whole point of having a “smart” TV is to access the internet, right? Apparently not. Apparently the purpose of a “smart” TV is to screw its owner with special rip-off “deals.” Not only did the Vizio not offer a web browser, it did not offer the ability to download one (at least so far as I could figure out).

So I returned the Vizio and got a Samsung, because it specifically said it offered a web browser. The problem is, its web browser sucks. The first thing I looked up is Hulu, as my wife and I watch Hulu shows, and of course that web page was blocked. Apparently I was supposed to pay an extra fee every month to watch “Hulu Plus,” which I had no intention of doing.

Moreover, the web browser was almost impossible to use, even for those pages that weren’t blocked. I bought an HP keyboard with a Bluetooth plug that worked great—except the web browser is so clunky that using it with a keyboard was still a major hassle.

Despite my dissatisfaction with Samsung’s idiotic “smart” technology, we decided to keep the TV, because we doubted we could do better with a replacement. At least it works great as a TV—its picture is amazing (as was the picture of the Vizio).

So now we have a “smart” TV that I’m using as a dumb TV, because the “smart” technology is too stupidly designed to function well.

Rather than use the TV’s “smart” technology, I just hooked my laptop up to it. Through the laptop, I can play DVDs, watch Hulu and Netflix, and watch personal videos.

I thought the TV would readily feed the laptop’s sound through to our soundbar, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. So I just plugged the laptop’s audio directly into the soundbar, and that works great.

The Amazing Flatwave Antenna

One of the reasons I wanted a TV was to watch locally broadcast sports games. You don’t need cable for that. Instead, I bought a Flatwave antenna from Costco for around forty bucks, and it works spectacularly well. It easily hooked up to the Samsung (through the cable jack), and the Samsung readily searched for available channels—of which we have over fifty.

I remember my step-dad trying to adjust our “rabbit ears” to bring in a show, and that rarely worked well. But this new little antenna is amazing (at least in my metro area). I highly recommend it.

The Awesome Vizio Soundbar

I also bought a lower-end Vizio soundbar (with a woofer), and it works great. Not only does it pick up fantastic audio from the Samsung via the Flatwave antenna, it offers additional in-jacks for the laptop, and it also has Bluetooth connectivity. (So I’m actually using a mobile device for music.)

This is another great product. It took me a while to figure out how to change the input source, but once I did that I loved the product.

The upshot is that, for a few hundred dollars, we got a TV, a soundbar, and an antenna that works well (with the addition of our laptop) as a television and music system.

A Note about Comcast

Comcast offers cable in my area. I love Comcast’s mostly-reliable and fast internet service. I hate Comcast’s absurd pricing policies and lousy customer service.

For the last year or so, I’ve purchased a cable-internet package from Comcast—not because I wanted cable, but because the price for both was cheaper than the price for just internet.

But then, despite my explicit directions to the contrary, Comcast sent me two different shipments of gear to work with a television set—even though I didn’t even own an television set at the time—to run cable service that I didn’t want. I refused the packages and wasted additional time on the phone trying to set Comcast straight. Finally somebody at Comcast decided to give me an internet-only deal for the same price as the package deal—which is what the company should have done in the first place—because otherwise Comcast couldn’t figure out how not to send me television equipment I don’t want. Ridiculous.

Incidentally, also within the last few weeks, Comcast tried charging me for a modem rental, even though I don’t rent a modem from Comcast.

In general, I am continually amazed that Comcast offers such horrible customer service. It can do so only because its service does work well, and its competitors aren’t fantastic by comparison.

Some people I know do watch television shows that are only available through cable (or on disk long after the original release date), but I have little or no interest in such shows, and for me broadcast offers more than enough channels.

A Final Note

Yes, I’m a demanding customer; I like to get value for my dollar. But I should end by noting how amazing it is that Vizio, Samsung, Comcast, and others offer me such great products and services that tremendously improve my life.

For a small fraction of my income, I can watch exciting sporting events, films that cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, and well-made television shows; and I can listen to a practically endless catalog of music.

We’ve come a long way since the days of telling tales around a fire or even sitting around the family radio. Intelligent consumers of technology can get some great deals on amazing high-tech machines and services.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A Final Conversation with Ken Gordon

Ken Gordon was always baffling to me—how could such an intelligent man be wrong about practically everything? Gordon was one of my favorite Democrats despite our frequent disagreements, and I was saddened to learn that he passed away suddenly Sunday.

If memory serves, I first met Gordon in the political aftermath of the horrific Columbine High School murders, when he wanted more restrictive gun laws and I defended people’s right to keep and bear arms. Among other things, Gordon wanted additional liability for gun owners; I argued the laws he proposed would be used to persecute gun owners and that existing laws adequately addressed such matters as child endangerment.

More recently, Gordon and I tangled over the campaign finance laws; you can view a first and second debate between us.

Just a couple weeks ago Gordon and I exchanged emails on the subject. Sadly, that is the final conversation we will share. I thought I’d reproduce it here in his honor.

On December 10, Gordon sent out an email to a list to the effect that people don’t like big money in politics. I thought I’d get in a quick dig by pointing out that, in the recent recall elections in which two Colorado Democrats lost their seats in the state senate, the politicians lost despite huge spending advantages. I wrote, “Yes, isn’t it just wonderful that Morse, Giron, and Am. 66 lost despite radical spending advantages?”

He responded:

You are cherry picking examples to suit your position. In the vast majority of cases the most well funded candidate wins, and you know this. Are you in favor of unlimited contributions and expenditures in campaigns? If so you are in favor of a Congress similar to the current one which cares more about the capital gains rate than it does about hunger, because that is what the funders care about.

A libertarian philosophy leads to vast concentrations of wealth and political power in the hands of the few and the destruction of the concept of political equality.


I wrote back:

“You are cherry picking examples to suit your position.”

I wasn’t making an argument here; I was merely responding positively to your point that many people do not respond to high-dollar campaigns.

“In the vast majority of cases the most well funded candidate wins, and you know this.”

In most cases, a candidate is well funded because the candidate has a lot of popular support. To a substantial degree you’re reversing cause and effect.

“Are you in favor of unlimited contributions and expenditures in campaigns?”

Yes. If contributions are limited, then who is doing the limiting? The answer is government. When government forcibly prevents people from spending their own resources on speech, then that’s censorship, and I oppose censorship.

“If so you are in favor of a Congress similar to the current one which cares more about the capital gains rate than it does about hunger, because that is what the funders care about.”

That’s a non-sequitur. (As a matter of fact, I think Congress should be involved with capital gains at the same level that it is involved with hunger, which is to say not involved at all.)

“A libertarian philosophy leads to vast concentrations of wealth and political power in the hands of the few and the destruction of the concept of political equality.”

a) I’m not a libertarian. b) My political philosophy calls for minimal political power, such that it can be concentrated neither in the hands “of the few” nor in the hands “of the many.” c) I advocate equal legal protection of individual rights, not coercively achieved “equality” of outcomes.

Thanks, -Ari

He replied:

Well I think we agree on some of this.  I don’t want coercively achieved equality of outcomes. I want equal opportunity, including the opportunity to fail.  To me this seems to be an argument for a good public education system.  How do you feel about this?


I thought we’d already had a pretty ambitious email exchange for one day, and I didn’t want to get into a deeper discussion about “public” education, so I let the matter go.

I was always pleased when I helped beat Ken in his political battles and always sorry when he beat me. But I was honored to trade barbs with him, and I’ll miss the opportunity to do so again.

Time to Restore Jury Trials as Judicial Standard

Certainly the Bill of Rights envisioned a criminal justice system in which jury trials were the norm:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . . ; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Now hardly any defendant faces a jury. “In fiscal year 2012, 97 percent of all federal drug convictions were secured by guilty pleas,” notes Human Rights Watch in its new study, “An Offer You Can’t Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty.” (The Atlantic published an article based on the report.) An article for the American Bar Association reports, “[O]ur federal courts actually tried fewer cases in 2002 than they did in 1962, despite  . . . more than a doubling of the criminal filings over the same time frame.”

At the state level, “97.6 percent of all Colorado felony convictions result from plea bargains, not jury trials,” I reported last year. (See also my op-ed on the subject for the Gazette.)

What’s responsible for the withering away of the Fifth Amendment? In short, legislators have empowered prosecutors to threaten criminal defendants with insanely long prison sentences in order to coerce them into accepting plea deals. When defendants can plead guilty and sit in prison for a few years or go to trial and risk sitting in prison for a few decades, it’s no surprise that many plead guilty—whether or not they are guilty.

Of course, the broader problem is that legislators have empowered prosecutors to send people to prison for years or decades on end for activities that violate no one’s rights, such as selling drugs (to consenting adults). For obvious reasons, prosecutors have a harder time getting jury convictions for such “crimes” even when the defendants are guilty.

Regardless, we have moved from a criminal justice system fundamentally controlled by the citizenry to a criminal justice system fundamentally controlled by prosecutors.

What to do about it? One obvious step is to repeal mandatory sentences for non-rights-violating “crimes.” Then judges could better dampen prosecutorial zeal. I think we should consider other reforms as well, such as the idea of limiting the “trial penalty.” If prosecutors could threaten people with sentences no longer than, say, half again as long as that of their plea offers, that would dramatically increase the percentage of criminal trials going to jury.

Statists, of course, dislike giving hoi polloi a voice in criminal proceedings. They think that government agents know best and that citizens should basically stay out of the way. They also claim that trials cost more—ignoring the obvious fact that unjust prison terms cost the taxpayers insane amounts of money.

If we respect the spirit of the Fifth Amendment and want a criminal justice system tied closely to the citizenry, then we the people must demand the restoration jury trials as the standard practice rather than the rare exception in the criminal justice system.

Creative Commons Image by Andrew Bardwell

My Creative Commons Images

I have used Wikimedia Commons many, many times to find free-use imagery. It’s amazing what you can find there. Now it contains some of my photos as well. I didn’t realize how easy it was to upload images to this source until a friend pointed that out.

So far I’ve uploaded several photos taken recently in New York: the Vanderbilt statue, the Freedom Tower, and the skyline by night from atop the Empire State Building (featuring the Bank of America Tower and the Chrysler Building).

Previously I’ve used Google’s Picasa to share Creative Commons photos. In my photo stream there, you can find images of Tea Party events, several Colorado politicians and activists, and more. Check it out!

Top Six Reasons I’m Glad the Recall Pushed Evie Hudak to Resign

The three successful recall efforts in Colorado politics this year are unprecedented. On September 10, voters recalled Democratic state senators John Morse and Angela Giron and replaced them with Republicans. On November 27, the third target of a recall election—my state senator Evie Hudak—resigned rather than face the voters and risk the Democrats’ advantage in the state senate. (With Hudak’s resignation, a vacancy committee will replace Hudak with another Democrat, maintaining the party’s 18-17 member advantage.)

In an article for Complete Colorado, I point out the absurdity of Hudak’s supporters claiming that the recallers—the very people engaged in democratic action to gather signatures and seek a recall vote—are somehow undemocratic. I note, “Although lawful, Hudak’s decision to resign replaces a democratic recall election with a profoundly anti-democratic decision by party elite.” Read the entire article.

There is more to say, however, about why it’s a wonderful thing that Hudak is no longer my state senator—even though she has denied me a voice in choosing her replacement. Here are my top six reasons.

1. Hudak supported the rights-violating, badly drafted anti-gun legislation heavily promoted in the state by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Obama administration.

2. Hudak heartlessly insulted a rape victim on the floor of the state senate—while invoking bogus statistics to browbeat the poor lady.

3. Hudak suggested that another legislator should “flip a coin” to decide a vote. State Senator Owen Hill asked Hudak, “How can I vote on it if we can’t have a little bit more discussion?” She replied, “Take your best shot… Here’s a coin you can flip.” Hill sensibly responded, “I didn’t knock on 20,000 doors so I could flip a coin.”

4. Hudak supported the Amendment 66 tax-hike proposal, a measure that voters thankfully rejected by wide margins.

5. During important legislative hearings, Hudak spent her time on social media.

6. Hudak’s supporters distributed a nasty, misleading flyer in an attempt to suppress the democratic recall effort, and, to my knowledge, Hudak did not condemn the flyer or those responsible for it.

Hudak was arguably the least competent legislator in Colorado. I for one rejoice that she’s out of office.

Note on Objective Standard Posting

In the past, I’ve linked to all of my blog posts published by The Objective Standard from my personal web page. But these days TOS is publishing most of my writing, so it seems pointless use my personal page to link to everything over there. Readers are welcome to check out my catalog of posts at TOS.

I’ll still link to my print articles and possibly to some of my more notable blog posts as well.

Along these lines, recently I wrote a post about a Colorado case in which the government is seeking to force a businessman to bake a cake for a gay wedding. That article has received a fair amount of play; check it out if you haven’t already done so.

Is Five-Year Sentence for Abusive Deputy Excessive?

I was surprised to read in the October 18 North Jeffco Westsider that an abusive sheriff’s deputy from Adams County—David Morrow—was convicted of assaulting a restrained teen and sentenced to five years in prison.

First I was surprised that any abusive police officer, anywhere, had actually been charged with any crime by any district attorney. Kudos to Dave Young—the district attorney for Colorado’s 17th judicial district (which covers Adams and Broomfield counties)—and to his team for prosecuting the deputy for a crime he obviously committed. I hope the prosecution inspires DAs everywhere to charge police officers within their jurisdictions whenever those officers commit violent crimes. I am damned sick of reading stories about cops who needlessly beat the crap out of people, then not only avoid criminal prosecution but often keep their jobs.

But then I was surprised by the length of the sentence. Five years strikes me as excessive for punching a drunk, belligerent teen in the face. Offhand, I would consider a reasonable sentence to consist of a few months in the county jail followed by a few year’s probation in association with intensive anger-management classes and community service. The courts should have also required Morrow to personally pay for the teen’s medical bills and related expenses.

Let’s look at some of the facts of the case. A good place to start is with a media release from Young’s office:

Morrow . . . was convicted of second-degree assault . . . , third-degree assault . . . and child abuse. . . .

On June 12, 2011 at about 1:10 a.m. Morrow responded to a call about a disturbance at 8790 Welby Road in Adams County. According to court records and evidence presented during the trial, the 15-year-old boy, who appeared highly intoxicated, was taken into custody and transported by ambulance to the hospital because parent contact information could not be obtained from him. The ambulance attendant had restrained the juvenile’s hands and feet because of his verbally combative behavior. Morrow struck the juvenile on the face with a closed fist as he passed by the teen who was restrained on the ambulance gurney.

A Westword story and a 9News video embedded by Westword add a few relevant details. The teen in question was so drunk he couldn’t even identify his parents. Obviously the party to which Morrow was sent was totally out of control and totally deserving of a police response. The teen “mouthed off” and, prior to being restrained, refused to obey lawful police orders (if we interpret the remarks of one of the party’s organizers who was interviewed by 9News). I understand why Morrow was frustrated with this drunk, belligerent, mouthy, law-breaking teen. Obviously that did not give Morrow any justification to punch the teen and break his jaw. Officers of the law have to be better than the lowlifes with whom they come into contact on a daily basis.

Obviously Morrow committed a crime and was justly prosecuted and convicted. I hope DAs go after every city cop and sheriff’s deputy who violates the rights of others.

But what about that five-year sentence? According to the Westsider story, Morrow was convicted “after a six-day jury trial in August.” He faced a maximum of sixteen years in prison.

These facts leave me with a number of questions. What sort of deal did the DA offer to Morrow, and why did he not take the deal? (Westsider reports that Morrow’s attorney claimed his client acted in self-defense, which seems ridiculous.) Who is this attorney who let his client go to prison for five years for punching a belligerent, drunk teen? Why did the judge impose such a harsh sentence?

Another important question: What’s going to happen to Morrow in prison? If I were a sheriff’s deputy, about the last place on earth I’d want to be is in prison. In what prison will Morrow spend time? Is it more of a “country club” sort of prison or more of a “don’t drop the soap” sort of prison? Will Morrow be assaulted, raped, or murdered in prison? Assuming his prison is as bad as I think most prisons are, it seems horribly unjust to sentence a guy guilty of a relatively minor-level assault to the very real risk of getting violently assaulted or worse. Will Morrow be protected from other criminals in prison who I suspect would be more than happy to bust up a cop?

To sum up: I’m glad Morrow was prosecuted and convicted for committing a crime. I’m not at all sure that the resulting prison sentence is just or that Morrow will be adequately protected from other criminals while in prison. I think the surrounding questions deserve deeper consideration.