Freedom Updates: February 20, 2003

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Freedom Updates: February 20, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Free Katica
The February 13-19 Westword carried a detailed story by David Holthouse about Katica Crippen, facing time in federal prison for posing nude with guns while on parole.

No one's arguing Crippen has made wise decisions in her life. She once sold speed to an undercover cop (you know, the same drug the Air Force gives its pilots for missions), and she may have also tried to sell the cop an illegally modified, unlicensed gun (though this point is ambiguous).

In 2000, Crippen was on parole. She violated her parole by driving a car to her new boyfriend's house, then violated it again by posing nude with his firearms. Dumb, dumb, dumb. She is currently sitting in state prison to finish out her initial sentence, then she will spend 18 months in federal prison for the new firearms charges -- posing nude with guns and a prior. She's supposed to get out in February, 2005.

Crippen obviously knows nothing about firearms safety -- I cringed when I saw the photos of her posing with her fingers on the triggers (one gun in each hand). Still, I can't help but feel sorry for her. She doesn't seem to be a threat to anything but her own well-being and emotional health. And, while Crippen is probably not the most responsible parent around, it's a shame to keep her locked in a cage apart from her pre-teen daughter. At taxpayers' expense, of course. Locking Crippen in prison hurts her, it hurts her daughter, and it hurts the people funding her imprisonment.

It's no surprise that the ATF stole the guns of the guy who photographed Crippen. He claims the ATF threatened to "find a way to prosecute" him if he didn't surrender $8,000 worth of property.

Crippen complains about her federal public defender who, Crippen says, didn't bother to mention she'd have to serve both the state and federal sentences in a row if she pled guilty. The lawyer "would never speak to me at length about my case," Crippen claims.

Holthouse reports Judge Matsch asked the federal persecutor, James Allison, "I want to know why this is a federal case... How far is this policy of locking people up with guns going to go?"

Holthouse also quotes a Cato study by Gene Healy, a critic of "Project Exile" (a project funded in part by the NRA). Healy discusses Crippen's case and says of prosecutors, "Once they run out of serious gun crimes, they push on with technical and meritless indictments."


Legislative Update
SB-25 passed the Senate February 19. It would stop localities from violating residents' rights of self-defense. John Sanko wrote a solid article for the Rocky Mountain News describing the debate. (I wrote a previous description of the bill.)

Interestingly, two Republicans voted against the bill (on second reading; the final vote is expected February 24), Ken Arnold and Lewis Entz. This despite the fact that in 1996 Arnold signed a pledge to sponsor a bill to "prohibit Colorado localities from placing limitations on the right of citizens to purchase or carry firearms." I guess he forgot. Two Democrats voted for the bill: Jim Isgar and Bob Hagedorn.

Two competing voucher bills passed -- one in each body -- that would provide funds for low-income children. I remain concerned that vouchers will attach state strings to market schools as well as to religious institutions.

COPs spending has passed the house. These "certificates of participation" are really just an underhanded way to increase debt financing without voter approval. And -- wouldn't you know it -- Republicans led the charge to pass COPs through the house. At least Republican Brad Young went to the floor to protest COPs spending. (Thanks, Brad.) Now COPs will move to the senate, where hopefully Republicans will remember they're supposed fight for limited government spending.


1142 Passes House Vote
Mike Seebeck of the state LP reports bill 1142 passed second reading in the house February 20.

Norm Olsen, also a member of the state LP's board of directors, summed up the problems he sees with the bill in an e-mail:

We lose the ability to have our board nominate candidates to empty slots on the ballot... after the "Assembly"... The paperwork is the same. However, it will have to get done a bit sooner than before. We will have 4 days after the "Assembly" to submit the designation; candidates will then have 10 additional days to submit an acceptance... If a minor party has a hung convention, and has a situation where two or more candidates get 30% of the "Assembly" vote, the party will need to designate all those (30% or more) candidates, all candidates file Acceptances, and the state takes over from there (as far as paperwork is concerned). The candidates then do battle in a primary.

Olsen said "the big problem" with the bill is that it could force a primary for only two minor-party candidates from the same party. These primaries would needlessly spend tax dollars.

In a February 20 e-mail to state representatives, Seebeck wrote,

I strongly urge you to vote against HB 1142 when it comes up for its third reading in the full House.

It does nothing for the current budget crunch and in fact imposes an unfunded mandate on both the County Clerks and the Secretary of State. Such a mandate is not only uncalled for but also unnecessary, and is opposed by the County Clerks Association. It could increase county primary election costs by up to 200% depending on the county, and the legislature has already voted to decrease election costs by eliminating the presidential primary election. This bill would replace those savings with more expense at the county level, and the counties neither want nor need that.

It is a purely political bill, with no real purpose or benefit to the people of Colorado. In fact, it discriminates against Colorado citizens purely on the basis of their political views...

The state has every duty to regulate the time and manner of elections, but determining who is to be on the ballot for those elections is a function of the political parties, and not the legislature, as guaranteed by the Free Assembly clauses of both the Colorado and United States Constitution. This bill deliberately and improperly blurs those lines even further than they have been blurred already and would not stand up against a legal challenge.

There are statutory conflicts that are unresolved in this bill. The bill should resolve those conflicts and no efforts have been made to do so...

Also, a letter from Joe Johnson appeared in the February 18 Rocky: "House Bill 1142... would effectively prevent any minor parties from running candidates against them due to insurmountable red tape and costs. In the 2002 elections, candidates in 22 Colorado races would have been unopposed had it not been for one or more 'third party' candidates!"

1142 has been significantly amended since it was first introduced. State LP Chair John Berntson explained in a February 14 e-mail, "There is no longer a requirement for minor parties to have assemblies, except for one state assembly, which our convention would qualify as." As introduced, the bill would have required precinct votes across the state.

The web page http://www.citizenspc.org/ is devoted to the issue.


Rep. Terrance Carroll
Sen. Penfield Tate resigned to run for mayor. Rep. Peter Groff took his place. Now, Terrance Carroll will step into the state rep. position.

Colorado libertarians may remember Carroll from the 2002 state LP convention, at which he blasted the so-called PATRIOT act and defended civil liberties. Carroll was also a true friend in the effort to reform Colorado's asset forfeiture laws last year.

While libertarians will no doubt find plenty of opportunities to disagree with Carroll, they can also count on him to defend many of our most basic freedoms.


Adoption Helps Kids
Peggy Lowe reports for the February 19 Rocky Mountain News the house defeated a bill that would allow gay couples to adopt children. She explains, "Under Colorado law, a stepparent must be of the opposite gender of the legal parent. Madden's House Bill 1235 would have allowed the stepparent to be the same gender as the legal parent."

In other words, single parents can adopt, and hetero couples can adopt, but only one partner of a gay couple can adopt. So if one member of a hetero couple dies, the other member has legal rights to care for the children, but if one member of a gay couple dies, the kids might be taken by social services and placed into foster care.

And that's terrible policy.

Lowe reports, "Rep. Mike May, a Parker Republican, said that would amount to legal recognition of gay marriage." May's claim is a ridiculous pretext on which to endanger the safety and emotional health of children.

Lowe further reports, "David Schultheis, a Colorado Springs Republican, said mothers and fathers pass along very different and important attributes to their children. Mothers give 'emotional security' while fathers offer 'competition and challenge,' he said. 'I don't think this is in the best interest of the child,' he said. 'I think they need a mother and a father'."

But Schultheis' argument doesn't even address Madden's bill. The question is not whether these kids will be raised by a hetero couple or a gay couple: the question is whether these kids will be ripped away from one parent and placed in a foster home. Of course, Schultheis is also reifying gender roles. Either a mother or a father can teach any of the values Schultheis mentions.

I suspect gay parents are, on the average, much better parents than hetero couples are, for the simple reason that gay couples have to make a much greater effort to have children. Too many hetero couples have children almost by accident and then don't raise them properly.

[2/21 Update: Bill Johnson writes for the Rocky, "If the non-"legal" parent dies, the child receives no Social Security benefits, no inheritance rights, [Madden] said. Should the child lay in intensive care, that parent cannot visit or make medical decisions. The same parent, she said, can't legally provide the child health insurance, or even pick him up when he gets sick at school."


Media Watch

Lower Taxes, Balanced Budget-- Mike Plylar wrote an excellent letter for the February 19 Rocky Mountain News. He writes, "A smaller, much more limited federal government has always been the rallying cry of Republicans. Now Democrats believe a pay-as-you-go approach to government is the path to follow. Why not have both? Let the American people keep their hard-earned money with an across-the-board tax reduction and balance the budget by forcing our elected officials to decide exactly which programs are the most important to our nation and ax the rest." But Mike, that would mean politicians would have less power! They can't have that...

Salazar on Water-- State AG Ken Salazar addressed the water issue February 12. According to Rocky reporter Kevin Flynn, Salazar proposed "mandatory conservation goals, sharply tiered pricing for increased use," and other policies to deal with the drought. But if Colorado were to implement market-based pricing, there would be no need for "mandatory" restrictions. That's the beauty of the market. Economic shortages are solely the fault of politicians who meddle in the market.

In Politicians We Trust-- The Rocky sensibly editorialized February 13, "The legislative effort to mandate the appearance of In God We Trust in every classroom and public building in the state is an exercise in feel-good symbolism that in fact will provide little if any educational value or long-term benefit to Colorado." If only the goal of legislators was to benefit Colorado.

Fast, Neat, Average-- Dan Richins wrote a heart-breaking letter for the February 13 Rocky. It concerned a February 7 story about an Air Force Academy cadet who got arrested for passing a note to an airline pilot that read, "fast, neat, average." Richins relates, "That phrase refers to Form O-96 used by cadets at the academy to report on the quality of food and service they receive at Mitchell Hall. The intent is to teach new cadets how to fill out a government form properly. If everything was fine, the boxes checked on the form are: fast, neat, average, friendly, good, good. AFA cadets and graduates on commercial flights have been writing "fast, neat, average" on napkins and sending it to the cockpit for years. The pilot writes "friendly, good, good" and sends it back. No big deal. Little chuckles all around. I guess there will be no more chuckling. It seems the terrorists destroyed more than I realized on Sept. 11... [R]eading about a cadet being arrested for something that is easily explained doesn't make me feel safe. It just makes me feel sorry. For all of us." So as I wipe away a tear, I also resolve to help TAKE BACK AMERICA from those who would turn it into a police state.

Independent Juries-- Karen Abbot quoted attorney Paul Grant in her story, "Changing role of juries discussed" (February 13 Rocky). The question is, should judges "allow" juries to ask questions at trials? Such questions would be written and the judge could restrict them. Grant disagreed with other defense attorneys who argued questions would benefit the prosecution: "Jurors that I have talked to after trials... have had important questions that were never answered -- questions that would have benefited the defense."

Make Inspections, Not War-- On February 6, Rocky columnist Mike Littwin made an interesting point: if inspections keep Saddam busy and prevent him from doing anything dangerous, why not just continue the inspections indefinitely rather than go to war?

The Saddam-Osama Connection (Or Not)-- Jacob Sullem wrote an article for Reason Magazine in which he questioned Colin Powell's assertion Saddam is linked toOsama bin Laden. No direct connection has been proved, though "the threat of war has forced bin Laden's Islamist followers to make common cause with a secular dictatorship they despise."

Ohio CCW-- An Ohio paper reported February 12, "A Seneca County judge has ruled that Ohio's law against carrying a concealed weapon is unconstitutional." That decision is up for review.

Biff Baker Settles-- The Colorado Springs Independent published an article titled, "Whistle-blower Silenced" (February 13-19). Terje Langeland reports, "The former Army officer from Colorado Springs who blew the whistle on alleged contracting abuses in the U.S. missile-defense program has settled a lawsuit against him by a military contractor that accused him of defamation. The settlement came just two days after an Army agency, which was investigating the circumstances of the officer's firing, announced it had discovered no wrongdoing." Baker ran for Congress last year and said he may run again next year.

Police Ticket Spy Protesters-- Last year, LP members joined with bikers and other groups to protest Denver's "spy files." (See www.freecolorado.com/colib/0205files.html.) On February 19, Kevin Vaughan of the Rocky reported, "Demonstrators speaking out against Denver's 'spy files' controversy at a rally last April may have been victims of the very practice they were protesting, a lawyer charged in federal court Tuesday. Attorneys for the city disputed the allegation. But Lino Lipinsky, an attorney for three individuals and three groups who claim their constitutional rights were violated when police spied on them during past protests, said Denver officers wrote down protesters' license-plate numbers during a gathering April 21 at the state Capitol." If the city attorneys are correct, the police weren't spying on the ralliers: they were only harassing them.

Water Pricing-- Finally somebody gets it! Joey Bunch wrote for the February 17 Denver Post, "People waste water like it grows on trees for a very simple reason, a University of New Mexico economist told scientists, college professors and government regulators Sunday. It is way too cheap." The economist is David Brookshire.

Andrews Defends TABOR-- The AP reported February 14, "Senate President John Andrews said today he will oppose any attempt to increase taxes or make changes to the state's tax- and spending-limitation amendment." Thanks, Senator! Love live TABOR!

Post Blasts "PATRIOT II" -- I often criticize Colorado's two largest newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. But on the whole, both papers do a pretty decent job, and that's especially true of the editorial pages. Often both editorial pages make thoughtful, reasoned arguments. And once in a while an editorial makes me proud to be an American. On February 20, the Post published an editorial, "A sneak attack on liberty." Its authors write, "A secret proposal to give the U.S. attorney general sweeping, arbitrary powers in the name of national security while eroding constitutional safeguards deserves to stopped dead in its tracks." The proposal is a "shameful sneak attack on American liberties." The "Domestic Security Enhancement Act," aka "PATRIOT II," aka "Break Out the Swastikas," would enable the Attorney General to tap phones for a time without judicial review, detain people in secret without a trial, access personal information without appropriate review, and strip Americans of their citizenship.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com