News Roundup for 8/28/2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Roundup for 8/27/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaza: How many “ceasefires” is this now?

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

Burger King, Eh?

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

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

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

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.”

Zubrin Aims to Turn Waste Gas into Profits

Robert Zubrin—whom I’ve interviewed for the Objective Standard—runs Pioneer Energy out of Lakewood, Colorado. The Denver Post describes the “Mobile Alkane Gas Separator” Zubrin’s company is developing: “The unit captures the waste byproduct of drilling” and turns it into salable natural gas. Zubrin told the Post: “This is a significant step forward and a significant resource for America.” Soon “the first MAGS unit will be sent to North Dakota for full field operations,” the Post reports.

I really hope this pans out, not only so that Zubrin and his crew earn spectacular amounts of wealth, but so that I and millions of other people around the world can have access to the energy he hopes to provide.

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:

How You Can Help Rational Beacon

rb-tw-400-400September 7, 2014 Update: I discontinued posting to RationalBeacon.com on August 29 and converted all the files from that site to AriArmstrong.com today. —Ari

Rational Beacon launched July 29 to offer brief commentary on the news and views of the day. Since then, I’ve published 180 posts—on average more than six per day—covering such topics as Islamic State, the Ferguson shooting, Ayn Rand, environmentalism, economics, and criminal justice.

That’s a great start, but it’s only a start. You can help Rational Beacon expand its reach in several ways:

  • “Like” Rational Beacon on Facebook, Like and Share its posts, and turn on “Get Notifications” (part of the “Liked” menu.)
  • Follow Rational Beacon on Twitter and retweet it.
  • Tell your friends about Rational Beacon, in person and via email and social media.
  • If you hear of an important, recently published news story or opinion piece, let me know about it via email: ari (atsign) freecolorado (dot) com.

Thank you for your support toward creating a world of reason and individual rights.

Ari Armstrong

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.

Oh, You Mean Ayn Rand Wasn’t a Rawlsian?

As John McCaskey reviews, various libertarians today are explicitly egalitarian in the vein of John Rawls. One such libertarian is John Tomasi, who claims that even “avowedly egoistic defenses of libertarianism [such as Ayn Rand advocated] recognize the moral imperative that material benefits of social cooperation reach the least well-off class.” This is as quoted by Don Watkins in his article today for the Ayn Rand Institute.

Watkins offers a pretty good summary of why Rand was not Rawlsian, even implicitly, even a little. (As an aside, she was not a libertarian, either, and did not consider herself to be one.) He writes:

Rand would say we shouldn’t evaluate institutions by how they affect any group. It’s wrong, she thinks, to approach political questions by thinking in collectivist terms like “the rich,” “the poor,” or “society.” The question is not which social system benefits which groups, but which social system is geared toward the life of an individual human being.

Of course, when government protects each individual’s rights to think and act by his own judgment, the outcome is a prosperous society that can benefit everyone—including the least-wealthy people living in it. It should come as no surprise that what’s good for individuals is good for individuals considered as a group.

Ayn Rand, Coffee, and the Honor System

The Objective Standard just published my article, “Contra Time Writer’s Claim, Ayn Rand Did Not Advocate Mooching Coffee (or Anything Else).” Basically, Bijan Stephen claims that Rand endorses mooching any time there’s an “honor system” for payments. But his claims about Rand are ridiculous—and directly contradicted by countless, explicit comments by Rand. This “smear Rand” phenomenon is interesting, at least: Which other public intellectual born over a century ago is as routinely subjected to regular smears today?

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.