Wrapping Up Rational Beacon

[September 7, 2014 Update: Today I moved all the files from RationalBeacon.com to my homepage, AriArmstrong.com. See the “Rational Beacon” category for the contents imported from RationalBeacon.com. —Ari]

Although I’m glad I tried running Rational Beacon, it has been more time consuming and less successful than I’d anticipated, so I’m shutting it down. At first I was upset about this move, but then I thought about it in Edison’s terms: I didn’t fail at blogging, I merely discovered one additional way for me not to blog.

I plan to import all of Rational Beacon‘s contents to my personal page at AriArmstrong.com, where I plan to continue blogging. I also plan to consolidate all my previously published works there, except for my material with the Objective Standard and with Complete Colorado. (In the future I may write material for other publications and not reproduce it on my own page.) Although I’m shutting down RationalBeacon.com, I’m retaining the url into the indefinite future, in case I want to resurrect the site in a different form (something for which I have no plans at present).

A few people may be interested in a fuller account of my reasons for shutting down the site.

Originally, my idea for Rational Beacon was that, as I read the news and views of the day, I would quickly blog about the items that interested me, something I didn’t think would take much additional time. After all, I was essentially aggregating news for myself already, so, I thought, why not simply convert that work to a blog? Not only would that process help me keep in better touch with the news of the day, I thought, it might prove useful to others looking for a filtered news source.

Obviously part of my inspiration for aggregating news was InstaPundit, only I wanted to omit many of the types of stories covered there and to include many stories and opinion pieces not covered there. No one else aggregates stories the way I’d like to see it done, so I end up subjecting myself to the data equivalent of a fire hose each day, mostly via my Twitter feed. That seems to be unavoidable at this point. Very little of the total material published on a daily basis significantly interests me, but I have to sift through a substantial amount of that material to find the few items that do interest me.

Unfortunately, in blogging for Rational Beacon, I soon found myself spending much more time than I’d anticipated writing about certain stories. I thought I’d spend less than an hour, or perhaps up to a couple of hours, writing for Rational Beacon every day; instead, I found myself spending several hours blogging on most days. Especially given that no one is paying me to do it, I just can’t justify spending that much time on it.

Soon after starting the site, I shifted my focus. At first, I thought I’d post two or three dozen very-short posts. But I quickly began writing fewer (often a handful or a dozen), longer posts. Many of my posts are essentially (short) op-eds.

I’ve tentatively decided that I do want to continue aggregating news, although in much briefer form. Yesterday and today I published “roundups” of links, and that’s the way I’ll probably continue to aggregate material at my home page. If I want to say something more substantial about some event, issue, or editorial, I’ll write a dedicated article about it, either for my own page or for another publication (at this point, usually for the Objective Standard).

I never imagined Rational Beacon would be an Internet sensation, but I thought it would be more successful than it has been. After nearly a month of steady effort, the Facebook page has only 91 likes, and the Twitter page has only 75 followers. That’s just not enough of a following to justify the effort. (I have received some very positive feedback from several people, which I appreciate. I also appreciate the numerous “Rational Bacon” jokes.)

Part of my reasoning for starting Rational Beacon was that I thought a publication name separate from my name might go over better. Apparently I was wrong. So I’m just going to consolidate my offerings on my personal blog and through my personal Facebook and Twitter feeds. Associating my content with my name is fine, I think; that’s what Michelle Malkin and various others do (although Malkin has something like 300 times the Twitter followers that I have).

Of course, part of my problem, in terms of number of readers, is that I advocate some view or other to alienate nearly everyone. I’m not a conservative, or a leftist “liberal,” or a libertarian, or a “moderate”—and in many instances I loudly declare my disagreements with those groups. But I’d rather reach a few active-minded individuals than many cheerleaders.

Over the coming years I plan to write not only op-ed-style articles, as I’ve been doing for many years, but weightier articles on a range of subjects. (I hope my efforts toward that end will help broaden audience.) To reach my main goals in writing, I need to be a lot more careful about how I spend my time. As painful as shutting down Rational Beacon is, the main purpose in doing so is to help free up some of my time so that I can work more on other projects. Stay tuned.

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?

Image: Ildar Sagdejev
Image: Ildar Sagdejev

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

Image: Quinn Dombrowski
Image: Quinn Dombrowski

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

Image: Charles Koch Foundation
Image: Charles Koch Foundation

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

Image: Mars Society
Image: Mars Society

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

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

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.