Freedom Updates: January 21, 2004

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

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Freedom Updates: January 21, 2004

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Theft by Eminent Domain
Shawn Mitchell is one of the best Republicans in the Colorado legislature with respect to the only standard that matters: the preservation of our liberties. That's not to say he has a perfect libertarian record, but he has reined in forfeiture abuse, and now he is attempting to stop legalized theft, a.k.a. "eminent domain" by local politicians.

A January 21 article by Alicia Caldwell in the Denver Post notes about 60 people showed up to testify on behalf of Mitchell's bill at a January 20 hearing. She writes, "Mitchell spoke candidly about the opposition that he said reform advocates should expect. He implored those in the room to telephone and write letters to legislators, to seek out victims of eminent-domain abuses who would tell their stories in hearings, and to enlist friends who would do the same."

Often libertarians take positions that don't seem intuitively obvious, such as the stance that rent control makes housing less affordable. Fortunately, in the case of eminent domain, the obvious common-sense position is the libertarian position: local politicians ought not be able to force property sales from one private owner to another in order to increase the tax base.


Grocery Cards
I hate grocery cards. Indeed, I don't buy anything at Safeway because they won't give me the sale price without the card. So I do my shopping at King Soopers, where the manager said I could take a card without giving any personal information. However, I do a little shopping at Costco, which mandates a card, simply because some of the deals are extraordinary.

The greatest threat of grocery cards is that, eventually, the government might plug all this data into its centralized databases. As a general rule, people should be reluctant to give out their personal information.

But nobody's forcing shoppers to use the cards. You just don't get some of the discounts without a card. Is there an economic benefit to the stores by using the cards? Most assuredly: by tracking purchases more closely, stores can make more money by stocking more intelligently. Part of this benefit is passed along to customers through lower prices.

Thus, while I think individual customers should try to avoid attaching their personal information to the cards, and take some pains to avoid them, I do not think this matter is the proper jurisdiction of legislation. Of course I'm all for legislation to limit the government's access to citizens' data.

The Durango Herald (January 20) reports, "Sen. Ken Chlouber, R-Leadville, wants to do away with them entirely. 'Why should I have to give up personal information about myself just to get a discount?' Chlouber said. 'I think it's an incredible violation of privacy, and I don't like them keeping records on what I buy. It should be illegal.'"

But there is no principle that says personal information cannot be conveyed in voluntary market transactions. For example, I surrendered an enormous amount of personal information in order to enter into the contract of marriage. Anybody with a home mortgage knows the personal files are extensive. One might argue grocery stores don't need as much information as they're asking for, but that's not something politicians ought properly decide.


CCJRC Update
The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition sent out the following information on January 21.

Don't forget to check out our legislative session webpage at www.ccjrc.org/LS2004 it is being updated regularly with the latest news.

Next Wednesday (January 28), two very good criminal justice bills will be heard in committee. While it is normal procedure for criminal justice bills to be referred to the Judiciary Committee, Speaker of the House Lola Spradley has assigned both of these bills (HB 1106 and HB 1008) to the Information and Technology Committee.

House Bill 1106 (Rep. Plant D-Nederland) is a broad sentence reduction bill that seeks to expand the use of probation for certain non-violent drug offenders and repeal some mandatory minimum sentences. Specifically, statute currently prohibits someone with two prior felony convictions from being sentenced to probation (instead of prison) without the permission of the district attorney. HB 1106 would remove that prohibition and put discretion back into the hands of judges. It would also repeal mandatory minimum sentences for repeat shoplifting, escape from custody (usually used for people who walk away from halfway houses, even if they turn themselves in later), removal of an incendiary device, possession of certain amounts of a schedule I or II controlled substance, certain repeat marijuana offenses, operating a boat while intoxicated or when sailing privilages are suspended, violation of livestock quarantine, operating an airplane while intoxicated, driving under restraint or after revocation, DUI, DWI, and DUAI. It is important to remember that removing mandatory minimums doesn't remove prison sentences; it transfers power from prosecutors to judges, making the justice system more balanced.

The other bill being heard on January 28 is HB 1108 by our good friend Rep. McFadyen (D-Pueblo West). Currently, when a juvenile is court-ordered to attend therapy as part of a dependence and neglect case, statements made to the therapist can later be used in court if the juvenile faces criminal or juvenile delinquency charges. HB 1108 would make such statements confidential unless the juvenile indicates that he or she intends to commit criminal acts.

Both of these bills are important steps toward restoring balance to the criminal justice system, and CCJRC supports them. Please contact members of the Information and Technology Committee (see below) before January 28 to voice your support for HB 1106 and HB 1108.

House Information & Technology Committee
Shawn Mitchell, Chair (R-Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Weld) (303) 866-4667, shawnmitch@aol.com
Bill Crane, Vice Chair (R-Jefferson) (303) 866-2962, bill@billcrane.org
Greg Brophy (R-Northeastern Plains) (303) 866-2906, greg@gregbrophy.net
Dorothy Butcher (D-Pueblo) (303) 866-2968, dorothy.butcher.house@state.co.us
Bill Cadman (R-El Paso) (303) 866-5525, bill.cadman.house@state.co.us
Michael Garcia (D-Arapahoe) (303) 866-3911, michael@michaelgarcia.info
Joel Judd (D-Denver) (303) 866-2925, joel.judd.house@state.co.us
Anne McGihon (D-Arapahoe, Denver) (303) 866-2921, anne.mcgihon.house@state.co.us
Carl Miller (D-Eagle, Lake, Summit ) (303) 866-2952, carl.miller.house@state.co.us
Pam Rhodes (R-Adams ) (303) 866-2918, pam.rhodes.house@state.co.us
Jim Welker (R-Larimer) (303) 866-2947, jim.welker.house@state.co.us


Howling Pig Avoids Jail
The January 21 Rocky Mountain News reports, "College student Thomas Mink won't be charged with criminal libel for publishing his satiric online newsletter, The Howling Pig. Weld County District Attorney A.J. Dominguez Jr. said in a memo Tuesday that he had concluded Mink hadn't broken Colorado's rarely used criminal-libel law..."

Well, it's good that somebody finally showed a little common sense. But the ACLU is right on this issue: there's no legitimate role in a free society for criminal libel laws. Civil law suffices.


No-Call List to Cost Libertarians?
Paul Tiger, Legislative Director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado, sent out the following information on January 19.

Colorado Democrat Senator Dan Grossman of Denver has a bill now under consideration known as SB04-085. Written to amend the PUC Telemarketing Phone No Call List.

Currently, non-profits and political parties are exempted from the Colorado No Call List. Grossman's bill would end that exemption. If passed, our party as well as others would not be able to call anyone listed on the Colorado No Call List. That would also apply to Political Action Committees; Candidate Committees; and any non-profit.

A summary provided by the legislative council of the proposed bill follows:

Removes the existing exemptions for noncommercial telephone solicitations by charitable and political organizations under Colorado's "no-call list" law, under which residential telephone customers may indicate their desire not to receive telemarketing calls. Narrows the "established business relationship" exemption by requiring a business to obtain written permission before calling a residential telephone customer to offer goods or services.

Our own outreach director's Monday night telethon would be endangered. The LPCO would need to subscribe to a list provided by a private company known as E-Info Data and pay the Public Utilities Commission and E-Info up to $500 per year for a subscription for telemarketers. We would also need to become a registered telemarketer with the PUC for an unspecified amount of money.

Currently, SB04-085 is in the Senate Business Affairs & Labor Committee and has not yet reached the floor of the Colorado Senate. However, as this bill was introduced by a state senator, we should understand that it is on the fast track. The primary co-sponsor is Republican Rep. Mark Larson in the house. This makes it appear that this legislation has bi-partisan support.

As Legislative Director, I am urging all Colorado Libertarians to call your state senate and house representatives to counter this bill. Primarily to call and/or write to:
Sen. Dan Grossman - D (SD-32) 303-866-4852
dan.grossman.senate@state.co.us
Grossman covers: Denver and Jefferson counties
Rep. Mark Larson - R (HD-59) 303-866-2914 marklarson@gobrainstorm.net
Larson covers: Archuleta; La Plata; Montezuma; San Juan counties
But don't stop there. Call all the state legislators, whose contact
information can be found on the General Assembly web site for the House and Senate.

As a follow up to this I [still Paul Tiger] would like to add this commentary: While we Libertarians advocate for privacy, it has been my experience that the Colorado No Call List has had little impact. My own number is on this No Call list, yet the number of solicitation calls to my residence has not decreased.

What has made an impact on curtailing solicitation calls is the electronic TeleZapper box that my wife and I purchased from Privacy Technologies for about $15. This unit sends a signal to telemarketing phone systems that make them believe that they've reached a disconnected number. This causes professional telemarketers to remove my number from their lists.

Solicitation calls from people that don't have computerized telemarketing systems continue to call, even though we've been on the No Call List for several years. We look at the caller ID number and simply don't answer those calls that we don't wish to.

Additionally, we give charitably to non-profits such as the Disabled Vietnam Veterans (my era); Cerebral Palsy; and others. If these charities are forced to subscribe to E-Info Data's service, and pay for their own regulation to the PUC annually, it will poorly affect them financially.

The passage of SB04-085 will most certainly have a deleterious impact on the Libertarian Party of Colorado, as well as all political parties. This is more government regulation that is not needed, has been proven to be unenforceable, and above all simply doesn't work.


The Threat to Civilization
Dennis Prager believes a great evil threatens "the preservation of our civilization." Brace yourself for the explanation: several Democrats, including Senator John Kerry, recently used the f-word in public!

Oh, yea, and Wesley Clark sent out an endorsement letter by Madonna. Prager might have something here: can anybody so out of touch with modern American culture that he thinks Madonna is hip be trusted to take over the presidency?

I could almost hear the foundations crumbling today when Patricia Calhoun published her column in Westword that used the f-word or one of its derivatives no fewer than 38 times. That most instances were quoted from legal briefs only bolsters Prager's point. Calhoun was discussing two recent cases in which people were criminally charged, in part, for saying the f-word.

Prager must be close to hysterics now that Kerry has won the first Democratic primary.

What's most amusing about Prager's piece is he believes (or at least says he believes) most Americans care whether a political candidate uses the f-word in public. Few care, nor should they. While a handful of social conservatives obsess about naughty language, their Republican comrades are busy spending more tax dollars and trampling civil liberties.

Let us say there are two candidates. One says, "Pretty please may I increase the size and scope of government and offer a social welfare program to every special interest group in the nation?" The second says, "Taxes and spending are too fucking high, there are too many fucking laws, and if I'm elected President I'll work day and fucking night to make sure you can keep your income, your guns, your books, your political speech, and your Constitutional liberties." I submit that it is the first candidate who threatens our civilization, and the second candidate who offers hope of its salvation.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com