Category Archives: Uncategorized

pokemons

Pokémon GO Is Not, in Fact, Totalitarian

In a recent interview about his new film on Edward Snowden, director Oliver Stone warned about the potential for data-mining on the part of major companies to lead to “totalitarianism.” Partly speaking about the data collected by the popular app Pokémon GO, he said, “What’s happening is a new level of invasion… They’ve invested a huge amount of money in data mining – what you are buying, what you like, your behavior. It’s what some people call surveillance capitalism.”

False equivalence is a deep disease in American thought.The implication here is nuanced, but important: while speaking about a movie which depicts a whistle-blower for unconstitutional government surveillance, Stone drew a parallel between “surveillance” by tech companies and the horrifying contents of Snowden’s leaked documents.

This notion is mistaken and dangerous, but symptomatic of a much deeper disease in American thought: the false equivalence between power leveraged by “Big Government” and “Big Business.”

This microcosm of conceptual chaos is what Ayn Rand called a “package-deal”: a fallacy in which one uses one word or phrase to group conceptually opposed or dissimilar things. Under the umbrella of “power,” for instance, our culture has paired both political and economic power – or, in other words, we consider as identical both massive economic influence and the government’s legal monopoly on the use of force.

Continue reading at FEE.

ISIS

We Can’t Deny That ISIS Is Islamic. We Also Can’t Conflate It With All Of Islam.

In the wake of yet another heartbreaking ISIS-led attack in Turkey, the refrain from the right has again become near-universal: if we do not call this attack what it is – Islamic terrorism – then we cannot properly respond to it.

Ted Cruz made this reasoning the focal point of a hearing late this month, where he declared that “[w]e cannot combat and defeat radical Islamic terrorism without acknowledging it exists and directing our resources to stopping it.”

As PolitiFact noted last year, President Obama has been repeatedly hesitant to connect the radical ISIS ideology to Islam. He even avoids saying “Islamic State,” instead defaulting to “ISIL” (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and characterizing the organization’s agents as “thugs” and “killers.”

Yet the president has acknowledged the group’s Islamic roots, saying that “we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” It would be silly to insist otherwise, of course, when the group is openly and overtly pan-Islamic and scholars have explored thoroughly its Wahhabi theological roots.

From the right: If we do not acknowledge that this is Islamic, we cannot stop it. From the left: This isn’t Islam – most Muslims are good people – it is a perversion of Islam. They speak as if these two views are diametrically opposed.

And, as usual, the bickering misses the point. Continue

art-graffiti-abstract-vintage

Announcing Young Voices’ Managing Editor

IMG_1451Stacy Ndlovu recently graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Government and French. She has previously interned for the Human Rights and Democracy Program at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. Originally from Zimbabwe, Stacy is interested in the place of libertarian theory in international relations, specifically regarding international law, rethinking the “just war” tradition and African development. As Managing Editor, Stacy will be Young Voices’ primary programs officer, editing and pitching our Advocates’ commentary to media outlets around the world.

fracking

Energy Policy for the Poor and Middle-Class

Lower oil prices help poor and middle-class families. In June 2014, oil traded at approximately $115 a barrel. Now, the price of a barrel is about $47.76. There were many reasons for the collapse in oil prices. For example, OPEC, a cartel of top oil producing countries, continued drilling for oil even though prices were dropping. But, equally important was the fracking boom. Fracking allowed for oil to flood the market lowering its price.

Drilling for more oil helps poor and middle-class families, and the U.S. must do more of it. Additionally, CNBC reports: “The US holds more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, the first time it has surpassed those held by the world’s biggest exporting nations, according to a new study.”

Low oil prices and more oil reserves make U.S. families richer without them receiving an increase in their income. If families spend less on gas, they are able to save or spend more on other goods—making them richer.

Yet, with all its benefits, groups and presidential candidates want to stop fracking. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said: she would regulate it so thoroughly that “I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Banning fracking and other methods of extracting oil from the ground will increase the price of energy.

If fracking was banned, supply of natural gas would fall dramatically and prices for gas and electricity would increase. Natural gas makes up 33 percent of energy produced in the U.S making it a top energy source. In 2014, families spend about 20% of their income on energy. Oil prices have remained low even with tensions between oil-states Iran and Saudi Arabia. As the Daily Caller reports: “There remains a lot of excess supply on global markets right now, thanks to increased production from unconventional sources like fracking.” Not drilling means higher gas prices.

Newer renewable energy is unaffordable to poor and middle class families. The rich can absorb energy price increases, but the poor cannot. For example, the new Tesla models cost $70,000.and more. Middle class families usually make that in a year.

Forcing the poor to pay more for energy is unfair and regressive policy. U.S. energy policy should make citizens wealthier—not poorer. Any person or policy aimed at making energy more expensive is taking money from people who need it most.

Several_brownies

Brownie Patrol

Political correctness doesn’t have brakes. Its restless claws reach for everyone, including elementary school kids. Last week, police were called to an elementary school in New Jersey. The alleged crime? A third grader said the word “brownie” in class at an end of the school year party. Various news sources report that the brownie remark was in reference to the baked good, not a person.  

After making a comment about the brownies in class, the student was promptly interviewed by police. The mother of the perpetrator, Stacy dos Santos, said that the experience was traumatic for her nine-year-old boy. The child was interviewed by police without anyone by his side. Police are not known for their empathy when interviewing suspects. Now, imagine a child trying to articulate their defense of the word “brownie” to an officer with a gun in his holster.

This situation is not unique. The superintendent of the school estimates there are approximately five calls a day to police in the “district of 1,875 students.”

Over-criminalization has been in the news recently, but this one takes the cake— brownie. Criminalizing a nine-year-old for referring to a dessert brownie is not just a new low but also an indirect effect of school administrators trying to manage freedom of speech. Banning free speech or certain words on college campuses led to this situation. Schools are no longer the place for intellectual discussion — or brownies.

It is not the job of the police, school administrators, or government to police words. “Brownie” is not a bad word, but if you ask the child-suspect, he might now say police and school are bad words. It is easy to see the phrase on cop cars “protect and serve” as ironic. Who was protected? Who was served? Political correctness hangs the most defenseless in society, children, out to dry.