FreeColorado.com, a journal of politics and culture.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bob Glass Returns to Colorado Radio

Bob Glass, a founding member of the Tyranny Response Team active a few years ago, is back in Colorado preparing to jolt the radio waves.

glasswebGlass, "coming out of a self-imposed exile from Idaho," begins his "Radio Free America" show on Monday, June 1, from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. The Monday-through-Friday show will broadcast on four different stations and stream on the internet. Tune in at KRCN 1060 Longmont, KKKK 1580 Colorado Springs, KVLE 610 Vail, KSKE 1450 Buena Vista, or at TheBigMoneyStation.com.

Glass, formerly publisher of The Partisan magazine, takes a decidedly pro-liberty, pro-free market stance on the issues. Often controversial (he once protested at Tom Mauser's house), Glass recently made the news protesting Ward Churchill in Boulder.

Glass, who grew up in the big city, promises to lace his show "with healthy doses of New York sarcasm." He seeks to "encourage people from all sides of the political and philosophical spectrum to call in with their ideas and opinions."

Glass reflects that he once "was the owner of Paladin Arms, in Longmont, arguably the most politically incorrect gun store that ever was." He is "now back on the Front Range ready to take the good fight to the airwaves," he says. "Tune in and be a part of it."

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So Long, Free Market

Now it is perfectly normal for politicians and bureaucrats to determine the fate of businesses:

"An early start, deep political ties and important racing connections have given one of two competing Aurora racetrack proposals the inside track on millions of dollars in tax incentives crucial to getting either project off the ground."

Remember that a "tax incentive" for some means the same thing as screwing everybody else relatively harder. It seems likely that this particular race track may have won out without political interference, but, increasingly, we'll never know whether a business succeeded because it's a good business or because it's a politically connected one.

This business-by-tax-engineering is repulsive. (But not to its "bipartisan" supporters.)

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Friday, May 29, 2009

WWII: 'Invasion Forces Headed for Japan'

The following article originally was published May 25, 2009, by Grand Junction's Free Press.

'Invasion forces headed for Japan'

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Theo Eversol, a long-time peach farmer from Palisade and grandfather to your younger author Ari, died in 2001. He used to say that he worked the three most dangerous jobs around: farming, mining, and soldiering. Theo served in the Pacific Rim of World War II, a war that within a generation nobody will personally remember. We remember it in the stories and legacies of those who served.

Theo's army career posed the greatest danger. One night Theo decided not to attend a movie. The building was hit by "daisy cutter" bombs, after which Theo searched the field for body parts.

Theo recorded his opinion about the use of atomic bombs to end WWII. After Theo's wife Ila died last year, Ari discovered a paper bag filled with copies of Yank Down Under and Yank Far East, Army publications for soldiers. On a page with a map of the Philippine Islands, Theo wrote, "Yank invasion forces headed for Japan in Sept. 1945. Thank God the bomb was dropped!"

Today President Obama wants "a world without nuclear weapons." We worry that the price for such a world would be America's military strength.

Theo actually heard a military leader rally the troops for a pending attack on Japan. We believe this took place on the northern most island of the Philippines; Theo wrote on the map, "Aug. 1945: We were at Luzon."

If the U.S. military had invaded Japan, chances are good that one or both of Ari's grandfathers would have been killed in battle. Instead, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9. Theo served on an occupation force, not an invasion force.

Theo used to tell his grandchildren, "War is barbaric," an absolute horror. Yet, he added, if the other guy starts it, sometimes you've got to finish it.

Notably, after the United States decisively won the war, the occupation forces turned to the task of restoring lawful order, not fighting terrorists as troops are doing now in the Middle East. Indeed, Theo and his friends were invited to tea by the father of a boy lost in the Japanese military. Today Japan is a good ally to the United States, whereas the Middle East seethes with hatred and violence.

The copies of the Yank magazines, "by the men, for the men in the service," offer a glimpse of military life during war. A cover dated June 23, 1944 features the story, "Noncoms Tell Replacements How To Stay Alive (Page 2)."

A cover dated November 24, 1944, features a photograph of Douglas MacArthur. After President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave the Philippines for Australia in 1942, MacArthur said, "I came out of Bataan [a Philippine province] and I shall return." Yank Far East reports: "He Returned: Attack Day in the Liberation of the Philippines."

Some of you may know our local Sikhs. Corporal Ralph L. Boyce reported, "About 400 [Sikhs] were captured at Singapore and were kept there until May 1943, doing forced labor." One prisoner said, "They give us only handful of rice a day... We are very weak now." Boyce wrote, "[Corporal] Anup Singh closes his notebook [that recorded their imprisonment] and stands up. 'And yesterday we [66 of the captives] were freed.' He smiles, straightens his shoulders and adds, 'By the Americans!'"

We imagine that the news and photographs from the states kept the boys a little homesick. We wonder what Theo was doing as he read this report from March 24, 1944: "A heavy snow, reaching 8 inches in Denver, brightened prospects for a good winter-wheat crop. Gov. Vivian declared that the special session of the General Assembly would be confined to legislation amending the state ballot law to permit Coloradans in the armed services to vote. Twelve of the 14 members of the La Plata County Rationing Board quit because they said policies were dictated by the state OPA office."

The Army publications included entertainment news, but even that served as a reminder of the national scope of the war. One caption reads, "Frank Sinatra... and that old master Bing Crosby decided to bury the hatched as rivals for the swoon-croon vote, at least temporarily. They agreed to go into a duet together if someone would buy a $10,000 War Bond. And the buyer came through, at the Lakeside Golf Club in Hollywood."

Strikingly, the magazines kept a high spirit. Sprinkled among the stories of bloody battles and executions are silly jokes and "Yank pin-up girls." While Gene Tierney's swim suit is modest by today's standards, we imagine her photo gave the boys some reminder of the normal life they were trying to get back to.

On the back cover of a Yank Far East, Theo summarized his tour. Ten months state side. Eight months overseas in 1943, twelve months each for 1944 and 1945, and a month in 1946. Forty-three months of service. Many of us can only imagine. And say thanks.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Credit Controls Punish Responsible

The following article originally was published on May 24, 2009, by Colorado Daily.

Udall's credit controls punish the responsible

by Ari Armstrong

Didn't Sen. Mark Udall's mama ever teach him to read contracts before signing them?

If he had learned that lesson, he wouldn't impose new federal controls on credit cards -- controls that would punish the responsible and the poor in order to reward irresponsible whiners.

Nobody is forcing you to get a credit card. If you don't like the terms that a credit card offers, you are perfectly free to reject them.

Michael Riley writes in the Denver Post that Udall "hatched the idea in 2005 after watching a staff member's experience with a credit-card company that boosted his interest rate to 21 percent even though he had never missed a payment."

If you sign up for a credit card that tells you it will raise your rate whenever it wants, then why are you complaining when the company does exactly what it said it was going to do to you?

If you don't like the deal, then pay off the card and cancel it.

What if you're not able to pay off your card or transfer your balance elsewhere? If you can't handle your balance, then don't charge it in the first place.

The new controls will have two main effects. They will ensure that the young and the poor have less access to credit. And they will make it harder for responsible cardholders to negotiate good terms.

An Associated Press article summarizes the key provisions of the Senate bill. It would force credit card companies to lower rates even for people who miss payments, increasing rates for the rest of us.

It would require a "45 days notice before rates are increased," making it harder for credit cards to lower rates for others. It "requires anyone under 21 to prove that they can repay the money before being given a card," making it harder for young adults to build their credit.

Additional Federal Reserve controls would limit "excessive fees" charged to "people with bad credit," limiting their ability to rebuild credit.

For a few years, my wife and I got in over our heads and faced high balances and interest charges. We made a budget, controlled our spending and steadily paid off our debts. The more debt we paid off, the better the credit terms we could negotiate.

Today credit card companies pay us to use their cards. Our American Express card charges an insanely high interest rate on balances -- which is why we never carry a balance on that card. The card also pays cash back for purchases and offers free monthly interest when we pay in full.

We carry about $6,000 on a Chase MasterCard at guaranteed 0 percent interest forever (provided we make all our payments). Counting inflation, the credit card company effectively pays us to keep the balance.

Of course, if you bury high-interest charges beneath a no-interest balance, it's not such a good deal -- which is why we don't do that.

We worked hard to earn good credit terms, and now Udall wants to punish us to buy the votes of the whiner demographic.

Udall's scheme flows from one fundamental premise: You're just too stupid to live your own life without the "help" of federal politicians.

Unfortunately, those who push for political control over their lives would drag the rest of us down with them.


Ari Armstrong, a guest writer for the Independence Institute, is the author of "Values of Harry Potter" and the publisher of FreeColorado.com.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reusable Bags Pose Health Risks

Recently I went in to the Whole Foods store at 92nd and Sheridan in Westminster. Upon checkout, the clerk informed me that the store no longer offered normal plastic bags. I had to take paper instead or buy one of the "reusable" bags. The clerk indicated that the policy was "for the environment," to which I responded something like, "Don't give me your pseudo-scientific environmentalist BS."

I have not been into a Whole Foods since. I proudly ask for plastic bags every time I go into Whole Foods's competitor, Sunflower. It turns out that when I go shopping at a grocery store, I'm there to buy food, not listen to some fact-challenged religious sermon.

As I reviewed in January, the Colorado legislature considered fining the use of plastic grocery bags. For the environment. Even though plastic bag crack-downs actually harm the environment (not that that's a primary reason to oppose the measure). Thankfully, the effort failed.

But it turns out that continually bagging up meats and unwashed vegetables in a "reusable," "environmentally friendly" bag makes it, like, all gross and stuff.

Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Center points to an article from the National Post titled, Back to plastic? Reusable grocery bags may cause food poisoning. The article reviews:

A microbiological study — a first in North America — of the popular, eco-friendly bags has uncovered some unsettling facts. Swab-testing by two independent laboratories found unacceptably high levels of bacterial, yeast, mold and coliform counts in the reusable bags.

"The main risk is food poisoning," Dr. Richard Summerbell, research director at Toronto-based Sporometrics and former chief of medical mycology for the Ontario Ministry of Health, stated in a news release. Dr. Summerbell evaluated the study results.

"But other significant risks include skin infections such as bacterial boils, allergic reactions, triggering of asthma attacks, and ear infections," he stated.

The study found that 64% of the reusable bags tested were contaminated with some level of bacteria and close to 30% had elevated bacterial counts higher than what's considered safe for drinking water.

Further, 40% of the bags had yeast or mold, and some of the bags had an unacceptable presence of coliforms, faecal intestinal bacteria, when there should have been 0.


The solution? Wash the bag. But as Lockitch writes, "What about all the water and energy consumed by the washing machine, not to mention all the evil detergents and chemicals that get washed down the drain?! No, laundering the bags will still have an environmental impact–it will still leave a 'footprint.'"

Give me the plastic. And if you want to hassle me about it I can always double-bag it.

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Public Health Plan Deception

Via Brian Schwartz: this short video demonstrates that, not only would Obama's health scheme lead to "single-payer" (i.e., politically-controlled) health care, but it is intended to to so:



Of course, these consequences, intended or not, do not automatically disqualify Obama's plan. To read why politically-controlled medicine is wrong and bad for our health, see Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Barter Versus Taxes

Kevin Simpson wrote up an article for the Denver Post, "Barter system booms in Colo." Simpson talked to a few people who have been trading goods and services directly, but I'm surprised that he didn't mention the tax ramifications.

I Googled "'tax income' barter," and the top hit is the following information from the Internal Revenue Service:

Topic 420 - Bartering Income

Bartering occurs when you exchange goods or services without exchanging money. An example of bartering is a plumber doing repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services. The fair market value of goods and services received in exchange for goods or services you provide must be included in income in the year received.

Generally, you report this income on Form 1040, Schedule C (PDF), Profit or Loss from Business. If you failed to report this income, correct your return by filing a Form 1040X. Refer to Topic 308 for Amended Return information.

A barter exchange or barter club is any person or organization with members or clients that contract with each other (or with the barter exchange) to jointly trade or barter property or services. The term does not include arrangements that provide solely for the informal exchange of similar services on a noncommercial basis.

The Internet has provided a medium for new growth in the bartering exchange industry. This growth prompts the following reminder: Barter exchanges are required to file Form 1099-B for all transactions unless certain exceptions are met. Refer to Barter Exchanges for additional information on this subject. If you are in a business or trade, you may be able to deduct certain costs you incurred to perform the work that was bartered. If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange, you should receive a Form 1099-B (PDF), Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. The IRS also will receive the same information.

Please refer to our Bartering page [see the original document for related links] for more information on bartering income and bartering exchanges.


And how many people bartering in Colorado are filling out the legally required forms and paying the legally required taxes? My guess is the percent is less than two.

In today's world, you can hardly do anything without being required to fill out a bunch of government forms and pay some bureaucrat or other protection money. There's nothing so simple, straightforward, or beneficial that bureaucrats can't turn it into a legal nightmare. The IRS's documentation reads like it comes out of the world of Brazil.

The IRS imagines that barterers are going to refer to Topic 308 so that they can fill out Form 1040X. Good luck with that.

"I hereby inform you under powers entrusted to me under Section 476 that Mr. Buttle, Archibald, residing at 412 North Tower, Shangri La Towers, has been invited to assist the Ministry of Information with certain inquiries and that he is liable to certain financial obligations as specified in Council Order RB-stroke-C-Z-stroke-nine-O-seven-stroke-X."

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California Tax Revolt

And here I had simply written off California as unsalvageable. Perhaps there is some hope for the Left Coast -- the People's Republic of California -- the state synonymous in Colorado politics with dysfunction -- after all. The Los Angeles Times laments:

The day after voters overwhelmingly rejected a plank of ballot measures intended to ease the state's financial woes, lawmakers awoke to a harsh reality: a projected $21.3-billion deficit and the prospect of another round of bitter negotiations...

"There's a certain point where you feel that it will be devastating to some people and so we tried not to make those cuts," said the governor, who last week outlined grim plans to cope with the deficit. "But now we have to, we have no other choice."


Come on, Ahnold, where's the Terminator when we need him? At least the Governator is looking to slash bureaucratic jobs and cut spending. But he wants to borrow $6 billion from "Washington" -- i.e., from tax payers from Colorado and the rest of the nation?

Hasta la vista, baby.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Armentano Versus Antitrust

Dominick Armentano has penned an op-ed against antitrust for the Christian Science Monitor, "The problem with Obama's antitrust plan."

He summarizes:

The free market does not need more strict antitrust policy; it needs simple protection from fraud. The problem is that, in the 119 years that antitrust laws have existed, there is little empirical evidence that "vigorous enforcement" of them can promote the interests of consumers... Indeed, antitrust history is riddled with silly theories and absurd cases that themselves have restricted and restrained free-market competition and hampered an efficient allocation of resources.


Read Armentano's brief history of antitrust laws -- particularly if you are one of those "conservatives" who thinks central economic planners should play a role here.

A competitive market means a free market, which means a world in which the unjust antitrust laws have been repealed.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

No Property, No Freedom

I continue to enjoy Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787. Following are just a couple of intriguing passages:

Stephen Hopkins, arguing from Rhode Island against the proposed stamp tax in the year 1764, had announced that "they who have no property can have no freedom." The famed Massachusetts Circular Letter of 1768 had declared it "an essential, unalterable Right, in nature... ever held sacred and irrevocable... that what a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own." (page 71)

[Reflecting on George Washington's sentiments:] These meetings would determine whether America was to have a government which guaranteed life, liberty and property, or whether the country was to drift into anarchy, confusion and the dictation of "some aspiring demagogue." (page 77)


How far we have fallen.

Or, in the half-full interpretation, how great is our opportunity to renew our founding ideals!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Motorhome Diaries Guys Arrested!

Three guys are traveling the country in a motorhome to report on the liberty movement and support it. Jennifer and I met them and had a nice chat with them a few weeks ago in Denver at Liberty On the Rocks.

I was disturbed to hear this morning that they had been arrested in Mississippi. Now that they have been released from jail, they have recounted the details on their blog, "Jones County Sheriff’s Department Falsely Arrests MHD Crew."

This story makes me angry. These cops acted little better than common street thugs. Shame on the Jones Country Sheriff’s Department.

Notably, the officers in question abused these travelers' civil rights on the pretext of the drug war.

Memo to the police: your job is to protect individual rights, not violate them. Memo to legislators: when you empower the police with rights-violating laws and arbitrary powers, we end up with a police state. The fact that most of us (or at least most of us with obvious resource and the "right" skin color) never personally suffer such abuses should not blind us to the creeping police state unfolding before us.

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PJ on Antitrust

Recently I argued briefly against the Obama administration's threat to beef up antitrust persecution.

Now Pajamas Media has offered an outstanding video, "Obama Administration Cracking Down On Monopolies." Both Terry Jones of Investor's Business Daily and Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute do a fantastic job summarizing the flaws and destruction of the antitrust laws. If you are one of those "conservatives" who advocates central political control of this economy in this area, it is past time for you to reevaluate your views.

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The Nobility of Capitalism

Today the Denver Post published an attack on capitalism by Daniel W. Brickley of Littleton. Following is my reply:

Capitalism: The Only Moral System

I’ll untangle Brickley's many confusions. Capitalism protects people's right to live their own lives and interact voluntarily with others, by their own judgment, free from political controls. Capitalism means a system in which individuals rights to property and contract are consistently protected. In capitalism, the job of the government is to protect people from force and fraud.

To the degree that politicians interfere in the market, that is not capitalism, but its opposite. If "bribed governments" grant to some businesses political advantages to seize wealth by force or forcibly harm competitors, that is not "unregulated capitalism;" it is a market controlled to some degree by politicians.

Capitalism is regulated (made regular) first by a government that protects against force and fraud, and second by the independent judgment of individuals. If you don't like a company's products or services, don't buy them! If you think you can do better, you are free to try. But this is not the sort of "regulation" that the enemies of capitalism have in mind. Instead, they call on politicians to control the economy and violate people's rights.

Brickley is right about one thing: capitalism is incompatible with pure democracy. Capitalism protects individual rights. Pure democracy is mob rule, it is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner, it is 51 percent of the population enslaving the other 49 percent.

Brickley calls capitalism, the only system compatible with the reasoning mind of man, a "religion," and equates it with Soviet communism. This is pure projection. For the full justification of capitalism, see Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Capitalism is marked by men of drive and genius developing the goods and services -- the health care, the technology, the food, the housing, the cars -- we need to thrive. Their motive is to produce life-enhancing products and exchange them voluntarily with others for their personal gain. No motive could be more noble.

As for nastiness, we need look no further than Brickley's smear campaign against capitalism and capitalists.

Ari Armstrong
http://www.freecolorado.com/

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Frazier Watch: Top Line

Those interested in Ryan Frazier's campaign for U.S. Senate should note that Frazier recently appeared on ABC's "Top Line" (via PPC). I like his calm demeanor on the show; it compliments his more fiery public speech at the April 15 Tea Party in Grand Junction.

Frazier took a brief moment to discuss his principles of fiscal responsibility and individual rights.

I can live with his answer on immigration: he said we should incentivize people to go home and then come back to work here legally.

I also like his message of "tolerance" toward gay couples, though I hasten to add that the proper attitude is not "tolerance" but open acceptance. ("Tolerance" implies putting up with something one has reason to dislike.) Tolerance here is a step forward for the GOP, however.

I'm not sure what Frazier means about expanding benefits to gay partners. If he's talking about equalizing government treatment, that's fine (though the problem is with the tax-funded benefits per se).

I think Frazier is doing what he needs to do: present himself as as a mature and reasonable guy ready to represent Colorado values of independence and liberty.

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No Tax Funds for Religious Schools

David Card, "president of Escuela de Guadalupe, an independent Catholic, dual-language school in northwest Denver," made a series of astounding comments in an article for the Denver Post today.

Card argues that some religious schools "are effective in developing Colorado standards-based academic proficiency in subjects like math, reading and science, and in producing high school graduates." No doubt. But then Card adds, "Clearly, the state has an interest in this."

Clearly, Card has lost his faculties. The government's job is to protect people's rights, not dictate education policy for private schools. Many parents flee to private schools precisely to get away from political interference. Card would extend that interference to schools that are currently private.

Card argues that the state -- i.e., politicians -- should finance religious schools (presumably including his own). He pretends that politicians can force other Coloradans to finance only "non-sectarian efforts" by religious schools. The division is impossible. A religious school of necessity infuses its entire program with its ideological premises.

I left the following comments online:

"No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination against his consent." -- Colorado Constitution, Article II, Section 4

Forcing a person to finance a religious institution, against his will, violates his freedom of conscience and right to property. Moreover, no conscientious religious school would willingly accept the political interference that inevitably follows political funding.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Antitrust Punishes Success

Devlin Barrett of the Associated Press performs a useful service in reporting the Obama administration's plans to expand antitrust enforcement. It would have been pleasant had Barrett bothered to quote a single critic.

The antitrust laws are a fraud. The premise behind them is that on a free market companies can reach unjust or unfair or economically damaging levels of economic success. But this is simply not the case. On a free market, customers can choose whether to buy a company's product, and others can choose to enter competition.

Instead, it is political power that creates harmful monopolies -- though such monopolies generally are exempt from antitrust enforcement.

Throughout the history of the laws, antitrust actions have been brought by less-successful competitors and governmental agents with an axe to grind to punish successful companies at the expense of consumers and economic health.

Companies targeted by antitrust action are characterized by skillful and efficient management and operations, economies of scale, and wildly successful products at competitive prices. Typical results of antitrust action are higher prices and less-useful products. (This is merely a summary; for details see The Abolition of Antitrust and The Causes and Consequences of Antitrust.)

As Barrett summarizes, the Obama administration claims "lax enforcement by the Bush administration contributed to the current economic troubles." But nowhere in the article is any support offered for that view. The fact is that lax antitrust enforcement had absolutely nothing to do with the modern economic crisis, which was instead caused by federal encouragement of risky loans and investments. Increased antitrust enforcement will only dampen economic recovery.

Barrett suggests that two companies at high risk of antitrust action are Intel and Google -- two companies that have been enormously successful because they provide enormously valuable goods and services. The idea that these companies should be politically punished because they are successful is grotesque. (I personally benefit enormously from both companies; for instance, I am using Intel processors and Google software to publish this blog post.)

Here is Barrett's most chilling line: "[Assistant Attorney General Christine] Varney said the Obama administration would try to follow the historic lessons of The Great Depression in pursuing antitrust cases even in a troubled economy."

The historic lessons of the Great Depression are that politicians hampered economic recovery by going on witch hunts against businesses and business leaders. The fact that the Obama administration sees the Great Depression as some sort of model is truly frightening.

Here is a telling passage from Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man (page 344):

[Robert] Jackson... had collected a set of specific instructions from Roosevelt... to define and prosecute antitrust violations, and, especially, to go after individuals. Sometimes -- when he knew the targets, or liked them -- Roosevelt suggested that Jackson soften. And always, Roosevelt took care not to harm those with special power to harm him. Learning from Jackson of a possible action against motion picture combines, Roosevelt said, "Do you really need to sue these men?" and asked that they be brought in for a talk. But other times he egged Jackson on.


This typifies what antitrust actions are all about -- arbitrary political power brought against the successful for the "crime" of success.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Legislature Passes Job-Killing Bills

The following article originally was published in the May 11, 2009, edition of Grand Junction's Free Press.

Legislature passes job-killing bills

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The Colorado legislature is pro-business in roughly the same way that throwing a dog a bone after beating him mercilessly is pro-dog.

That didn't stop three journalists -- Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal, Peter Marcus of the Denver Daily News, and Steven Paulson of the Associated Press -- from regurgitating political propaganda last week about "job creation" bills and calling it news.

So now we'll give you the full story. (We figure if you're going to get lame editorials on the news pages elsewhere, you might as well get some real news on the editorial pages here.)

The main "jobs" measure in question is House Bill 1001, fawned over by politicians, bureaucrats, and various journalists alike. While the measure features Democrats as lead sponsors, various Republicans also signed on, including Steve King and Josh Penry.

Bill 1001 adds several new pages of tortured legalese to the Colorado statutes (section 39-22-531, because we know you'll want to look it up later) allowing the Colorado Economic Development Commission, at its discretion, to offer a "job growth incentive tax credit," as calculated in accordance with the bill.

And what is the Colorado Economic Development Commission? Its web page notes, "It consists of nine members five of whom are appointed by the Governor, two by the President of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House."

Those of you who thought we lived in a free-market economy were sorely mistaken. Now we have a bureaucratic commission to help set the rules of business and determine the winners and losers. Business is no longer about offering goods and services on a level playing field where the laws apply the same to everybody. Now business is about sucking up to the Commissars for special political favors.

Bill 1001 is about taxing businesses with existing jobs more in order to reduce the tax burden on businesses with "new" jobs. And we're supposed to swallow the notion that these discriminatory taxes are fair.

The hidden premise behind Bill 1001 is that taxes kill jobs, a premise with which we agree. Yet, instead of reducing taxes across the board so that everyone can benefit equally, the legislature wants to reward politically-correct and politically-connected businesses at the expense of everybody else.

And Bill 1001 is the good news of the legislative session. Remember, even the Democrat-controlled legislature implicitly grants that taxes kill jobs. Therefore, the legislature has done everything it can to increase taxes during the current recession. (Note that the governor had not acted on some of these bills as of our deadline.)

During this recession, many taxpayers are taking a hit, either in reduced work, reduced wages, or less business. Yet, rather than take an equal hit, Governor Bill Ritter just signed a $17.9 billion state budget, or about $3,500 for every man, woman, and child. While the total budget is less than the $18.6 billion for 2008-09, it exceeds the $17.2 billion for 2007-08 (as relayed by the Joint Budget Committee).

To keep state spending high, the legislature has looked for new ways to make people pay. Two of the worst bills of the session raise fees on cars and hospital visits. During a recession the legislature must screw drivers and the sick especially hard to fund more bureaucracy.

Senate Bill 108, the Denver Post reports, would increase the "cost of vehicle registration by an average of $41 for typical vehicles." We continue to wonder where all our gasoline tax dollars are going.

House Bill 1293, laughably called the "Health Care Affordability Act of 2009," would impose "hospital provider fees... on outpatient and inpatient services provided by all licensed or certified hospitals."

You see, this fee will make your health care more "affordable" by forcing you to pay more for the health care of others. (Paging Dr. Orwell.)

In order to hide these fees from patients, the legislature helpfully included the following line: "A hospital shall not include any amount of the provider fee as a separate line item in its billing statements."

As we have discussed, the real problem is that the federal government forces hospitals to provide care without compensation. But the solution to the problem is to repeal those federal controls, not force even more wealth redistribution.

The legislature also passed bills to increase capital-gains taxes (bill 1366), cigarette taxes (bill 1342), and net sales taxes (bill 212). (Though we gave the Denver Business Journal a bit of heck earlier, we gratefully acknowledge the paper's reporting on these bills.)

But doesn't the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights require voter approval for all such hikes? Silly taxpayer. You have obviously confused the plain language of TABOR with the Colorado Supreme Court's transcendent reasoning. (For details, see ClearTheBenchColorado.org.)

We haven't even gotten into the bills that increase the costs of doing business and reward people for not working.

We do have one thing to be thankful for: the legislature has disbanded till January.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Peter Marcus's Lap-Dog Journalism

While Peter Marcus of the Denver Daily News smeared the Tea Party last month, he has been nothing but a fawning advocate of new tax-and-spend legislation. Marcus seems to see his job as journalist to amplify Governor Bill Ritter's views and agenda. His "news" stories are little more than fawning editorials.

Today's headline offers some indication of the paper's political leanings: "Guv lists goals reached: Ritter happy lawmakers targeted jobs, education, transportation, more." Marcus's "news" story consists entirely of praise for Ritter. Out of the entire population of Colorado or of Denver, apparently, Marcus could not find a single critical voice.

Marcus, for example, praises Ritter's signing of Senate Bill 67, which "commits $2.5 million in public funds to leverage more than $50 million in private bank loans."

But wait just a minute. Do private banks refuse to grant loans unless they are subsidized by tax dollars? As a rule, no. They make money by judicially giving out loans; that's their business. So it's simply wrong to think that the $50 million depends on the $2.5 million. It is true that today credit is crunched -- and that is because the federal government promoted risky loans. The solution is to get government out of the loan businesses.

As we're "helping" politically-connected businesses with the $2.5 million in tax funds, whom are we hurting? We're hurting everyone who no longer has access to that $2.5 million. Robbing Peter to pay Paul does not improve the economy. Moreover, forcibly transferring wealth from some people to others is morally wrong and a violation of individual rights.

But Marcus is not about offering a balanced news story. He is about pushing a political agenda in the news pages.

As to whether the legislature's overall policies in fact serve to benefit the economy, my dad and I will have more to say about that on Monday.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bill 1984 Advances

Colorado Senate Bill 241, which I've taken to calling "Bill 1984" because of its Orwellian implications, allows police to collect people's DNA based merely on arrest. The basic argument against the bill is that it creates a perverse incentive for police to arrest people on some pretext just to look at their DNA.

Nor does an amendment change the basic nature of the bill. The Denver Post reports that the bill "is on the way to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk after [it] was amended to allow police to take DNA tests upon arrest but for the sample not to be processed unless a person is charged. The sample will be destroyed if no charges are filed." All this does is extend the perverse incentive to charging somebody on some pretext, knowing full well the charges will be dismissed, just to look at the person's DNA.

Mike Krause and Joe Carr also loot at some of the funding injustices surrounding the bill.

Republican Scott Tipton said, "We did a good thing today. We helped protect that population out there called our daughters and our wives."

Well, Scott, I talked to my wife about this, and she wants no part of your fascistic police state.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Free Speech and Ward Churchill

What about free speech for the rest of us?

by Ari Armstrong

Ward Churchill wants his job back. To quickly review, before Ward Churchill became a professor, he copied and sold another artist's work under his own name. Then he got a tenured job at the University of Colorado, Boulder, without appropriate credentials, on the pretext that he is American Indian. He is not.

After Churchill wrote an essay comparing some victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Nazis, the University of Colorado discovered that Churchill had also fabricated claims and plagiarized in his academic work. CU fired him in 2007.

On April 2, a jury found that CU had wrongly gone after Churchill for his essay on 9/11. An article in the Denver Post claimed that CU failed "to protect Ward Churchill's free speech." David Lane, Churchill's persuasive lawyer, called CU's Board of Regents "civil rights violators" and declared the verdict a victory for the First Amendment, the Post reported.

But who will defend free speech for the rest of us? Where is Lane's outrage over the violations of free speech of those Colorado taxpayers forced, against their will, to subsidize Churchill's fraud?

The First Amendment protects us from government censorship. If you write an essay, and the government beats down your door and arrests you for it, or seizes and destroys copies of the essay, or otherwise forcibly prevents you from speaking, that's censorship.

The First Amendment is not a job protection act. It does not say that employers must allow their employees to say whatever they wish on the job. For instance, newspapers hire and fire writers based on the contents of their work. Many newspapers also restrict the off-duty speech of their writers. An employee of the Denver Post caught plagiarizing would be sent packing -- even if that writer wrote controversial material and wore cool sunglasses with long hair.

Tenure is a contract, and Churchill was protected by that, though tenure does not protect academic fraud. Where does the idea come from that this was a First Amendment case?

The only plausible argument linking Churchill's employment to the First Amendment is that various politicians, including former Governor Bill Owens, called for Churchill's firing based on the 9/11 essay. And the state government helps fund CU. That tax funding is both a carrot and a stick, carrying the implicit threat that state funding is subject to politics.

CU reports that, for 2008-09, the state funded 8.5 percent of CU's budget. Student tuition and fees, on the other hand, funded 41.3 percent. Over a fraction of its funding, then, CU accepts political oversight.

If we want real academic freedom, in which university policy is completely separated from politics, the solution is obvious. Stop forcing taxpayers to subsidize CU. Make all contributions voluntary. Then the governor and other politicians could rant and rave all they wanted; they could not control university policy.

The right of free speech entails the right not to speak and the right not to finance ideas you find repugnant. You have the right to purchase copies of the Denver Post, but the Post may not force you to buy copies. You have the right to use your own resources and those voluntarily given to you to speak. You have no right to forcibly seize the resources of others to speak.

When politicians take your money by force to fund ideas with which you disagree, they violate your rights of free speech.

But the Colorado taxpayer will never get a day in court.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Westminster Declares Mall Blighted

The Westminster Mall is nearly dead. That is obvious to anyone who's visited it in the last year or two. So, obviously, breathing new life into it is the job of central economic planners who work for the city of Westminster. We couldn't possibly leave individuals free to use their own resources to renovate the property; this is about maximizing tax revenues, after all.

Monte Whaley's fawning article for the Denver Post, which includes not a single word of skepticism or criticism about the city's plans, nevertheless offers some useful details.

Whaley notes that the city has formed "an urban renewal area created after the City Council declared the 32-year-old center blighted this month."

Blighted? The mall is largely empty, but blighted? Here's is the key bit of Whaley's article:

The city hired Leland Consulting Group and Matrix Design Group to assess the complex. Their findings showed substantial problems that led the city to put the blighted tag on the mall.

The problems included buildings without fire-suppression sprinklers, poor water availability to fight fires, deteriorating parking and sidewalks, unsanitary pools of standing water, poorly lit areas, unscreened trash and bad traffic circulation.

An urban renewal authority will allow the city to use tax increment financing for upgrades.

The authority will also have the option to use the power of eminent domain to seize ownership of some of the shops in the mall, McFall said.


Eminent domain? "Tax increment financing?" If the problem is that taxes are too high for businesses to succeed in Westminster, then why doesn't the city simply reduce taxes across the board? That would never do: the purpose of the city is to maximize tax revenues, after all.

Did anyone doubt, going into the study, that Leland Consulting Group and Matrix Design Group would find blight conditions? (How much were they paid to return those results?)

We all know that the city of Westminster will not possibly tolerate any exposed hazards, messy trash, or standing water:

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My guess is that, if every property in Westminster were evaluated by similar standards, over half would be declared blighted. But everybody knows that declaring a property "blighted" has only a superficial relationship to the condition of the property. The point is to let the city threaten people with eminent domain. (This might be a move the mall's owners would actually welcome, given the lack of business there, but I'm not sure because Whaley apparently didn't consider contacting them, and I don't have the time to do Whaley's job for him.)

Here's a thought: why doesn't the city stop trying to plan the economy and instead create simple rules and low taxes that would benefit existing businesses and attract new ones? We all know the answer: then the politicians and bureaucrats wouldn't get to doll out favors and take credit for other people's work.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Around Colorado: May 4, 2009

Arvada's Economic Non-Development

Now this is investigative reporting: Face the State published an article titled, "Arvada Redevelopment Project Sits Mostly Vacant, Costing Taxpayers Nearly $800,000."

The article begins:

After the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority condemned and forcibly acquired an elderly small business owner's property in 2004, the land was transferred to a private developer who was given the property free of charge. Now city leaders and other project supporters are lauding the project with awards, despite the fact that the new development sits mostly vacant. The total tab to taxpayers thus far is estimated at nearly $800,000 and counting.


Governments, including city governments, simply should not be in the business of "economic redevelopment." Such central economic planning invariably employs political force through eminent domain, zoning, or taxation. Politicians can't ably plan the economy. Leave that to free individuals working together voluntarily with their own resources. What city officials can and should do is get out of the way of economic progress.


Fake Free Speech

In a predictably wishy-washy editorial, the Denver Post worries about the FCC's ability to fine stations for "fleeting expletives," but adds, "We believe that protecting children from adult programming and swear words is important..."

Parents who wish to protect their children from naughty words are perfectly free to do so. They can choose whether to purchase a television or radio and whether to leave it turned on to any particular station.

The FCC, properly called the Federal Censorship Commission, should be completely disbanded.


'Job Creation Bills'

The Associated Press claims that Governor "Bill Ritter is preparing to sign two of the top job-creation and business-development bills this session." A centerpiece of the legislation is granting "businesses that create at least 20 jobs" tax breaks.

But if giving businesses tax breaks creates jobs, then doesn't taxing all other businesses destroy jobs, damage the economy, lower wages, and increases prices on consumer goods? Of course it does. But, somehow, when Ritter signs a $17.9 billion state budget, he doesn't describe that as the "economy-crushing bill."

Also, why is it great to generate twenty jobs but not, say, nineteen? Isn't it better if two companies each create fifteen jobs than if one company creates twenty? Yet the discriminatory taxes will punish the two smaller businesses and give the larger business a break. Because, under Colorado tax law, some tax payers are more equal than others.


Clear the Bench

Matt Arnold has set up a new organization called Clear the Bench Colorado, an effort to urge voters to decline to retain the four State Supreme Court justices up for vote next year.

In an April 29 speech, Arnold explained why this is an important opportunity to vote against the taxpayer-hating Supreme Court.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Censoring Scott McInnis

I imagine the last thought on Scott McInnis's mind about Complete Colorado is "you complete me."

McInnis, who appears headed into the Colorado governor's race of 2010, appeared in scandalous-sounding headlines before even announcing his candidacy -- something every candidate no doubt wishes to avoid -- thanks to an April 30 exclusive story by Complete Colorado bearing the ominous title, "Voicemail Raises Ethics Questions for McInnis and His Probable Campaign for Governor."

McInnis left a voice mail with a potential supporter in which McInnis mentioned, "We've got Sean Tonner on board... Sean's doin' our... 527." Complete Colorado summarizes, "The mention of Tonner being on the team and also running a 527 could be problematic. It is illegal for a candidate committee to coordinate with a 527 'issues' committee."

Now that McInnis said the verboten word "527," it is no doubt time for a full inquiry. All we need now is a smoking gun or a stained dress.

What this story actually illustrates is that the campaign finance "reform" laws are in fact censorship laws. Candidates cannot simply present their message to the public coordinating with willing donors and spokespersons: they can speak only within the confines of elaborate and arbitrary rules that only armies of lawyers can hope to decipher.

A regular person cannot run for office without consulting an attorney. If you want to run for political office, you must learn the politically-correct and lawyer-approved code language for announcing your candidacy and discussing supporters. If you violate these Speech Codes, you can land in deep trouble.

The campaign censorship laws help assure that only political insiders can navigate the election laws. Most normal people are frightened away from running for office or even becoming involved in political causes. The campaign censorship laws facilitate retaliatory lawsuits and campaigns of character assassination.

Meanwhile the campaign censorship laws obviously have not cleaned up politics or gotten "big money" out of politics. The laws have merely thrown the advantage to those with enough lawyers to game the legal system.

I find it astonishing that the recipient of the voice mail -- presumably a Republican -- sent the voice mail to a conservative/libertarian site in order to damage a Republican candidate. (Josh Penry is also headed into the race on the Republican side.)

A May 1 story by the Denver Post's Jessica Fender offers useful context. Here is how McInnis defended the voice message:

McInnis, who verified that he left the message, pointed out that he has not officially announced his candidacy or formed a candidate committee, so the rules do not yet apply.

And what he really meant to say was that Tonner, president of consulting firm Phase Line Strategies, is a supporter and is answering questions about potential future 527s, he said.

"I should have said Sean Tonner is the one I'm looking to for answers on this," McInnis said. "The law doesn't prohibit you from discussions on 'This is what's going to be needed.' "


So apparently candidates can discuss "potential future 527s" without coordinating with them. McInnis's interpretation of the inherently ambiguous Speech Codes is as legitimate as any other.

These are in fact censorship laws, as Fender's following passage illustrates:

McInnis may not have technically broken campaign laws, said Colorado Common Cause Director Jenny Flanagan, but there is one simple rule when it comes to 527s: Don't talk to them.

"It's certainly a violation of the spirit," Flanagan said.


When the law prevents you from talking to others, that is censorship. Such laws violate the Bill of Rights and our fundamental human rights. They are an abomination that must be repealed.

That said, I am surprised that McInnis, a former member of Congress, did not script his message more carefully given his knowledge of the campaign censorship laws.

Complete Colorado did the right thing in running the story. It is important to know how the censorship laws are carried out in order to argue against them.

The fact that Complete Colorado has a political leaning does create a certain awkwardness surrounding the story, as illustrated by a headline above a story from the Daily Sentinel's Gary Harmon, "McInnis' voice mail posted at site run by supporters of possible rival." Harmon notes that Complete Colorado "is owned by Todd Shepherd and Justin Longo," both of whom work for the Independence Institute. Harmon writes, "CompleteColorado.com has nothing to do with the Golden-based Independence Institute, where he is employed to research government misdeeds, Shepherd said." Still, awkward.

However, Harmon's claim that Shepherd and Longo "are supporting McInnis' likely intraparty rival, Josh Penry" is completely unjustified, as Shepherd demonstrates in a follow-up article. Shepherd points out that Harmon's claim is based exclusively on the fact that both Shepherd and Longo "are listed on a Facebook page, 'Draft Josh Penry for Colorado Governor.'"

But that Facebook association proves nothing. People often join internet lists, Facebook pages, etc. to gain information. Shepherd points out that he is also Facebook "friends" with Democratic Governor Bill Ritter. Moreover, the Daily Sentinel itself is friends with Penry (and I wonder whether this was merely the result of investigating the story).

So we have (fake) scandal and (fake) counter-scandal.

Unfortunately, few are talking about the real scandal: political activists in Colorado suffer under censorship laws and Orwellian Speech Codes. Perhaps journalists should spend a bit of time looking into that.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Denver Tea Party on YouTube

Stop Spending Our Future is collecting videos of tea parties across the nation. Following is my submission:

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