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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

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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Monday, February 16, 2009

Cell Phones and Driving

The following article originally was published February 16, 2009, by Grand Junction's Free Press.

We're from the government, and we're here to help you drive

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Recently we had a flat tire and found that the spare was also flat, so we hitched a ride to the gas station. We sat in the back seat while the driver held the following conversation with the other passenger.

"I was driving south on 30 Road the other day when a young woman with a cell phone stuck to her ear cut me off just before I was turning onto D Road!

"I've never given the one-finger salute, but, boy, let me tell you, if I were inclined this would have been the perfect time. But I guess I learned the fine art of profanity while driving around with my father, so I really let loose. The EPA could have closed commercial air space above the Valley because of that rant! I probably made Al Gore's global-warming ticker speed up.

"I'm so glad the legislature is finally looking to put an end to holding cell phones while driving.

"Anyway, this young 'lady' had no idea how much danger she had placed us in. I was looking at the newspaper ads for yard sales, and I was eager to beat everyone else to the best buys. I had to step on the gas to make up time.

"The week before, I had arrived late to the best yard sale in town, and the earlier risers had grabbed up all of the best buys! Not only did they take the best stuff, but they took all the best parking. So I just pulled in real close to another parked car for a spell so I could get in on the bargaining. Some guy driving by sneered at me, but it's not like he didn't have plenty of room to drive around. Sheesh!

"But I didn't make the next yard sale on time, either. When the lady with the cell phone cut me off, I spilled my coffee all over the paper! That was some hot coffee, boy, and it turned my classifieds, along with the world's news, to mush.

"The little *&%@ didn't realize that I was having a heck of time getting one of those little creamers open and into my coffee. But I have the problem licked, now; I get the lids with the drinking hole so I can poor my cream into that, along with the sugar. And I rip the cream open with my teeth.

"I hope the lady who cut me off was making a hot date or something. I hope it was worth it, because Spot's poor little doggie feet got burned by the coffee. He started dancing all over the dash.

"Poor Spot still won't get in my lap anymore, and he used to look so cute with his little paws on the wheel. All the kids used to love watching him help me drive! But my insurance company said it won't pay for Spot's counseling.

"Not only that, but I had little Suzie for the day, and she was a mess after that, let me tell you. She was in her car seat right behind me, so I couldn't find her pacifier till I got to a stop light.

"I don't know what the lady's cell phone cost her, but she cost me plenty. With Spot jumping around with burned little paws, he knocked my brand new electric razor right out the window. I had just bought that razor, too, on sale for 89 bucks. If the little twit had cut me off just a couple days earlier, all I would have lost is a cheap blade shaver.

"You would have laughed yourself silly -- I upgraded after I reached for the shaving rinse cup instead of the coffee mug. Yuck.

"Look here for a sec -- did I just smudge this eye-liner?

"They ought to pass a law. They just don't have enough laws. Let's pass a law to stop people from using cell phones in the car. Let's really get tough on the young teenagers. They're terrible drivers, and they can't vote, anyway.

"Hold on a minute -- I want to find that country-western station on the radio... There it is. I had it on the classical station because it really relaxes Spot. Sometimes he likes to climb up in the back window and take a little snooze. His little chew-blankie is in the back seat; I like to tuck him in with it.

"Getting back to the law. I'm just sick and tired of people driving around chatting on cell phones, paying no attention to their driving. The police need to be spending their time looking for people using cell phones!"

The driver let us off at the gas station, where we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that our safety rests in the hands of our state legislature.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pfiffner Explains Colorado's Budget Cut

The Colorado media are filled with claims that the state budget faces around a $600 million shortfall. Penn Pfiffner explains the details in an Independence Institute podcast.

Pfiffner explains: "Really the bottom line that we need to talk about when we talk about that $600 million, is that about two-thirds of that is a lower amount in the increase. Now there will be some real cuts in the general fund operating budget from last year to this year because of the recession."

Jon Caldara, who interviews Pfiffner, summarizes, "Out of this $600 million that we're hearing... about $400 million of it is just scheduled increases in the budget."

Pfiffner continues: "Let's talk about the real amount of dollars that won't show up in the general fund: it's $234 million. So when people say we're cutting the budget, they're accurate in saying $234 million. How much of that is the total budget we're talking about? It's three percent -- 3.1 percent." Pfiffner argues that the state "can endure that."

Pfiffner and Caldara then discuss Amendment 23, which forces increases in education spending even at the expense of other programs. Pfiffner points out that this will put "an additional $408 million going into that state education fund."

Pfiffner points out that a "reduction in revenues... is happening across the nation; after all, the nation's in a recession, not just Colorado, and every state is dealing with it."

"Because we have TABOR [the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights], because we have restrictions, because we have a mandated balanced budget requirement, Colorado is nowhere near in as bad as trouble as, say, New York or California," Pfiffner added.

Pfiffner argues that the current pain was exacerbated by Democratic profligacy. He says:

At the beginning of this last budget cycle, conservatives within the house and the senate said, Governor Ritter, don't spend so much. Don't let your budget grow so quickly. We don't know if we're going to be able to afford all of this. And furthermore, don't increase the size of the staffing that you've done at the state level. And Governor Ritter was kind of willing to overlook any possibility like that. The staff grew by a large amount, as you see the budget grew by a large amount, and now they're having to retract back...

The general fund is but a portion of the total budget. Pfiffner explains, "The overall budget, this is the total budget, is set at $18 billion, $366 million -- $18.4 billion... You certainly can adjust $234 million within that."

Pfiffner also explained that the predicted increase in spending from Referendum C has been scaled back from the highest estimates to "more like $4 billion for those five years," still considerably higher than the estimates provided when it was passed.

Under Referendum C, the state keeps money that under TABOR it otherwise would have to refund. "The additional amount of new taxes coming in... this year is $363 million. Let's compare that: $363 million of new Referendum C dollars is more than the $234 million they're saying they have to cut." In other words, over the last few years spending is up considerably, only now there will be a modest overall decline in the general fund.

Pfiffner summarizes, "The large numbers thrown around by the state leaders is really not a true cut in the budget. The true cut in the budget is about a third of what they're saying... The legislators have a job to do, but it's not an undoable job, it's well within the means of what they can change."


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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ritter Throws Art Shops a Bone

I was glancing through Bill Ritter's media releases when I happened upon the following:

WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2008 ...


At an art gallery and framing shop in North Denver's Berkeley neighborhood, Gov. Bill Ritter today signed legislation that will further support Colorado's burgeoning arts economy, which is rapidly becoming an integral part of neighborhood economic development across the state.

HB 1105 (Frangas/Sandoval) allows art galleries to serve alcohol for up to four hours per day, for no more than 15 days per year. Permits will have to be renewed annually and the alcohol has to be complimentary. The bill requires an annual state art gallery permit fee of $50, and a local license fee of $25.

"This is good for art galleries, their patrons, for businesses and for communities," Gov. Ritter said during a signing ceremony at Metro Frame Works Custom Framing and 44 T Art Space, owned by Kevin Paul and very often occupied by his greyhounds Milo and Gracie.

"While art is definitely at the center of this, it's also about other neighborhood businesses -- hardware stores, print shops, coffee houses and restaurants included," Gov. Ritter added. "This is about neighborhoods and building a sense of community."

The bill won unanimous passage in both the House and Senate.

Well, that's great -- businesses can now occasionally give away alcohol by paying a mere $75 extra per year to the government. Some gift.

But this is not a case of the government "boosting" the arts; it is a case of government no longer hindering business quite as severely.

Real liberty would mean that art galleries and others could give away or sell alcohol, whenever they please, without having to first pay off the state's bureaucrats.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Doug, Doug, Doug

As a long-time advocate of open immigration, I'm as annoyed as anyone by Douglas Bruce's comments about the "5,000 more illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado" should Marsha Looper's guest-worker bill pass. While I have not read the details of the bill in question, I support the general idea. I first met Looper before she joined the legislature when she was working for property rights, and I respect her all the more for sponsoring such a bill.

However, The Denver Post is having a bit more fun with this than is necessary. Jessica Fender's article, which also includes a link to the video recording of Bruce's comments, carries the headline, "Bruce barred from speaking after 'illiterate' remark." Fine. But, for a time on Monday night, the Post's web page blared, "Bruce calls Mexicans 'illiterate'." That claim is not accurate.

It's obviously not true that workers from Mexico are illiterate as a group, though I suppose a fraction of them are. I suspect that migrant workers are less-well educated than average citizens of both Mexico and the U.S. I've also met Mexicans -- both in Mexico and in the U.S. -- who are a lot smarter and better educated than either Bruce or me. Moreover, I suspect that a greater fraction of immigrants from Mexico are literate in two languages relative to the native U.S. population. However, while, according to the CIA's World Factbook, 99 percent of the U.S. population is literate, only 91 percent of the Mexican population is so.

But Bruce's main problem is not that he's wrong in claiming that mostly-literate people are illiterate, but that suggesting that literacy is relevant to the issue. Even if it were the case that all 5,000 new immigrants would be illiterate, that would not justify a vote against the bill. U.S. employers have a right to hire willing workers, and people have a right to seek work, whether or not the employees are literate.

I knew as soon as Bruce kicked the photographer on his first day on the job that he had set himself up as a story. He now has a reputation that he'll never be able to shake. And the Post is more than happy to report all of Bruce's zaniness, because the Post has a long-standing antipathy to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which Bruce was instrumental in promoting. The Post loves the idea of making Bruce the poster-boy for TABOR. Which means that Bruce has done more than tarnish his own reputation; he has made it harder for advocates of restrained taxation to make their case over the noise.

The fact that various conservatives simultaneously claim to back TABOR and oppose immigration shows only that they don't understand what economic liberty is all about. Not only do I welcome peaceable, productive Mexicans to the U.S., but I want them to bear the lowest tax burden possible.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Gazette Defends Mitchell

On March 5 The Gazette weighed in on the "look alike" fake scandal that I discussed earlier. To briefly review, after State Senator Shawn Mitchell named the wrong senator during a debate at the capitol, he joked that Senators Groff and Gordon "look alike" due to their political similarities. To get the context, look at the photos of Groff and Gordon, who could hardly look more different.

Some of Mitchell's intellectually dishonest critics tried to turn Mitchell's comments into some sort of racial sleight. The Gazette rightly defends Mitchell against any such charges:

At most, the slip says Mitchell pays little attention to looks, race or age. ... It said that despite differences of race, and obvious differences in age and height, Mitchell saw two liberals. The joke said race, height and age don't matter -- that what matters is ideology, in which case Gordon and Groff are the same. It's antithetical to the grotesque biases of racism, which would hold Groff and Mitchell as vastly different men, for superficial reasons, regardless of politics.

"But let's say, hypothetically, that Mitchell's comment had some distant connection to the racist comment that people of Heritage X 'all look alike.' Then the force of Mitchell's comment would be to make fun of that racist comment. It's not racist to make fun of racists," wrote Ari Armstrong, on the blog

The Gazette also offers more details about the dishonest attacks against Mitchell:

Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont [said that]... that Mitchell’s comment was inappropriate. ... The progressive Web site pounced on Mitchell's comment, calling it "tasteless above all." The organization deemed Mitchell's explanation "weak as hell." ... The Web site of a liberal organization known as IndependentBasis tried to characterize Mitchell's quote as a racist gaffe, printing his comment like this: "You [blacks] all look the same to me." Never mind that one of the men at the podium was white.

In this last example, not only did Mitchell's critics drop the relevant context, they manufactured a lie about the context. These critics of Mitchell are engaged in character assassination, pure and simple.

The only result of such tactics -- other than to treat people unjustly -- is to draw attention away from a substantive debate of the issues. Apparently, those engaged in this sort of character assassination don't have anything substantive to say and don't believe they can defend their political views rationally. So they try to tear down their opponents rather than beat them in argument.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mitchell Defends Republicans

State Senator Shawn Mitchell sent in the following comments on March 3, which I am happy to post. (In general, if readers have trouble posting comments, please send them to me directly in e-mail, and I'll add them as I deem appropriate.)


I meant to thank you for your spectacular puncturing of the bogus accusations stemming from that flapdoodle in the Senate with Gordon and Groff. Thanks!

Now, about this post, let me mount half a defense: Guilty, but the charges are overstated. It surely was not a libertarian vote to retain the blue laws. I've told you before I'm kind of a schizophrenic, libertarian leaning conservative. The vote on Sunday closing came from conservative, not libertarian, thinking. Rather than argue that thinking here, which has less to do with religion than the belief that quite enough alcohol is already bought and sold, and the merchants weren't exactly clamoring for the practical necessity to work seven days, I'll just challenge your conclusions.

A bad market vote doesn't make it a lie for many Republicans, including this one, to claim the mantle of market supporter. We may be imperfect. It would be a lie to claim otherwise. But for willingness to embrace, defend, and advocate the functioning of free markets, Republicans are the only team in town. In bill after bill, the Democrats have grown government control over peoples' free choice, often against united Republican opposition. To suggest some kind of rough party parity, well, I won't call it a lie because I know something of your intellect and character, but it's foolishness.

Shawn Mitchell

Before I get started with my reply, I want to note that I have a great deal of respect for Senator Mitchell, and very often he gets things right. That's why it pains me so much when he gets things wrong.

First I reply to Mitchell's claims about the blue laws. The legislature's proper job is to protect people's rights, not decide how much alcohol is "quite enough" to buy and sell. The correct amount can be defined only by what willing buyers and sellers decide on a free market. And the case for repealing the blue laws has nothing to do with how many merchants enjoy the protectionist legislation. Merchants who do not wish to work on Sundays (or any other day) are free to abstain from doing so, and merchants who wish to work on Sundays have that right. The blue laws violate the rights of both sellers and buyers who wish to trade on Sundays.

While Mitchell can claim to balance his "libertarian" and "conservative" streaks, the choice is in any such case one of protecting or violating individual rights. In this case, Mitchell has voted to violate them.

Moreover, any legislator who votes to violate free markets in such an obvious case has surrendered the very principle of free markets. After casting such a vote, how is Mitchell to respond to Democrats who claim to balance their "libertarian" and "liberal" streaks? "People keep quite enough of their money already, and most taxpayers aren't exactly clamoring to keep the extra X Percent of their income." "People own quite enough guns already, and gun merchants weren't exactly clamoring for the practical necessity of selling more than one per customer." "People have quite enough health-insurance options already, and insurers weren't exactly clamoring for the practical necessity of selling policies on a truly competitive market." Mitchell has turned the entire debate over to pragmatists and compromisers, which can foster only steadily increasing government controls across the board.

Regarding Mitchell's claim that Colorado Republicans generally support free markets:

Who was is that most strongly pressed for the Referendum C net tax hike? Who was it that signed the bill creating the "208" Healthcare Commission? Who was it that pushed for more gun restrictions? It was Republican Governor Bill Owens.

Who was it that supported "faith-based" welfare and (later) health-insurance mandates? It was the Republican gubernatorial candidate for 2006, Bob Beauprez.

Which party funded corporate welfare through all of its years in the majority? The Republicans. (The Democrats are perfectly happy to maintain this tradition.)

Who sponsored the smoking ban? Republican Mike May. And who signed it into law? Republican Bill Owens. (To his credit, Mitchell did vote against this one.)

These are only the local examples that quickly jumped to mind. And a list that included the abuses of George W. Bush and other national Republicans could fill a book.

Obviously, Republicans are at best fickle friends of free markets. I readily grant that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to oppose tax hikes, oppose gun restrictions, and mitigate environmentalist interventions. On the issue of health policy, many Colorado Republicans have been surprisingly supportive of individual rights in medicine.

However, when I wrote "that the Republican Party is the Other Party of Big Government," I also had in mind more personal matters over which Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to impose restrictions. (Such matters also involve market exchanges, but the emphasis is on private decisions.)

Mitchell cosponsored Bill 125 regarding pornography, which the Rocky Mountain News blasted in a February 22 editorial. (Tony Bubb alerted me to Mitchell's support of this bill.) I criticized similar legislation in 2004. I have not analyzed the amended bill, but it seems that the best that can be said for it is that it is unnecessary, given that using children for pornography and child abuse generally are already illegal. More broadly, Republicans seem only too happy to impose censorship where naughty images of consenting adults are concerned.

Most Republicans aggressively push for the drug war and often oppose even modest efforts to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana, even for medical use. (To his credit, Mitchell played a major role in limiting abuses of the asset forfeiture laws, which often are used in drug cases. See my articles from June and April, 2002.)

This year Republicans also tried to impose senseless restrictions on abortions; we'll see whether Republican legislators express their support for the measure that would define a fertilized egg as a person.

It remains the case that, while Democrats tend to push harder to restrict our economic liberties, Republicans tend to push harder to restrict our personal liberties. But both parties are quite happy to do both in many circumstances. (That's called "bipartisanship.")

So do not forget that the Democratic Party is the Party of Big Government, but "remember that the Republican Party is the Other Party of Big Government."


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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Republicans Against Free Markets

Those who insist upon being pissed off at State Senator Shawn Mitchell, even when they have no good reason to be, may be pleased that I have discovered a real reason to be annoyed with him.

Roger Fillion reported for the February 26 Rocky Mountain News:

The Colorado Senate gave the final thumbs up Monday to a bill that would allow liquor stores to open Sundays, a big step toward scrapping the decades-old ban on Sunday booze sales.

The measure now goes to the House, where it's expected to face tougher resistance. The bill, SB 82, cleared the Senate in a 23-8 vote.

I decided to look up the "no" votes:

Following is a list of the senators who voted against the measure, along with their party affiliation:

Bill Cadman, Republican
Jim Isgar, Democrat
Andrew McElhany, Republican
Shawn Mitchell, Republican
Scott Renfroe, Republican
David Schultheis, Republican
Jack Taylor, Republican
Tom Wiens, Republican

Are you noticing any trends here?

It's not like this is an ambiguous issue. Business owners and their customers have a moral right to do business on mutually beneficial terms, on any day that they like. The (partial) ban on Sunday liquor sales violates free markets and freedom of association (and also the separation of church and state, given that the Blue Laws are rooted in religious restrictions).

So the next time that a Republican lies to you and tell you that Republicans are for free markets, remind the Republican that it took a Democratic legislature to move seriously to repeal to the Sunday booze ban, and seven of the eight senate votes to maintain the ban were cast by Republicans.

Remember that the Republican Party is the Other Party of Big Government.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Fake Scandal de Jour

Talk about ridiculous. The Denver Post's crack reporter Tim Hoover reports:

Sen. Shawn Mitchell said he was just poking fun at Democrats, not race, when he directed a comment today at Senate President Peter Groff and Sen. Ken Gordon that some lawmakers found insensitive.

Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican who is white, was speaking on a medical malpractice law bill sponsored by Groff, a Denver Democrat and the Senate's first black president.

Groff and Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who is white, were standing near the podium as Mitchell argued in opposition to the bill. At one point, Mitchell mistakenly addressed Gordon as Groff, prompting him to correct himself and say to Groff, "Excuse me, Mr. President. You all look alike to me." ... Groff said that Mitchell had come and apologized to him. "I didn't take offense when I heard it (the remark)," said Groff...

Hoover mentions, which had this to say about the incident:

Mitchell Statement to Groff Draws Questions
by: Colorado Pols
Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 11:04:41 AM MST

We're hearing about an exchange in the Colorado Senate this morning that culminated in supposedly racially charged words from Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell to Senate President Peter Groff, as in, "you all look the same to me."
Numerous people have confirmed that this exchange took place, but as the first comment below indicates, this could have been said/heard in a different context than it was intended.

Here's the audio clip of the remark--we think Mitchell was genuinely trying to make a joke, though perhaps one in poor taste. He appears to have confused Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon (happens to be white) with Senate President Peter Groff (happens to be black), and the "joke" was made while correcting himself. Some people who were there seem to think that it was not so innocent, but we'll let you decide for yourself.

And here is Mitchell's reply:

What Really Happened
Hey Pols, Shawn Mitchell here. You're being misled by someone with an agenda. Here's what happened. During a debate on medical malpractice insurance, I mistakenly attributed a comment by Peter Groff instead to Ken Gordon. Each of them started in instantly with the jokes, along the lines of "I'm taller" or "I'm better looking." Since one is tall, young, and black, and the other is short, middle-aged plus, and white, I made a quick jab at absurd humor and said, "Well they all look alike to me," referring to Democratic leadership. In case your informant is unaware, Groff is Senate President and Gordon is Majority Leader. So, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you can chill the scandal siren.

Here are pictures of Senators Groff and Gordon, taken from their official web pages:

Quite obviously, Mitchell's comment was not remotely racist. I do not think that his comment had any racial element whatsoever.

But let's say, hypothetically, that Mitchell's comment had some distant connection to the racist comment that people of Heritage X "all look alike." Then the force of Mitchell's comment would be to make fun of that racist comment. It's not racist to make fun of racists.

Have any of Mitchell's critics seen Sarah Silverman's film, "Jesus is Magic?" This film is filled -- absolutely filled -- with overtly racist comments. Except that Silverman is obviously making fun of those comments by exaggerating them to the point of absurdity. How many left-wingers have condemned Silverman for this movie? Come on -- how many? The answer, to my knowledge, is zero. Instead, this film vaulted Silverman's career. Variety calls it "Explosively funny, unnervingly shocking and perversely adorable!"

I submit that anyone who blasts Mitchell for his comment, but who does not condemn Silverman a thousand fold, is a hypocrite (and an idiot to boot).

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Legislature Tries to Restrict Guns, Abortion

The following column originally appeared in Grand Junction's Free Press.

February 18, 2008

Pick your poison: Dems and GOP both violate rights

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

A legislative committee heard two bills in two weeks. Both votes split along party lines. The first week, all the Democrats voted to violate our rights. The second week, all the Republicans did so.

Senator Sue Windels sponsored Bill 49 to impose criminal penalties on gun owners who do not store their guns the way that district attorneys deem proper after the fact. On Monday, February 4, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard the bill. Windels joined with fellow Democrats Chris Romer and Abel Tapia to pass the bill to the next committee, over the objections of Republicans Bill Cadman and David Schultheis.

On February 11, the committee heard Schultheis's Bill 95 (which Cadman cosponsored) to impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to observe a 24-hour waiting period for their clients seeking an abortion. Both Republicans voted for the bill, though the Democrats killed it.

While the bills cover quite different situations, they have much in common. Both bills would impose useless additions to Colorado's already-massive books of statutes. Both would create arbitrary and onerous restrictions on activities that people have a right to pursue but that some ultimately want to ban altogether.

Let's first look at the gun bill. As the Daily Sentinel pointed out earlier in the month, existing laws already cover cases of placing children in danger. The effect of Bill 49 would be to discourage citizens from keeping firearms for self-defense. When citizens are too afraid of prosecution to defend themselves, the advantage goes to the real criminals.

As Cadman said in a Republican press release, "We have a good balance right now between the need to keep kids from misusing guns and the right of homeowners to be able to defend their families. This bill would upset that balance by giving home intruders the upper hand and tying the hands of homeowners... This bill likely would have a chilling effect on gun ownership."

Originally, Bill 49 stated that it applied if a gun owner "reasonably should know that a minor would be able to gain access to the firearm" without permission. And who gets to decide what's "reasonable?" Prosecutors, some of whom are unfriendly toward defensive gun ownership. The committee dropped that language in favor of a line that says the bill applies in cases of "criminal negligence." In other words, you commit "criminal negligence" if you commit "criminal negligence" -- again as determined by prosecutors.

Another problem with the bill is that it says it doesn't apply if a minor obtains the gun through burglary or robbery. So does the criminal prosecution of the gun owner hinge upon the criminal conviction of the minor? Who decides whether the minor should face charges? Apparently, again the prosecutor gets to make the call.

Of course, while many Colorado Democrats don't express this motivation, many activists who favor storage laws, waiting periods, and other restrictions ultimately want to ban the use and ownership of guns, at least for defensive purposes.

What about the abortion bill? Bill 95 would have required a doctor to provide information about ultrasounds to all women seeking an abortion, then imposed a 24-hour waiting period. But women already know what abortion implies -- the destruction of a potential but not actual person -- and are already free to order ultrasounds.

As Jody Berger of Planned Parenthood pointed out to us, an ultrasound cannot even detect a pregnancy before five weeks. And Planned Parenthood already administers an ultrasound for every abortion in its clinics, which offer abortions from around five to eighteen weeks of pregnancy. (The clinics offer "morning after" medications up to 72 hours following intercourse.)

Berger said, "What would have been onerous is the 24-hour waiting period. In a lot of rural areas, a doctor is available only one day a week. And clients who drive three or four hours to come to the Planned Parenthood center in Denver have to make that drive twice. If they come with their husband or boyfriend, that means two people have to take two days off of work."

So Schultheis, who is on record opposing waiting periods for purchases of firearms, is the sponsor of the bill to impose waiting periods for abortions.

Mike Saccone recorded the hypocrisy of Republicans and Democrats alike in his January 23 and February 11 stories for the Sentinel. Shultheis said his bill was "trying to whatever degree we can to reduce the number of abortions" -- the exact attitude of the anti-gun lobby toward gun ownership. Of course, Schultheis really wants to ban abortion, just as many anti-gun activists ultimately want to ban defensive gun ownership.

And Romer said of the abortion bill, "It puts a burden on certain people" -- the way that the gun bill that Romer voted for puts a burden on gun owners.

These Democrats and Republicans deserve each other. But Colorado deserves better.

Linn is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son Ari edits from the Denver area.

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