Freedom Updates: March 5, 2003

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Freedom Updates: March 5, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Major Papers Blast Minor Party Bill 1142
John Berntson, chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, sent the following e-mail late March 5:

First, good news in the fight against this minor party primary bill: both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have published editorials this week smashing the Republicans for sponsoring this travesty...

Second, as good as this news is, it does not mean that the battle is over. It is too long until Election Day rolls around again for the GOP to care about public opinion. We still need your help to defeat this thing.

The bill passed the House on a party-line vote (see Mike Seebeck's statistics below). It now resides in the Senate. The vote will be very close in the Senate and we can swing this thing with as little as one or two vote changes. I need you to call and write your senator, as well as write letters to the editor of every paper you can (see Norm Olsen's talking points below).

Please help us. Let's get out there and kill this thing.

John K Berntson, LPCO

From Norm Olsen...

1> The bill is trying to fix something that isn't broken.
2> The bill is a waste of tax money at the county level. If the state can't afford a presidential primary, why is it that the counties can afford a Libertarian/Green/Reform/Natural Law/ACP primary.
3> I suspect that it is just plain politics...

From Mike Seebeck:

Here are the totals: passed 36-27 with 2 excused. Republicans enjoy a 37-28 majority in the House. (56%)

Votes AYE: All Republicans except Cadman and Larson
Votes NAY: All Democrats except McFadyen and Miller
Excused: Marshall (D) and Stafford (R)

Hoppe (R) and Stengel (R) added as co-sponsors.
Cadman (R) dropped as co-sponsor.

Both Miller and McFadyen did not have minor party opponents in 2002. Larson was unopposed. Stengel, Hoppe, and Cadman each had a Libertarian opponent in 2002. No impact on any race.

In its March 3 editorial, the Rocky writes:

Political parties are, or at least should be, private organizations. The U.S. Supreme Court has said as much... The only controls government should exercise over parties relate to elections. Since taxpayers foot the bill, government is entitled to set deadlines and standards for them... But we would distinguish between primary and general elections... House Bill 1142 would force [minor parties] to participate in the statewide primary elections in August. This is a needless hassle for the parties and a needless expense for the county clerks, who will have to print up extra ballots that will rarely be used... We're not exactly sure why this bill was introduced. But since the House sponsors were all Republicans, we suspect it has something to do with making life difficult for Libertarians.

The Rocky's argument about parties being private organizations is similar to Ralph Shnelvar's opinion.

The Post follows up March 5:

The Colorado House of Representatives - faced with a budget crisis, severe drought and a runaway war on drugs - has responded by cracking down on what it sees as the real root of the state's problems: Too many people are voting for those pesky third parties. To reduce that non-problem, House Republicans rallied behind HB 1142, a bill that originally placed Draconian restrictions on third parties in Colorado. HB 1142 now has been amended to where it only forces third parties to waste taxpayer dollars in needless statewide party primaries.

The Post believes Libertarians earn some votes that would otherwise go to Democrats, because they "oppose the war on drugs and restrictions on abortion as well as welfare-state programs." (Libertarians argue about abortion, though most want to keep the procedure legal.)

While Colorado's other minor parties also oppose 1142, the LP has taken a leading role in tracking the legislation and speaking out against it. LP members Norm Olsen and Shawn Elke Glazer maintain a web page on the issue at http://www.citizenspc.org/.


Mark Paschall, Treasurer
In the state legislature, Mark Paschall was a champion for the right to bear arms. However, he has recently fallen under scrutiny for spending more money as Jefferson County Treasurer.

According to a March 3 "On Point" editorial from the Rocky Mountain News, Paschall "has expanded the staff from 16 to 21, requested a costly office remodeling and asked the county for a Cadillac Escalade." Hmmm. The paper adds, "It is not without irony that two of the people he hired - former legislator Jim Congrove and freelancer Fred Holden - have long been known as strong advocates of limited government." The editorial follows a February 27 story by Charley Able titled, "Spending practices, office expansion draw criticism." Paschall said the criticism is unwarranted: "I'm going to do what I think is right." Okay, but I hope he'll forgive us skeptics for wondering why the government agency needs to spend that money and hire more people.


The Woehr Party?
Jack Woehr, a long-time advocate of drug-policy reform, once ran for office as a Democrat and later switched affiliation to the Republican Party. Now he is a registered Libertarian! Does this mean he is thinking about running for office on the ticket? A month ago, Woehr addressed the Jeffco Libertarians. On his web page, he offers an mp3 of his performance of "The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez," about an innocent victim of the war on drugs.


Costco and Eminent Domain
One of my friends alerted me to a June 23, 2002 article in the Orange County Register by Steven Greenhut about the use of eminent domain to take other people's private property for Costco's use. That's especially disturbing since I shop at Costco. Greenhut writes:

[T]hink carefully before you use the words "free enterprise" and "Costco" in the same breath... Unfortunately, Costco... is adept at manipulating the political process on its own behalf, in a way that smacks of mercantilism (government-controlled markets) rather than capitalism... Costco encourages, or at least allows, cities to use eminent domain on the company's behalf, transferring property from other private owners to the big retailer. Costco isn't shy, either, about taking direct subsidies from cities... [I]t is an outrage when that competitive advantage is gained through government power rather than market savvy. That makes Costco more like those "looting" corporate villains depicted by author Ayn Rand, than like her capitalistic heroes... In recent months, Costco has endured bad nationwide publicity for its role in an unholy scheme to deprive Cottonwood Christian Center of its 18-acre property in Cypress. The City Council voted to take the land by eminent domain last month so that it can make way for a tax-generating Costco retail center.

Greenhut also quotes a May 30 Wall Street Journal editorial: "[T]he whole point of property rights is that bureaucrats don't get to pick and choose who owns what. Ditto for businesses such as Costco, which should buy their land in the open market instead of relying on local governments to seize a juicy location at below-market prices."

In Lancaster, California, Greenhut continues, "in 2000 a federal district court struck down the city's attempted use of eminent domain on Costco's behalf." Costco was involved in other such actions in Lenexa, Kansas; Maplewood, Missouri; and Port Chester and East Harlem, New York.

Dana Berliner of the Institute for Justice told Greenhut, "[Costco] is quite happy to take advantage of getting property inexpensively because it was taken from other private owners by eminent domain. The first time, they can say, 'oh well, it's not our fault.' By the time you get to number five or number six, they can't claim ignorance any more."

If you go the IJ web page and search for "Costco," you'll find a quote from an "attorney for Costco, on demolishing 11 homes for a parking lot for the retail giant's new store in Lenexa:" "Theirs is not much of a neighborhood anyway."

On February 28, I called up the Westminster Costco and asked the warehouse manager, Tom Zien, what he's done to convince the corporate office to stop taking people's property unjustly. "I can't help you," he said. When I asked him if I could e-mail him the copy of Greenhut's article, or drop off a printed version, he said he would not read it. "I don't want to make up my mind" on the issue, he told me. I then called 1.800.774.2678, where a gentleman who answered the phone was considerably nicer, but he just gave me another phone number: 425. 313.8100. He told me to ask for a vice president in real estate. I left a message at that number but nobody has yet called me back.

Unfortunately, if we started digging, we'd likely find that a significant proportion of business we frequent have done something wrong at some point. So I have not yet canceled my Costco card. However, if I find Costco again attempts to benefit from eminent domain at the expense of other property holders, I will take further action. I also want to get ahold of the real estate office to see if the company has officially changed its policy.


Hillman Offers Budget Numbers
In a March 4 e-mail, State Senator Mark Hillman reviewed some of the budget numbers for us.

Legislators, briefed by economists from the Joint Budget Committee and Legislative Council staff, were told that $870 million must be pared from the 2003-04 budget -- after cutting $850 million from the current year's budget. According to JBC staff, that calculates to an across-the-board reduction of almost 15 percent. But there's more to the story. Although tax revenues actually decreased from fiscal year 2001 to 2002, revenues appear steady or decreasing only slightly in 2003. For 2004, an increase of $223 million is anticipated. Spending, however, is another matter. From 2001 to 2002 despite declining revenues, spending continued to increase as the Legislature voted to spend money out of cash reserve funds. Rather than make cuts to match declining revenues, the Legislature borrowed from itself in hopes the economy would turn around sooner rather than later...

Actual state expenditures are slated to decrease by $191 million (3.4 percent) in 2003 and another $312 million (5.7 percent) in 2004. So why are you reading about $870 million in budget cuts for next year? Begin with the $312 million in actual spending reductions. Add to that a $155 million increase in K-12 education, $166 million in costs deferred from 2003 to 2004, $33 million for the annual state employee salary increase, and $204 million more for programs in which budgets are based upon the number of cases or participants (e.g., corrections, medicaid, human services, courts and higher education)...

Ironically, even with these budget cuts, state spending may triple from almost $2 billion 1987 to an estimated $6 billion in 2004...

And some legislators want to roll back TABOR!? Will the state government be making our lives three times better in 2004 than it was in 1987? (Okay, I can hear my smart-aleck libertarian friends punch in "three times zero...") What we really need is a constitutional amendment that freezes state spending at 1987 levels -- in nominal dollars.


Potter Dissents
In a February 27 e-mail, Gaar Potter, a member of the board of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, wrote:

Hi Ari. Nice issue.

I read the two press releases, National and State. To respond first to National:

1. Asking questions is fine. Expecting, indeed demanding answers shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution. The United States of America is a republic. We elect a president to "execute" our laws and policies. The President conducts foreign policy, including military activities abroad. All that the President "must" do is uphold his oath of office. "Answering" to citizens is done when the President runs for re-election or is impeached. To suppose that "public opinion" is in the least determinative of appropriate action is quite literally turning our foreign policy over to people who think "Joe Millionaire" picked the wrong chick.

2. Going to war is a lot like exercising in one important respect; the easiest thing about it is thinking of an excuse not to do it. The only real question is whether it is necessary for the national defense. I don't pretend to know that, and I'll leave that decision up to the person we elected for that purpose.

Now for the State release:

1. I don't appreciate being associated with socialist organizations.

2. The Libertarian Party is only opposed to "foreign interventionism" if such interventionism is not necessary for our national defense. The personal opinions of our public information director are not only uninformed and irrelevant, but are inappropriate as a statement of state party position.

Gaar Potter

Ari Armstrong responds: I share your suspicions of popular opinion. I also agree that foreign policy should be based on national defense. However, I do not believe Bush or his administration have justified going to war with Iraq, and I believe a war with Iraq would actually weaken America's security. I think citizens do have a responsibility to "demand" good answers from their servants, the politicians. I also think libertarians should form strategic alliances to promote specific causes. Great libertarians like Murray Rothbard and Chris Matthew Sciabarra have associated with socialists, apparently without harm to their causes. President Bush himself advocates most of the planks of America's old Communist Party, yet you're willing to trust him with the lives of America's youth.


Media Watch

CA Attacks Gun Owners -- CNSNews reports, "The California state government is already using the federal National Instant Check System (NICS) to illegally access data meant solely for gun dealers, according to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice." Does any gun owner out there still need more evidence Brady registrations will be abused until they are repealed?

Property Rights and Wrongs -- A March 5 AP story reported a man was arrested in a New York mall for wearing a "Peace on Earth/Give Peace a Chance" T-shirt. After mall security asked him to leave, and the man refused, the police arrested him. Police Chief James Murley said, "We don't care what they have on their shirts, but they were asked to leave the property, and it's private property." That's not right. A mall advertises itself as a public venue. An implicit contract permits customers to wear the clothing of their choice -- unless otherwise posted. Thus, the mall security had no right to harass the man. (He bought his shirt in the mall, by the way.) Thankfully, later on a group of peace activists went to the mall to protest.

Carman in the Middle -- Diane Carman wrote a delightful column for the February 27 Denver Post titled, "Ashcroft opponents hail from right, left." She wrote, "The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the ACLU are on the same team. Let's pause for a moment to savor the image." J.F. Haley wrote a letter for the March 5 paper saying he had joined the ACLU, adding, "We must all be on the same team when it comes to defending liberty." Carman mostly criticized the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act," or PATRIOT II. The Bill of Rights contains ten amendments, and we need to protect them all!

The Party Party -- What the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have in common is they both party at taxpayer's expense. A March 5 Denver Post article by Arthur Kane reported, "Office of Workforce Development employees were spending more than $6,700 to munch on shrimp salad, Parmesan-encrusted swordfish and top sirloin steak. And the office had already agreed to pay a consultant $5,370 to organize its Oct. 10 awards banquet..." But Kane neglects to ask the real question: why in the hell are Colorado citizens forced to pay for an "Office of Workforce Development?" I say we develop Colorado's workforce by making those bums get real jobs.

Repeal Mandatory Minimums -- Good sense is so rare at the legislature we should give it special recognition when it comes along. According to a March 5 "legislature brief" by the Rocky, the budget committee is considering "erasing mandatory minimum sentences for some drug cases." What's more, two Republicans endorsed the idea! Sen. Dave Owen said, "I think it's worth a try." Rep. Brad Young said, "Eliminating the mandatory minimums for drug cases, that is probably worth discussing." See Families Against Mandatory Minimums for all the reasons these mandatory sentences should be repealed.

New Reformed Reorganized Socialized Schools -- Rebecca Jones reports in the March 5 Rocky a group called Colorado Small Schools Initiative at the Colorado Children's Campaign criticized government schools. According to Jones, the group claims over "40 percent of Colorado high school students never graduate, and many of those who do - especially minority students - fail to live up to... academic potential..." Further, government schools "encourage the 'achievement gap' between white and minority students." What? A socialized industry fails to meet the needs of its customers? Whodathunkit? Fortunately, the organization has a plan to improve the socialized schools: it "calls for the appointment of a statewide commission to rethink how Colorado teens are educated."

Pink Pistols -- Even though Republicans recently killed a bill allowing both gay parents to adopt a child, one gay group is a gun-totin' Republican's best friend. A recent Boston story discusses the Pink Pistols, whose members "think the National Rifle Association is too 'liberal' about gun control." One Pink Pistol spokesman said, "We're all in the same boat, whether you're gay, straight, a woman -- it doesn't mater. There's one thing with the Second Amendment. They're out to take it away from us."

Old Faithful Madness -- A March 3 AP article, "National parks fight drug war," discusses the park crack-down mostly on service workers who smoke marijuana. Brian Smith, a Yellowstone "special agent," said, "Someone with a significant illegal drug habit is more likely to embezzle and steal from guests' rooms and cars." Of course, the vast majority of drug users do not steal, and the few that do are inspired mostly by high costs created by drug prohibition. Smith adds, "The public has a right to feel that they're safe and not going to be victimized when they come to a national park." Exactly. Which is why he should stop victimizing peaceful people who just want to smoke a little pot as they watch the scenery.

Unjustified War -- The Colorado Springs Gazette published a letter by Steve Gresh February 26: "Without any evidence that Saddam Hussein... was involved in the criminal acts of 9-11 or poses any threat to our lives, liberty, or property, Bush informs us that one reason he wants to wage war against Iraq is to depose Hussein and get the Iraqi people 'moving toward democracy and living in freedom.' Would George Washington approve of the deterioration of our Constitutional republic that was established to provide for our common defense into a global empire that engages in interventionism to impose democracy? Bush claims to desire this outcome for the Iraqi people while simultaneously implementing numerous violations of our Bill of Rights and increasing the federal debt with his 'homeland security' program. For one local example, the Colorado Springs Police Department is conducting random, warrantless searches of vehicles headed to the airport and detaining citizens in violation of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights under secret directives issued by the federal Transportation Security Agency. Would Thomas Jefferson approve of the deterioration of our Constitutional republic that was established to protect our individual liberties into an authoritarian police state that operates under federal directives to harass peaceful travelers without probable cause?"

Fight Bombs, Not Bongs -- Deroy Murdock wrote February 27, "With America tensely poised at Orange Alert against new terrorist attacks, vigilant, machine-gun-toting National Guardsmen are becoming common in New York's subway stations. Thus, Attorney General John Ashcroft recently targeted a fearsome threat: marijuana pipes." There is something very wrong with John Ashcroft.

Drug Warrior-Dealers -- The Chicago Sun-Times reported February 27, "[T]hree officers [pled] guilty to a scheme to steal cocaine from a drug trafficker, blame it on someone else and then cover it up." Hey, at least they weren't trying to steal bongs!

Farewell, Neighbor -- I loved Mr. Rogers when I was a young kid. When I was little older, I had to pretend to make fun of him even as I enjoyed his easygoing friendliness. Fred Rogers died February 27. Here's to you, neighbor.

Colorado Springs Cops Reform -- Colorado Springs Police Chief Luis Valez has some new ideas for dealing with those pesky ralliers: send more cops and videotape the crowd (AP, February 27). Here's a tip: be cool and cut back on the chemical agents.

Innovate This -- "The Governor's Office of Innovation and Technology... is on the chopping block," Michele Ames writes for the February 27 Rocky. The Governor's Office of Innovation and Technology. I don't even know where to begin with that one. Orwell? Rand? Kafka? Where do you turn when politics is too absurd for existentialism?

Consuming Advocate -- John Sanko adds, same day, same paper: "A bill to eliminate the Office of Consumer Counsel in the Department of Regulatory Agencies cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee on a 4-3 vote Wednesday despite complaints the move was short-sighted and would prove costly to consumers." How could eliminating a tax-funded position possibly cost people more money? Well, you see, we need to hire one bureaucrat to make sure another bureaucrat doesn't interfere with the market in too damaging a way. Or, as bill sponsor Ken Chlouber put it, "It's government protecting us from government." Are you catching on yet?

GIA -- Little kids, who incredibly think there's something wrong with nationalized agents stripping off their clothing and patting them down with detector wands, have started to cry at airports. No big deal! Screeners now keep Goofy puppets, stickers, and mats "decorated with kittens" on hand (Chicago Sun-Times, Jennifer Hamilton, February 26). One mother at Goofy International Airport said of her children, "Usually they're scared and they scream. But they're very calm."

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com