Freedom Updates: February 25, 2004

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

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Freedom Updates: February 25, 2004

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


The Political Lobby
Modern American government has reached its reductio ad absurdum -- politicians now spend tax dollars to hire lobbyists to get more tax dollars from other politicians.

A February 12 article in the Denver Post reports, "Jefferson County commissioners decided Wednesday to hire a federal lobbying firm, joining most metro-area counties in using hired guns to help bring home more taxpayer dollars." But, hey, the cap for this spending is a mere $120,000.

Let's go through this just one more time. First, federal politicians force you to give them money. If you don't give them money, they will threaten you with force, and if you still don't comply, they will send forth armed agents do drag you away to prison. Next, local politicians also force you to give them money. Finally, the local politicians spend some of the money they took from you to hire a lobbyist to persuade the federal politicians to give some of the money they took from you to the local politicians. And this is for your own benefit, of course.


Camp Indecon
Hannelore Bugby is an organizer for a Colorado camp "founded to teach children and adolescents the value -- and method -- of thinking for oneself." (Not surprisingly, the camp is popular among Objectivists.) Bugby recently released the following information about the enterprise:

"Do you ever wonder why there are so few free-thinking independent adults in our society? The answer decided by Hannelore (Lorie) Bugby was that the children of rational thinkers received the values Libertarians and other free-thinking organizations teach, only in their homes.

"Lorie's experience as a mother, and now a grandmother, enforced the idea that children want to fit into their limited social groups. To combat the ideas expressed by their friends and spread by the media, the government and private schools, Lorie decided to have children exposed to the necessity of thinking for themselves at a very early age and with a method of teaching that would be fun to learn.

"She took action to bring her idea to fruition the result of that action is Camp Indecon. Now in its sixth year, Camp Indecon teaches children between the ages of 9 and 17, the need to think logically and the consequences of failing to do so through a Montessori-style method of teaching.

"Two hours per day of curriculum is combined with the usual camp activities such as high and low-ropes courses, campfires, sports, crafts, and indoor and outdoor games. Details of the topics covered in the curriculum can be found at www.campindecon.org.

"A bonus for the campers is that they have created a peer group of friends who share their values and they stay in contact throughout the year by phone and e-mail conversations."


Free State Links
The Free State idea has been the talk of the libertarian community lately. Here are some additional resources. FreeWest.org encourages people to move to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Sierra Times has published a letter by Neil Alexander, along with a reply by publisher J.J. Johnson. And the Atlasphere has published a lengthy interview with Free State Project founder Jason Sorens. And of course Boston T. Party has replied to my review of his book, Molôn Labé! (Ike Hall replied to the same review.)


Flex Your Rights
Steven Silverman of Flex Your Rights announces, "With your help, between March 29th and April 12th we'll hold hundreds of house parties and public screenings across the country to premier our new instructional video BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. BUSTED is an extension of FYR's mission: To protect people from being searched, arrested, and jailed by training them how to assert their constitutional rights during police encounters.

"Narrated by retired ACLU executive director Ira Glasser, BUSTED realistically depicts the pressure and confusion of common police encounters. In an entertaining and revealing manner, BUSTED illustrates the right and wrong ways to handle different police encounters, and pays special attention to demonstrating how you, the viewer, can courteously and confidently refuse police searches."

Check out the group's web page to buy the video, host a viewing party, or use the video as a fundraiser for your group.


Recent Harms of the Drug War
The February 13 Rocky Mountain News reported, "The Yuma fire chief has been indicted on charges of possessing 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute... If convicted, Lehman faces 10 years to life in prison."

The same day, Brian D. Crecente wrote for the paper, "A Denver police officer was charged Thursday for allegedly taking a $10,000 bribe from a drug dealer to destroy evidence. Officer Damon D. Finley, 31, was charged with bribery, conspiracy to commit tampering with physical evidence, conspiracy to commit theft, and theft. He also faces a federal charge of making a false statement to an FBI agent."

Drug Prohibition also contributes to social violence. For example, Sean Kelly and Marilyn Robinson write for the February 23 Denver Post, "Sixteen-year-old Shawn Cerniglia and 18-year-old Carrie Heiden disappeared one year ago. The Highlands Ranch teenagers had been missing three months when they were found in May. Murder charges in the case were filed this month. Although court documents in the case are sealed and authorities say they cannot talk, the teenagers appear to have been potential witnesses executed to keep them quiet. When they disappeared, Cerniglia was wanted by authorities for questioning as a witness in a Sept. 21, 2002, shooting involving retaliation in a drug-theft case." Such violence is a common and predictable result of drug prohibition laws.

The war on (some) drugs also funds terrorists. The Christian Science Monitor reported February 18, "Amid growing evidence that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are profiting from narcotics, the US military plans to more aggressively help track and target Afghanistan's vast drug business, focusing on high-level traffickers linked to terrorists as well as production labs uncovered during military operations. The stepped-up military efforts come as US officials warn that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hizb-i Islami militants are financing terrorist attacks with profits reaped from Afghanistan's estimated $2 billion annual drug trade." Quite obviously, the black-market profits associated with the drug trade would not exist absent prohibitionist laws.

So if you are willing to tolerate police corruption, murder, and terrorism, then you should support the war on drugs. If, however, you would like to see integrity restored to our police departments, a dramatic decrease in the U.S. murder rate, and a significant source of funding for terrorists cut off, then you should support the repeal of drug prohibition.


Drug Policy Reforms
A February 10 e-mail from the Marijuana Policy Project reported, "The hemp food industry has just won a major victory, defeating the DEA's attempts to ban all foods with even trace, insignificant quantities of THC... After a two-and-a-half-year lawsuit, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Hemp Industries Association and against the DEA. As Judge Betty Fletcher wrote in the decision, 'they [the DEA] cannot regulate naturally-occurring THC not contained within or derived from marijuana -- i.e. non-psychoactive hemp. ... The DEA has no authority to regulate drugs that are not scheduled'."

The February 18 Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, "An initiative petition seeking to legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana will be filed with the secretary of state's office today despite a similar measure's sound defeat on the ballot in 2002." The previous effort set the limit at three ounces.


Schwartz Defends Market Education
In a February 10 letter in The Colorado Daily, CU Libertarian Brian Schwartz wrote, "UCSU's Support for Higher Education campaign, a.k.a. "S.H.E.", is a tragic symptom of ugly special-interest politics... There are thousands of educational non-profits in Colorado. If CU is so good, it should compete with them fairly. Arguing that CU needs tax dollars insults both tax payers and CU itself. It implies that either tax payers are too stupid to recognize a truly worthy cause, that CU fund-raisers are simply inept, or that CU is a boondoggle that could not survive if people were not forced to fund it."

Schwartz continued, "Government has turned non-profit organizations into predatory special-interest groups. Compulsory philanthropy laws create a perverse incentive: plunder or be plundered." However, "We don't need government to make us do the right thing. Let's stop the government-charity racket; it's a front for lining the pockets of bureaucrats at the expense of truly worthwhile charities."


Firefly
A recent mailer from the Institute for Humane Studies describes a lecture offered during the "Foundations of Liberty" seminar: "Professor Elizabeth Hull leads a discussion about Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and the themes of freedom and individual choice presented in the series." (College students should contact IHS about its summer conferences.)

Joss Whedon created Buffy and then Angel. I am enjoying both those series on DVD. But my true love is Whedon's Firefly, a 14-episode show (cut short) about a free-wheeling space captain and his crew who take work (legal or not) transporting goods and passengers across the galaxy.

The characters are outstanding. The gun-slinging Captain Reynolds is an occasionally bone-headed, insensitive war veteran, but when the going gets tough he always shows his character. Just wait till a spy takes a member of his crew hostage. Reynolds fought in the war against the Alliance; now that the Alliance has won, Reynolds is doing the best he can to earn a living and steer clear of the authorities.

Reynolds and his boat, Serenity, a Firefly craft, pick up a fugitive and her brother, a doctor who rescued his sister from the sinister men in blue rubber gloves. The girl is a genius, and whatever the government wanted her for, it was not for her own benefit.

Firefly is a throw-back to the American Western, pitting good versus evil in a harsh environment. The show's sense of justice and independence is endearing. Once you get past the slang and sometimes hokey frontier trappings, you'll be hooked. The series is available on DVD.


Electronic Voting
At a minimum, a voting system must produce a paper backup of each vote. At least in close elections, recounts should be based on the paper documentation, not the electronic files. The problem with all-electronic voting is that there's simply no way to verify it worked correctly. Did somebody rig the system? Was there a bug in the system that ignored some data or duplicated others? It isn't enough for the government -- and their corporate suppliers -- to say "trust us." We need proof. Indeed, I'm convinced voting should be primarily on paper, with machine scanning to tally the votes. I would even contemplate participating in a "Buck the Vote" campaign to encourage people to not use all-electronic systems -- even if that means voting drops below its already abysmally low levels.

On February 23, Al Kolwicz relayed in an e-mail, "The people lost. The Local Government committee amended HB 1296 to remove the Schultheis amendment (Schultheis required full-ballot-text paper ballots) by a 6/5 vote. The bill was then killed by a 9/2 vote. The Secretary of State and various election officials spoke to disallow voters from verifying their own votes, and block recounts from counting real ballots. Who are elections for, anyway -- the officials or the people? We are disappointed, but all is not lost. The SOS has imposed an emergency order to block purchase of any DRE equipment until EAC has issued rules. For the upcoming elections we shall have to believe whatever officials tell since there will be no way to verify anything."

A February 17 Colorado Daily article reported, "State Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder, recently introduced HB (House Bill) 04-1296, which would require each voting system statewide to produce a 'permanent paper record of each vote'."


Cap CAPCO
On February 11, Representative Mark Brophy wrote, "You stated, 'But there's no reason to replace CAPCO with anything.' Actually, there is. TABOR requires a constitutional change to the voters to approve any tax increase. Removing the tax break constitutes a tax increase. Mitchell was one of the few who opposed the CAPCO bill when it was enacted. He wants to kill it just as much as us."

It would be preferable for the money simply to revert to the companies that earned it, rather than be funneled into another welfare program. If this is not possible, I wish the legislature would go ahead and send it to the voters.


Fair Market Value
One of the Westminster City Councilors said the state legislature doesn't need to limit eminent domain, because forced property transfers to other private entities nevertheless offer "fair market value" to the victims.

The councilor actually means "average market value" or "expected market value." There can be only one definition of "fair" market value, and that is an exchange agreed upon, voluntarily and without threat of coercion, by both parties. If one of the parties does not like the deal but is nevertheless forced into it, then the result is theft, and no amount of bureau-babble can change that.


Sour Milk
Some staff members of restaurants and other businesses have sent away mothers for breast-feeding their children. Such behavior by these staff members is deplorable. The proper response is to organize socially and apply market pressure to get these businesses to change their practices.

The improper response is to run to the legislature to pass a new law. Yet State Senator Deanna Hanna introduced bill 88 "concerning the encouragement of breastfeeding." After a couple pages of text describing the benefits of breast feeding -- and I do not doubt that it's a good idea for infants -- the bill finally gets to the point: "A mother may breastfeed in any place she has a right to be." Okay, great. In other words, SB-088 is a bill that does nothing. At most, it will suggest to police officers that they are not to take complaints against nursing mothers seriously. But do they take such complaints seriously now? Do we really need to add yet more pages of fluff to the many volumes of Colorado statutes -- which no actual person can hope to read or understand?

Here's the ridiculous part: the bill invokes the emergency clause, which takes up more text than the substance of the bill: "Section 2. Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety." This is a mockery of the Colorado Constitution.

Now, breast-feeding is a good idea, but this spectacle of Colorado adults lining up to suckle at the tit of the Nanny State is obscene.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com