Freedom Updates: May 29, 2003

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

The Colorado Freedom

Freedom Updates: May 29, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.

Pamela White Reviews Gun Challenge
Pam White, editor of the Boulder Weekly, wrote a fine story for the Boulder Weekly about her firearms training class in Grand Junction. She writes, "By the end of the [first] day I'm forced to admit that target shooting is, well, fun." The instructors "painstakingly covered ways to thwart attackers without resorting to the use of firearms." White remains unconvinced that gun ownership is morally virtuous -- but that's okay, because the philosophy I'm trying to promote allows people to live according to their values (so long as they don't initiate violence).

White restates her pacifist perspective, citing "Buddha, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." But self-defense is a part of the tradition of Buddhism, other Oriental traditions, Christianity, and even the work of Gandhi. I mentioned to her, "I think you're viewing the history of non-violence through new-age glasses." I like George H. Smith's notion of "strategic non-violence," which sees non-violence as one political strategy that's effective in certain contexts, but that recognizes self-defense is sometimes necessary and morally virtuous for self-preservation.

Ban Automatics!
I recently pointed out the media tend to report the relatively infrequent unintentional deaths involving firearms, even as they often ignore the much more frequent deaths involving other items. And, while this is a good generalization, sometimes other types of deaths do make the papers.

Tillie Fong reports in the May 20 Rocky, "A 16-year-old driver involved in an accident that killed three teenagers in February will be charged as an adult." And Julie Poppen writes for the May 19 Rocky, "A 31-year-old Colorado Springs mom was cleaning her 2001 GMC Yukon in the driveway Saturday when the worst thing that can happen to a mother occurred. Her 2-year-old son got into the driver's seat. The ignition was on so she could listen to the radio. She was near the rear of the SUV with her 4-year-old daughter, Adreanna Cook, when the 2-year-old somehow put the vehicle in gear. The Yukon rolled backward down the incline of the driveway and over Adreanna, according to Colorado Springs police. The girl died at Memorial Hospital. The 2-year-old wasn't injured."

The first incident clearly is not an "accident" -- it was a case of reckless driving. The second case is closer to what we think of as accidental, though it seems imprudent to leave an infant unattended in a vehicle with the keys in the ignition.

Regardless, why are these tragic but otherwise ho-hum stories? Why is no lobby group demanding the legislature ban fully-automatic cars or require "safe storage" for vehicles? Why will these stories not be repeated by weaping "Million" Moms at the state capitol next year? To review, in 2000, 60 times as many people -- 6,000% as many -- died in unintentional car crashes as died by unintentional gun fire.

"But cars are used for other purposes..." Well, so are firearms. Specifically, they are used for self-defense. What purpose is more important than protecting one's life from a violent attacker? The only plausible explanation for why anti-gun lobby groups exist but anti-car lobby groups do not exist is that just about everybody owns a car, whereas (probably) somewhat less than half the population owns a gun. The tendency to treat guns as taboo, magical, self-willed entities is, I think, a characteristic of many non-owners of firearms. Somehow, some people associate a special evil with deaths involving firearms, and this overpowers any consideration of life's relative dangers as well as the benefits of firearms ownership.

The LP Should Target PATRIOT Supporters
Kent McNaughton, Chief Correspondent for the Colorado Freedom Report's Panamanian bureau, sent in the following notes on May 29.

In the light of heightened disregard for the rights of American citizens, and blatant ignoring of the rule of law that the US Constitution provides by all three branches of the Federal government, the Libertarian Party (LP) should seriously consider changing its tactics with respect to federal election contests.

The LP should declare a War on Incumbents who voted for the USA Patriot Act.

I suggest this because I believe that this Act rises to the level of two other of the most odious actions by the US government against the freedom of its citizens. To wit, the 1798 Alien and Sedition Act of John Adams and the suspension of Habeas Corpus by Abraham Lincoln.

This proposal would not keep Libertarian candidates from running in these races, but would change the thrust of the message to actively work to defeat the 99 incumbent senators and 357 representatives who voted for the USA Patriot Act. We would support the candidacy of incumbents who voted against this piece of tyranny as a reward. That is, Russ Feingold in the Senate and 62 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 Independent in the House. (Here's the list.)

Rather than going after votes for Libertarian federal candidates, Libertarians would throw their support behind major party candidates running against federal incumbents who voted for this travesty to our freedoms.

Likewise for the race for the Presidency: our candidate would openly acknowledge that he had no chance to win, and would throw his support to the Democratic candidate, no matter that we might have to hold our nose.

The electoral facts are clear: that very few Libertarian federal candidates in three-way races garnered over 10% of the vote, that only some managed to "cover the spread" between the major party candidates, that our Presidential candidate didn't even manage half a percent of the vote.

If we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always gotten.

Some advantages of this tactic: 1) it will call attention to the disaster to our freedoms caused by the USA Patriot Act, 2) it will be perceived as real news by the news media, getting libertarianism some column space, 3) it will show real political leadership and courage ("... principle really means something to these people ..."), 4) it should stand us in good stead in both local and coming federal elections, 5) Republicans would no longer be able to claim "Libertarians steal votes from Republicans"--as there would only be three of them we'd support in the federal election.

Even if the incumbent's opponent is a supporter of the incumbent's position on the USA Patriot Act, this tactic will send a message that anti-freedom incumbents will be directly targeted. In some cases, our ability to "cover the spread" could be enough to pull off an unseating. Also, unseating some incumbents--even if their replacements have a worse set of views--give freedom's enemies lower standing in the House and Senate hierarchies.

If we are successful in unseating a few, those who survive will certainly have to take notice that the people's freedoms are not the politicians' playthings.

We Need Spending Cuts
Mike Seebeck sent the following letter to the Colorado Springs Gazette, which published an edited version of it May 27.

To the Editor:

Larimore Nicholl's rant "Tax cutters want services, won't pay for them," in the May 21 Gazette, illustrates a huge lack of understanding of what Libertarians are all about, so let's set the record straight.

There is no doubt that Libertarians want little or no taxes. Conservatives do also, but they have no intention of making up for lost tax revenue by cutting government back to its essentials, so they deficit spend. Libertarians want to see every one dollar in tax cuts matched by at least one dollar in government cuts. It's balancing the budget and reducing the debt.

Furthermore, every tax dollar not in our pockets is a dollar that is not investing in the economy, in jobs, and in peace and prosperity. Government does not create jobs; consumer demand does.

Libertarians don't want to pay the high taxes for streets and highways because we feel they should be paid for on a per-use basis like every other government service should be. It's the free market determining the quality of goods and services. Contrast E-470 and Interstate 25 TRex and you will see the quality difference quite easily.

Libertarians want fire and EMT protection but feel it should be paid for through our house insurance and medical insurance, and only when actually used. Ambulances work that way, so why not the fire department and EMTs?

Libertarians want secure prisons, but only to house actual criminals and not scapegoats for victimless acts that liberals and conservatives call crime. We want to see a return to the common law, restitution in sentencing, and treating illnesses as illnesses instead of crime.

Libertarians want clean air and water, but feel that it the responsibility of the consumer and producer to work together to achieve those goals. Government regulations drive up costs and actually accomplish very little.

Libertarians want to see the end of public libraries in favor of private used-book exchanges (which already exist!), public schools in favor of pay-as-you-go private competition in education, and a return to not relying on government to do everything for us. It is the spirit of the Founding Fathers we want, not the spirit of Big Brother.

Libertarians want to pay for the government they actually use, not what the government might provide.

Libertarians want government to protect our rights, not erode them with tyrannical laws like the USA-PATRIOT Act.

In short, libertarians don't want government to give us something for nothing. We want government to give us less for less, with what they actually give us being what we actually need, while preserving our rights in the process and letting the free market sort out the rest.

These radical ideas already successfully exist in the marketplace, so why not in government?

Mike Seebeck
Media Director
Libertarian Party of El Paso County

Rand and War
Christ Sciabarra wrote an essay recently about the Objectivist position on the war in Iraq. "I believe that a projected U.S. occupation of Iraq to bring about 'democratic' regime change would not be comparable to the German and Japanese models of the post-World War II era... Even though I support relentless surgical strikes against terrorists posing an imminent threat to the United States, I have argued that America's only practical long-term course of action is strategic disengagement from the region... Those who think that the interventionist power of the state will wither away, after it has built a mighty colonial fortress, atop deficits and debt, rising taxes and the threat of conscription, are suffering from a Marxist delusion," he writes. This is one of the best articles on foreign policy I've ever read.

Westword, Guns, and Justin Green
I sent the following letter to Westword in response to previous letters about a May 8 feature story.

The May 22 letters regarding Justin Green were alternately poignant, amusing, and pathetic.

It's obvious Westword covers criminal justice issues better than any other news source in Colorado. Yes, David Holthouse's emphasis of the alleged link between Green's crime and rap music was ridiculous, but that was one mistake in a detailed investigative story.

Green may be a "wanksta," as Justin Cremer writes, but still his seven-year prison sentence was too harsh, especially given modern American prisons are psychologically destructive schools for the criminal sciences.

Cremer adds, "*No one* who owns an AK-47 can be trusted completely." Cremer thus displays his overt bigotry toward gun owners, almost all of whom are responsible, upstanding citizens. (Besides, as Holthouse notes, Green bought a "knockoff" of an AK-47.)

Instead of blaming rap music for Green's crime, Elizabeth Ward blames "the society that failed Justin." She continues, "What sort of a society allows an individual to buy an assault weapon? Who, exactly, needs an assault weapon in this country?" But that's the equivalent of asking, "Who needs to read a newspaper that isn't controlled by the government?" The Bill of Rights isn't about what politicians deem that we "need," it is about our inalienable rights.

Historically, an "assault rifle" is a fully automatic "select-fire carbine," according to Boston's Gun Bible. Today, an "assault weapon" is any politically incorrect gun that happens to scare the sniveling sycophants of the burgeoning American police state, in which only our approved masters can own effective firearms.

If Green's parents had raised him to be an adult -- say, by letting him homeschool or teaching him how to use firearms and other tools responsibly -- instead of a prissy juvenile delinquent with his high-IQ head stuck up his ass, he never would have committed the crime in the first place. But Green can't blame his parents, either. I hope he gets out of prison early, and hopefully he'll emerge as a grown-up.

Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty
The Denver Post printed an extraordinary letter May 15. It is one of the more eloquent defenses of the libertarian position I've seen. So how many conservatives are going to continue to tell me that homosexuals somehow pose a threat to our freedom?

In his article on the Supreme Court and privacy rights ("List of rights keeps growing," April 30), Al Knight expresses a muddled view of the nature of human rights and the U.S. Constitution.

He is correct insofar as he suggests that the Supreme Court cannot "create" rights. Neither can the president or Congress; nor can any government body. The government can only acknowledge that rights exist. It can protect and respect rights or it can violate rights, but it cannot grant or take them away. Rights are inalienable.

Rights exist prior to, apart from and independent of government. The sole purpose of government is to protect individuals' rights to life, liberty and property - or, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, "the pursuit of happiness." The Constitution, as the basic law of the land, places limits on government, not on individuals. For government, whatever the Constitution does not permit is forbidden. For individuals, whatever the Constitution does not forbid is permitted. This is what the Founders knew and intended.

Subsequent generations of lawmakers have perverted this incontrovertible truth. They have created multitudes of laws to oppress the people and sent swarms of agents to harass us through extraconstitutional means to achieve unconstitutional goals.

Among these harassing and perverse laws are those that forbid individuals from engaging in private, consensual sexual activity in their own homes without interference from government. Since such activity does not violate anyone's right to life, liberty or property, it cannot properly be forbidden by government. And surely such consensual sexual activity can be seen as one form of the "pursuit of happiness," no matter who might engage in it.

Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty
Washington, D.C.

I for one will take homosexual friends like this any day over big-government conservatives. I'm impressed with this group -- check out the web page.

They're Stealing the Bill of Rights!
You already know the U.S. government is stealing your Bill of Rights. Now a clever entrepreneur has found a way to make this fact blatantly obvious. According to a May 22 e-mail from the Advocates for Self-Government, actor Dean Cameron, a self-described "hard-core libertarian," is selling copies of the Bill of Rights engraved on small metal cards. So now, when the airport fatherland "security" fascists steal your toe-nail clippers, they may also steal your Bill of Rights -- literally.

The Advocates relate that Magician Penn Jillette said, "My friend, Dino Cameron, is a genius. He got the idea to make playing card-size copies of the Bill of Rights printed on metal. With the Fourth Amendment in red. It's a great idea. It sets off the metal detectors and you get to hear the security person say, 'I'm going to have to take away your Bill of Rights.'"

The ACLU has also purchased some copies, according to the Advocates. More information is available at the LA Times, LP News, and Cameron's web page.

Marilyn Musgrave, Defender of Taxpayers
Kent Snyder of the Liberty Committee wrote a May 23 summary of recent events in D.C. involving a Colorado Congresswoman:

Representative Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), one of our new caucus members -- and a lowly freshman, no less -- has had the audacity to stand up to the all-powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Don Young (R-AK, 15 terms in office!). In fact, Mrs. Musgrave is leading the charge to keep Mr. Young from raising the tax you pay on gasoline. Imagine! Rep. Musgrave received an old-fashioned dressing down for her impertinence...

Musgrave... heard about The Liberty Committee and, long before she won election, told Representative Ron Paul that she wanted to join his Liberty Caucus if she came to Washington. Mrs. Musgrave wasn't coming to Washington to sell out, she was coming to fight for her principles. Mr. Young picked the wrong person to try to intimidate.

Representatives Roscoe Bartlett and Jeff Flake, two more members of The Liberty Caucus, have also voiced their opposition to increasing the federal tax you pay on gasoline... It takes courage to stand up to establishment power in Washington, believe me, that's why so few ever do it. Mrs. Musgrave is just what this town -- and this country -- needs more of.

Media Notes

Seizures-- Stuart Steers wrote a disturbing article for Westword describing how the Denver police stole a disabled man's van and sold it out from under him. What country are we living in, again? Obviously, property seizures and forfeitures still need more reform...

"Digital Device" Ban-- Diana Hsieh reviews Governor Owens' response to a bill that would have outlawed certain digital devices at the whims of communications corporations.

Property Rights Up in Smoke-- Owen S. Good wrote a May 28 article for the Rocky Mountain News about the proposed smoking ban in Denver. Filip Stibral, a bar owner and an immigrant from the Czech region, said, "This is supposed to be the home of freedom of choice. Bans like this go against choice." And so this immigrant from a formerly socialist nation understands the principles of liberty better than most American voters do in some towns.

Mares' Economic Protectionism-- According to a May 29 article by Kieran Nicholson of the Denver Post, "Denver mayoral candidates sparred Wednesday night at a downtown forum where Don Mares took John Hickenlooper to task for having campaign lawn signs printed in Kansas rather than locally. After Hickenlooper talked several times about the importance of cultivating small businesses in Denver, Mares asked about Hickenlooper's signs. 'I want to know why you spent money buying all those yard signs in Kansas,' Mares said." Hickenlooper replied that they cost less. We might infer, then, that Mares' idea of good government is wasting tax dollars to appease special interests. Economic protectionism and favoritism lead to a net loss of wealth. Specialization according to comparative advantage leads to a net increase of wealth. But Mares, a career politician, apparently sees wealth not as something that's produced, but something that's first confiscated and then redistributed by -- politicians.

Brady Registration Checks-- A May 29 AP article reveals some of the problems with Brady checks: "The FBI has improved its ability to respond quickly to gun dealer requests for criminal background checks, with only 9 percent of the transactions now facing delays, the Justice Department reported Thursday." Oh, so now "only" 9 percent of gun buyers are temporarily denied their rights and wrongly presumed to be criminals. Of course, Ashcroft sang praises to Sarah Brady's gun-owner registration scheme. That is the rub, after all: Brady checks aren't just checks, they permanently record every licensed gun transaction in the country. Of course, the AP story failed to mention Brady checks are a complete failure in terms of stopping crime.

Doug Bruce's New Suit-- Peter Blake wrote a May 21 column for the Rocky detailing the legal plans of Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. Bruce wants to sue because the state legislature shifted paydates, increased the state's cut of sales taxes, inflated the emergency cash reserve by including the value of real estate, raided trusts, passed "certificates of participation" to impose debt, defined a decade as 19 years to increase spending, and turned the Department of Wildlife into an "enterprise" to exempt it from TABOR limits.

Fascist Alert-- The "Amber Alert" bill also included language formerly known as the RAVE Act, Mark Brown details for the May 29 Rocky Mountain News: "[A] concert promoter or club owner could be liable - and could have the club seized in some cases - for criminal activity at a show, including drunkenness, drug use or fistfights. Under the law, the promoter could be criminally liable for any illegal act by anyone in the crowd." As I've previously noted, the trend to force American citizens to enforce nanny-state laws (the RAVE Act was motivated by prohibition) -- on pain of going to prison -- is one that, if unchecked, will hasten the arrival of the police state.

The Colorado Freedom