in the Media, 2008

This month marks the ten-year anniversary of One indication of the continuing influence of the web page is the media coverage it received this year. In 2008, or I appeared in outside media 21 times. This is in addition to the twice-monthly columns that my father and I write for Grand Junction’s Free Press; see the archives. Here I’ll review those 21 pieces.

Reply to Campos

On January 18, the Rocky Mountain News published my Speakout, “Loading the dice against responsibility.” I was responding to Paul Campos’s attack on those who advocate “individual responsibility:”

… Myriad economic controls, along with payroll taxes of 15 percent, make it hard for the poor to get ahead. Welfare programs have discouraged work, encouraged broken families, and displaced voluntary charity. Government-run schools and other programs often underserve the poor. …

The fact is that some people born into chronic poverty break the cycle, earn a decent education, and rise to the middle class or beyond. They are able to do it through strength of character. …

I believe that it is precisely because political programs rely upon the forcible redistribution of wealth and the forcible restraint of voluntary interaction that such programs tend to miss their lofty aims.

That is not to say that government plays no legitimate role.

Government can be effective when it sticks to protecting people’s rights – that is, preventing crime and protecting people and their property from violence.

Bitch Slap

On January 24, the Denver Post ran a story about how ProgressNowAction was beating up Jon Caldara for using the term “bitch slap” on air. I wrote a longish post explaining that many left-wingers had also used the term. Moreover, on January 27 I discovered that ProgressNowAction’s “web page published the term ‘bitch slap’ just last year.” This led to some nasty attacks against me by Colorado Media Matters (which I can’t help but thinking of as “Media Blathers”), to which I replied.

On January 26, Lynn Bartels wrote for the Rocky Mountain News, “A liberal group targeted conservative talk host Jon Caldara for using the term bitch slap… Blogger Ari Armstrong noted Friday that three alternative newspapers along the Front Range have used the term at least 20 times… ‘ProgressNow is clearly going after Caldara because they don’t like Caldara,’ said Armstrong.”

On January 28, I appeared on Peter Boyles’s radio show to discuss the matter. The same day, Mark Wolf of Rocky Talk Live wrote, “Jon Caldera managed to get liberal media watchdog group Progress Now to take the bait and generate lots of attention for his late-night radio show by wondering if Hillary Clinton got ‘bitch-slapped’ during a debate. Now blogger Ari Armstrong reports ProgressNow used ‘bitch slap’ on its own site last September…” (Progress Now and Media Blathers have huffily pointed out that this comment was left by somebody not employed by ProgressNow, though I’ve never claimed otherwise.)

On January 30, the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote in an editorial, “[B]logger Ari Armstrong found that three Front Range progressive newsweeklies… routinely published ‘bitch slap.’ He even found ‘bitch-slap’ on a ProgressNow Action blog.”

It’s a bit ironic that I generated so much media attention about an issue that on the surface carries few ideological implications. However, I did make an effort to draw out the deeper significance of the debate. And I’m glad to have stopped the politically-motivated attack on Caldara.

Health Policy

Early 2008 was marked by a heated battle over health policy. While Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine carried the heavy load, I wrote quite a lot about the issue.

On January 30, the Rocky Mountain News published a Speakout by Linda Gorman and me titled, “A very costly health-care solution:”

As the health-care debate unfolds, we hear a lot about cost-shifting, the idea that some people are charged more for health care to make up for the fact that others do not pay. Various legislators, journalists and activists tell us that the state should adopt the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform’s recommendation to impose an individual mandate and force everyone to buy health insurance in order to end the unfairness of cost-shifting.

In fact, the commission’s recommendations likely will shift more costs onto those who already have insurance. Along with the individual mandate, the commission recommends large subsidies for those whom the commission considers too poor to purchase the insurance it says they should have. …

Defending Shawn Mitchell: In late February, State Senator Shawn Mitchell was unfairly accused of making racially insensitive ramarks. I explained why the charge was nonsense. On March 5, the Gazette quoted my post in an editorial:

“But let’s say, hypothetically, that Mitchell’s comment had some distant connection to the racist comment that people of Heritage X ‘all look alike.’ Then the force of Mitchell’s comment would be to make fun of that racist comment. It’s not racist to make fun of racists,” wrote Ari Armstrong, on the blog In the days of “gotcha” politics, however, honest insight and analysis have no place.”

“Studies Have Shown”

In February I questioned some of the claims about health policy made in a Denver Post article. This eventually led to a review of the story by Dave Kopel for the Rocky Mountain News, as I reviewed. Kopel wrote:

Studies have shown you shouldn’t blindly accept everything journalists tell you about what studies have shown. Consider, for example, “Growth spurt for kids’ health plan,” the Feb. 10 Denver Post article by Katy Human, writing about the push to expand taxpayer subsidies for health care for middle-class and poor children.

Human’s article announced: “Children with health insurance, studies have shown, are less likely than uninsured kids to end up in emergency rooms, more likely to get key vaccinations, and less likely to be absent from school.”

My friend Ari Armstrong is a columnist for the Grand Junction Free Press, and also the publisher of the Colorado Freedom Report weblog. Armstrong used to be a senior fellow at the Independence Institute and, although he’s no longer formally affiliated with the institute, he still writes for us from time to time. Armstrong e-mailed Human and politely asked if she could send him the names of two or three of the studies she had in mind. …

None of five studies Human cited after the fact support her article’s statement about what “studies have shown” regarding the effects of insurance on emergency room use, vaccinations and school absences.


As much as I disliked Eliot Spitzer, I didn’t think it appropriate to prosecute him for hiring prostitutes. I wrote a Speakout for the Rocky arguing that prostitution should be legal:

Sometimes governments ban activities that are not vices, such as practicing homosexuality, coloring a pooch pink, taking marijuana for medical purposes or buying alcohol on Sundays. Widespread support exists for ending such uses of political force.

But prostitution is a vice. Should government therefore ban it? The proper purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, not prevent vice beyond that context. …

While the article is about prostitution, at a deeper level it’s about what role government should play in our lives.

Welfare State

Last year, my wife and I spent a month eating for $2.57 per day each, as I’ve recorded. On March 20, this earned me a spot in a news story from the Gazette about welfare policy:

The financial picture is getting worse for Colorado’s working poor families, according to a study issued Wednesday… Ari Armstrong, a Denver area resident who writes online about political issues, said the calculator [publicized by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute] — at least for him and his wife — is flawed.

“The calculator suggests that my wife and I need to spend $666 per month for housing,” Armstrong said. “We actually spend more than that, including utilities and HOA fees, but we could spend less if we needed to. For example, for several years we rented out the basement of my wife’s parents for considerably less. I’ve checked into local apartments that rent for less.”

Armstrong took issue with other estimated monthly costs, including $358 for food and $453 for transportation — too high — and $317 in taxes — much lower than reality.

“I’m all for reducing taxes across the board, and especially for the poor,” he said. “If we’re really interested in helping the poor be self-sufficient, no single measure could be more useful. Welfare expansions do not promote self-sufficiency. They promote dependency.”

Supreme Court Rules on Guns

On June 28, the Rocky published my article on the Supreme Court’s gun ruling:

Self-defense is a fundamental human right. Now the Supreme Court has affirmed what most Coloradans have long held and what our state’s constitution also strongly protects: the individual’s right to own a gun.

The June 26 ruling on District of Columbia v. Heller overturns Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban and requirement that guns be kept inoperable in the home. Gone is the fantasy that the Second Amendment protects only state militias. …

Amendment 59

On September 7, Colorado Daily published my article, “Am. 59 would impose new forever net tax hike:”

… Yet, even though Colorado voters approved a net tax hike just a few years ago expected to raise over $2 billion more than supporters originally suggested, the higher-tax crowd now want billions more. And let us not forget about the tax-funded FasTracks of 2004, the expected costs of which have exploded from $4.7 billion to $7.9 billion.

Don’t be fooled by claims that the new measure is just about education. As one representative of the “yes” campaign noted in a September 1 e-mail, the measure (which advocates are calling Savings Accounts for Education) would “relieve pressure on higher education, health care, transportation and other core services.” In other words, because the new taxes go to education, the legislature can transfer other funds from education to whatever it wants. …

On October 14, Fox 31 News interviewed me about the measure.

As we know, this story had a happy outcome, as 59 was defeated at the polls.

Faith-Based Politics

I spent a great deal of time this election season fighting Amendment 48, which was trounced. But that measure is only one aspect of the broader threat I see coming from the religious right.

On September 11, Boulder Weekly published my article, “With Palin, McCain ignores Colorado Warning.” (It turns out I was right about that.)

On September 23, the Pagosa Daily Post published my piece, “Amendment 48 Smoke Screen.”

Diana Hsieh did the heavy lifting for an article of ours published in the October 9 Boulder Weekly, “Abortion and Abolition”

Against the Bailout

I’ve written quite a lot about the bailout on my web page. On October 13, the Rocky published my letter:

… The Depression was set off by the federal controls of the Hoover administration, but “FDR’s economic policies made the Great Depression much worse” and “caused it to last much longer than it otherwise would have,” economist Thomas DiLorenzo writes in his history of American capitalism. We have more to fear from new, misguided federal controls than we do from the existing crisis. …

Harry Potter

I remain pleased with my September 14 Speakout, “Lessons for U.S. politicians from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Then, on September 28, 9News broadcast a version of the piece.

On October 28, Westword’s web page featured an interview between Joel Warner and me.

Warner writes:

No one is off limits from the cerebral scrutiny of local political writer Ari Armstrong. On his blog, he smacked down the liberal website ProgressNow for its hypocritical stance on the word “bitch-slapped.” Lately right-wingers, too, have been feeling his highbrow wrath, thanks to columns he’s published online and in newspapers arguing against GOP faith-based politics and the right-to-work issue on the November ballot. Armstrong was once a member of the Colorado Libertarian Party, but now the only thing he swears allegiance to is Ayn Rand’s objectivism philosophy. That means he’s all about the protection of individuals’ rights and the promotion of economic and religious freedom — and he aims his weighty pen at anything contrary to these ideals.

Those interested in my book, Values of Harry Potter, should see its web page.

Election 2008

On election night, I joined a webcast from CBS News 4 to discuss the election. The station has posted the 37 minute segment online.

It was an eventful year, and I feel I did my bit to spread the word about liberty.