Freedom Updates: September 13, 2002

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Freedom Updates: September 13, 2002

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


War
Today both of Denver's major papers praised Bush for his criticism of Iraq. War seems more likely by the day. Libertarians are deeply divided over the matter. In the October edition of Liberty Magazine, editor R. W. Bradford writes, "I am puzzled and saddened to find that many of the people that I love most dearly -- and writers and intellectuals for whom I have the greatest respect -- have been caught up in the war hysteria."

The libertarian aversion to war is well-justified. Many wars are engaged for political reasons, not for reasons of national security. A lot of libertarians joined others who protested the Vietnam war. With respect to a possible war with Iraq, several issues warrant review. Is politics trumping sound defense policy? What will be the impact of the war on American lives and American liberties? Is American security at stake, even assuming Iraq is building nuclear and biological weapons? Is a war likely to spur more terrorist attacks on American soil? Will war squash local resistors in Iraq? Can Iraq be stopped in some other way, short of war?

I find the timing of the Bush administration's posturing suspicious. Is Iraq somehow more dangerous a year after 9/11 than it was a month before it? Does anyone seriously doubt Bush's team has failed to calculate the potential impact of a war on Bush's reelection chances?

Still, minimal-state libertarians argue the one legitimate purpose of the state is to protect life and property. A nuclear bomb in the hands of a madman threatens both. Bradford argues implausibly that, just as Iraq "has sought to produce devices of mass destruction with which it can threaten its neighbors," so has the U.S. But surely this comparison is absurd. Another article in Liberty urges "libertarians to engage in messy, practical debate" and steer clear of too-easy ideological pronouncements.

That Saddam is a dangerous and evil man I have no doubt. But that fact, by itself, does not imply war is warranted. My fear is that the U.S. will enter a counter-productive war for political reasons. What is certain is that a war will fill a lot of body bags with the bodies of innocent people. I hope the politicians proceed with caution.


Airport Security a Farce
The Rocky Mountain News ran a letter of mine on September 11:

Admirably, the Rocky Mountain News published two pages on Sept. 5 about civil liberties, the PATRIOT Act and the James Ujaama case.

Unfortunately, two stories from Sept. 6 whitewash stupid government actions and fail to offer a skeptical voice.

The front page claims, "Screeners have seized nearly 9 tons of suspicious items since last year's terrorist attacks." The front of the business section asserts, "Fallout from terrorist attacks still haunts U.S. airlines."

Surely a few people aren't flying because they fear violence in the skies. But people I know aren't flying because they don't want to put up with the insane and obviously counterproductive "security" measures now in place at the airports. This problem was not caused by the terrorist attacks: it was caused by the stupid government reaction to those attacks.

Does anybody really believe stealing a little kid's G.I. Joe toys, Grandma's toenail clippers, Swiss pocket knives or blenders makes us any safer? (I would argue such measures actually make us less safe by assuring the "Let's roll" guys will have no tools with which to respond to violence.) Meanwhile, airports routinely fail tests of their security procedures.

It's time for the American public to stand up and proclaim we're not going to submit to petty tyranny on the foolish pretext that it somehow enhances security. And I hope the press continues to remember its role as watchdog and government critic.

I appreciate the opportunity the News provided to express these views to a large audience. I have a minor complaint, however. The headline attached to my letter was, "U.S. has overreacted to terrorist attacks." But that wasn't my message at all. I was complaining about the quality of reaction, not the level of reaction.

In fact, in some ways the U.S. has not reacted strongly enough to the attacks. An appropriate reaction would have been to arm all airline pilots immediately. That still hasn't happened. An appropriate reaction would have been to fully privatize all airports and airlines and allow them to compete on the basis of security. I'd feel much safer flying on planes with more armed passengers.

The U.S. should withdraw its troops from most parts of the world, including most parts of the Middle East. The terrorists alone deserve moral blame for their actions. Still, changing U.S. policy along more libertarian lines might help prevent more terrorist attacks in the future.

In many ways, the U.S. under-reacted to the terrorist threats -- or simply failed to react at all. Unfortunately, the ways the government did react are largely counter-productive.


LP Activists
The state Libertarian Party is seeing a massive rise in the level of activism among some of its members. That's a good thing.

On September 12, Rand Franshier wrote to the "lpco-chat" e-list, "Amazing what you can do in front of Safeway, when you get someone new every 15 -30 seconds, and stay for 2 1/2 hours! It's a good venue for just 1 person, and I worked there while Adam and Michael drove to Aspen Park to do outreach. I handed out the entirety of a big stack, then went back to my car and grabbed every campaign flyer in there, came back and handed all those out, too! Handed out everything I had, sold out the store. Totals at least 200 packets of Rick/Ralph/Adam flyers, maybe 600 flyers in all."

The same day, Michael McKinzie wrote, "We started at 0645 with the rendezvous. Then the roadside stand. We estimate at least 1500 commuters saw our signs from 0700 to 0800." LPers also campaigned to bikers and business owners, McKinzie noted.

Today, Fanshier described another outreach event: "Sponsored by the Evergreen/285 Corridor Activists and various other helpers... The town will sponsor its 19th annual Canyonfest celebration... We are setting up a 10x10 canopy, courtesy Larry Hoffenberg. They have a big tent there, but we opted for an outdoors spot because there's more places to hang our banners. We'll be handing out candy to kids and flyers to parents. Our expectation is that this will be a rather low-turnout kind of day, roughly on par with working outside a grocery store. Still, there will be more opportunity to register people to vote, and to gain volunteers and new committed libertarians. Days are getting shorter and cooler, folks--won't have many more of these kinds of outreach events this year... if you want to learn how to do outreach, this may be a great opportunity for you!"

This is just a small sampling of what Libertarian Party members are doing across the state. There are endless ways to advocate freedom in the libertarian movement and in the LP. Find your niche and go for it!


Tiger Reflects on Prohibition
Paul Tiger recently made some interesting comments about drug prohibition. Tiger is running for Boulder County clerk. He wrote,

In my experience with cops in the street and cops in the county jails is that they have far differing opinions of good and bad laws, or how they should be applied or violators punished. Drug criminals above all come under this disparate belief system. In general terms, jail deputies are of the opinion... that far too much attention is given to persons that have violated drug laws, and not enough to violent criminals.

In my stint in the Boulder County jail (as a computer specialist) we saw far too many people incarcerated for drug related offenses, while other criminals where given much lighter sentences. In some cases, career criminals were put on ankle bracelets (home arrest), in halfway houses, or probation, while people who had been enticed to sell drugs to undercover officers were rotting in jail.

...The system works against itself. The public is not safe as the smart and well off criminals stay out of jail and in the population, and jail personal are saddled with an angry jail population of people incarnated for having committed non-violent crimes of personal choice (like drug possession). The environment teaches inmates that crime does pay in a way that makes them repeat offenders, but for more violent crimes or for crimes against persons. Sort of a crime school. Many non-violent criminals become violent, in the knowledge that they were entrapped, or only doing things that met with their moral codes and not affecting anyone else negatively...

The deputies that I've met with that are anti-drug laws come from both the jail and the streets. They have far differing reasons as to why they are anti-prohibitionists. I know the reasons that jail deputies have, but I am not all that keen on what street cops have in mind. I do know that they are not always the same. Suffice to say, that I have met a large number in both camps that are anti-drug war, but the solutions that they have in mind are different. In general, they do not speak these ideas to outsiders, and hardly ever to their superiors.

LEAP of Reason
Sheriff Bill Masters, the nation's only Libertarian sheriff and Colorado's highest ranking Libertarian official, has joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, available on the web at http://www.leap.cc/.


Howell Touts Market Education
I really like what I've seen from Carla Howell, the Libertarian candidate for governor of Massachusetts. On August 21, she distributed her plan for education:

Governor Carla Howell would subtract funding, subtract employees, subtract regulations and restrictions and controls, subtract authority and control and oversight... from the Massachusetts state government.
Governor Carla Howell will remove the obstacles between quality Education and children, parents, and teachers.
Governor Carla Howell will remove the burdens that keep educational quality down while pushing costs up.
Here's the Carla Howell, Libertarian for Governor Plan to dramatically improve education in Massachusetts:
1. End all state government funding of Education in Massachusetts. This will eliminate over $3.2 billion (FY2002) in state government funding for public schools. This will reduce public school spending per pupil by $3,298 - from $7,553 to $4,255 per pupil per year. This is $1,255 more per pupil per year than parochial schooling. This is $3,000 more per pupil per year than home schooling. Easily enough to fund education in a mosaic of schools in Massachusetts.
2. End all state government authority and responsibility for Education...
3. End all state government regulation and oversight and control of Education... Return responsibility and control of Education in Massachusetts to parents, teachers, and local communities...
4. End all Massachusetts state government authority, control, regulation, and oversight of private schooling, cooperative schooling, and home schooling. I trust parents, not politicians. Families, not bureaucrats...

Ken Cary Resigns
The seven-member city council of Leadville used to hold a four-member Libertarian majority. But Joe Swyers switched to unaffiliated for ideological and political reasons. And now Ken Cary has resigned for personal reasons. But Carol Hill remains a natural leader in her community.


Boston Update
Boston's Gun Bible was selected as the "Freedom Book of the Month" for August by Free-Market.Net. An e-mail from Boston says, "Boston is rejoicing over this award behind an FAL at the range..."

A subsequent update related, "Just last week was posted a very nice review of my revised 'Boston's Gun Bible': http://www.sierratimes.com/02/07/26/hunter.htm."

The book may be ordered at http://www.fredsm14stocks.com/catalog/books.asp or at 888-879-2144.

Boston also relates, "My upcoming novel 'Molon Labe!' is turning out nicely, and folks who have read the work in progress are very enthusiastic about it. I will try to finish it by Thanksgiving, but it may take until Easter due to the sweeping nature of the story. (It's the most ambitious and challenging book I've ever written.)"


L. Neil Smith Goes Graphic
Colorado's prolific writer L. Neil Smith related August 14, "[T]oday I'll be signing a contract to adapt _The Probability Broach_ for a 180-page 'graphic novel'." Excellent! So when's the movie coming out?


English Crime Wave
A July 30 article in the Washington Times by Paul Craig Roberts relates, "Professor [Joyce Lee] Malcolm's carefully researched book [Guns and Violence] is a study of guns and violence in England from the Middle Ages through the present day. When the English were armed to the teeth, violent crime was rare. Now that the English are disarmed, violent crime has exploded. Indeed, crime in England is out of control."


LP Flubs Social Security Discussion
A July 26 release from the LP states, "The government should immediately move to privatize Social Security despite the recent turbulence in the stock market, Libertarians say." National Director Steve Dasbach said, "Even with its ups and downs, the stock market pays long-term investors five times as much money as Social Security."

But what does the stock market have to do with ending social security? Here's a simple libertarian plan for phasing out that miserable socialist system. 1) Allow everyone now paying into social security to leave the system. They pay no more in taxes to the system, and they get no benefits. No new people are added to the system. 2) Cut other government spending and sell off government assets to pay off the recipients of social security.

The significant thing about the plan outlined above is that it has nothing to do with the stock market! It simply leaves people free to spend their money as they see fit, free from government commands.

So why has the LP fixated on the stock market? Because Cato and related groups keep pushing to REPLACE social security with mandatory, regulated accounts. This is NOT a libertarian solution, and the LP has no business promoting it.

Fortunately, Dasbach adds, "The fact is that under most proposals, investors could avoid the stock market altogether and direct their money into bonds, the money market or other low-risk investments." Great! But why should the government have ANY say over how individuals invest their money -- or WHETHER they invest their money?


Seebach Defends Reason
Linda Seebach was unfairly criticized by some members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. The Alliance said Seebach tried to "attack same-sex parenting." As she explains in her July 20 column in the Rocky Mountain News, she was merely reviewing the findings (more accurately, the lack of findings) of a study about the issue.

Seebach herself has no problem with same-sex marriages: "The most straightforward and practical solution to the policy question of what to do about people of the same sex who want to get married is 'Let them'."

But Seebach's column is not primarily about the issue of same-sex marriages or adoptions. Rather, it is a defense of reason. The Alliance blasted Seebach and the study she cited because of the organization that published the study.

Seebach responds, "Attacking the researchers (and the columnist who wrote about their work) based on the publisher's motives is an ad hominem argument, and the significant thing about the ad hominem argument is that it is a fallacy. The conclusion might or might not be right, but the argument is invalid."

Seebach concludes, "The late philosopher Sidney Hook once wrote, 'Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments.' The critics of *No Bias* [the cited study] haven't even bothered to read its arguments."


'An Unjust Law is No Law At All'
I think it was Holmes who made the above statement. Charles King writes in a July 20 letter to the Rocky Mountain News, "Is America not a nation of laws? ...Nor does the fact, often referred to, that most illegal immigrants work well absolve them from breaking our law... [A] nasty fight for Hispanic votes does not excuse our open disrespect for the law."

No, America is not a "nation of laws" -- it is a nation of liberty and justice for all. Yes, the rule of law is a crucial social principle, but only when the laws are just. By King's reasoning, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were wrong in rising up against their Nazi oppressors because in doing so they violated the laws of the land. Germany was a "nation of laws," too. Not only is it acceptable to break unjust laws, it is generally morally virtuous to do so.

Society functions best with the bare minimum of laws, with only those rules that protect property rights and prevent violence, theft, and fraud. We do not owe blind obedience to unjust laws -- in fact we have a moral responsibility to fight those laws.


Media Notes

An Enlightened Islam-- Dean Ahmad runs the Islamic libertarian group Minaret of Freedom. I was pleased to see a September 13 column by Pueblo resident Asma Gull Hasan, who writes, "The reason we must continue to fight the war on terror, the reason we must remember the victims of 9/11, besides to save our country, is to preserve the peaceful Islam that the Eid stamp represents and the spirit of a country that is open enough to issue such a stamp." Let us not forget the barbarism that has also tainted Christianity. We are to welcome and encourage the enlightenment and humanization of all religions.

Tom "The Jerk" Tancredo-- According to the September 13 Denver Post, Tom Tancredo is personally demanding the deportation of an 18-year-old honor student and his family. Jesus Apodaca wants to study computer science. Frankly, Colorado would be better off to keep Apodaca, who is developing useful skills, and deport Tom Tancredo, who lives as a leech off of tax dollars. Tom Tancredo's actions are pathetic. He gets the "jerk of the month" award.

Go Superman!-- Christopher Reeves, known to the world as Superman, has reportedly regained some movement and some feeling in his extremities. This is a testament to Reeves' hard work and commitment. His positive mind-set is truly an inspiration. Before, I thought Reeves was just an actor. Now he really is a superman.

Civil Liberties Threats-- Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times wrote an article reprinted in the September 11 Rocky in which he argues "some people's civil liberties have been steamrolled," yet overall our liberties remain safe. Kristof complains about secret detentions and the imprisonment of innocent people as "material witnesses."

Vote for Freedom-- I was encouraged to see a Denver Post editorial September 11 titled, "Vote for Freedom." I hoped the editorial would encourage people to vote in defense of civil and economic liberties. But I was sorely disappointed. The editorial instead argues that voting per se is somehow related to freedom. That, of course, is nonsense. Voting is not innately good. It is only acceptable when done to protect the Bill of Rights and our fundamental freedoms.

Registering Guns--According to an AP article printed September 10, Pennsylvania's Democratic candidate for governor, Edward Rendell, said, "I'm not for registration, I'm not for licensing, I'm not for making it more difficult for people to carry a handgun. I am for one handgun a month." But how does Rendell plant to assure people buy no more than one handgun a month, unless he registers them as handgun buyers? Every politician who supports the Brady Law thereby supports gun registration. That seems to include most Republicans.

Campos Stands Tall-- Wow! Paul Campos' September 10 column is excellent. He calls the drug war "certifiably insane." He argues the war on terrorism ought not come at the expense of our basic freedoms: "Isn't it better to take a slight risk of dying on one's feet, if the alternative is the certainty of living on one's knees?" I have but a minor complaint. The stronger and more accurate argument is that restoring our liberties actually makes us safer. This also applies to guns, which Campos notes have killed many Americans. But guns have also saved many American lives, and on balance we are safer than we would be if guns were legally prohibited. Here again safety and liberty go hand in hand.

Hamblin Takes On Disarmament-- Ken Hamblin is a conservative radio host who is coincidentally black. On September 8, he wrote a fine column about the Second Amendment. Hamblin discusses "the racist history linked with keeping the benefit of the Second Amendment out of the reach of black Americans." He continues, "I believe this history laid the groundwork for a web of anti-firearms legislation that would eventually embrace every[body]." He references Clayton E. Cramer's "The Racist Roots of Gun Control."

Rocky Times for Liberties-- Karen Abbott deserves a lot of credit for her September 5 story for the Rocky Mountain News, "Like Liberty Bell, civil liberties crack." She quotes the ACLU's Mark Silverstein and even Republican U.S. attorney John Suthers about the government's encroachment on our rights.

Shnelvar Talks Pot-- Ralph Shnelvar explained why he wants to legalize marijuana on a web program at http://www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-1432.html.

Boulder Gets it Right (for a Change)-- As the July 25 Daily Camera reports, the Boulder council responded to the PATRIOT Act: "[T]he city of Boulder has been, and remains, firmly committed to the protection of civil rights and civil liberties for all people." Of course, that statement is a flat-out lie, as Boulder has done quite a bit to strip citizens of their civil liberties. But at least the council recognizes the evils of the PATRIOT Act.

Rosen and the Advocates-- The July 29 e-letter from Advocates for Self-Government (http://www.self-gov.org) reported: "[Mike] Rosen said he was indeed familiar with that [Nolan] chart, and said 'it is deeper and more profound' than the old 'left versus right' model. Too bad the show ended before the discussion could go further."

End Mandatory Minimums-- The Denver Post published three articles July 21 criticizing mandatory minimum sentences. Peter Chronis, Bob Ewegen, and the editorial board pitched in. The Post has been excellent in its criticism of drug policy. On August 27, the Post lamented the fact that "6.6 million (or 1 in 32) adult Americans was either in prison or under supervision by the end of last year." The paper characterized "the seemingly endless War on Drugs as nothing more than most recent incarnation of the disastrous Prohibition experiment." On August 18, the Post ran a column by Cynthia Tucker in which she stated, "The war on drugs is little more than a punitive war on low-level drug users." But the Rocky is also in the game: On July 30, it published an article by Rob Herbert titled, "Drug raid in small Texas town a huge travesty." Over 10% of the black population was arrested in that town, Tulia.

Drug War Foibles-- The Denver Post relates in an August 15 story, "A Walsenberg police sergeant and two emergency dispatchers were arrested... [because they] allegedly stole more than 4 pounds of marijuana from an evidence locker." But never fear! Assistant DA Cathy Mullens assured the Post the drugs were for personal use, not resale on the streets. An August 23 story in the Rocky reports, "Meth seizures increase 500 percent." The story quotes officials about how easy the drug is to manufacture and how dangerous the illegal manufacturing process is to others. And one officer believes "we are getting the tip of the iceberg." I.e., meth prohibition doesn't work and it endangers the public.

Koleen Brooks-- The Aspen Daily News reported August 10, "Ex-major, stripper refuses to pose for candidate." Ralph Shnelvar had asked Brooks to "expose an enormous pair of boobs" -- a T-shirt with pictures of Owens and Heath on it. Diane Carman blasted Brooks in an August 11 column for the Denver Post. But one of her comments was misleading: she said "members of the Libertarian Party [were] asking her to be their spokeswoman." Only Shnelvar asked her to be his spokesperson. The August 22 Westword published an excellent story about third parties. Candidates from a number of parties discussed the difficulties in earning press attention for serious issues.

Third Party Coverage-- The media has given a fair amount of attention to third parties this time around. The Rocky Mountain News published a letter from Doug "Dayhorse" Campbell on August 29: "Voters should consider the one candidate in this [Senate] race with no corporate ties and with a firm commitment to 'vote the Constitution' on all issues... I will fight to return government to its constitutionally defined limits while defending constitutionally protected rights." Campbell is with the Constitution Party; Libertarian Rick Stanley has also said he will vote in support of the Constitution. An August 2 editorial from the Post discusses the Colorado Coalition of Independent Political Parties, but says the Post wouldn't be able to cover every third-party candidate. Lynn Bartels wrote a nearly full-page article about Campbell in the August 26 Rocky. One of Campbell's quotes spreads across the top of the page: "My platform is essentially that I will vote for the Constitution. As you can imagine by the name of the party, we have a unique idea that government should run how the Founding Fathers intended." Libertarians express similar views, though they are more adamant about the repeal of drug prohibition and in general they tend to be less socially conservative.

Stanley Showing in Polls-- The Rocky Mountain News reports (September 13), "6 percent supported Libertarian candidate Rick Stanley" in a recent poll conducted for Strickland. Strickland's poll shows Allard leading 38-36%. A recent Allard poll shows Allard leading 46-35%. The results demonstrate polls can manipulate public opinion fairly easily. But Stanley has earned 6% in each poll, and he earned 4% in a previous poll. Something interesting is happening here. And if Strickland's poll has any merit, the Republicans will soon be jumping all over Rick Stanley.

Westword Lampoons Stanley-- Westword ran a cartoon September 5 lampooning Rollie Heath, Tom Strickland, Wayne Allard -- and Rick Stanley. It read, "Open your damn window and take Rick Stanley's campaign flier... or he'll blow your face off!"

Stanley's Press-- Following is a list of some of the press devoted to Rick Stanley. July 26 Rocky, Charlie Brennan: Stanley sentenced over Denver gun charge. "This court will not allow the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, to guide its hand," Stanley said. August 6 Rocky: "Until we have elected at least one candidate to federal office, the 'accomplishments' of the Libertarian Party members are zilch, zip, zero, nada," Stanley said. Of course that's hogwash, as the accomplishments of Sheriff Bill Masters demonstrate. August 16 Rocky, Lynn Bartels: "Libertarians ponder removing Senate candidate from ballot." August 23 Rocky, Lynn Bartels: "Senate candidate says he'll sue if board kicks him off ballot." The article quoted from an e-mail Stanley forwarded, but did not author, that advocates murder. The same day the Post published a short story which began, "...Stanley violated his oath to support the Libertarian statement of principles, according to an e-mail." August 28, Rocky, Brian Crecente: "Libertarian survives recall vote." The article quotes Joe Johnson: "[T]his [hearing] is a very dark hour for the Libertarian Party..." The September edition of LP News reviewed Stanley's sentencing hearing. It reviewed some of the arguments Stanley made in court and noted, "The sovereign citizen defense [Stanley used] has been tried before in other court cases, noted www.quatloos.com, a non-profit financial and tax fraud website, but has always been 'uniformly rejected by the courts' as 'utterly without merit'."

Denver Abuses-- Page 28A of the August 23 Rocky published two stories of abuse by the Denver city government. Marcella Armas has been selling hotdogs at an outdoor stand for over a decade, but the city tried to shut her down and denied her a permit. Denver added 20 members to its water team to bust people for using water. Of course, the simple solution is to simply charge more for water over a certain amount. But Denver couldn't possibly let economics solve its problems when it can otherwise rely on water enforcers.

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