Category Archives: Politics

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.

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.

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.

Burger King, Eh?

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

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

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

How Beer Regs Throttle the Brewery Industry

Here in Colorado, many craft brewers have sided with liquor stores to keep it illegal for grocery stores to sell anything other than 3.2 beer (except for one store in a chain). Not only is this stance by brewers morally wrong, because such regulations violate people’s rights, but it is incredibly short-sighted and self-destructive. (See my previous article.) Craft brewers would be far better off if they’d rally to repeal all onerous regulations of the beer industry, rather than undercut their moral authority to do so by selectively endorsing protectionist laws.

As Michelle Minton writes for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the very existence of craft breweries is due to lifting regulations against it:

[H]ome-brewing was still illegal until 1978 when then President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to legalize brewing in the home for personal or family use. In that year, the number of breweries was at its lowest point after the repeal of Prohibition. But in the 1980s, after states began to legalize brewpubs, the number of brewers began to rise.

But the beer and liquor industry is still very tightly and crazily regulated, particularly in its distribution systems, as Minton notes. She explains that the “mandatory three-tiered distribution system . . . requires brewers to sell their beer to wholesalers and prohibits from selling directly to consumers with a few exceptions.”

People should be able to brew what they want and sell it how they want, and consumers should be able to buy what they want from willing sellers. It’s called liberty.

Another Day, Another Koch Hit Piece

As I’ve written, I was once a Koch Fellow, and I’m proud of that. I spent Charles Koch’s money (among other things) researching the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine (you can find details about my related Washington Post op-ed).

But leftists hate the Kochs, or at least love to pretend they hate them. They make a convenient demon: They’re wealthy—automatically a sin for today’s nihilistic egalitarians—and they work in the energy industry—a sin for today’s nihilistic environmentalists.

The latest in an endless stream of hit pieces against the Kochs comes from Chris Young, writing for Slate. Young’s basic complaint seems to be that, because of the Kochs, it might be the case that a tiny few American students might very occasionally be exposed to ideas other than leftist ones in tax-funded schools.

Hat tip to Jeffrey Tucker (with whom I have many disagreements), who tweets about the article, “Happy day! I make an appearance a Slate hit piece. How long I’ve waited for this day! Patience pays off.” Congratulations, Jeff.

Incidentally, Charles Koch published a self-defense earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal titled, “I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society.”

Norwegian Muslims Condemn Islamic State

Yesterday I wrote, “Yes, violent Muslims are the minority. But how many more Muslims openly endorse such violence or tolerate it by failing to condemn it?” I considered a few examples of Muslims condemning Islamic violence. Consider the latest example, as reported by the Associated Press.

The extremely disturbing news is that around fifty people from Norway left the country to fight for Islamic State, the AP reports, and a “small radical group in Norway has expressed support for Islamic State militants.”

The good news is that “Norway’s prime minister and other politicians have joined Muslim leaders and thousands of other people for a demonstration in Oslo against radical Islamists,” the AP reports. And, Mehtab Afshar, head of the Islamic Council in Norway, said of Islamic State, “They stand for terrorism . . . and we condemn that in the strongest terms.”

Let’s hope other Muslims similarly condemn Islamic violence, and let’s hope they do it consistently.

Reynolds on Militarized Police

Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes for USA Today: “[B]lurring the lines between civilian policing and military action is dangerous, because soldiers and police have fundamentally different roles. . . . The people [police] are policing aren’t enemy combatants, but their fellow citizens—and, even more significantly, their employers. A combat-like mindset on the part of police turns fellow-citizens into enemies, with predictable results.” Reynolds also endorses three specific reforms: Abolish police unions, require that officers wear video cameras, and let people sue cops more easily for abuse.

I’ve endorsed requiring officers active with the public to wear and use video cameras. I’ve also advocated district attorneys prosecuting officers for crimes they commit. Reynolds’s other two ideas sound potentially good, too, but I think they’re secondary.

I’d like to publicly thank Reynolds as well as Radley Balko and Dave Kopel for drawing attention to the important issue of militarized police and the resulting abusive practices.

U.S. Scolds Egypt, UAE for Striking Islamic Militants in Libya

The New York Times reports a Libyan story with some bizarre twists. The Islamic militant group Dawn of Libya recently seized control of the international airport in Tripoli (as I mentioned yesterday). Now we learn that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had “secretly launched airstrikes” against the militants. In what sense were the strikes “secret”? The two Middle Eastern nations had declined to notify “Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines.” (Hasn’t Obama largely put himself on the sidelines, anyway?) The two nations “had also successfully destroyed an Islamist camp near the eastern Libyan city of Derna,” the Times reports. In any case, “United States diplomats were fuming about the airstrikes,” the Times reports; apparently they thought the strikes would undermine United Nations efforts to “broker a peaceful resolution” (because we know how successful the U.N. is at accomplishing such things). I don’t know enough about the context of the strikes or the broader conflict to know whether to cheer the strikes or condemn them; however, offhand, it seems plausible to me that Americans should take the attitude that the more third-party bombs are dropped on Islamic militants, the better.

The Klingenschmitt Conundrum: Why Colorado Republicans Keep Losing Big Races

gordon-klingenschmittNow, not only do top Colorado Republican candidates Bob Beauprez (governor) and Cory Gardner (U.S. Senate) have to contend with a so-called “personhood” measure on the ballot, they have to share the stage with Gordon Klingenschmitt, Republican candidate for House District 15.

Klingenschmitt recently made the following remarks, as Fox31 reports: “The open persecution of Christians is underway. Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy. Next he’ll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America.”

I disagree with Polis’s position on laws forcing business owners to act against their judgment; for some of my reasons, see my recent blog post for the Objective Standard. But Klingenschmitt is not here expressing reasoned disagreement: He is expressing bigoted hatred. Some of Polis’s proposals are relatively bad in the context of American politics (and some of them are relatively good), but comparing him to the butchers of Islamic State is just evil. (Colorado Republican chair Ryan Call denounced the comments, as Fox31 reports.)

In an “apology” video—in which Klingenschmitt bizarrely mixes his version of the “ice bucket challenge”—Klingenschmitt says he was using hyperbole to “exaggerate to make a point.” He accused Democrats of lacking a sense of humor. How ridiculous. He has made a point, alright, although not the one he intended to make.

Consider a couple other off-the-wall remarks this Republican candidate has uttered:

• “I looked into [a woman's] eyes as she began to weep and I said ‘you foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name’ and she began to wrestle with that and suddenly her eyes began to bug out. . . .”

• “The Bible defines spiritual discernment, and the ability to see invisible angels or demons, or the Holy Spirit, influencing human morality. . . . Julius Genachowski, the outgoing FCC chairman . . . has not enforced decency standards. . . . There’s perhaps a demonic spirit of tyranny or immorality inside of him. . . .”

In Colorado’s primary election, 3,472 of Klingenschmitt’s fellow Republicans voted for him over his opponent to put him up to replace Mark Waller, a Republican who ran for Attorney General (until getting trounced in the primary).

Yes, these Colorado Republicans offered a bigoted exorcist as a candidate for the Colorado legislature—and then Republicans wonder why metro, women, and nonsectarian voters routinely hand big elections to the Democrats, despite the Dems’ many problems.

Related:

The “Civilized” Jihadists

So-called “jihadi-tourists” have traveled from European nations to help Islamic State pursue its brutal totalitarian agenda. “At least 320 Germans and more than 2,000 other Europeans are thought to have made the trip” to Turkey and then to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic cause, Matthew Schofield reported for McClatchy a couple months ago. Many of these people are children of immigrants from Muslim countries who “end up finding a sense of community online and in the radical splinters of Islam set up to prey upon the lost,” Schofield writes. Michael Brendan Dougherty recently picked up Schofield’s story for the Week.

And Madeline Grant and Damien Sharkov report for Newsweek: “Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years.”

One thing this illustrates is that jihadists are not made because they live in impoverished regions; they are made because of the ideology they embrace.

Can Muslims Defeat Islamic Jihad?

Muslims commit atrocities against women, against gays, against “infidels” in many regions around the world. Yes, violent Muslims are the minority. But how many more Muslims openly endorse such violence or tolerate it by failing to condemn it? That, to my mind, is an open question. Consider some recent articles on the subject.

Mehdi Hasan writes for the New Republic that violent jihadists tend to be youths who are largely ignorant of their own religion. Hasan claims that “religious fervour isn’t what motivates most” jihadists; rather, Hasan points to such factors as “moral outrage” (about what?) and “peer pressure” as motivators. True, as Hasan points out, many serious Muslims do not practice and to not advocate violent jihad. But does Hasan doubt that many serious Muslims do advocate violent jihad and (especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran) actively finance it?

Patrick Goodenough reports for CNSNews.com that a Cairo-based Suni leader, Shawki Ibrahim Allam, has actively condemned Islamic State and called “for people to post messages or video clips opposing ISIS terrorism.” And, Goodenough reports, Saudi grand mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said that “extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam.” I don’t know anything else about those two figures, but on their face such statements appear to be a move in the right direction, and hopefully one other Muslims will follow.

In Arizona, M. Zuhdi Jasser has been berated by his fellow Muslims for daring to criticize Hamas. He writes for AZCentral, “I had criticized the radicals of Hamas on national television for their supremacist Islamist doctrine hatched from the Muslim Brotherhood that daily and viciously oppresses the people of Gaza.” Jasser discusses the widespread Muslim “silence on the terror tactics of Hamas [that] speaks volumes to terror apologia.” Jasser’s own perspective is encouraging, but the opposition he apparently faces is frightening.

Fossil Fuels Help the Poor, Bill Gates Recognizes

People living in the world’s poorest regions “desperately need cheap sources of energy now to fuel the economic growth that lifts families out of poverty. They can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions, and we can’t expect them wait for the technology to get cheaper,” Bill Gates said recently. Alex Epstein discusses Gates’s remarks and their context in a recent article for Forbes. Epstein discusses the issue at length and summarizes his own view: “Life has gotten much better in poor countries with massively increased fossil fuel use.”

Gates also believes that “we” (by which I suppose he means government) should invest in research to “make fossil fuels cleaner and make clean energy cheaper than any fossil fuel.” I oppose government forcibly seizing wealth for the purpose, but obviously private R&D can be great. Gates himself is funding research into nuclear energy.

Good for Microsoft for Limiting Tax Liabilities

Leftist David Sirota writes for the International Business Times, “Microsoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” For Sirota, this is an accusation. For anyone who recognizes the rights of producers to keep and use their earnings as they see fit, this is great news. Microsoft earned that money, and its owners are morally right to legally limit the amount of wealth government pillages from the company.

Why Many Americans Don’t Work

As Stephen Moore points out in an article for the Heritage Foundation, “at least one million jobs . . . go begging” for employees, even as the unemployment rate remains high. Why? Undoubtedly it has much to do with the fact that the high-paying jobs in question, in manufacturing, trucking, and energy, are hard work.

Of course, the fact that the federal government pays people not to work is also a big factor, as Moore explains:

Too many Americans have come to view blue collar jobs or skilled artisan jobs as beneath them. Contributing to this attitude is the wide availability of unemployment insurance, food stamps, mortgage bailout funds and other welfare. Taking these taxpayer handouts is somehow seen as normal and a first, not a last resort.

Moore laments the widespread loss of the “old-fashioned work ethic.” But there are many signs of hope in this regard, in Dirty Jobs, in North Dakota, in the factories and offices across America where millions of people go to work every day.

Jihad News Roundup for 8/25/14

Here are some of the recent stories about jihadist Islam:

Islamic State: General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently “insisted the Islamic State terror group is a regional threat and said he would not recommend U.S. airstrikes in Syria until he determines that they have become a direct threat to the U.S.,” Fox New reports. Undoubtedly Islamic State (ISIS) has threatened to attack the United States and would carry out such attacks if it could. I don’t know enough about the organization to assess its threat level to America; it obviously poses some threat.

American Jihad: In America, Ali Muhammad Brown murdered four people this year for explicitly jihadist reasons. As Michelle Malkin reports. Brown was arrested a decade ago as a suspect in a “terror-financing ring,” Malkin reports.

Journalist Released: “Al Qaeda-linked militants” in Syria released American journalist Peter Theo Curtis after holding him captive for two years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Syria: “Islamic State fighters captured a major military air base [Tabqa airfield] in northeastern Syria on Sunday,” the Associated Press reports.

Libya: “Libya’s Islamist militias [Dawn of Libya] said Sunday they have consolidated their hold on Tripoli and its international airport,” the Associated Press reports. (Hat tip for this link and the last to the Week.)

France’s Economic and Political Troubles

You have to feel a bit sorry for France’s president François Hollande—how does a socialist refrain from tanking his country’s economy? In 2012, Hollande threatened to punish the rich with 75 percent marginal tax rates—causing many of the nation’s most productive people to leave or consider leaving.

Apparently Hollande thought it better not to decimate France’s economy, so earlier this year he made a “pro-business shift” (as the Wall Street Journal puts it), complete with “tax and spending-cut plans” (the details of which I know not).

But France’s socialists are unhappy, as the Wall Street Journal reports today. They wanted Hollande to tax businesses more, raise government spending, and tax consumers less (directly). In response, Hollande has “dissolved his government” and plans to announce a new cabinet, the Journal reports.

Observe that statists view the economy as their plaything, on which they can experiment at will. But a large economy—the sum total of countless private relationships and transactions—is not like a Lego set that can be taken apart and reassembled by bureaucratic whim. In the real world, people need time to plan their lives, and they are unable to plan to the degree that politicians loot their revenues or threaten to do so or hamper their ability to associate voluntarily with others.

Aurora Theater Shooting “Foreseeable,” Federal Judge Rules

U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson declined to toss lawsuits against Cinemark regarding the 2012 mass murder at the Century Aurora 16 theater on the grounds that such an attack was “foreseeable,” John Ingold reports for the Denver Post. Jackson wrote, “Although theaters had theretofore been spared a mass shooting incident, the patrons of a movie theater are, perhaps even more than students in a school or shoppers in a mall, ‘sitting ducks.'”

I tend to agree with Lenore Skenazy’s views on the matter, as expressed for Reason:

The judge seems to be saying that because we do not live in a perfect world, free of all violence, all businesses open to the public should be constantly on guard against psychopathic killers. . . . [T]he ruling . . . endorses what I call ‘worst-first thinking’—dreaming up the worst case scenario first (‘What if someone comes in and shoots up our book club?’) and proceeding as if it’s likely to happen. Worst-first thinking promotes constant panic. The word for that isn’t prudence. It’s paranoia.

That said, Cinemark’s no-guns policy did render the movie patrons “sitting ducks” and almost certainly made the theater more enticing for the psychopath against whom the no-guns policy obviously did nothing.

Biddle, Borders Debate Moral Foundations of Liberty

Image: Ari Armstrong at FEE

Image: Ari Armstrong at FEE

As those who have followed my work over the years realize, I was once active in the Libertarian Party and the broader libertarian movement, but I no longer regard myself as a libertarian. (See for example, my 2012 essay for the Objective Standard on the subject.) The basic problem with libertarianism is that it regards objective morality as inessential (or even worthless) for establishing liberty. To my mind, Craig Biddle has written the authoritative critique of libertarianism. But I remain friends with many libertarians and seek them out as allies for certain specific reforms.

Recently Biddle and Max Borders of the Foundation for Economic Education debated the moral foundations of liberty. Biddle argued that objective moral foundations are possible and necessary for establishing genuine liberty; Borders argued that morality is subjective.

Here’s one of Biddle’s key lines: “[I]f you want to defend your freedom to act on your judgment, you need to be able to defend the idea that it is moral for you to act on your judgment—that you have a moral right to act on your judgment, to keep and use the product of your effort, and to live your life as you see fit.”

And here are a couple of Borders’s key lines: “There ain’t no such thing [as rights]. Rights don’t grow on trees. They are socially constructed reality just like if I pulled out a dollar bill—which I can’t because I already spent it in the drink machine. I can hold up that dollar, and if I give it to you, we all agree in some sense that this dollar has value—intersubjectively we can agree to that. . . . I think that societies that value freedom and make it primary, make it primary through intersubjective agreement.”

It’s an interesting debate, and the entire transcript is offered at no charge.

Do Colorado Police Really Need 1,160 M-16s and 8 Mine-Resistant Vehicles?

Kudos to Chris Vanderveen and Denver’s 9News team for reporting this important story: “Colorado’s law enforcement agencies have acquired a vast arsenal of military-grade weapons, vehicles and equipment since 1999 under a Department of Defense program. . . .” Among other things, Colorado police have acquired “1,160 M-16’s and eight mine resistant vehicles.” Do we seriously expect the police to keep the peace when they’re outfitted for war?

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