Short Takes: December 1, 2000

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Short Takes: December 1, 2000

All Short Takes by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Election Erudition

Two notable articles about the elections and the Florida fiasco appeared recently. The Rocky Mountain News entitled its lead editorial today, "Time for Gore's concession." The authors note "the Palm Beach standard for counting (actually, not counting) dimpled ballots happens to be the standard most commonly adopted during the 38-year history of punch ballots. For a court to impose a more indulgent standard would be tantamount to its taking sides in the presidential contest. The fact that Broward County included dimpled ballots as votes is not an argument in their favor. Broward is the rogue player in this affair, not Palm Beach, and Gore already is the beneficiary of hundreds of dubious votes as a result of Broward's decisions."

Vin Suprynowicz wrote an article for Sierra Times November 30 that's even more biting (as we would expect): "Mr. Gore simply doesn't like the fact that no matter how many times his counters have squeezed and tapped these ballots, they can't get enough of the little chads next to Mr. Gore's name to pop out -- or manage to replace the chad for the second candidate in the same race which a few thousand voters inadvertently punched out, thus invalidating their votes in that race. The time has come to point out our emperor's nakedness. The '10,000 votes that have never been counted' is more than just a carefully crafted public-relations phrase. It is a lie."

Meanwhile, Harry Browne reminds us that, in the end, it won't make much difference whether Bush or Gore wins. In an article for World Net Daily, Browne describes what his presidency would have looked like. "As president, I would -- for the first time -- use that office on your behalf. I would say no to Congress... Whatever new intrusion it wanted to make in your life, I would veto... I wouldn't rest until... you had control over your own money, your own freedom, your own life."

I could get excited over a Bush presidency if "Dubya" would champion even a tenth of the causes Browne proposes, or if he had even a hundredth of Browne's passion for human liberty.


Ten Years for Porn Star

If there were such a thing as criminal stupidity, Katica Crippen would qualify right after those Florida voters who can't figure out how to punch a card. According to Carla Crowder's November 30 article for the Rocky Mountain News, Crippen posed for internet pornography with a firearm -- while she was on parole. She even displayed her monitor bracelet in the photos.

Of course, it's illegal for a felon to posses a gun. So now the feds want to lock her away for up to ten years. Those are your NRA dollars at work (thank you "Project Exile").

Note that the woman didn't actually hurt anybody by posing with the guns. Even her original felony charge was for selling drugs and theft. Crowder's article doesn't detail the charges, but I imagine the theft charge was for something along the lines of shoplifting. Basically, she's going to prison -- for a decade -- for being white trash. (Prohibitions always target the lower classes.) And we the taxpayers get to foot the bill.

Violent criminals who hurt other people should be kept apart from society in order to protect the rest of us. (The approach popular with Democrats is to release violent felons from prison and then pass laws violating the rights of the rest of us.) Those who commit low-level crimes like fraud and shoplifting should be forced to pay full restitution to their victims. These made-up "crimes" against property ownership, however, are absurd and unjust. Let the porn star go.


How to Fix Government Schools

According to Attorney General Ken Salazar, the way to fix government schools is to give politicians even more power over the lives of our children.

According to a story written by John Sanko for the Rocky Mountain News November 18, it took Colorado's top lawyer and "national violence expert Del Elliott" to figure out that when a sizable minority of a school's population are bullies or drug pushers, that tends to create problems. (How much did this study cost?)

Elliott does make some insightful observations. He found that one student in 20 is afraid to go to school at least one day each month. Elliott commented: "We have a situation which I think is intolerable... The problem is endemic to all of the schools... There were two problems which we found in every school... bullying [and] drugs and substance abuse."

In other words, it's arguably child-abuse to send your children to government schools. I don't have children yet, but my wife and I have already decided we're homeschooling or selecting a market school. In market schools, either administrators kick the bullies out or control them or the parents of the good kids withdraw their financial support and go elsewhere.

What's surprising is that some of us are still surprised that socialism doesn't work. Yet Salazar's proposal is to force taxpayers to fund "bullying prevention programs" run by the same politicians and bureaucrats who created the problems in the first place.


Restitution, Not Prison

The November 14 Rocky Mountain News carried two tragic stories. In the first, Leslie Dee Rogers "lost his temper while driving... He hit [18 year old Jessica] Dismang as she walked across South Parker Road..." (Jeff Kass, 4A). Denver District Judge Frank Martinez sentenced Rogers to five years in prison, though that sentence may be revised. The other story involved the manslaughter conviction of Nathan Hall for causing the death of a man on a ski slope (Deborah Frazier, 7A).

Based on what I know about these cases, those convicted are responsible for the deaths. But what good is prison going to do either them or the victims? A reckless act is far different from an intentional murder. In prison, they'll waste away their lives, possibly get gang raped and tortured, and if anything come out worse human beings. Meanwhile, the victims' families and the rest of us must suffer the further indignity of paying for the room and board of the killers.

A far better solution would be to force the reckless killers to pay long-term restitution to the families of the victims, or to the charities of the families' choice. For instance, the guilty could be forced to pay two-thirds of their earnings to the victims' families, in a situation somewhat like probation. No, mere money can never compensate for the loss of a life. But at least the irresponsible would make something positive of their lives, and the victims' families would be better off.

The purpose of prison should be to keep violent criminals separated from society. When used for other purposes, it becomes a destructive institution.


Protect the First and Second Amendments

I sent the following letter to Diane Carman, a columnist for the Denver Post.

Dear Ms. Carman,

I'm a bit late, I know, but I wanted to express my appreciation for your November 4 article, "Lovers of books take heed."

It's great to see such an upwelling of support for the Tattered Cover and for the right of privacy. I'm proud to have participated in a rally supportive of the store.

I especially enjoyed your line, "Everyone who cherishes the right to buy books without fear of government investigation, intimidation and harassment should celebrate it by visiting a Tattered Cover Book Store and buying a book -- any book."

Now a mild criticism. I'm a civil libertarian who takes each Article of the Bill of Rights with equal seriousness. I was disappointed, then, to read previously of your support for Project Exile, which imprisons non-violent persons for technical gun violations. I might employ the line, "Everyone who cherishes the right to buy guns without fear of government investigation, intimidation and harassment should celebrate it by visiting Paladin Arms and buying a gun -- any gun." My personal goal is to help bring together civil libertarians of the "left" and civil libertarians of the "right" to create a broad pro-freedom coalition (just so you know where I'm coming from).

Thanks again for your support of book lovers!

Ari Armstrong


Bill Owens' Budget Hike

In case anyone was still suffering from delusions that Governor Bill Owens is somehow better than the Democrat would have been, the following headline (Rocky Mountain News November 2) says it all: "Owens plans 5.7% budget hike." The extra tax money will be used to expand government education, imprison drug offenders, and fund socialized medicine.

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