Short Takes, May 1999

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Short Takes, May 1999

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What a Tangled Webb We Weave
Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who recently spent tax money to publish a full-page tirade against gun rights in the Rocky Mountain News, used to claim he supports gun rights and a broader system of concealed carry.

In a 1991 letter to the Independence Institute's David Kopel, Webb stated, "I do not believe that a citizen should have to prove some unique 'need' to be issued a [concealed carry] permit." The News picked up the story on April 13 in an article by Kevin Flynn.

On April 12, Kopel and Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, discussed on Caldara's radio show Webb's change of heart, as well as the ways a better-armed citizenry becomes a safer citizenry, hysteria from some Democrats notwithstanding. They also reviewed the history of gun control laws, which were originally passed specifically to disarm black people. The problem the anti-gun crowd has in debating David Kopel is that he is one of the foremost authorities on the issue, intimately familiar with the history and effects of gun legislation in the United States and around the world. Perhaps that's why the Democrats avoid discussing substantive issues and resort to scare-tactics - Ari Armstrong


Gun Classes Swamped
Linn Armstrong, a member of Grand Junction's Pro Second Amendment Committee, reports the gun training classes he's involved with "are filling up faster than ever" in the wake of the Columbine massacre. Linn Armstrong is involved with both the N.R.A. training course and the Hisardut Israeli defense course run by Alon Stivi of the Israeli reserve guard. Both classes are booked nearly through the summer.

Many, it would seem, put more trust in themselves than in "Big Daddy" Clinton to provide for their personal protection. Bill Clinton may "feel our pain," but personally I'd rather he didn't have to.

Gun control kills children! An armed society is a polite society! - Ari Armstrong


Red, Red, White and Blue
When the Chinese premier came to Denver in April, Governor Bill Owens was only too happy to roll out the red carpet. At a banquet hosted by Owens, the Chinese flag hung level between the United States flag and the Colorado flag. Now, I am anything but an icon-worshiper, but this offended me. The Chinese government flagrantly abuses human rights. The U.S. government ought not restrict free (non-military) trade between U.S. citizens and Chinese citizens, but it should certainly not treat the Chinese government as anything better than it is -- an oppressive, murderous tyranny. Unfortunately, the U.S. government, increasingly intrusive into the private lives of Americans, can hardly claim the moral high ground. - Ari Armstrong


DeGette Votes Against War in Yugoslavia
I never thought the day would come when I would sing praises to Congresswoman Diana DeGette. She voted April 29 against a resolution that would have shown support for Clinton's air war in Yugoslavia. The resolution failed by a tie.

"I think Congress should have been consulted before the president went in with airstrikes," she said, as reported in the April 30 Rocky Mountain News. While hardly a principled recognition of the Constitutional prohibition of Presidential wars, this is far better than the mealy-mouthed positions of many Democrats on the issue. - Ari Armstrong


Trial By (Politically Correct) Jury
A criminal has a right to a trial by jury, so long as that jury passes the ideology tests of the State. Laura Kriho sat on a 1996 Gilpin County drug case and voted to acquit. The Rocky Mountain News reported April 30 that a contempt conviction against Kriho was overturned on appeal. She faces more charges which stem from her jury service, though.

It turns out that Kriho had once been arrested, but not convicted, for an alleged drug violation. She failed to volunteer this information to prosecutors, and they never asked. But that wasn't good enough for the judge, who went after Kriho with a vengeance. Apparently, only those who think the way the government wants them to are suitable for jury duty. But all should remember that they have every right to nullify an unjust law as a juror, despite what a judge may happen to think. (Kriho denies she was exercising jury nullification, but only deciding on the merits of the evidence.) - Ari Armstrong


Buy Back the Junk
Martin Luther King III called on Colorado to initiate a "buy back the guns" campaign (The Rocky Mountain News April 30). Typically in such programs governments or private groups will purchase any weapon for $100 and destroy it.

As far as gun proposals go, this one isn't so bad, so long as the money comes from voluntary contributions rather than taxes. If somebody's dumb enough to buy a $50 gun for $100, let them. Needless to say, nobody will turn in a gun worth more than $100. Presumably, a "gun" wouldn't even have to be functional to qualify for the cash. (I doubt those buying the guns are able to tell the difference.)

King's fear of guns is understandable, having lost several family members to assassins. However, King would do well to consider the usefulness of guns in self-defense. There's a reason the first gun control laws were passed specifically to disarm the black community -- bigoted whites wanted to be able to prey on blacks without fear of retaliation. - Ari Armstrong


Environmental Politics
A group led by the Sierra Club gave the Colorado Legislature a D-minus on environmental issues, according to Joe Garner of The Rocky Mountain News (April 22). The legislature must be doing something right, then.

A clean environment is a worthy goal. Unfortunately, the Sierra Club usually puts the (non-human) environment above human progress. It also proposes legislation that squashes property rights. There is a healthy free-market environmentalist movement in the libertarian movement, led by the Political Economy Research Center in Montana. Jane Shaw of PERC co-authored a book entitled Facts Not Fear, which is an excellent introductory text to the environment and an invaluable teaching aid. - Ari Armstrong


You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party
The Denver Excise and Licensing Department is cracking down on fun. (See Dina Bunn's article in The Rocky Mountain News April 13.) The new Hard Rock Cafe dared to throw an invitation-only opening party late last year in violation of an obscure and ambiguous law which prohibits private parties by restaurants with liquor licenses.

That's what happens when bureaucrats on the government dole have nothing productive to do with their time. We'd be better off paying these jokers to take a permanent vacation on some tropical island. At least then they'd just be taking our money, instead of taking our money to interfere in our lives. - Ari Armstrong


Tracking Teachers' Success
Linda Seebach writes in The Rocky Mountain News April 11 that Tennessee is tracking the success of students in the government schools from third to eighth grade, making it possible to discover how effective are particular schools and individual teachers.

Seebach notes that students who have "top math teachers" three years in a row are likely to score well on standardized math tests, while those who have poor teachers are likely to score poorly on such tests.

Duh!

This supports the view that pedagogy is the most important aspect of education. It also disproves the myth that some students are naturals in math and others "just can't get it." (There may be some natural aptitude, but this is a minor factor relative to individual motivation and quality of teaching.)

But shouldn't it be obvious to school administrators who are the good teachers and who are the bad ones? Why does it take advanced statistical techniques and state-wide database systems to track the effectiveness of teachers? The answer is simple: the tax-funded government education bureaucracy has no incentive to make sure that their schools do a good job. Usually, they get paid more if they do a worse job. If parents want consistently good teachers and good schools, they will demand to regain the right and responsibility of financing education for themselves. - Ari Armstrong


Union Laws
Tom O'Keefe, President of Local 535 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, argues in a letter to The Rocky Mountain News April 6 that unions should have the right to spend union dues to lobby just like businesses can spend revenues to lobby. House Bill 1189 sought to restrict the ability of some unions to collect fees for purposes of lobbying.

As O'Keefe put said, "According to Thomas Aquinas, a law is just if it is directed to the common good and the burdens it imposes on citizens are distributed with proportionate equality."

Too bad O'Keefe ignores the more fundamental issue that the pro-union laws themselves grant privileges to union members at the expense of other workers and consumers. Government should be neutral on the issue of unions. No legislation should force businesses to bargain with unions, as this artificially inflates union salaries, thus weakening the affected businesses, causing unemployment, and inflating prices for consumers. The wage market has always been more successful at resolving wage unfairness, anyway. If a business pays its employees too little, other businesses lure the workers away with higher salaries. Any possible useful service unions might provide pales in comparison to the efficacy of the market. - Ari Armstrong

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