Freedom Updates: March 14, 2003
All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
Maynard Fears Fraud with Mail Ballots
March 10, 2003
Re: H.B. 03-1258
As you may know, I was the Green Party candidate for Colorado Attorney General last year. I am writing to ask you to vote for H.B. 03-1258, which would repeal article 7.5 of title 1 of the C.R.S.
In my law practice, I have brought election contests on behalf of citizens in Castle Rock, where liberalized absentee voting (which is mail ballots by request) produced results in two elections which could not be trusted. Large numbers of ballots went missing in both elections, and we found forged signatures on ballot return envelopes. Voters reported to us that they were harassed by operatives working for my clients' opponents, while the ballots were in their possession; there were many more irregularities.
Although mail balloting is trumpeted as a great advance in participatory democracy, the loss of security in elections to my mind outweighs that interest. Much of what occurs in mail ballot elections would be a criminal offense if it took place in the polling place, such as trying to influence a voter while the ballot is in his or her possession; the handling of ballots by persons other than the election judge and the voter, outside the view of any watchers; and the marking of ballots so that the identity of the voter is revealed. Virtually all of the careful checks which exist at polling place elections--on the voter's eligibility to vote and the authenticity of the ballot itself--are also removed. Mail ballot elections are open to errors which cannot be prevented and fraud which cannot be detected.
Election integrity is a fundamental issue that crosses party lines. It is to everyone's advantage to have a voting system where election results are trustworthy. Because voting by mail ballot means the loss of independent oversight over the process of voting and the concession of constitutional protections (such as the right to a secret ballot), I hope you will vote to repeal this law.
Thank you for your support of H.B. 03-1258.
"The Bell" Rings a Sour Note
The paper whines, "TABOR contains provisions that make it very difficult for the state to take advantage of surpluses in good times (e.g. create a Rainy Day Fund) to save for bad times" (2). TABOR author Douglas Bruce replies,
TABOR has an emergency reserve fund in subsection 5. It allows emergency taxes in subsection 6. Recessions, or simply running out of money, are not emergencies. Ironically, Ken Salazar wants to repeal these subsections while complaining about the lack of a rainy day fund.
One of "The Bell's" "Research Findings" is that "Colorado's low- and middle-income taxpayers on average pay a larger percentage of their income than do high-income taxpayers." However, "TABOR does not speak directly to the issue of who bears the burden of taxes" (34). One set of statistics supplied by "The Bell," though (page 9), indicates less-wealthy people get a higher percent of their money back than do wealthier people. But "TABOR contains no specific requirements on returning excess revenue..." (35) Why, then, does the paper, purportedly about TABOR, dwell on a matter that pertains to the legislature? If the legislature wants to make taxes more progressive, it can simply lower the tax rates for less-wealthy people.
Carman, who refers to TABOR as a "cockamamie tax-limitation initiative" and parrots the mindless commentary of "The Bell," claims it's an "unintended consequence" that "[u]nder TABOR, once the baseline for calculating state spending drops, it can never be restored." But state funding can begin to grow again, and anyway who ever said the result of occasionally lowering the baseline wasn't intended? The critics of TABOR beat around the obvious: TABOR was meant to check government spending, and that is exactly what it's doing.
Carman begins her column, "One of the foundations of economic theory is the law of unintended consequences. It states that the actions of people and governments, no matter how well meaning, always have effects that are unanticipated." Carman obviously is unqualified to speak to economic theory. The concept of unintended consequences was largely developed by free-market economists. As Rob Norton summarizes in The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics:
The law of unintended consequences... is that actions of people -- and especially of government -- always have effects that are unanticipated... Adam Smith's 'invisible hand,' the most famous metaphor in social science, is an example of a positive unintended consequence... Most often, however, the law of unintended consequences illuminates the perverse unanticipated effects of legislation and regulation... The law of unintended consequences provides the basis for many criticisms of government programs. (92-3)
Thus, by limiting the growth of government, TABOR thereby also limits the ability of the legislature to impose negative unintended consequences through economic meddling.
Judge Gray Joins LP
Gray said he joined the LP specifically because of the party's focus on ending drug prohibition. "Gray also said he is considering seeking the LP's 2004 presidential nomination." That's certainly intriguing. Gray wrote Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.
Gray told the LP, "Drug Prohibition has failed from every standpoint imaginable: unnecessary prison growth, increased taxes, increased crime and corruption here and abroad, loss of civil liberties, decreased health, [and] diversion of resources... The drug war is destroying the fabric of society."
Judge Gray joins Colorado Sheriff Bill Masters and other prominent office holders willing to speak out against prohibition.
Paschall Deserves a Break
But then I read a March 11 letter to the News by L.E. Lotito defending Paschall:
Paschall is within his budget as treasurer, a budget that was drawn up without his input by his predecessor.
I thought I better call Paschall to get his perspective. "I never once asked for a Cadillac Escalade," he said. However, the bit about him trying to save money by buying a "low-mileage used" vehicle (an SUV) on-line is true.
Is he spending more money? "There isn't any increase in my budget, period," he said. Paschall said he is "trying to figure out ways to maximize returns and help the taxpayers."
He did say the staff increases annually the first part of every year, because Jeffco gets its tax notices back by the end of February. Thus, seasonal help is needed to process the extra paperwork.
I remain unconvinced, however, that Paschall needs to remodel his offices, even though he claims it's for security purposes. I mean, I don't think al Qaida has ever even heard of Jefferson County, Colorado, and certainly its seat of government is pretty low on the list of strategic targets.
So, while it's always appropriate to keep an eye on elected officials -- perhaps especially the ones who claim fiscal conservatism -- I think Charley Able of the News gave Paschall a bad shake.
It's not the first time. On August 8, 2002, Able wrote a ridiculous article about a fundraiser for Paschall. I remember the article, and I remember thinking it was pretty silly, but only recently did it click that Able wrote both that article and the recent one. In the fundraiser, mailed to members of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Paschall mentioned his support for the right to bear arms. Big surprise there. NEWS FLASH! Candidate raises funds from political group!
My guess is that Able simply doesn't like Paschall, and he wants to use the news pages to editorialize against him. However, even if Able is out to get Paschall, that still doesn't imply Paschall should be immune from criticism and oversight -- especially from low-tax advocates.
Republicans Support Welfare...
I was profoundly disappointed, then, to read the following statement from Coffman in The Vail Daily (March 8, p. A3): "At a time when we should be doing all we can to boost our economy, it's unconscionable that we spend less on tourism promotion than any of our neighboring states."
No, treasurer: what's unconscionable is stealing people's money via state force and redistributing it to special interest groups in the form of corporate welfare.
Reporter Cliff Thompson explained, "[H]is proposal would divert some of the money generated by gambling and used for historical preservation to promoting tourism." But if the gambling tax isn't needed, it should be abolished, not redirected by political favoritism.
I was hoping it was some kind of terrible reporting mistake. But I guess hearing about Republicans who trample the free market should come as no surprise. On March 12, Coffman himself sent out an e-mail confirming, "State Treasurer Mike Coffman last week unveiled a proposal to boost Colorado's lagging tourism industry."
Of course, Coffman is not alone in pushing more corporate welfare during the current budget crisis. As Julia Martinez reports for the March 11 Denver Post, "Gov. Bill Owens signed into law a $23 million economic stimulus package Monday that included $7 million to help jobless Coloradans find work. The package included money for tourism advertising, agriculture promotion and incentives to lure more business."
It is unjust and economically inefficient to rob some people of their hard-earned money to subsidize others. What this example demonstrates is that the restrictions of TABOR are far too lenient.
...and Democrats Support Markets
For a few minutes Monday, lawmakers did away with the law that bans alcohol sales on Sunday. When Rep. Matt Smith, R-Grand Junction, asked his colleagues to pass a bill that removes "obsolete and antiquated" language from existing laws, Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, added an amendment eliminating the old blue law. "We're a seven-day-a-week society now," Weissmann said. Smith opposed the amendment.
Weissman's amendment accidentally passed on a voice vote and was soon removed. Note here that a Democrat offered the amendment supporting free markets, and a Republican opposed it. Weissmann also tried to remove the restrictions against selling cars on Sunday.
Weissman got an honorable mention in the March 12 Rocky Mountain News. Last year, a college student tried unsuccessfully to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal the blue laws. I wrote in favor of the effort.
What's discouraging is that both the Democrats and the Republicans tend to succeed when they are pushing for bigger government. When occasionally a member of one of the parties actually proposes freer markets, he or she is usually defeated.
But maybe there's a little bit of hope. As the News reported March 14, "Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, was quick on his feet when GOP colleagues said young women should have the option of carrying guns on college campuses. 'I'm glad to see the Republicans are now pro-choice,' he said." If we can somehow get the two old parties to compete on which one can best support freedom, there may be progress. Even Owens is not a totally lost cause. The March 10 News quotes Owens: "I'm hoping that as other states start to tax the Internet, Colorado can be a tax haven and attract business because of that. I hope that someday, Colorado will be seen as the Switzerland of non-taxation of the Internet."
How can some politicians be so bipolar, one minute passing corporate welfare, the next praising a tax-free Internet? The only reasonable explanation is that some politicians fundamentally lack integrity. That is, they do what's politically expedient. So how do we make freedom more politically expedient?
I'll conclude with another piece of good news. Republican Shawn Mitchell and Democrat Bob Hagedorn teamed up to prevent Aurora from violating property rights via zoning.
Sheba Wheeler reports in the March 12 Denver Post, "A controversial city measure that would oust 48 businesses and homes along East Colfax Avenue could be pre-empted if a proposed bill banning the action passes the state legislature." The bill "would prohibit local governments from using the zoning tool known as amortization to shut down businesses that do not conform with zoning changes if a business was lawful at the time of its inception." Opponents of the policy also submitted signatures to the city council to force a vote on the matter.
Hagedorn told Wheeler,
So many people have invested their lives and their businesses to serve this neighborhood... For the government to inject themselves the way Aurora has is not right. People have the right to pursue their dreams, and these businesses have the right to benefit from the opportunity the Fitzsimons redevelopment has offered to the entire neighborhood. To have that snatched from them is unconscionable.
In Mike Patty's Rocky Mountain News article, Mitchell said Aurora "wants to push business owners off their property... The face of this neighborhood will change naturally as Fitzsimons develops. It doesn't need the heavy fist of government."
I'm getting all teary-eyed over this bipartisan outpouring of support for private property rights. Once in a while, they seem to get it.
Costs of War
Apparently, it is now established Objectivist orthodoxy to support the U.S. war against Iraq.
There's an obvious criticism I should make of Buchanan's essay: just because some intellectual leaders who support the war with Iraq also want an expansive American empire, doesn't mean everybody who supports the war wants that. Indeed, I recently wrote, "I also think libertarians should form strategic alliances to promote specific causes." Similarly, those who support a limited, short-term war against Iraq may well find common cause with the empire-builders. The real trouble will come if, following Iraq, the empire-builders continue to lead foreign policy.
And of course war is not the only way to take out dangerous characters. As Doug Casey pointed out recently, "[A Constitutional] provision (Article I, Section 8) allow[s] for 'Letters of Marque and Reprisal,' which is to say, privateers -- units licensed by their own governments to fight a war." Such engagements would likely be as surgical as possible (sorry, no MOABs). Of course, they wouldn't help the U.S. government pay off special interest groups or prop up the dollar...
Peck correctly concluded, "I came away from the forum agreeing with the moderators on one key issue. Racism is alive and well in America. It infects our college campuses, our hiring decisions, even the communities we live in. This forum was proof of that."
Statements such as "All whites are racists" and "Only whites can evaluate X while only blacks can evaluate Y," are themselves blatantly racist. They evaluate people according to the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. They counsel people of different genetic backgrounds to know their "place." (We'll leave aside discussion of the obvious hypocrisy that left-liberals never council blacks not to accuse, say, George Bush of racism on the ridiculous pretext that "it's not your place.") How did it come about that racism is invoked in the name of fighting racism? This is indeed a strange and maddening outcome.
Postmodernism holds truth is subjective and largely determined by one's background. (This notion partly finds its roots in Marx's claim that different logics accompany different social classes.) Language is not a tool to discover the truth, for postmodernists: it is a tool to gain and keep social power. Thus, group warfare replaces rational thought as the basis of politics.
David Kelley, head of The Objectivist Center, recently wrote an excellent article about affirmative action titled, "Ban Government Racism, Not Discrimination." Kelley champions individualism and rationality, though he also says there's room for affirmative action on the free market:
In the circumstances, one has to side with the opponents of affirmative action and hope that the Supreme Court strikes it down. It's unfortunate, however, that university admissions policy should be a matter for the courts in the first place, and that so much of the debate about the cultural trend of higher education has been focused on the legal standing of these policies. The real problem is not affirmative action per se, but the rationale used to justify it and the purpose it serves in a culture obsessed with class conflict. In a different context, institutions might well have valid reasons for adopting this practice.
All that said, though, there's no need to throw out class analysis with the postmodernist bathwater. Indeed, libertarians have their own class theory. Libertarians routinely argue the class of state employees employ rationalizations to keep and gain power. In his seminal work Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, Chris Matthew Sciabarra even titles a section, "A Libertarian Theory of Class," based on the work of Murray Rothbard.
The difference is that libertarians uphold the values of individualism and reason. There are not "different logics" for different groups of people. Truth is truth, and lies often support the illegitimate use of power.
It is obviously true that America is still dealing with the aftermath of slavery. For much of America's past, most white Americans were overtly racist, often violently so. In order to maintain their racist attitudes, whites had to develop intricate webs of lies to rationalize their barbaric treatment of blacks. It is thus entirely reasonable to suspect that many of these lies remain a part of some people's thinking.
If some err in seeing racism everywhere, even where it does not exist, surely others err in overlooking racism, even where it does exist. In proper Enlightenment style, our goal should be to cut away the falsehoods and get to the truth of the matter.
Minor Party Bill Update
Ralph Shnelvar spoke at the hearing, reviewing the arguments he has made elsehwere. He added:
I wish to be clear about HB1142. What it does is adulterate our candidate selection process by forcing us to give our Party's label to a person that a vast majority of our Party membership may not want to represent us. I believe the U.S. Supreme Court will hold that this is in violation of our First Amendment Associational rights just as it held the same for the Republican and Democratic Parties.
John Sanko of the Rocky wrote a lengthy article March 12 titled, "Minor parties see bill as major pain: Forced assemblies, primaries termed 'sabotage' by some." He noted the vote was 4-3 along party lines (with the Republicans supporting it). Incredibly, Chlouber tried to argue the bill would actually help minor parties, even though every minor party in Colorado opposes it.
Patrick West, chair of the Natural Law Party, told Sanko, "This is our business in how we nominate our candidates." Doug Campbell of the American Constitution Party added, "This bill is little else than the minor-party sabotage bill." Sanko noted, "Peg Ackerman, a lobbyist representing Colorado's county clerks, said passage of the bill would make elections more costly for counties when third-party primaries were involved." Democrat Alice Nichol said, "Democracy lost at the Capitol today."
Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs, complained his Libertarian opponent was "chosen by some higher powers within her party... She never appeared at any event for candidates, there was never any outreach to the public, she was almost impossible to locate." While it's true this writer and other members of the LP have called for stronger requirements for LP candidates, that has nothing to do with the minor party bill.
The Denver Post published a letter March 11 from Montrose Libertarian Tim Jacobs:
I ran for office on the Libertarian ticket in the last election, as did scores of other Libertarians statewide. I can understand the inclination of the GOP to keep us out of the political debate. Common sense, the Constitution and political integrity are difficult concepts to argue against, and apparently, from their perspective, have no place in the political marketplace of ideas. So be it. We will remember. But Republicans needn't fear; Libertarians are not typically vindictive. When we hold the reins of power and the GOP is a third party, we'll allow them to run their own affairs, unfettered by asinine and arbitrarily oppressive legislation.
On March 5, the Post published a letter from Green Alison Maynard:
As a member of the Green Party, I take umbrage at The Post's statement about HB 1142, saying that Greens "draw disproportionately from Democratic ranks," but that Libertarians "draw from both major parties as well as luring alienated voters who probably wouldn't vote at all if the Libertarians weren't on the ballot."
Maynard's letter struck me as slightly ungrateful for the quite positive press coverage, and besides I think the Post is basically correct. Libertarians attract more Democrats than Greens attract Republicans. Regardless, I respect Maynard's tenacity in fighting corporate welfare.
Jeffco LP Meet Gains Attendance
The JeffCo LP Affiliate Meeting March 5th was big; we had the greatest attendance I've seen for the last year.
LP Board Members Trade Barbs
I just read what Gaar Potter has said about "the personal opinions of the public information director." Gaar may know accounting, but after having worked with him for the past 11 months it is clear to me that he doesn't know jack about politics.
Campaign Restrictions as Prohibition
Just before Alcohol Prohibition people made the argument that getting rid of the legal consumption of alcohol would reduce or cure
What is undeniably true is that the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was right. Getting rid of legal alcohol _would_ reduce or eliminate all those problems.
What they (and the rest of the country) did not understand was that the unintended consequences of Alcohol Prohibition was worse than the above list. Much worse.
Al Capone. The Mafia. Police and courts thoroughly corrupted. Gang violence. General lack of respect for Law.
We've reprised all of this in our current War on Drugs.
Both the Greens and the Libertarians know this: Prohibition does not work.
Similarly, Campaign Prohibition (What else could we call it?) will do exactly the same.
Prohibition does not work.
So, my question... is: If Carry Nation could have magically known the effects of Alcohol Prohibition on society, would she still want the 18th Amendment? Was she making a statement about how the world should be or how the world is?
(By the way, the WCTU is still in existence. See www.wctu.org. Some people just can't seem to recognize the evidence seen by their own eyes.)
Campaign Finance "reform" cannot work because Prohibition does not work. Not for Alcohol. Not for Marijuana. Not for political access.
Progressives Target PATRIOT Act
The Colorado Progressive Coalition promotes a lot of causes libertarians must disagree with. However, the organization has also done some good work on several civil-liberties issues. For instance, it fought racial profiling by the police, and it supported the reform of Colorado's forfeiture laws. Most recently, the CPC has taken on the PATRIOT Act:
Greetings from the Colorado Progressive Coalition!
I hope libertarians in Fort Collins will join with other advocates of our basic rights. As I've been arguing for some time, libertarians need to build coalitions with freedom advocates of the left and right.
Big Brother is Watching Your Faucet
Colorado Public Radio has actually offered the best coverage of Colorado's drought I've heard. On March 12, CPR interviewed a spokesperson from "GreenCo," a Colorado coalition of nurseries and landscapers. The representative favored "water budgeting," meaning each household is given a certain amount of water to use. This is superior to arbitrary rules that ban select water uses, but it is not nearly as good as market water pricing.
On March 14, CPR interviewed Aurora's Director of Utilities. He talked about the "water shortage." Of course, any economic shortage is caused by government meddling in the price system. The government can create a "shortage" of any good simply by forcing the price too low. Government-caused shortages have the further impact of preventing capital from flowing into the appropriate industries.
To be sure, the shortage was exacerbated by the lack of precipitation. Socialized industries are always slow to adapt to changing conditions.
But at least the manager of the socialized industry related some useful details. About 90% of Colorado's water goes to agricultural uses, even though agriculture comprises 3% of the state's economy. (I thought agriculture would be a much bigger part of Colorado's total economy, but one statistical source indicates the figure is actually lower than that.) Agricultural users typically pay much less for their water than do residential users. (He didn't explain that this is partly due to the fact that agricultural water is much cheaper to distribute.) In addition, indoor water use is low compared with outdoor water use in residential areas.
The socialist planner said he wants residential areas to get some of the water that currently goes to agricultural uses, he wants residents to obey water-restriction laws, and he wants the state to expand water-storage capacity.
49th in School Funding? Of course, libertarians will not be happy until Colorado is last in financing government schools, because we don't think politicians have any business controlling education. But as the Rocky Mountain News pointed out March 13, Colorado ranks 49th in government-school funding "as a percentage of residents' income." According to actual funding, Colorado ranks 37 out of the 50 states plus D.C. The News wisely concludes, "[R]anking the states by 'ability to pay' is a tendentious exercise whose premise doesn't stand up to scrutiny."
Ron Paul in the Wall Street Journal -- Shailagh Murray wrote "A Far-Right Texan Inspires the Antiwar Left" in a recent article for the Wall Street Journal. Murray reports Paul is "a cheerful advocate of all sorts of unpopular causes like abolishing the federal minimum wage and returning to the gold standard... Despite his lack of clout in Congress, he ran as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1988... But on an Iraq war Mr. Paul is finding plenty of allies, especially at the other end of the political spectrum." And congratulations to the CU Campus Libertarians for inspiring the final line: "He may even attend an antiwar student rally in a few weeks, at the liberal oasis of the University of Colorado-Boulder." Actually, Paul will deliver a lecture. See the calendar page for details.
Ifeminists -- One feminist says "many young women describe themselves as 'humanists' or 'individualists' instead of as feminists" (Denver Post, March 9, 1L). That sounds exactly like the type of feminism that should be encouraged.
Protection Money -- The March 11 Washington Post relates, "Faced with limits on how much wining and dining they can do in Washington, interest groups are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to take lawmakers and aides on out-of-town excursions to deliver their pitches on legislation." Meanwhile, the March 9 Denver Post reports, "Federal Communications Commission members and staff... over the past three years have accepted more than $725,000 worth of airfare, hotel rooms, [etc.] from businesses, trade groups, [etc.]." Of course. It's called "protection money." (Some of it is payoff money for special favors.)
Police Investigate Dunafon -- A March 7 Denver Post story by B. Scott Bortnick reports Glendale City Councilman Michael Dunafon was part-owner in a limousine business under investigation for ties to "an alleged $35 million cocaine ring." Dunafon's lawyer said, "[M]y client's only limited connection is that he made a bad investment decision when he invested in the limousine company. That is the extent of his involvement." Dunafon helped start the Glendale Tea Party, with which several Libertarians have been involved.
The Entitlement Mentality -- It's a simple concept, really. If you have children, you thereby assume the responsibility for raising them. Now, not only do some parents think they have a right to OPM (Other People's Money) to fund their K-12 expenses, they also want welfare benefits for preschool. According to a March 7 Denver Post article by Eric Hubler, one parent "hates Denver Public Schools' plan to start charging $185 a month for the classes at Grant Ranch and 16 other schools next year..."
The Victims of Politics -- According to a March 7 Denver Post article by B. Scott Bortnick, "[Governor] Owens said drug use is not a victimless crime and vowed to push for additional laws to fight the spread of meth." In one important sense, Owens is right. Because prohibition creates violent criminal markets and dangerous production labs, drug use is indeed often associated with victimization. The fact that this is entirely the result of government policies seems to escape the governor. The politics of prohibition is not a victimless crime.
No Welfare for Artists -- Barry Poulson wrote a great article for the Independence Institute March 6: "All over Colorado, people on welfare have been making the transition from dependence to self-sufficiency. It's time for the organizations that feed off the taxpayer subsidy from the SCFD [Scientific and Cultural Facilities District] to begin doing the same. Any renewal of the SCFD should include a plan for phasing out art welfare once and for all."
Protect Privacy in Colorado -- A second editorial from the II states, "House Bill 1197 would create a gaping loophole in the accountant-client privilege. It would allow the Colorado State Board of Accountancy to invade the client files of businesses that obtain audit or review services. The bill gives the Board of Accountancy the power to subpoena private records -- without obtaining a search warrant or judicial permission. The Board would not need to obtain an individual's permission before examining his private accounting records. The State Board could give information to other governmental agencies and investigators in the process."
Counterfeit Confusion -- On March 6 the Denver Post reported, "Two Durango middle school students were arrested on suspicion of creating counterfeit money that they used in the school cafeteria. The boys, whose names were not released, used a home computer, scanner and printer to make the bills, said La Plata County investigator Shelley Williams." Didn't these kids learn ANYTHING in their government schools? Only the U.S. government is supposed to counterfeit money!