Freedom Updates: May 14, 2003

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

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.freecolorado.com

Freedom Updates: May 14, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


II Celebrates Victories
The Independence Institute hosted a party May 3 to celebrate the organization's accomplishments. In past years, II President Jon Caldara (pictured at right) said, the group did work pertaining to tax cuts and school report cards. This year, the legislature implemented a number of ideas the II has supported, including vouchers and concealed carry.


Correction to Moore Report
In a recent article about Michael Moore's "fictitious" documentary, I quote from Debbie Schlussel:

[Moore] stages an event at North Country Bank and Trust in Michigan's Traverse City, claiming that opening an account would entitle one to walk out of the bank with a gun in hand. The film shows him doing just that... In reality, the bank does not provide guns for opening accounts, and you can't walk in or out of the bank with one -- unless you're a security guard employed by the bank... In order to qualify for the gun, customers must open a 3-year CD with at least $5,000 and then must pass a background check for the gun, which can only be picked up at a licensed gun dealer.

However, others claimed Moore indeed got the gun at the bank.

On April 21, I called Kris Kozlowski at North Country Bank in Traverse City, Michigan. He said Moore did indeed pick up the gun at the branch office.

The guns are stored at a central location. Then, after the client undergoes the background check, the central office ships the gun either to the local branch or to a licenced dealer.

Moore filled out the paperwork, then days later (Kris didn't know how many days) picked up the gun.

Kris said the minimum requirement is $849, and that's for a shotgun. Moore would have had to put in quite a lot more, depending on the length of the CD.

Clearly, Moore misrepresented what happened at the bank.


Reading Notes
I've read some extraordinary essays over the last few days. Following is a list of some of those links, along with some older material:


Aitken Slams Denver Tax
David Aitken, a member of the Libertarian Party and a recent candidate for Denver's Election Commission, sent the following letter to the Rocky Mountain News (April 23):

I suppose it's not surprising to see that many of the candidates in Denver's municipal election are supporting Initiative 100. This measure is nothing more than taxation without representation, because it grants tax money to a private organization, Denver Options Inc., which is not accountable to the taxpayers... Patriotic Americans should vote no on Initiative 100 and preserve our republican form of government.

Shaffer Beats up Republicans over 1142
Bo Shaffer, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Boulder, wrote to the Rocky Mountain News in a letter printed April 1:

It absolutely amazes me that the Republicans in this great state are more interested in partisan politics than good laws. They don't care that a bill is unconstitutional. They don't care that a bill will needlessly tax Coloradans. They don't care that they pass a mean-spirited bill that slaps the democratic process in the face... No, they only care that Republican leaders say "Vote for this!" Mindless sheep...

AZ Lawyer Takes on Drug War
The Arizona Republic published an extraordinary article March 27:

A judge pro tem was fired Thursday, his first day on the job at a Mesa courthouse, for refusing to hear drug cases. Arizona Chief Justice Charles Jones fired Marc Victor, a Mesa defense attorney, saying Victor "expressly declared his inability to be impartial in the application of the law and the disposition of cases before him." But Victor, a marijuana legalization activist, said he recused himself only on drug cases, not all cases. "I thought it was the honest, up-front thing to do," said Victor, who brought a six-page proposed "minute entry" with him to Maricopa County Superior Court, outlining why he believes drug laws violate the U.S. and Arizona constitutions.

Victor is one of those upstart Arizona Libertarians and a co-founder of Freedom Summit.

Wright Fears Currency War
Jeff Wright sent out the following note on April 23:

Here it is folks, the opening shot in Global Currency War I was referring to in my "Lost Century Article." This scenario will become very widespread. And who do we attack to stop this attack on us? Citigroup? Bank of Indonesia? If anyone thinks that our sometime, onetime or always adversaries are not going to pick up on this as they have in the UK, they're dreaming. Just a matter of time now...

Last year, Javad Yarjani, a senior official at OPEC, the oil producers' cartel, put forward several compelling reasons why his members might one day start selling their produce in euros.5 Europe is the Middle East's biggest trading partner; it imports more oil and petrol products than the US; it has a bigger share of global trade; and its external accounts are better balanced. One key tipping point, he suggested, could be the adoption of the euro by Europe's two principal oil producers: Norway and the United Kingdom, whose Brent crude is one of the "markers" for international oil prices. "This might," Yarjani said, "create a momentum to shift the oil pricing system to euros." If this happens, then oil importing nations will no longer need dollar reserves in order to buy oil. The demand for the dollar will fall, and its value is likely to decline. As the dollar slips, central banks will start to move their reserves into safer currencies, such as the euro and possibly the yen and the yuan, precipitating further slippage. The US economy, followed rapidly by US power, could then be expected to falter or collapse.

Seebeck Defends Concealed Carry
The April 24 Rocky Mountain News printed the following letter from Libertarian Mike Seebeck:

In his April 8 letter, "Plaque of disgrace," Howard Botnick asks, "Can you see how everyone having a concealed weapon could increase the probability of a another mass killing of innocents?"

The answer to that question is no. In fact, everyone having a concealed weapon would actually minimize that probability...

The ultimate paradox of the gun grabbers is that they claim to want to protect us by removing our means of protection. They don't trust law-abiding citizens, and place us with the criminals, simply because of a commonality of the tools both groups use.

Concealed carry and the Second Amendment both send a message that the people are to be trusted and the government is not. Gun grabbers send a message that government is to be trusted and the people are not. The first message is libertarian and complementary, steeped in liberty; the second is authoritarian and insulting and steeped in tyranny.

So which applies to us? I hope it's the first. The criminals hope it's the second.

The Roots of Government Education
The Rocky Mountain News printed a letter from me on April 25:

News engages in selective indignation

The News has (again) editorialized against the Blaine amendment ("Historic moment for school choice," April 17) on the grounds the state's prohibition on sending government dollars to private religious schools is rooted in bigotry against Catholics.

But as (Catholic) Marshall Fritz of the Separation of School and State Alliance points out (http://sepschool.org/essays/fritz/wash_u.html), government schools per se are rooted in such bigotry.

So, until the News is prepared to editorialize for the complete abolition of government interference in education, please, spare us the selective moral indignation.

As I have argued previously, though, a policy must be evaluated independently of motives. For example, I oppose vouchers even though most proponents of vouchers are motivated to achieve a good education and a more market-based system, while most opponents of vouchers want socialized education. To take another example, American disarmament laws and modern prohibition laws are rooted in racism, but that fact alone is not sufficient to prove the laws are bad. As an extreme case, I'm quite sure Hitler at some point commented, "two plus two equals four," but we should not therefore doubt the truth of the claim.


Leave Smoking Policy to Owners
Norm Olsen, Chair of the state LP, wrote a succinct letter critical of the proposed smoking ban that was printed in the Denver Post on May 1:

Three cheers for Virgilio Aguirre, owner of northwest Denver's Rosalinda's Mexican Cafe... Virgilio exercised his freedom of choice to prohibit smoking on his private property. He lost some customers and gained some customers, with those customers also exercising their right to free choice. Individual choice.

Mr. Aguirre's restaurant is his private property. It belongs to him. He built his restaurant business through an awful lot of hard work and dedication to serving his customers. The public had nothing to do with the creation of this successful business other than choosing whether to eat there or not. This does not make Mr. Aguirre's restaurant "public." ...Politicians: Buzz off!

Potential Election Fraud
When I walked into the voting booth last year in Jefferson County, I was confronted by a digital touch screen. I asked one of the people overseeing the process how I could be certain my vote would be recorded corectly, how the digitally recorded results would remain secure from alteration, and how the (presumably magnetic) storage drive would be kept safe from disruptive devices. I got no answer.

If those designing the new system of voting tried to create a system prone to abuse and failure, they could hardly have done a more thorough job.

Thankfully, people like Alison Maynard and Albin Kolwicz are tracking the problems associated with accurate voting.

A recent article discusses the problem of electronic voting in some detail:

A compendium of voting machine errors collected during the 2002 election points to widespread errors in software programming... The new machines -- at least until safeguards are enacted -- ...may bring risks of large-scale, nationwide, systemic tampering. Never before have so few people (technicians and programmers) had access to so many votes at once. Sooner or later, unless we do something, someone will succumb to temptation and steal enough votes to grab control of congress -- or the presidency...

Grocery Taxes to be Repealed?
Douglas Bruce sent in the following note May 8:

A Montose grocery tax repeal is on the ballot in a special election to be announced soon. A Littleton grocery tax repeal will start its petition drive soon. Volunteers needed. Contact mgbolt@msn.com for more details. He could use an announcement asking for petitioners.

The national LP published an article about the effort in Montrose. The Daily Sentinel, the largest newspaper on the Western Slope, published articles about the issue April 25 and 29. The Montrose press also covered the story.

Tim Jacobs, Libertarian active in the Montrose effort, responded to some of the press coverage. He wrote, "I had hoped at some point that the city council would address the moral issues involved with a regressive tax that's particularly tough on the poor and those on fixed incomes."


End Federal Gas Tax
The Republicans sent out an interesting release May 5 pertaining to the gas tax:

News from ColoradoSenate.com

Senate: End Federal Gas Tax, Bring Highway Programs Home

Denver -- The state Senate wants the federal government to return all responsibility for highways to the state by allowing Colorado to retain federal fuel tax revenues. The tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of fuel collected within the state is unfairly distributed by the federal government and is often used inefficiently and irresponsibly, according to Senate Joint Resolution 42, which was adopted on April 24.

The tax funds the Federal Highway Administration, which was formed in 1956 to build the interstate highway system. That system was completed by the mid-1980s.

"Highways and most other transportation problems are local and regional issues, and the state and local governments can address those problems much quicker than a Washington, D.C., bureaucracy," said Sen. Ron May, R-Colorado Springs, the Senate sponsor of the resolution. "Plus, citizens can hold local governments and agencies accountable for the fiscal responsibility of any project. That means better use of tax dollars paid by Coloradans and put to use for Coloradans."

The resolution also denounces the federal blackmail imposed upon the states by the federal government that forces states to comply with federal mandates. A copy of the resolution will be sent to each member of Colorado's Congressional delegation. It passed on a 22-13 vote.

"Our highway dollars always come back smaller after the round trip to Washington, and the interstate system that once justified the trip has long since been finished," said Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial. "It's time to end this pointless tax and put each state's roads in their own control."

Sen. May added: "This resolution is demanding that Colorado taxpayers get a fair return on what they invest into the transportation infrastructure. Colorado drivers pay a tax when they put gas into their vehicles. Why shouldn't that money stay in Colorado?"

Report prepared by Kelley Harp, Senate Majority Communications.


Regulation Insanity
As I reported previously, the central planners of Aurora insist on imposing water restrictions, rather that simply implement a tiered pricing structure to encourage the efficient use of water.

At the same time, though, the Aurora central planners have also passed laws making it more difficult for people to save water. Mike Patty reported for the May 6 Rocky Mountain News:

Helen Patten hopes the polyethylene will be greener on her side of the fence. The Aurora homeowner is having Xeristurf, a trademark artificial lawn, installed in her front and back yards to see if it is an acceptable drought-proof alternative to grass. The city is giving Patten an exemption on its ban of artificial landscaping to test the success of the new product.

Of course, the entire problem would be solved if Aurora would repeal its zoning restrictions and transfer its socialized water distribution system to the market. But socialism isn't about solving problems: it's about retaining power.


Atlas Dogged
I originally sent this to an Objectivist list...

Terrible, terrible news...

"The Objectivist Center is pleased to announce that a new project to film Atlas Shrugged has just been launched [by] Crusader Entertainment... The company also announced that it has signed veteran screenwriter James V. Hart, whose film credits include the ambitious adaptation of Carl Sagan's science fiction novel Contact, to write the screenplay... James V. Hart's writing/producing credits include: Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg; Bram Stocker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola; Contact, directed by Robert Zemeckis; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh as producer with Coppola and John Veitch; Jack and The Beanstalk: The Real Story, directed by Brian Henson, a Jim Henson/CBS mini-series; and Tuck Everlasting, directed by Jay Russell for Disney."

Hart managed to turn a great pro-reason, pro-science book by Sagan into an apology of faith.

(See my earlier review.)

Contact is a good movie because it is based on a good book, because Zemeckis has a lot of talent, and because the cast does a good job. Hart, though, turned the theme on its head.

Obviously, ideas are all-important in Atlas Shrugged, and I fear Hart will similarly screw it up.

The rest of Hart's resume does little to ease my anxiety. Hook and Dracula were fun but intellectually vacuous. And Frankenstein, shall we say, was an apt title for that particular movie.

The mere fact that Hart ended up as the screenwriter indicates to me the studio lacks either an understanding of the subject material or money (or perhaps both). I will breath a sigh of relief when, once again, an announced filming of Atlas Shrugged falls through.

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