Freedom Updates: February 12, 2003
All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
Kill the Flowers
Jerd Smith reports in the Rocky February 12, "Aurora will prohibit the planting of gardens, trees, lawns and flower beds as of May 3, taking more radical steps to preserve its dwindling water supplies." John Accola writes another article for the business section describing the problems this creates for local businesses. Mike Gilsdorf of Arapahoe Acres & Garden Center said, "It basically puts the green industry in Aurora out of business."
This is the trouble with letting the government socialize any industry. The state is clumsy and cruel. Water shortage? Kill all the flowers! Problem solved.
By contrast, the market operates with finesse. A water market would raise prices based on anticipated future shortages, thus encouraging people to conserve in the least painful ways. Some people would choose to shorten their showers and keep their flower garden. Many would choose less water-intensive types of planting.
Apparently, the concepts of supply and demand are foreign to the bureaucrats who run Aurora's socialized water industry. The market ensures resources go to their highest-valued uses. The market is about giving people choices. The state is about sending armed police after those who dare to plant flowers.
Grant Defends Jury Rights
Jurors seeking information should not be viewed as a problem ("Rule-breaking jurors prompt new slaying trial for woman," Jan. 31 and the On Point editorial of Feb. 3, "Witless juries"). It is unavoidable and to be welcomed; it is responsible, not irresponsible behavior.
No-Fault Auto Insurance
Under no fault insurance, when someone is injured in an auto accident, each injured person collects injury and property damage from their own insurance company -- regardless of who is at fault.
So what to do? Hillman suggests a number of changes:
Reduce the required coverage from $100,000 to a reasonable amount similar to other states.
But why doesn't the state legislature simply repeal all laws pertaining to auto insurance policies and let customers and their insurance companies decide the policies that work best for them? At most, the legislature should set minimum guidelines as a condition for driving on government roads.
Musgrave Joins Ron Paul's Liberty Caucus
Jeffco LP Discusses Politics
Woehr discussed seven principles the major parties live by.
Gallant related, "People care less about [the] big picture, more about immediate desires and fears... Jack also pointed out that the major parties know how to season their candidates. They will often have candidates run a one-year practice race (which they have little chance of winning) before running a serious two-year campaign for a winnable slot."
Fortunately, Kweisi Mfume, President of the NAACP, realizes Cedric is an actor and is able to separate the man from the fictional character. Mfume "noted that other characters in the film shouted down the remarks that Cedric's character made."
The article claims Cedric's character "made mocking remarks" about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. What Eddie says is that other black people were getting arrested for civil disobedience long before King and Parks. I found Eddie's tone overwrought but not "mocking." Indeed, Eddie explicitly gives King and Parks credit.
The point of those segments is to show the barbershop is a place where people can get together for rough-and-tumble discussion, a place where you check political correctness at the door. Eddie's comments are intended to be interpreted as outrageous. That's the point.
But it would be ridiculous to fixate on a few of Eddie's lines and ignore the broader message of the movie. What Barbershop mocks is the life of crime. What it promotes is personal responsibility, hard work, and benevolence toward others in your community. It's one of the most morally uplifting films I've ever seen. And Cedric the Entertainer is brilliant as Eddie, who also delivers some of the most insightful and level-headed comments in the film.
I think Jackson and other critics may be getting a little too self-defensive. Mfume sensibly said, "We're not a monolithic community, African Americans -- never have been and never will be."
In Defense of Homeowners Associations
Yes, it's stupid for homeowners associations to require water-greedy bluegrass, especially in times of drought. That's not the point. The point is, should the legislature force associations to change their policies, or should members of those associations act independently to change the rules?
There is certainly well-developed libertarian theory that supports homeowners associations. Indeed, they are seen as the most viable market alternative to zoning laws. In the case of, say, the pig farm next door, a property owner can make the case in court that terrible smells and sounds interfere with the prior property right. But this is not possible with, say, neighbors who paint their houses neon orange or build ten-story additions. The market solution is a unanimous contract that maintains higher property values for everybody within the agreement.
Obviously, the associations are not always going to get the rules right. But the rules may be changed internally, without government interference. If you don't like the rules, you are free to move somewhere with different rules.
It's easy to see how a unanimous contract can give rise to a homeowners association. But how is the contract extended to new buyers? Each of the original owners in effect agrees to sell the home only to somebody who also agrees to abide by the contract, and in turn to sell it only to somebody else who agrees to it. In this way, the unanimous contract is extended indefinitely. Indeed, it creates a kind of market democracy libertarians can actually get excited about.
Kosinski on Space
Ari, I really liked your article on the issues of putting people in space, and the article you printed by Wright. I used to work at MIT (McNair of Challenger's alma mater) and worked with students who's entire life's ambition was to make it to the international space station.
End the Drug War
Kane-- Diane Carman wrote a January 30 column for the Denver Post reviewing a talk by Judge John Kane. Carman discussed the "country's futile and destructive war on drugs." Kane noted the drug war doesn't work, it is expensive, and it keeps two million people behind bars. Unfortunately, "reform of the nation's drug laws is unlikely because law enforcement agencies profit from them."
Mike Plylar-- The Post also published a letter from Plylar on February 9. He argued the drug war threatens "our legacy as a free and free-thinking people... King George would blush at the tactics we allow our government employees to use in pursuit of those who consume illegal drugs." Two other consequences of prohibition, Plylar noted, are huge illegal drug operations and huge budgets for the drug warriors. Kirk Muse adds in another letter, "Thanks to the drug war, the word 'liberty' does not rightfully belong on any U.S. coins or monuments."
The Deadly Drug War-- The February 8 issue of the Rocky, page one, reports, "Hundreds of drug enforcement agents swept down on a notorious street gang Friday morning, arresting more than a dozen gang members..." Lt. Jim Welton told reporter Brian Crecente the gangsters were involved in four recent shootings. "There are people who were saved today because of these arrests," Welton said. Perhaps. But there are many more people who were murdered because of the violent black markets Welton helps to create.
DEA a Failure-- Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times reported February 4 that, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the DEA "is unable to demonstrate progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the United States." It has been quite effective, however, at helping create a violent black market and high rates of homicide.
Another Weeping Jury-- Jurors who convicted medical marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal in California are now advocating for his release (AP, February 4). The federal court would not allow the jury to learn that Rosenthal distributed medical marijuana to sick people -- as the laws of California allow. At this level, the "war on drugs" is pure evil. It is a war on the sick and dying, and it is repugnant.
The Cancer of Prohibition-- John C. Ensslin wrote a great story for the February 6 Rocky. The DEA says it will target methamphetamine and "club drugs" in Colorado. Jeff Sweetin of the DEA said, "There's a lot of collateral damage with methamphetamine... It's like cancer..." For instance, the December fire in Aurora is related to the drug trade, and meth labs create toxic chemicals. Of course, all of this "collateral damage" is the direct result of drug prohibition. And Sweetin helps to spread the cancer of prohibition. Sweetin adds, "It taxes our manpower and local law enforcement beyond what we could ever have imagined." I.e., this is a war Sweetin can never win, and he knows it. So when will he find the integrity to advocate the repeal of prohibition?
MI Repeals Mandatory Minimums-- Families Against Mandatory Minimums sent out a release December 27, "Governor John Engler ended Michigan's failed experiment with mandatory minimum drug sentences when he signed historic legislation repealing the laws on December 25. Public Acts 665, 666 and 670 of 2002 eliminate most of the state's Draconian mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. Judges can now use sentencing guidelines to impose sentences based on a range of factors in each case, rather than solely drug weight, and lifetime probation for the lowest-level offenders has been replaced with a five-year probationary period. Earlier parole is now possible for some prisoners, at the discretion of the parole board."
Corruption-- The January 24 Rocky reports, "A guard at the federal 'Supermax' prison was charged Thursday with taking a bribe to bring drugs to an inmate." At a maximum-security prison. It's difficult even to estimate how many government agents have become corrupted over the drug war. And they can't even keep drugs out of prisons!
Marines Killed-- The January 24 Rocky reprinted an AP story from Texas: "Two military helicopters taking part in a nighttime anti-drug patrol crashed and burned... near the Mexican border, killing all four Marine reservists on board." If the federal government is going to risk the lives of Marines, shouldn't it be to protect the country from something other than stupid American politicians?
Throwing Bad Money After Bad-- In a January 14 letter to the Rocky, marijuana-legalization activist Ken Gorman quotes Congressman Dan Burton about the drug war in Columbia: "Why, when we throw more money at this problem, do we end up with more illegal drugs in the U.S.?" Unfortunately, Gorman notes, the federal government has stepped up its assault on marijuana users, despite the enormous prison-industrial complex in the nation.
How to Ease the Budget Crunch-- David Aitken wrote a letter for the December 17 Post: "Gov. Owens could put a serious dent in the budget shortfall if he, in conjunction with the legislature, would end the war on drugs. Such a move would probably reduce the crime rate by 20 percent or more, free up tons of prison space, substantially reduce the workload in the courts and get the cops back to dealing with real criminals."
Prohibition Funds Crime-- Drug prohibition creates violent black markets and profit opportunities for terrorists and criminals. Jim Hughes writes for the November 24 Post, "...Aryan Brotherhood members move marijuana by the truckload across the country, according to [an] indictment... The gang also has entered into partnerships with Asian gangs to import heroin from Thailand..."
Douglas Bruce-- Alan Prendergast interviewed TABOR author Douglas Bruce at a restaurant for the January 30 edition of Westword. Bruce defended TABOR, blasted attempts to get around it, and criticized Governor Owens' so-called "stimulus" proposals. "It's taking money from our waitress to give it to some guy who owns a string of motels. Why shouldn't that business pay for its own advertising? I don't care if it's corporate welfare or welfare queens. Redistribution from the poor to the rich or from the rich to the poor is still stealing."
John Gilmore-- The Post printed an AP article about Gilmore February 9. Gilmore has filed suit against John Ashcroft and others for forcing him to show government-issued identification at airports. Gilmore found libertarian ideas through the Foundation for Economic Education, the article reports. "That was how I found my political identity as a Libertarian. I actually cared more about the rights of individuals than the rights of collective society," Gilmore said.
ATF goes DOJ-- Originally, the ATF was part of the Treasury. The reason for that is it's unconstitutional for the federal government to restrict gun ownership. So Congress snuck such restrictions in through tax law. The ATF was set up to be a tax-collecting agency. Now it has been moved from the Treasury to the Department of Justice. "The power to tax is the power to destroy."
Brennan and CCW-- Charlie Brennan is a news reporter for the Rocky Mountain News who apparently dreams of writing for the editorial page. In a February 7 article purportedly about children smuggling weapons into government schools, Brennan quotes one government-education bureaucrat who calls concealed carry liberalization "crazy." But what's crazy is pretending a CCW law, which applies only to adults, somehow has something to do with children smuggling weapons into schools.
Crisis Management-- Michele Ames of the Rocky reported February 6, "The budget took a 4 percent trim this year. Next year, that figure likely will be 10 percent..." Sen. Peggy Reeves told Ames, "We're going to be in pretty much of a crisis by the time this year is over." But the crisis is that government at all levels spends roughly half of our income. Budget cuts are not the crisis -- they help alleviate the crisis.
Smoke Rebels-- A February 7 AP article by P. Solomon Banda quotes Pueblo bar owner Brian Falsetto concerning the city's smoking ban, "We're just the bar owners, not the enforcers of these Gestapo laws." Customers were "flagrantly defying 'No Smoking' signs on the walls inside Gray's Coors Tavern." Sounds like my kind of bar. The ban was suspended based on a petition with 10,000 signatures, though it can still be reinstated.
Wired on Spam-- Wired posted a February 7 article by Julia Scheeres about a Colorado effort to limit spam by creating a "do not e-mail" database. David Sorkin of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago told Wired, "The state laws go after the symptoms of the spam, but don't address the central problem: the immense volume of unsolicited bulk e-mail being sent out... At this point, I think the technical approach has more promise than the legal one... Filters have done more to block unsolicited e-mail than any piece of legislation."
Save TABOR!-- Julia Martinez of the Post reported February 12, "Legislative leaders are considering asking voters to overturn constitutional amendments that they believe have plunged the state into fiscal chaos," including parts of TABOR. The subhead reads, "Voter-passed measures blamed in budget crunch." But the cause of the "budget crunch" is the fact that state legislators spend too damn much money. The solution is simple: cut government spending. Don't mess with TABOR: it's working beautifully. Amendment 23 can go.
Tax-Funded Beer-- Brian Crecente of the Rocky reported February 11, "Two Jefferson County school principals were suspended Monday after a probe into off-campus coaches' meetings at which beer allegedly was bought with school funds." Well, if it's okay to spend school money on other food at an official meeting, I don't see the harm in buying beer, too. Suspended over a beer? Who in their right mind would put up with the bureaucratic nightmare known as government education?
PATRIOT II-- A February 11 editorial in the Rocky rightly criticizes the Bush administration for contemplating even more expansive powers for the national government. Besides getting rid of even more judicial review for surveillance, the bill would allow the government to hold indefinitely anybody it claims is an "illegal enemy combatant." Does anyone want to place a bet on how long it would take the feds to start holding political prisoners under such a provision?
They're Called "Prices"-- In a stunning economic breakthrough, Denver residents figured out charging more for water would encourage more economic use of it (Jerd Smith, Rocky, February 11). The fact that this point even has to be discussed at a public meeting proves the government has no business controlling the water market.
Rocky Markets-- The editorial board of the Rocky Mountain News has become quite the champion of free markets of late. On February 10, the Rocky argued wind power should not be tax-subsidized. Customers are already given the choice to pay more for wind power, and if it proves successful wind will naturally grab more of the market. The Rocky also pointed out hydrogen is not obviously the energy of the future -- and if it is the private businesses will adopt it without government intervention.
For the Children-- It seems using "the children" as a pretext for fascist laws is an international phenomenon. Here in Colorado, "the children" are invoked in arguments against the right to keep and bear arms. Safety first, you know. In New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar "said that homosexuality should not be legalized as it would increase the sexual abuse of street children." He said, "Our individual behaviour is subjected to social morality, social conditions and social behaviour." Sounds familiar.
Rights for Sale-- What would Democrats do if somebody suggested that, in order to alleviate the budget crunch, people be required to pay a special "literature tax" on book sales, internet connections, and newspaper sales? Hopefully, they would be infuriated. Yet some Colorado Democrats have proposed an even more anti-freedom measure. According to the January 29 Rocky, House Democrats want to "[r]equire individuals who purchase guns to pay for the mandated background checks."
Progress in El Paso-- A January 27 e-mail forwarded from Bernie Herpin reported the El Paso County Commission rescinded a prohibition on carrying a legally concealed handgun in parks.
PERC Up-- The free-market environmentalists were covered in Bill McAllister's January 26 article in the Post. The Political Economy Research Center wants Bush to look to market solutions and "promote incentives to encourage private groups to undertake needed reforms," as McAllister puts it.
Montrose LP Seeks to Cut Grocery Tax-- The national LP reported January 24, "The Western Slope LP has launched a petition drive to repeal a tax on groceries in Montrose, Colorado -- saying the tax is a hardship for poor families. Libertarians need about 450 signatures to bring a measure before the city council, which can act on the proposal or call a special election to allow voters to decide. If the grocery tax is repealed, Montrose residents would save about $2.5 million a year." Good luck, WSLP, and keep us posted.
Littwin and Wiccans-- Keith Langley wrote in to the Rocky (January 23) to defend Margaret Denny, the Libertarian candidate for Arapahoe County Clerk. Langley believes Mike Littwin previously showed "an appalling level of ignorance and insensitivity" concerning Denny's religion -- Wiccan. Denny "ran as a Libertarian," not as a witch, Langley noted, though the press chose to make a big deal out of Denny's religion but not that of her opponent (who, incidentally, seems to have violated numerous tenets of his). Mike Seebeck, Public Information Director for LPCO, wrote in a December 10 letter to the Rocky, "Denny's personal religious views should have no bearing at all on how well she could do a public job."
Another Kid Expelled-- Jon Caldara reports in the Daily Camera about North Valley Middle School in La Salle, "One of Mitch's friends purchased a laser pointer and a second friend brought it to school one day. He showed it off to Mitch during class. Mitch played with the laser pointer for a minute or two, shining the red dot around the classroom. He then gave it back to his friend, who later got caught by the teacher for goofing around with it... For this crime Mitch, along with his two playmates, has been expelled from school for a full year." The people who should be kicked out of the school are the idiotic administrators who expelled poor Mich. Here's to homeschooling.
Gun Owner Registration-- The AP reported January 22, "Advocates of gun rights say the Larimer County sheriff overstepped his authority with his decision to enter the names of gun owners into a government database." The database is maintained by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and is part of the Crime Information Center. Vermont-style CCW, anyone?
New Trial for Amini-- Amini didn't get a fair trial. He couldn't even understand his court-appointed translator. Now the Colorado Court of Appeals has thrown out his conviction. Attorney Paul Grant told Karen Abbot for a January 17 story in the Rocky, "This is a wonderful opinion. Mr. Amini had absolutely no chance to have a fair trial. This was just an absolutely outrageous and unfair trial." David Holthouse also wrote a followup to article for the January 23 Westword. Amini may still face another trial.
A Fundamental Right-- I nearly was left breathless by a January 18 editorial by the Denver Post. The writers noted concealed carry legislation will put guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, not criminals. They added, "Self-defense is a fundamental human right that no law-abiding citizen should be denied."
England Gun Crimes-- The National Post pointed out, "[T[he evidence concerning gun control is unequivocal and conclusive: It hasn't worked, just as its critics always said it wouldn't. The reason for this is obvious: law-abiding people don't use guns to commit crimes, while criminals are not likely to take any notice of licensing restrictions and regulations. Crimes involving the use of firearms rose in Britain last year alone by 35%. In the year 2002, 9,974 crimes were committed with the use of a gun; the year before, there were 7,362 such crimes. In 1954, by contrast, a princely total of four crimes were committed with the use of a gun." Also, the Observer reports, "[T]he Home Office released figures revealing that gun crime had increased by 35 per cent between 2001 and 2002." If the victim disarmament lobby is successful in America, we can expect an increase in violent crime here, too.
Canadian Gun Owners Defiant-- The Christian Science Monitor reports, "Thousands of firearms remain unregistered despite a government deadline to do so by Jan. 1." And this is pacifist Canada. Gun registration in the U.S. would fare far worse.
In Good Company-- The Libertarian Party was listed by the December 19 Post as one of the groups targeted by the Denver spy files. Other groups include Justice for Mena, the American Indian Movement, and the American Constitution Party. Oh, and the Million Moms. Finally something to bring us together!
Denver Law Myths-- According to Bill Johnson (Rocky, December 11), Denver laws banning the lending of vacuum cleaners and driving a black car on Sundays are actually urban legends.
Fatherland Security-- Montrose Libertarian Tim Jacobs wrote, "I'm sure Tom Ridge is a fine man who would never trample on my rights or send me off to a gulag. Of course, he's just the first in a never-ending series of chiefs of the Department of Homeland Security..." (November 28 Post)
Free Ads?-- I wrote a letter to the Boulder Weekly that appeared November 28: "I was deeply moved by Stewart Sallo's indictment of greed in his Nov. 21 column ("Free is just another word," Stews Views). Stew is so right. It is terrible that "just about everything is being labeled with a price." As I'm sure you've noticed, the Boulder Weekly labels its ad space "with a price." Surely you now recognize this is fundamentally unfair. Therefore, I hereby formally request that the Boulder Weekly provide me with free advertising space. After all, I give away-for FREE-libertarian articles at my web page, www.FreeColorado.com. In fact, readers are encouraged to join my FREE weekly e-mail list, as described on the page. Please contact me and let me know when you plan to run my first free advertisement. Would asking for a full page be too greedy?"