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Monday, December 1, 2008

Penn Pfiffner Celebrates Defeat of 59

I caught up with Penn Pfiffner at the November 13 Independence Institute banquet. Pfiffner led the charge against Amendment 59. Following is a slightly redacted transcript of my conversation with him.

Ari: Congratulations on the defeat of Amendment 59, the net tax hike that would have debruced the state. I was happily stunned that that lost. How did that happen?

Penn: What we can say about the group that put Strike a Better Balance together: our job really turned out to be notifying the citizens what the real nature of the measure was. Because the proponents had made it seem like this was about another small and unimportant stream of income for education, and almost like it was an afterthought. And the title, and everything else, is to mislead you into thinking that this wasn't about taxes, that this was about education funding. So what it turned out that we needed to do was to inform the Colorado citizens of the true nature of it, that it really was this massive, what could have been the largest tax hike in Colorado history. And then once the citizens recognized that, then as you saw, they turned down every new tax measure. This was an easy one to turn down just because, not only did it sit on the back of the citizens, in terms of the tax burden, but it also took away from them their ability to control the government, to cap the government. At this point -- we made this point in the campaign -- we forced the government to come to us with specifics. "This is what we want to do, it's a program and it's going to cost this much." If 59 had passed, they could have ignored the citizens, and just had a blank check.

Ari: What does this say about the state of the electorate, when Coloradans defeated the big tax hikes, but voted for people who are fairly friendly toward tax-and-spend policies?

Penn: I can't be sure why we saw two such disparate outcomes, that people would vote for big tax-and-spenders, and a whole panoply of them, it's not just one or two -- it's control at Wasthington, it's control here at the state level -- and yet they'll turn down tax hikes. A large part of it, I think, is fear of the ridiculous activities that are going on in Washington in terms of bailouts and getting rid of what should be a fine bright line between government and private business, instead have the government take over the businesses. I think part of it was tremendous fear about how deep a recession we might be going into and how bad it's going to get, and what it will mean to their family's budgets, if the taxes had gone through. But I also think it was some amount of rejection of the old Washington regime of George Bush. And I think some people voted without having a real foundation for knowing what this "change" will mean, and not recognizing that the real change is going to be antithetical to furthering liberty and furthering individual responsibility.

Ari: Offhand, do you know what the spending disparity was on the 59 campaign, pro versus against?

Penn: More than 200 to 1. We came up with less than $10,000. We were joined by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, and I sit on the board, so there's some overlap. But we put out $5,000, maybe $6,000 for radio ads for Strike a Better Balance, CUT put out about $5,000 for radio ads, and the other side had about $2 million.

Ari: Well, that's a stunning victory for liberty, so thanks for the work on that, and for that surprising victory.

Penn: Yes, it was surprising, and we can celebrate a little bright spot.

See the collected posts about the Independence Institute's 2008 banquet.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Malkin's Conundrum

Earlier this evening (November 13) I attended the Independence Institute's annual banquet. It was a lovely and fun night. Jon Caldara was in top form. Unfortunately, it will probably take me a few days to get up the photographs and audio interviews, as I need to attend to a family matter. For now I want to address the most important issue of the evening: Michelle Malkin's endorsement of faith-based politics in the form of abortion bans.

Hers was an uncomfortable message to bring to the Independence Institute, an organization known for sticking to matters of economics and self-defense and avoiding divisive "social" issues like abortion. Malkin is wrong in principle. And if Colorado Republicans take her advice, they are doomed to perpetual failure.

What of those who, like me, endorse the separation of church and state and advocate a woman's right to get an abortion? Malkin said Republicans should "let them go their own way" -- in other words, leave the Republican Party.

We have left.

The result is that Bob Beauprez lost the governor's mansion, Bob Schaffer lost the U.S. Senate seat, Marilyn Musgrave lost another House seat, and candidates like Libby Szabo lost the state legislature. (See my pre and post election comments on the GOP's faith-based political disaster.)

Fittingly, the Denver Post published Paul's Hsieh's article on the matter the same day that Malkin offered her comments. Hsieh writes:

I want to let [Republicans] know that they lost the vote of many former supporters (including myself) because they have chosen to embrace the Religious Right.

I voted Republican in 1996, 2000, and 2004. I believe in limited government, individual rights, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms -- positions that one normally associates with Republicans.

But I didn't vote for a single Republican in 2008. I've become increasingly alienated by the Republicans' embrace of the religious "social conservative" agenda, including attempts to ban abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage. ...

[T]he government's role is to protect each person's right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the Republican Party's embrace of the Religious Right so dangerous. ...

The Religious Right's goal of outlawing abortions would violate that important right, and sacrifice the lives of actual women for clumps of cells that are only potential (but not yet actual) human beings, based on religious dogma. As a physician, I find that position abhorrent and deeply anti-life.

As Ryan Sager writes for Reason, this is a widespread trend (leaving aside the controversies over the "libertarian" label):

The Cato Institute has done excellent work over the last few years tracking the shift in the libertarian vote -- the roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the American public that can be categorized as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

Based on an analysis of the American National Election Studies, Cato found that between 2000 and 2004, there was a substantial flight of libertarians away from the Republican Party and toward the Democrats. While libertarians preferred Bush by a margin of 52 points over Al Gore in 2000, that margin shrank to 21 points in 2004, when many libertarians -- disaffected by the Iraq war, massive GOP spending increases, and the campaign against gay marriage -- switched to John Kerry.

While it is true that faith-based politics is only one of the issues driving liberty voters away from the Republicans, it is also true that the faith-based politics of Bush and McCain is of a cloth with their big-government spending. Bush ran as a "compassionate" conservative -- i.e., a religiously altruistic one -- while McCain selected the evangelical economic lightweight Palin as he himself suspended his campaign in order to rubber-stamp Bush's $700 billion Great American Rip-Off.

Malkin made a couple of references to Ayn Rand, saying she recently moved to Colorado to get her own piece of Galt's Gulch and that she has "most virtuous" selfish reasons for wanting local conservatives to succeed. I am continually amazed by how many conservatives selectively read Rand -- and understand hardly a word of what she wrote even as they invoke her works. Notably, Malkin did not quote what Rand had to say about abortion or faith-based politics generally.

Unlike Bush and McCain, Malkin sticks with liberty when talking about economic issues. She hammered McCain for supporting the bailout, pushing environmental controls, and lamenting the evils of profits.

Malkin was positively inspirational. She said the proper Republican strategy is "simple: we stand up for our principles." We don't rebrand our beliefs, "we defend them." "We lock and load our ideological ammunition." "We do not whine, we do not wheedle, we fight."

Malkin said Repubicans must oppose any new stimulus, must oppose new "windfall profit" taxes, must oppose federal loan guarantees. "If you get rid of the ability to fail," she said, "you get rid of the ability to succeed." Right on.

Republicans who endorsed the bailout suffered "ideological pollution."

But then, in an instant, the anti-liberty Malkin took the stage. She said Republicans should not "de-emphasize" or hide their "pro-life" -- i.e., faith-based anti-abortion -- stance. To do so also would be to suffer "ideological pollution." Republicans "need to stand up for life unapologetically," she said.

And those who do not share Malkin's desire to impose religious faith by force of law? "Let them go their own way."

However, as Diana Hsieh and I explain, the faith-based opposition to abortion is not "pro-life," it is anti-life. It would sacrifice the lives of actual people to fertilized eggs. I do not advise Republicans to "de-emphasize" or soften their calls to outlaw abortion: I advise them to completely reject faith-based politics and defend the individual rights of actual people.

Malkin's conundrum is the one faced by the Republican Party generally: she tries to defend and violate liberty at the same time. Her stance is fundamentally untenable. It is no coincidence that the religious right is drifting away from matters of economic liberty and increasingly interested in welfare spending, environmental controls, and of course draconian social controls.

Malkin's treatment of abortion contrasted sharply with her comments on immigration. She admitted that there are "cleavages" in the Republican Party over immigration, but also things "we agree on." Oh, you mean that there are no "cleavages" over abortion? The facts prove otherwise. Yet, for Malkin, on immigration Republicans can agree to disagree, while on abortion the nonsectarians must be shown the door. (As I have argued, it remains possible for secular liberty voters to reform a coalition with those religious voters who endorse the separation of church and state.)

As Paul Hsieh reviews, Rush Limbaugh wants to purge the Republican Party of those who decline to toe the faith-based line. Malkin offers the same advice. She wants me to go my own way. So long as Republicans insist on imposing religious faith by force of law, I remain her obedient servant.

See the collected posts about the Independence Institute's 2008 banquet.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

CBS News 4 Webcast Now Online

On election night I joined a CBS News 4 webcast, which is now available online.

A friendly Democrat named Rafael Noboa joined the discussion with two journalists from the station.

I explained why I voted for neither candidate, why Amendments 48 and 59 were bad ideas, and why the Republicans lost votes with their faith-based politics. We also touched on government involvement in health care and education.

It was a lot of fun, and overall I'm pleased with my remarks. (I do plan to do some work to improve my presentation).

The whole thing lasts 37 minutes. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed participating.


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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Republicans Win One: Bradford Bests Buescher

I'm not entirely displeased to see that Republican Laura Bradford beat incumbent Bernie Buescher in the Grand Junction state house race. Back in 2005, my dad and I blasted Buescher for supporting higher net taxes and for earning a zero rating from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers.

Still, Bradford barely pulled off a surprise upset in a county that went 63 percent for McCain.

In this race, as in races across Colorado and the nation, voters were faced with a choice of two evils: political force in our private lives versus political force in our economic lives.

In a video on her web page, Bradford criticizes Buescher and Governor Bill Ritter for wanting "higher taxes" and the obstruction of drilling. "My priorities are lower taxes, more jobs, a strong economy," Bradford says. She won on economic issues.

Yet elsewhere on her page she reaches out to the religious right:

Laura supports all life: the unborn, the unprotected, and elderly, the unwanted. She believes that the constitution ensures that ---the endowed rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Laura would support the efforts of lawmakers to define 'personhood' to include the unborn. Two recent cases in Mesa County, where a baby died after it was born due to grievous injuries caused to its mother, yet charges are not able to be brought against those who inflicted the injuries. Even in states like California, the baby of Lacy Peterson, little Connor Peterson, was considered a person, and his father charged and sentenced in the cause of his death.

NARAL (The National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws) is the political action arm of the pro-choice movement. During 2007, based on a point system—points assigned for actions IN SUPPORT of NARAL, Representative Bernie Buescher received a rating of 100. ...

Laura would not support any legislation changing the meaning of marriage from one man and one woman.

Laura does not oppose, however, the right for gays to have civil unions, shared estates, medical visitation or other common rights protected for all citizens.

Laura does not support the discrimination of any person.

Notice that Bradford is not shrilly anti-homosexual, as are many Republicans; the debate over marriage versus civil unions is a fair one. And Bradford's concern over criminal penalties for those who harm a woman's fetus do not justify her broader position, for criminal penalties can be applied based on the violation of the woman's rights. While she does not recognize the far-reaching implications of Amendment 48, the personhood measure, at least she doesn't run on those implications (which is both good and bad).

The Denver Post reports that Buescher said that "Republicans attacked him for his support of Ritter's controversial mill-levy freeze that kept tax rates from dropping and on oil and gas issues. Also, he was hit for his support of Senate Bill 200, a measure that bans discrimination based on a person's religious beliefs or sexual orientation."

S.B. 200 indicates what's wrong in the standard debate over homosexuality. The religious right declares homosexuality a sin, consistently demonizes homosexuals, and aims to legally discriminate against them. The left wants to force people to associate with homosexuals in violation of the rights of property, contract, and expression -- that is what 200 accomplishes. How can homosexuals ask for the right to contract freely when some refuse to recognize the equal rights of others? The correct position is that homosexuality is fine and should be socially accepted, homosexuals should have their rights fully respected, but those hostile to homosexuals also have rights that should be respected, even when they practice those rights badly. So beating up Buescher over 200 was entirely appropriate.

From what I can tell, Buescher lost for all the right reasons. And that is another bit of good news regarding election day in Colorado.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Blues and Reviews IV: Toward GOP Revival

This essay is the fourth part of a series on the 2008 election. See also:
Part III: Tax Hikes Lose
Part II: Religious Right Loses
Part I: Created Equal

How the Republican Party Can Create a New Winning Coalition

Barack Obama won. But his victory is not a victory for his ideas. Instead, John McCain lost. More importantly, George W. Bush lost. And Obama, with his powerful rhetoric and unspecific appeals to change and hope, won the personality contest by force, appealing especially to younger voters.

If Obama wishes to retain his party's Congressional majorities and head for easy reelection, he will govern from the center, as Colorado's Democrats have done. While some Americans did cast their votes for Obama and his political agenda, many cast theirs against McCain and his. While McCain energized the evangelical vote with his selection of Sarah Palin, he did so only by further alienating the segments of his base concerned with free speech, civil liberties, and economic freedom. The Republican coalition has shattered.

The Democrats offer no viable alternative. Theirs is a platform of corporate welfare, special-interest warfare, dependency, higher taxes, foreign-policy appeasement, global handouts, and central economic planning. This is a platform that can win only when their opponents fail to offer a compelling alternative (or, in the case of Bush and McCain, succeed in offering a worse one).

Independents and many Republicans are weary of the GOP's faith-based politics. George W. Bush is an evangelical, and, largely because of that, he failed miserably as president, massively expanding the power of the federal government and leading an altruistic war in Iraq. The religious right has destroyed the GOP's coalition, and the party now seems poised to become a "permanent minority."

Is there any way that the Republican Party can generate a new, winning coalition? Yes, they can. The question is whether they will. If they fail to do so, the big political action will move to the Democratic primaries -- unless this causes an eventual Democratic schism and the formation of a new party to replace the Grand Old one. So what would a winning GOP coalition look like?

1. Religious Freedom. The religious right has held the reins of the Republican Party for far too long -- and has driven it straight over a cliff. A fertilized egg is not a person. A woman has a right to get an abortion. Homosexuals deserve equal rights. The government should not subsidize religious institutions, fund religious education, or censor Biblically-incorrect expression.

At the same time, people have the right to worship as they see fit -- so long as they respect the rights of others -- or not to worship at all. People have the right to teach their children their values, whether at home or at privately funded religious schools. Religion must stay out of politics, and the state must stay out of religion.

Religious voters can remain a part of a winning GOP coalition, so long as their goal is to keep politics out of religion, not inject religion into politics. Abortion bans and fear mongering about homosexuals can no longer be the litmus tests of primaries. Republican candidates must clearly endorse the separation of church and state, a separation necessary for the protection of both church and state.

As for those who insist on imposing God's alleged will on the rest of us, let them join their compatriots on the left -- as many are already doing. They can only corrupt and impede a new liberty coalition.

2. Free Speech. McCain's lasting legacy is his campaign censorship law. Let the left hold a monopoly on censorship, with its absurdly named "Fairness Doctrine" and government controls of media. Censorship cannot be part of a winning liberty coalition, and a candidate who surrounds the First Amendment with scare quotes cannot lead it.

The GOP should push the civil libertarians of the left into an uncomfortable decision: support the Demcratic censors or support free speech.

3. Free Trade and Economic Freedom. Bill Clinton's left understands basic economics. They understand it in an Ivy League, positivist, and interventionist sort of way, but they do not pander to populist protectionism (much). They know what damage the Smoot-Hawley Tariff did to the country, and they understand the concept of comparative advantage. In this election, McCain played "me too" to Obama's protectionist rhetoric.

A new liberty coalition under the GOP could attract the secularist yuppies of the left who are repelled by the faith-based politics of the right but who enjoy the prosperity of a relatively free economy.

McCain pounded the final nail in his own coffin when he suspended his campaign so that he could rubber-stamp Bush's $700 billion corporate welfare scheme, thereby proving to the free-market segment of the GOP base that McCain, like Bush, cares nothing for economic liberty and will work tirelessly to destroy it.

As it stands, advocates of economic liberty have no political home. The GOP should jettison those huge-government conservatives who confuse compassion with brute political force. Let them join the statists on the left, where they belong.

4. Immigration Sanity. In addition to alienating homosexuals and most women of reproductive age, Republicans have gone out of their way to demonize immigrants. The "family values" voters have wrecked families and torn children from their parents in their anti-immigrant, protectionist zeal. This sort of ignorant populism has no place in a new liberty coalition.

By drawing up sensible immigration policies that open the legal flow of immigrants and treat illegal immigrants with compassion, the retooled GOP would attract the votes of Hispanics and those who understand that one person's gain is, in a free country, another person's gain, and that we can only benefit by welcoming hard-working foreigners to our shores.

5. A foreign policy for America. The Republican foreign policy is to send forth the U.S. military to bring democracy to the world and vanquish oppressors. The Democratic foreign policy is to kiss the feet of our enemies and send forth the U.S. military to intervene in tribal warfare. A sane foreign policy looks to America's legitimate defense, intervenes militarily only to stop serious threats to America, and otherwise practices benevolent disengagement.

A new liberty coalition needs neither the imperialistic neo-conservatives nor the head-in-the-sand pacifists.

The political marriage of McCain and Palin illustrates perfectly the problems of the GOP. McCain alienates those who care about civil and economic liberties. Palin alienates the secularists. They represent the main two types of Republicans today. I cannot point to a single leader within the Republican Party prepared to take on the hard work of generating a new liberty coalition.

Yet, if they want to regain political power -- and, more importantly, if they want to restore the founding ideals that made America great -- Republicans will find or create such leaders, fast. They have no time to lose. If Democrats manage to govern from the center and avoid a backlash, they appear set to hold power indefinitely. The alternative to the new liberty coalition under the GOP is the stagnation or eventual death of the Republican Party.


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Election Blues and Reviews III: Tax Hikes Lose

See also Part I, "Created Equal," and Part II, Religious Right Loses."

Something extraordinary happened in Colorado: at the same time voters elected Democrats throughout most of the state, they also rejected several tax hikes on the state ballot. So Democrats would do well not to interpret the election results as a mandate for big-government, tax-and-spend, anti-liberty, regressive "progressivism." This election was fundamentally a defeat of the Republicans, not a victory for the left's agenda. (For example, I voted for several Democrats and not a single Republican this year, yet I hardly endorse the Democrats' corporate welfare, tax hikes, and central planning.)

If national Democrats want to stay in power, they would do well to follow the lead of Colorado Democrats, and run a moderate agenda, pay off their special interests as little as politically feasible, and refrain from pissing off the nation's honorable gun owners.

The big news of of the night is that Amendment 59, the cleverly written net tax hike superficially for education, lost by a healthy margin. (See all of the ballot results.) To review quickly, 59 would have forever wiped out the tax refunds of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), thus raising net taxes forever. The measure was brilliantly conceived in that it didn't raise the rate at which taxes are collected, it allocated the money to education, and it created a "savings account." Yet, as opponents pointed out, it would merely have freed up existing money for other purposes.

Obviously the measure went down to defeat because of the article I wrote against it back in September. Kidding. Diana Hsieh put up a great web page against the measure. Penn Pfiffner and the Independence Institute put out some material criticizing the measure. Douglas Bruce, known as the father of TABOR, mailed out a flyer attacking the measure. And various bloggers joined the chorus singing no.

But I have to say I figured 59 would win. Its backers raised substantial funds and organized an effective grassroots campaign. I thought this was Referendum C all over again. Meanwhile, Jon Caldara was busy with his failed effort to curb union funding, and Hsieh and I were busy fighting Amendment 48. It's tough when Team Liberty has to go up against the religious right and the statist left at the same time.

In the end three things worked together to defeat 59, I think. First, a lot of voters remember Referendum C, TaxTracks, etc., etc. When is enough enough? Second, the economy is a little shaky, and people realize they can put their own money to good use. Third, with so many ballot measures, I think "no" became the default vote for many.

Two other important tax hikes also failed: 51 and 58. And they lost by wide margins that surprised me. Amendment 51 would have raised the sales tax for "people with developmental disabilities," while 58 would have raised net taxes on energy producers.

Other Ballot Measures

I was sorry to see Amendment 49 lose. That would have prevented government from diverting funds from the paychecks of government employees to unions. But 49 got lumped in with two anti-union measures that I opposed: 47 ("right to work") and 54 (limiting campaign contributions by government contractors). It's too bad that, in their anti-union zeal, the conservatives didn't think about protecting individual rights. Had 49 run solo on the ballot, it would have had a much better chance.

Amendment 46, which would have banned race-based affirmative action by government, remains close, but it appears to be going down. That's too bad, but its practical implications would have been slight.

The other measure worth noting, Referendum O, went down to defeat. It would have made it harder to amend the state's constitution by ballot. So it's status quo.

As far as the ballot measures go, the big news is that 48 and 59 lost. Those were the two most important issues, they were both bad, and they both went down. And that's a big reason why I'm relatively pleased with the election results.

In the next and final part, I lay out a plan for the GOP to regroup and develop a new winning coalition.

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Election Blues and Reviews II: Religious Right Loses

See also Part I: "Created Equal."

The Big Loser: The Religious Right

Liberty won another victory in that the faith-based politics of the religious right suffered defeat. I will repeat what I said on the CBS 4 webcast last night: Democrats in Colorado have not won their races; Republicans have lost theirs. (And if Democrats forget that, they will find their majority, both at the national and state level, short lived.) By hitching their party to the religious right, Republicans have driven themselves to overwhelming losses. I'll start at the top of the ballot and work down.

President: Palin Alienated Nonsectarians

As I've pointed out, John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin energized the evangelical vote at the cost of alienating independents and nonsectarian Republicans. McCain selected Palin for one overriding reason: her credentials on banning abortion are unassailable. As a result, McCain selected a running mate utterly unprepared to serve as president of the nation. McCain earned the vote of James Dobson, and he lost the votes of countless others turned off by Palin's faith-based politics and inexperience.

Notably, the Interior West split over the president. Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada went for Obama, while Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana went for McCain. The Interior West has 44 electoral votes, and they went 19 to Obama, 25 to McCain. This reveals the problem for the Interior West: we had to pick between a candidate who wants more government in our bedroom and one who wants more government in our pocketbook. Generally, the Interior West leans toward liberty -- which explains the paradox of Colorado's election results (which I'll review in a subsequent part). Both Obama and McCain are enemies of liberty on multiple fronts, so figuring out the lesser of evils was a difficult task (and one that I could not ultimately accomplish).

U.S. Senate: Udall Endorsed Separation of Church and State

It came as no surprise that Mark Udall beat Bob Schaffer; Udall maintained a consistent lead. Udall won because he convinced Colorado that he'll legislate from the center, while Schaffer will not. As I've noted, Udall wrote the most eloquent defense of the separation of church and state I've seen from any living politician. His full remarks are worth reviewing. It is that statement, above all, with which Udall earned my vote, despite my profound disagreements with him on economic matters.

A big part of Schaffer's problem is that he was hypocritical on the issue of abortion, thereby alienating both the religious right and the secular free marketers. Consider, for instance, what Schaffer's campaign manager recently told Newsweek about Amendment 48 and its sponsor:

"I do greatly respect Kristi Burton and you have to admire her accomplishments," says Dick Wadhams, Schaffer's campaign manager. "But there is disagreement over whether this is the right thing to do at this time." The state Republican Party will remain neutral.

Well, the state Republican Party did not remain neutral when it passed a resolution to overturn Roe v. Wade at its state convention. And many of its candidates did not stay neutral; they endorsed 48. Besides, neutrality on Amendment 48 is hardly adequate. Now that the Republican Party has firmly and steadfastly proven its loyalty to the religious right, and expressly cast out the free market secularists, it's going to take a lot more than neutrality on a stinker of a ballot measure. It's going to take candidates explicitly and seriously committed to the separation of church and state.

U.S. House: Markey Upsets Musgrave

The big upset of the night was the defeat of Marilyn Musgrave by challenger Betsy Markey. Back in August, I was ready to declare Musgrave the winner. Yet, as I noted, Musgrave's faith-based politics played a huge role in that race. And it was repudiated.

I live in District 2, where Boulder too is located, where Jared Polis (who happens to be gay) soundly beat challenger Scott Starin. I considered voting for Starin just to protest Polis's grand central plans, but I found on his web page the abortion-banning euphemism about "Respecting the Sanctity of life." The fact that he didn't even have the guts to detail his views on the matter also turned me off.

Of Colorado's seven congressional districts, the Democrats now own five. The two Republicans, Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn, signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, demonstrating that faith-based politics is not everywhere in the state a loser. But those seats were never in question. Neither was Musgrave's seat, so I thought; on the whole the GOP's faith-based strategy has cost them huge.

State Legislature: Hudak Beats Szabo

I live in State Senate District 19, in which Republican Libby Szabo battled Evie Hudak. As I noted, Szabo wanted to outlaw abortion and pass Amendment 48. Nevertheless, I suspected that Szabo would win because her supporters unleashed powerful attacks on Hudak, while Hudak's supporters did not take advantage of Szabo's endorsement of Amendment 48.

The outcome: Hudak eked out a slim victory.

On Monday, I received a letter from Focus on the Family Action complaining that rich guy Tim Gill spent millions electing "those favoring the homosexual agenda." And -- bum bum bum -- Gill has also funded Hudak! I think that's the sky falling. Apparently this didn't scare voters too badly. Nor is it any surprise that Gill spent his money to beat Republicans given the anti-gay vitriol coming from the religious right. A winning political strategy is not to tell successful rich homosexuals that they're corrupting the youth, headed for hell, and undeserving of equal rights. The Republicans richly deserved every penny that Gill spent to defeat them. Plus, as Ryan Sager points out, younger voters are much more accepting of homosexuals, and this year they were energized by the Democrats.

So Hudak did not just beat Szabo and her abortion-banning agenda; she beat Focus on the Family.

In my state house district, 29, Democrat Debbie Benefield crushed challenger Mary Arnold. This outcome was not a surprise.

On Monday, I wrote Arnold the following note:

Dear Ms. Arnold,

Tomorrow I will vote for your opponent because you desire to "pass legislation that would severely restrict abortions."

While I appreciate the fact that you also oppose Amendment 48, that is not enough. If Republicans want my vote, they must endorse the separation of church and state and oppose faith-based measures such as bans or "severe restrictions" on abortions. As much as it pains me to vote for statist Democrats, I deem them the lesser threat to my liberties.

Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life

Amendment 48 lost with preliminary results of 72 to 27 percent.

This is the measure that I spent most of my time trying to defeat. Diana Hsieh and I wrote the paper, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life," and I also wrote a lot about it on my other blog.

The timing of Amendment 48 could not have been worse for Republicans, for it kept in voters' minds the simple fact that Republicans have sold their souls to the religious right. The measure caused Schaffer especially a great deal of grief. And I'm glad of that, because it drew out this issue with finality.

However, while the measure was crushed according to the usual political calculus, the simple fact is that 27 percent of the state voted for the faith-based proposition that a fertilized egg is a person. The religious right is not going away. Its leaders do not care about immediate political success; they care about imposing God's alleged will on earth.

And the well-funded opponents of Amendment 48 may have done lasting harm in claiming the measure "simply goes too far." Many on the religious right will be perfectly happy to run a measure that goes slightly less far.

Still, the resounding defeat of Amendment 48, along with the defeat of various faith-based candidates, shows that the religious right is, at this time and in this region, in retreat. And that is the best news of the election.

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Election Blues and Reviews I: Created Equal

It was an extraordinary day. And the election shaped up fairly well from where I'm sitting, given the possible outcomes. True, advocates of liberty and individual rights will have plenty of work to do over the coming years. But the cultural climate will, I think, be particularly receptive to a debate over fundamental issues. And that is good, for when given a fair and rational hearing liberty tends to emerge triumphant.

President Barack Obama

Never has the nation so rejoiced to sing the blues. I am very proud of our nation. Just a century and a half ago our nation continued its evil practice of racial slavery, the great sin of the nation's founding. Until about a half century ago the nation continued the viciously unjust legal discrimination against blacks.

And today the United States has elected the first black man (of "melting pot" heritage) as president. This proves that ideas matter, that good can win out over evil. Today in America, for the most part, one is not judged by the color of one's skin but by one's character.

And so we have completed the circle:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." ... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. ... Ann Nixon Cooper... was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that 'We Shall Overcome'. Yes we can.

True, Obama does not consistently live up to the ideals of liberty. His stated goal is to expand government force over various aspects of the economy. Yet we owe ourselves a time of magnanimity, for Obama's election finally lifts a great burden from the heart of America. It is the spirit of liberty that made his election possible, and the same spirit will, I believe, ultimately overcome Obama's own shortcomings. Yes, we can.

My election coverage will continue in Part II, "Religious Right Loses."


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Tuesday, November 4, 2008 on CBS News 4

Tonight CBS News 4 is hosting a webcast (see the preview) featuring local bloggers.

I'm scheduled to appear from around 8:15 to 9:00 p.m. The entire webcast lasts from 7-10.

See the station's web page tonight for details.

This is a huge election year, and there are plenty of important things to discuss. Please join me. Apparently there's some way to submit questions, so viewers can help guide the discussion.


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Voting Day

My wife and I finished watching HBO's series on John Adams last night. It's a remarkable film about a remarkable man. It renewed my sense of wonder at America's founding.

My only criticism is that it's too journalistic; for instance, I didn't need to see Adams sick in bed for quite so long, nor did I need to hear the buzzing sounds of flies for every outdoor scene. But I do generally appreciate the richness of detail and authenticity of the piece.

One thing that struck me about the film is that it shows Adams as president walking around the streets, accompanied only by a friend. Today that would be impossible. Today's president has so much power, and is perceived by the public as such a godlike figure, that the president is no longer truly a man of the people.

I gritted my teeth as Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Even these heroes had their flaws. But then Jefferson undid this error of Adams, and the two men eventually renewed their friendship.

This morning my wife and I voted. I did not vote for any candidate for president. None of the candidates deserves my vote, and none deserves to hold the same position as Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Down ballot I voted for the lesser of evils, for candidates who for the most part care little for the liberty and rights for which the revolutionaries fought.

And yet I feel this is a celebratory day. Despite the economic problems, and the prospect that the government might further worsen the economy and erode our rights in the coming years, I feel a sense of hope.

For these words still live:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

The 'New Energy Economy' Euphemism

U.S. Senate hopeful Mark "Udall has track record advancing new energy economy," a Speakout headline asserts in the Rocky Mountain News.

A more precise way of putting it is that Udall supports corporate welfare and central planning in energy.

I don't demand that advocates of corporate welfare call it that, but they could at least admit to favoring "corporate subsidies."

But people seem to want to pretend that if we call it the "new energy economy" it's something other than old-fashioned socialism.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

My Kind of Republican

Ryan Frazier favors Amendment 47, the so-called "right to work" measure, as Joel Warner writes up in an excellent article for Westword. On this issue Frazier is wrong, for reasons I've discussed, but his is a forgivable sin.

(The fact that a union thug called Frazier a "House N---" who bends "over for the white man" makes me sorry that I have to vote with the unions on this one. But I have to do the right thing even if the unions oppose 47 for the wrong reasons.)

From what I can tell based on the Westword article, Frazier is otherwise moving toward Team Liberty.

Frazier told Warner, "I chose the Republican Party because of the principles the party was founded on. This was the party of freedom. This was the party that sought the abolition of slavery. The principles of the party are relatively simple: Keep government to the lowest practical level, fiscal responsibility, strength in the free enterprise system, and protection of the rights of every individual. Man, I identify with those."

Warner also writes this extraordinary segment:

In 2006, [Frazier] stood alongside Democratic Denver mayor John Hickenlooper in public support of Referendum I, which would have allowed domestic partnerships... He's also ambivalent when it comes to pro-life [sic] issues: "I am not a fan of abortion, but I struggle with whether it is the appropriate role of the government to place itself there."

... [H]e isn't the only Republican who seems to be eschewing the state party's long-held cultural-conservative playbook. Other GOP thirty-somethings, like state senator Josh Penry and state representatives Frank McNulty and Cory Gardner, are shying away from the culture wars and sticking with fiscally conservative stances. Even prominent state Republicans like party elder Hank Brown have come out against Amendment 48 on this November's ballot, which would define a fertilized human egg as a person and therefore, many believe, outlaw abortion.

It could be indicative of a fundamental shift within the statewide GOP apparatus. After Republicans saw that their fixation on unborn babies and marriage licenses got them nowhere except out of office, they've opted for a reboot, a return to the small-government, personal-freedom ideals of old.

"I think that's an astute and correct observation," says Steve Schuck, a prominent Colorado Springs Republican and onetime contender for Colorado governor. "I am pleased that the Republican Party is moving in that direction, higher regard given to policy issues than social issues. Partly, it's a failure of them to be effective. There are so many examples of us not being successful that can be attributed to a preoccupation with social issues."

Of course, there's a big difference between being right on social issues and hiding one's wrong views about them. As far as I can tell, practically all Republicans who aren't completely in step with the religious right are doing the latter (which is why, for instance, Bob Schaffer has come off looking two-faced).

Still, Warner's notes on Frazier give me some hope that there are a few Republicans who believe in individual rights and a government limited to protecting them.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Evie Hudak's Squandered Opportunity

Libby Szabo's supporters must think she has a good shot at winning her state senate race (Colorado District 19) against Evie Hudak, because they're dumping a ton of money on Hudak.

In general, the mailers I've seen for Szabo are highly effective. They portray her as a fiscal conservative and her opponent as a reckless tax-and-spender. One recent flyer "Paid for and authorized by Coloradans for Change" claims that Hudak "supports a massive $3.8 billion property tax increase," showing that "Evie Hudak has no problem taking money from hardworking Coloradans. Evie Hudak in the State Senate means she can tax us more and waste our money to bloat the size of government even more." Even though the flyer doesn't mention the details, the mere fact that a Republican group is taking on higher taxes is significant, given the bloated-government policies of W. Bush.

Another flyer from the same group repeats the charge: "The Associated Press investigated Evie Hudak and found she spent $11,316 of taxpayer money as a member of the State Board of Education -- in just one year. Actual receipts show her spending at taxpayer expense included 4 nights at the luxurious Keystone Resort Lodge and Spa, chauffered limo rides in Washington, DC, and expensive meals at 5-star restaurants."

That's effective, negative advertising.

Meanwhile, the flyers sent on behalf of Hudak portray her as a gleeful supporter of the welfare state, including corporate welfare for politically-correct energy boondoggles. Each flyer I get for Hudak reminds me of why I despise Democrats and why I'll be disgusted to vote for her.

And, inexplicably, the attacks on Szabo have tapered off. While I got one flyer weeks ago correctly claiming that Szabo wants to "ban all abortions" and end stem-cell research, I've seen no effective follow-up attack.

Yet the fact is that Szabo endorsed Amendment 48, which if implemented would force women to carry pregnancies to term even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks to the woman (excepting immediately fatal ones). It would subject women and their parters and doctors to severe criminal penalties for abortions or induced miscarriages. It would ban the birth-control pill and other forms of birth control that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. And it would virtually ban fertility treatments.

The attack on Hudak for the misspent $11,316 hits its mark. But that's nothing compared to a politician who wants to put my wife in jail for taking the birth-control pill or getting an abortion for health reasons. (On the phone Szabo denied that Amendment 48 would ban the pill, despite the evidence that that the pill can kill a fertilized egg and that many opponents of abortion oppose the pill for that reason. The fact that Szabo refuses to contemplate the logical implications of her endorsements is hardly consolation.) Yet, as far as I've seen, Hudak's supporters have not made Szabo's support of Amendment 48 a campaign issue. This is despite the fact that the measure is losing in the polls 68 to 27 percent.

Hudak had her chance to beat Szabo, and she totally blew it. Her only hope now is that the government employees (particularly the teachers' unions) put her over the top, and that she benefits from strong up-ticket Democratic support.

If Szabo wins, at least she might be a good vote on economic issues -- though most Republicans aren't -- and with the Democrats controlling state government she'll have little opportunity to implement her horrifying faith-based politics.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Colorado Benefits from Electoral System

The Democrats held their convention in Colorado this year. McCain, Obama, Palin, and Biden have campaigned extensively throughout the state. Thus, this is a perfect time for an "I told you so" regarding the Democratic plan to split Colorado's electoral votes back in 2004. Thankfully, the voters rejected the idiotic scheme.

I denounced the measure, Amendment 36, in a first and second article. I summarized, "The proposal hopes to divide Colorado's electoral votes for president according to the popular vote. Currently, state law specifies that all electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the most popular votes."

Had the measure passed, this year Colorado would have been mostly a fly-over state. Instead, we're at the center of the action.


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Bashing McCain (Because He Deserves It)

John McCain's final hope to become president might have been in his response to W. Bush's "creeping fascism" a.k.a. the bailout. McCain interrupted his campaign and went back to Washington, D.C. -- to do what? To rubber-stamp Bush's bailout as laden with pork by the senate. McCain proved with unmistakable finality that he advocates centralized government controls, not economic liberty. Meanwhile, with his selection of Sarah Palin, McCain demonstrated his commitment to government controls in the personal sphere.

Radly Balko (with whom I disagree on various matters) summarizes many of the reasons why the Republicans deserve to lose because of their massive escalation of federal control over the economy. Near the top of the list: "we now get to watch as the party that's supposed to be 'free market' nationalizes huge chunks of the economy's financial sector."

And Christopher Buckley, in endorsing Obama, wrote that "Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. ... What on earth can [McCain] have been thinking?" While Buckley doesn't detail his problems with Palin, he notes, "On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian," meaning he disfavors the proposed political controls of the religious right, the group that Palin was assigned to energize.

If you care about economic liberty, you cannot vote for John McCain. If you care about personal liberty on matters like abortion, you cannot vote for John McCain. If you care about free speech, you certainly cannot vote for John McCain. If you like nationalistic economic intervention and religion-based law, McCain's your man. Unfortunately for McCain, Obama seems to scare the hell out of fewer voters, and that's a major reason why Obama seems poised to win. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Obama might prove at least as destructive of our rights and of our vulnerable nation.


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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Amendment 47 and the "Freedom of Choice"

My dad and I have come out against Amendment 47, the so-called "right to work" measure. So has Diana Hsieh. This has generated some discussion regarding the merits of the proposal, so here I further detail my case against it.

The problem with Amendment 47 is that it interferes with the freedom of contract. That this interferes with the employee's "freedom to choose" is irrelevant. For instance, an employee does not have the "freedom to choose" to gab on the phone with friends while at work, create a painting when the job requires customer service, etc. Beyond the context of individual rights, the "freedom to choose" is either meaningless or in direct violation of individual rights. For example, you do not have the "freedom to choose" not to pay your mortgage and remain in your house. You do not have the "freedom to choose" to walk out of a grocery store without paying for your food. You do not have the "freedom to choose" to unilaterally force an employer to offer a contract that he does not want to offer. At least, within the bounds of individual rights you have no such freedom.

Is it true that, due to federal controls, unions have the ability to force contractual concessions that they would not be able to achieve on a free market in which the individual rights of both employer and employee are fully protected? Yes, that is true. But two wrongs do not make a right. One violation of contract rights does not call for another. The undue power granted to unions by federal legislation should be repealed. The answer is not to impose new contractual restraints by state force.

Now let us take a look at the actual constitutional language that Amendment 47 would impose:

(2) (a) No person shall, as a condition of employment, be required to: (I) Be a member of a labor union; and (II) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind to a labor union or to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments. ... (3) Any person who directly or indirectly violates any provision of this section commits a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine in an amount equivalent to the most stringent misdemeanor classification provided by law.

Whom is the criminal penalty directed toward? The employer. How exactly is threatening employers with criminal sanctions protecting their rights to contract?

An argument against the measure in the Blue Book aptly summarizes another problem: "By defining labor union to include organizations that provide mutual aid or protection, employers may be banned from requiring employees to belong to organizations that promote workplace safety or provide job-related education programs."

Indeed, the language is so broad -- "any charity or other third party" -- than an employer would not be able to require funding of any civic group as a requirement of employment. Now, I do not think employers should be in the business of requiring civic participation, but I think they have every right to do so, as a matter of contract.

Employers also have the right to create a union shop. Does this interfere with the employee's "freedom of choice?" No; they retain the freedom to work elsewhere. Contracts are a two-way street, and the rights of both parties must be protected, by the principle of individual rights.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Faith-Based Politics Costs Colorado Republicans

The following article was released by the Coalition for Secular Government as a non-exclusive op-ed. It follows my article on a similar theme regarding Sarah Palin. Here I've included additional links for reference.

Faith-based politics costs Colorado Republicans

by Ari Armstrong

Colorado is known for its Western values of independence and economic liberty. So why do Republicans, the supposed champions of those values, keep getting trounced?

Republicans can blame wealthy Democratic donors, but in large part Republicans have beaten themselves by pushing a faith-based agenda of banning abortion and stem-cell research, discriminating against homosexuals, and directing welfare dollars to religious groups. They have subverted the law to religious doctrine and weakened the wall between church and state.

Republicans also have alienated freedom-minded independents and Republicans. Polls released by Pew show most Americans, and half of conservatives, now oppose church involvement in politics. As Ryan Sager shows in his review of 2005 Pew data, the Interior West holds a "live and let live" philosophy, with 53 percent of residents saying homosexuality "should be accepted by society" and 59 percent saying "the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality." [See the appendix of Sager's The Elephant In the Room.]

Yet the GOP panders to its evangelical base at the expense of political victory.

This year, Republicans passed a resolution at their state convention calling for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Eighteen Republican candidates signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, saying they want to ban abortion as the will of God and outlaw stem-cell medical research.

The same candidates also endorsed Amendment 48, which would define a fertilized egg as a person in Colorado's constitution. This would lay the ground to ban all abortion except perhaps to save the mother's life, ban the birth control pill and other forms of contraception that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, and ban most fertility treatments. Women would be forced to bring a pregnancy to term, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks.

True, some of these candidates, such as Congressman Doug Lamborn and congressional candidate Mike Coffman, live in safe districts for Republicans. But Libby Szabo, a candidate for state senate in District 19, does not. Her opponents have hammered her over her answers to the survey, making sure to link her views to the GOP.

Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, the incumbent in a Republican district, has managed to fall behind challenger Betsy Markey in some polls [one and two]. Musgrave wants to outlaw abortion, and she is most well known for sponsoring a constitutional gay marriage ban.

Republican Bob Schaffer is trailing Mark Udall in the polls in the U.S. Senate race in part because of Schaffer's faith-based politics. Udall has written, "I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country." He opposes bans on abortion and stem-cell research. Schaffer, evoking God's will, said abortion is "always wrong."

Republicans should have learned their lesson when they lost the governership to the Democrats in 2006, when Bob Beauprez touted his faith-based politics and selected a running mate of the same cloth, Janet Rowland. Like Beauprez, Rowland wanted to outlaw abortion and maintain faith-based welfare.

Yet the GOP continues to actively push its anti-abortion agenda. A recent flyer "Paid for by Colorado Republican Committee" urged recipients to vote for a presidential candidate who opposes abortion and who will appoint Supreme Court justices to outlaw it.

But some who are pro-choice across the board are fighting back. Diana Hsieh founded the Coalition for Secular Government, which issued a paper that she and I wrote titled, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life." Diana's husband Paul wrote to Dick Wadhams, head of the state GOP, "Although I'm pro-free market, pro-strong national defense, and pro- gun, the position that the CO GOP has taken against abortion is a clear breach of the principle of separation of church and state." Doug Krening wrote to Republican officials, "I have been a Republican for my entire voting life, but cannot endorse the GOP currently because of it's explicit endorsement of religion in government."

On September 11, Amanda Mountjoy, chair of the Colorado Republican Majority for Choice, hosted a banquet with 240 participants to oppose Amendment 48. Former Senator Hank Brown told the crowd, "At the point that we give up supporting and defending individual freedom and choice, we give up the very core of this great party."

Colorado Republicans have two options. They can respect the separation of church and state and defend individual freedom and choice, or they can continue to lose and deserve to do so.

Ari Armstrong is a writer for the Coalition for Secular Government and the editor of

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Udall, Schaffer Offer Dueling Federal Controls

It comes as no surprise that Mark Udall is a pragmatic statist. He writes for the Denver Post, "I voted against the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street not because of any ideological opposition to federal intervention, or because of a blind faith in free markets..." We wouldn't want to base any decisions on ideas! Notice that Udall believes that one can only advocate free markets from faith. He blames the crisis on "greed and lack of oversight on Wall Street," rather than on the actual causes: a collection of federal controls that encouraged and even mandated risky lending. The only point about which Udall is certain is that the economy "requires government action." He offers no reasons for this. (Obviously, Udall has not learned the lessons from the bailout that I hoped he would.)

So Udall's opponent for the U.S. Senate, Bob Schaffer, is the "free market" alternative, right? Nope. Schaffer is more blunt about the causes of the economic crisis. "For years, liberal politicians have mandated the risky lending practices that brought us to our knees," such as the government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And he rightly points out that the federal response to the federally-caused crisis is to inflate the money supply, which "hurts middle-class Colorado families and the poor the most."

And Schaffer pays lip service to a "a free-flowing marketplace." He suggests that he would cut some taxes and roll back government controls such as the Community Reinvestment Act. But he squishes pretty quickly, invoking "a 21st century regulatory structure for a 21st century marketplace and financial system." Well, what in the hell is that?

Schaffer told the Rocky Mountain News that he wants a "refereed private sector." Refereed by whom? By federal politicians and bureaucrats. Notice that Schaffer never draws a distinction between the government's proper role of protecting individual rights -- by upholding property and freedom of contract and by rooting out force and fraud -- and government actions that violate individual rights.

Diana Hsieh summarizes, "Bob Schaffer advocates a 'refereed private sector' -- i.e. an economy controlled and managed by politicians and bureaucrats. He even supports antitrust lawsuits against health insurance companies. Despite the vocal claims of his advocates, he is no friend of capitalism."

In many ways, those who claim to support "free markets" but who in fact advocate economic controls are worse than those who, like Udall, openly declare their statist leanings. At least Udall doesn't conflate the "free-flowing marketplace" with federal control of the economy.

Add to that Schaffer's faith-based politics, and he is hardly an appealing candidate for lovers of liberty.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fox 31 Interview on Amendment 59

Tonight Fox 31 news broadcast a segment by Deborah Takahara about Amendment 59. Watch it here.

Then read Diana Hsieh's great web page explaining in more detail why Amendment 59 is a bad idea.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Gaming the Voter Guide in Jefferson County

I actually had to dig my Jefferson County voter guide out of the trash after I read this story from the Denver Post. Thomas Graham of Arvada totally gamed the guide.

Here are Graham's comments, published at taxpayer expense:

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons FOR the proposal: ...

Senior citizens with fixed incomes are hard-pressed to shoulder increases in property tax. These people should recognize that their reduced productivity calls for them to be replaced by the youth of our nation. This measure calls for some of the property taxes to be earmarked for: "Expanding options for career job skills and technical training to prepare students for today's work world." Half of these should be committed to the following:

Seniors on fixed incomes, to whom this school tax is burdensome, need training, as well as compassion. They must be offered the opportunity to learn how to locate more modest accommodations than those they currently occupy, and how to cope, in other communities if necessary.

This tax increase furthers the goals of our teacher unions. It is consistent with a presidential candidate's promise for change, and hope for progress toward the Socialist utopia through education. This increase could create a pad until the oppressive TABOR measures can be repealed, and the Amendment 23 extra millions for schools be made permanent. The same criteria and logic should be applied in consideration of ballot question 3B, resulting in a resounding approval of the $754 million debt. This will add as much as $69 million to the $34 million for 3A, annually, a picayune amount considering the future of our youth and well-being of the District's employees.

The Post reports:

Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said the district was prevented by law from substantially changing or eliminating Graham's comments.

Graham submitted the language minutes before the deadline for inclusion in the booklet that voters began receiving this weekend, Stevenson said.

The district's lawyers said case law prohibits "substituting their judgment with our judgment," Stevenson said.

The language is totally inappropriate (even if it's hysterical). As much as I like the spending restrictions of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, I don't like the provision that requires tax funding for the distribution of people's opinions about ballot measures.

Article X, Section 20, subsection 3(b)(v) states that a voter guide must be sent out with the following:

Two summaries, up to 500 words each, one for and one against the proposal, of written comments filed with the election officer by 45 days before the election. No summary shall mention names of persons or private groups, nor any endorsements of or resolutions against the proposal. Petition representatives following these rules shall write this summary for their petition. The election officer shall maintain and accurately summarize all other relevant written comments. The provisions of this subparagraph (v) do not apply to a statewide ballot issue, which is subject to the provisions of section 1 (7.5) of article V of this constitution.

I wish TABOR had been simpler; maybe then it would not have been continually eroded.

Update: 9News reports additional interesting details on the matter. It turns out that Graham is 84 years old -- one of the senior citizens of which he writes.

Jefferson County Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson said (9News reports), "This did not come from Citizens for Jeffco Schools or from the district... I want to be very clear, we cherish our seniors. The statement in there is cruel."

No, what's cruel is Stevenson's plan to forcibly take more money from citizens like Graham to spend on other people's education (and, incidentally, Stevenson's own salary). The proposal is cruel; Graham's statement merely reveals that cruelty.

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AP Details Palin's Tax-Funded Church Tours

The Associated Press has published an eye-opening report on Sarah Palin's use of her office to promote religion in Alaska. The AP summarizes that Palin's "record as mayor and governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church and state... Palin and her family billed the state $3,022 for the cost of attending Christian gatherings exclusively..."

Palin has also used her political offices to undermine abortion rights and promote faith-based welfare, the AP reports.

The report makes more clear what we already knew: Palin vigorously promotes faith-based politics. We have every reason to expect her to continue to do so in the office of vice president -- or president.

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Mark Your Colorado Ballot for Liberty

The following article originally was published on October 13, 2008, in Grand Junction's Free Press. On the same topic, see also Diana Hsieh's voting recommendations.

Mark your ballot for liberty

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

We suggest a single standard as you mark your ballot: liberty. If a measure advances liberty, vote for it. If not, vote no.

The federal government has been spending our money like there's no tomorrow, and state Democrats have spent the extra billions brought in by Referendum C. No matter how much of our money we give them, politicians and special interests will always want more. Thus, we face several new proposals to hike taxes.

People have the right to spend their income as they see fit. It's wrong to force Peter to pay for Paul's needs, even if 51 percent of the voters allow it.

Vote no on Amendment 59, which would permanently eliminate refunds under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. This is a forever net tax increase. It is also a blank check. While its advocates call it a "Savings Account for Education," it would free up general funds for whatever politicians want. Special interests are already lining up to take a chunk of your money.

Mesa County voters should reject 3A and 3B, which would raise taxes for schools run by politicians, bureaucrats, and unions. We spend an absurd amount on education for generally pathetic results. People have the right to spend their money on the educational services they want, whether for themselves or others.

In Grand Junction, voters face 2A and 2B. Vote no. These are forever net tax increases. Local politicians need to allocate existing funds more prudently, not demand more. The city refers to an unsafe city court and security problems in the evidence room, yet your elder author has spoken with officers who believe improvements could be achieved at low cost. Don't be fooled when advocates point to popular expenses; the measures, like Amendment 59, sign a blank check at taxpayers' expense.

We hope the residents of Fruita vote down 2C, which would unjustly force some people to fund a community center they don't want that undermines some local businesses.

For more good discussion of the local measures, see Gene Kinsey's blog at

At the state level, the most dangerous ballot measure is Amendment 48, which would ban abortion even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks, subject to severe criminal penalties. It would also ban the birth control pill and fertility treatments. See "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life" at

Amendment 46, which would eliminate race-based hiring and admissions in government, wouldn't accomplish much, but it would reinforce the crucial principle that all people are equal under the law.

We don't like 47, which interferes with the freedom of contract between employers and employees. Unions have undue power due to federal controls, but the answer is not state controls.

Vote yes on 49, which would stop the government from transferring funds from the paychecks of its employees to unions. We don't care if you contribute to unions, we just don't want that to be a government function.

Yes on 50; this would modestly lift gambling limits. No on 51, the sales tax for the disabled. If you think the disabled deserve more of your money, then please give it to them. Just don't force everyone else to follow your choices in charitable giving.

No on 52; the state constitution is no place to micromanage highway funding. No on 54; this limitation on political spending by government contractors infringes free speech. No on 58, another tax hike. Energy companies deserve to keep the money they earn.

We have no problem with Referendum L, which would let 21-year-olds serve in the legislature. Frankly, if more legislators could muster the maturity of a 21-year-old, we'd be pleased. Measures M and N repeal obsolete provisions; that's fine.

Referendum O would make it harder to amend the state's constitution. We like that. Contrary to the assertions of some of our conservative friends, the ability to change a state constitution via petition is not what the First Amendment is getting at. The First Amendment Center notes that, under the First Amendment, petitioning means "any nonviolent, legal means of encouraging or disapproving government action, whether directed to the judicial, executive or legislative branch."

The initiative process necessarily falls within government rules. And we think those rules make it far too easy to amend the constitution by popular vote. We do not advocate majority rule; we advocate individual rights. A separation of powers, with distinct branches of government and indirect popular oversight, provides the best hope for protecting individual rights, though certainly that's not sufficient.

O requires signatures from each congressional district for constitutional changes, further separating power geographically. We're not thrilled that O makes it easier to make statutory changes by popular vote, but we can live with the trade-off.

What do we need beyond thoughtful structures of governance? A populace that takes seriously our heritage of liberty and works to protect it.


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vote No on 48, 59: Two New Web Sites

Diana Hsieh has created two new web pages criticizing Colorado's Amendments 48 and 59.

"Vote No on Amendment 59" describes what the measure would do -- and why it's a bad idea. As Diana points out, one problem with the measure is that it would expand political control of other areas:

Amendment 59 isn't about increasing funding for Colorado's government schools. Instead, the measure frees up general funds currently spent on education. So it enables politicians to spend more of your money on their pet projects.

Even the supporters of Amendment 59 admit that. The Rocky Mountain News quoted Amendment 59 supporter Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute as saying that "a dedicated source of funding for schools could reduce the pressure on the general fund, and in turn allow legislators more opportunity for investing in other priorities, such as health care, higher education and transportation." The same story also quoted David Miller of the Denver Foundation as saying: "As I understand it, SAFE does more than just support education. If it passes, it would free up general fund dollars for health care, which is why the Colorado Health Foundation is a big supporter."

Hsieh's page against 48 summarizes the paper that she and I wrote, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life," and links to related letters, releases, and articles.

For her work Diana deserves the praise of all Coloradans who care about liberty.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Schwartz Refutes Amendment 59 Claims

Brian Schwartz writes for The Denver Post:

Amendment 59 would raise your taxes. [Former Colorado State Treasurer Gai] Schoettler denies this, saying that “Amendment 59 will ensure that your tax rates will stay exactly the same as they are now.”

But Amendment 59 would raise taxes without raising tax rates. The Colorado Constitution guarantees taxpayers a refund when the state collects excess taxes. Amendment 59 would force us to donate this refund to a so-called “Savings Account for Education.” That’s a tax increase. Ms. Schoettler’s mentioning constant tax rates is misleading.

A second deceit is that Amendment 59 is a “Savings Account for Education.” There’s a difference between education and government-funded schools. Just Google “college illiteracy.” Further, Schoettler writes that 59 “frees up money for critical things our citizens need.” That is, not schools. If you want to spend your own money on education not favored by politicians, tough luck. To Schoettler, the needs you want to finance with your own money are irrelevant.

Coloradans should vote down Amendment 59. Then, in a couple of years, the legislature can refer a measure to repeal the existing constitutional spending mandate for schools that generates some of the budgetary problems.

For more information, see my op-ed regarding Amendment 59.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sock Puppets for Amendment 49

This is why I love Jon Caldara. This is a fun, low-budget, and effective explanation of Amendment 49. I endorse the measure, despite the facts that it shouldn't be a constitutional matter and I'm tired of Republicans pretending that all of their problems stem from financial disparity. The problem with Colorado Republicans is not that the government funds union lobbying, but that Colorado Republicans often run on their worst ideas and flub their few good ones. Nevertheless, I think Amendment 49, which prevents government from diverting money from the paychecks of government employees to unions, is a good idea. As Jon's sock puppets note, the measure in no way interferes with the ability of government employees to give money to whatever groups they like, only the government can't "help" them do it.


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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Letter to Mark Udall Regarding the Bailout

Dear Congressman Udall,

I am writing to thank you for voting against the so-called "bailout," not just once, but both times. That showed real guts, and the sort of independence that Colorado could use in the U.S. Senate. You took on not only the bullying of the Bush administration and "leaders" of your own party, but their sycophantic media, which promoted the bailout in "news" stories and editorials alike.

For the most part, the American public saw past the ruse and opposed the bailout. Most members of Congress and most journalists failed the American people on this matter, utterly. But you stood with us.

I'd also like to thank Senator Allard for voting against the bailout, along with Congress members John Salazar, Marilyn Musgrave, and Doug Lamborn.

The mortgage crisis was caused by ill-conceived federal controls -- particularly programs that encouraged and even required risky lending -- and the bailout will just add more of the same. What we need are not massive new wealth transfers and more concentration of power in the hands of bureaucrats, but a truly free market, in which the government rigorously protects rights of property and contract, roots out fraud and deception, and otherwise leaves people free to manage their own affairs and enter into voluntary agreements.

I was already already going to vote for you, though reluctantly, based on your strong endorsement of the separation of church and state and religious freedom. Now, even though I disagree with you on many other issues, I will be proud to vote for the man who, knowing the bailout was wrong, stood up and courageously voted against it.

Please note, however, that I will vigorously oppose you if ever you take the wrong side and try to reduce or restrict the liberty of the American people. Your recent vote, though, gives me some hope that you will remain open to reason and honest argument, and closed to the shrill pleadings of interest groups looking for political favoritism.

In our age, political cynicism is the coin of the realm. But this time your vote was pure as gold. I sincerely hope you have struck a vein, and I will vote for you for the office of U.S. Senate with that hope.

Ari Armstrong

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin Lets Biden Disparage Free Market

In the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, Palin proved that she has no understanding of the free market and no ability to defend it.

Moderator Gwen Ifill asked about the mortgage crisis: "[T]he next question is to talk about the subprime lending meltdown. Who do you think was at fault? I start with you, Governor Palin. Was it the greedy lenders? Was it the risky home-buyers who shouldn't have been buying a home in the first place? And what should you be doing about it?"

Palin answered, "Darn right it was the predator lenders..."

No, it wasn't.

Yaron Brook explains the real causes of the crisis in an article for Forbes. Brook points out that "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--the government-sponsored, government-regulated mortgage giants," composed only one aspect of the "massive control over the housing and financial markets" exercised by the federal government. Brook notes that "for years irrational lending standards have been forced on lenders by the federal Community Reinvestment Act." The purpose of Freddie and Fannie was to "purchase, securitize and guarantee loans made by lenders and whose debt is itself implicitly guaranteed by the federal government." In addition to these problems, "the Federal Reserve Board's inflationary policy of artificially low interest rates made investing in subprime loans extraordinarily profitable." Finally, the federal government's "quasi-official policy of 'too big to fail'" communicated to lenders that, if they got into trouble, the federal government would pump in billions of tax dollars -- which seems to be the policy now headed through Congress.

So federal politicians encouraged and required risky lending, and now many of these same politicians blame the non-existent "free market" for the problem.

Thanks to Palin's ignorant remarks, Biden's repetition of this lie was as easy as hunting moose in a barn.

Palin called for "government strict oversight," implying that the problem was caused by a lack of such oversight, rather than the presence of foolish federal controls.

Biden was only too happy to amplify Palin's false assumption. Biden said the problem was the Republican tactic of "cutting regulations;" he blamed "the tried and true Republican response, deregulate, deregulate. ... You had actually the belief that Wall Street could self-regulate itself." Morever, "John [McCain] recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry deregulate it and let the free market move like he did for the banking industry."

Biden's message is that the free market doesn't work, deregulation equals the free market, deregulation has failed, and government controls are the alternative to deregulation.

Unfortunately, Republicans often have used the term "deregulation" because they don't want to talk about the fundamental issue: individual rights. Because they don't favor individual rights. As Bush II has proved, Republicans (in general, not in every particular) are enthusiastic about government controls and political power.

The problem is that the term "regulation" is a package deal. "Regulation" means to make regular. Well, we want things to be regular, don't we, as opposed to irregular? For example, the Constitution grants to Congress the power "To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states..." Those of us of the individual-rights persuasion like to think of that clause as granting to Congress the ability to "make regular" trade; that is, to free it of state interference.

Government plays a crucial regulatory role. The proper role of government is to protect individual rights. In the sphere of economics, that means protecting property rights and the right to contract. It means fighting fraud. It means eliminating the initiation of force. In those functions, the government regulates -- makes regular -- the economy. Protecting individual rights is regulation.

But what Biden means by "regulation" is a host of federal controls that violate, rather than protect, individual rights. These rights-violating controls do not make the economy "regular;" they make it irregular and chaotic. For example, the federal controls that forced lenders to make risky loans are "regulations" of this sort. The mortgage crisis is a crisis not of the free market, not of the regulation of protecting individual rights, but of the "regulations" of government controls that violate rights of property and contract.

What we need is not some out-of-context "deregulation" or "regulation." What we need is a government that protects individual rights rather than violates them. That is the very definition of the free market. That is what Joe Biden condemns, and what Sarah Palin cannot even conceive.

Update: As disturbed as I've been by the Rocky Mountain News's endorsement of the bailout, the paper has done a good job at pointing to the federal policies that caused the crisis. In its Friday editorial, the News rightly complains that Palin "let Biden largely escape with his (and Obama’s) tedious riff that the current implosion on Wall Street is largely a result of Republican deregulation -- when Democrats were by and large the strongest defenders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's trip into the wild side of lending."

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Gordon Explains CO Ballot Shakeup

State Senator Ken Gordon provides important news about this year's ballot. I disagree with some of his analysis, but I'll save those comments for another time.

I got my (now outdated) Blue Book in the mail a day or two ago; it's also online.There are now 14, not 18, ballot measures. Following is Gordon's message:

* * *

When something dramatic happens in Colorado politics, I like to send out a "Flash Update" so that people on my email list can be the first on their block to know.

I just walked over to the Capitol from the press conference where Governor Ritter and members of the labor and business community announced an agreement that affects seven of the ballot measure on this fall's ballot. This qualifies as dramatic.

The genesis of the problem was a decision by a businessman to put Amendment 47 on the ballot. Amendment 47, called by its proponents "Right to Work," makes it impossible for employees to vote for a union shop. This makes it very hard for unions to organize because every employee of a business gets the benefit of the unions' collective bargaining whether or not they support the union. There is no incentive for an employee to pay union dues. "Right to Work" has been proposed numerous times in the legislature and has never passed. Employees earn less money in "Right to Work" states and have fewer benefits. The unions call it the "Right to Work for Less."

In response, unions put Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 on the ballot. These measures created criminal responsibility for business executives, required an explanation for the termination of an employee, required businesses to give health care to all workers and created additional remedies for injured workers. Business felt that if these measures passed new businesses would avoid Colorado, and businesses already here would leave.

Negotiations around removing all of the measures have been going on for months. Most of the business community felt that the labor-business climate in Colorado was fine, and that they didn't need "Right to Work," so they tried to persuade its backers to remove it. They were unsuccessful.

The agreement announced today was that labor would withdraw Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57, and the mainstream business community will help labor oppose "Right to Work," which is Amendment 47 and two other Amendments (49 and 54) which are problematic for labor. The Labor-Business combined message is "Oppose Amendments 47, 49 and 54."

Governor Ritter helped broker this deal, and it seems that both the labor and mainstream business community acted like responsible adults. The proponents of Amendment 47 were excessively ideological and rigid, not acting in the best interests of Colorado.

This whole topic raises questions about the use of ballot measures and the relative ease for monied interests to get matters on the ballot. It is an argument for Ref O which makes it somewhat harder to get Constitutional Amendments on the ballot, but this is a topic for more discussion at a later date. I wanted to get this out quickly, so I will end now.

As always, don't hesitate to write back with comments or questions, and feel free to forward or republish this email in any format.


Ken Gordon
Majority Leader
Colorado Senate

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Colorado Republican Committee Pushes Anti-Abortion Agenda

Some Colorado Republicans want to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion, and they've funded a flyer to promote that agenda. The flyer was redistributed by the Republican Majority for Choice -- with criticisms. That group recently hosted an event featuring former Senator Hank Brown.

The flyer, "Paid for by Colorado Republican Committee," urges recipients to vote for candidates who will appoint Supreme Court justices "who will protect life," euphemism for outlaw abortion.

Meanwhile, "21st Century Colorado" continues to hammer Libby Szabo over her answers to a Colorado Right to Life survey. That group's flyer makes it clear that Szabo is a Republican; she is shown with President Bush near the Republican logo. (That side of the flyer is not provided here.) Colorado Republicans certainly are making themselves easy targets for the Democrats. Maybe someday they'll learn that faith-based politics turns off freedom-minded independent voters, as well as Republicans who respect the separation of church and state. But the latest GOP flyer reminds us not to count on it.

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