Author Archives: Ari Armstrong

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.” MoveOn.org 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 Breitbart.com, which ran the bizarre headline, “Exorcists Warn of Danger from Oklahoma City Black Mass.”

Die at 75? Speaking of Breitbart.com, 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,” TownHall.com 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.

News Roundup for 9/13/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreign Policy: News Roundup for 9/12/14

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

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

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

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

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

In other news:

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

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

Denver Post for Sale: Read all about it.

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

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

Islamic State: News Roundup for 9/11/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news:

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

News Roundup for 9/10/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Roundup for 9/9/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gage Skidmore on Photography, Creative Commons, and Rand Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Roundup for 9/6/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Roundup for 9/5/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for a bit of fun:

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

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