Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Assault the Enemy, Not the Citizenry

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published November 26 by Grand Junction Free Press.

"It is TSA's policy not to hire sexual offenders," the Denver Post quoted the agency. Well isn't that reassuring!

But to many airline passengers TSA's full-body scans and "strip and grope" pat-downs feel a lot like sexual assault. Texas pilot Michael Roberts sued TSA over the scans and "enhanced pat-downs," telling Sean Hannity, "They wanted to see my penis... and I said, that's not okay, guys."

John Tyner told TSA agents, don't "touch my junk." Texas reporter Steve Simon captured a chilling video of TSA terrifying his three-year-old daughter as she screamed, "Stop touching me!"

Yet TSA defends its invasive procedures, claiming they are necessary for passenger safety, and at least some passengers agree with this. We regard the "security" procedures as a complete sham and a mockery of public safety.

Moreover, if we want to get serious about checking out people who may be a threat to us, it is perfectly obvious to anyone with a lick of common sense that a three-year-old Texas girl poses no danger. In our era threats come from a small minority of those with ties to the Islamic world.

Far more important than how airlines handle security, however, is the matter of why violent Islamists still want to kill us. The answer is that we have not broken the enemy's will to fight.

Historian John David Lewis writes in his new book, Nothing Less than Victory: "U.S. military doctrine since World War II has progressively devalued victory as the object of war... The practical result has followed pitilessly: despite some hundred thousand dead, the United States has not achieved an unambiguous military victory since 1945."

Yes, we sent troops into Iraq: a nation that posed no serious threat to us and where we spent untold resources on infrastructure and welfare programs for the Iraqis. Despite troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to mock us and gain forces in various regions. Meanwhile, the oppressive Iranian regime continues to spit in our face and advance toward nuclear weapons.

It is worth remembering that the war in Afghanistan has now gone on for longer than the Vietnam war. Given the raw military might and technological advantages of the U.S. military over our Islamist enemies, this failure to achieve lasting victory is a failure of the will to win.

As opposed to tepid modern American military actions, Lewis reviews "six major wars in which a clear-cut victory did not lead to longer and bloodier war, but rather established the foundations of a long-term peace between former enemies."

Lewis reviews several great victories, such as the Greek victory over the Persians several hundred years before Christ and the U.S. victory over Japan in World War II. But perhaps more interesting (and more disturbing) for our purposes is Lewis's review of the fall of Rome.

Rome did well so long as it maintained internal strength and looked outward in terms of opening trade and fighting back "barbarians." But when Rome started to decay internally and look inward toward controlling its own citizens rather than taking the fight to the enemy, Rome self-destructed.

Internally, Lewis notes, Rome faced rioting and "decades of coinage debasement," that era's extreme version of "quantitative easing." Wracked by political instability, "barbarian invasions, ruinous monetary inflation, threats to water and grain supplies, and dependence upon provincial armies," Rome deteriorated.

The Romans began to build a defensive wall around the city around the year 271, and "Rome was now garrisoned by an army unit," Lewis writes. It is a bad sign whenever a nation turns to patrolling its own citizenry rather than taking the fight to the enemy.

Lewis contrasts the open roads with the closed walls: "The openness of Roman roads was true power, far stronger than mere walls. These roads were lines in the face of a confident city, the sinews of an invincible civilization with a people who admitted to no threats capable of striking their capital."

After our nation's capital was attacked on 9/11, we too turned inward in fear. We turned to assaulting our own citizenry on our modern roads, our airways, with intrusive TSA screenings. We built up barriers to the free movement of goods and people.

Moreover, Lewis writes, Rome's walls took a psychological toll on the city's people, for they reminded "every Roman, every day, that he was perpetually at risk." These "walls were an open admission of permanent weakness and vulnerability."

We have not deteriorated internally to the degree of Rome, though current "leaders" are striving mightily to achieve that end. Nor do we face enemies with the relative strength of Rome's enemies. Our problem is not lack of economic or military might, but lack of will to defeat those intent on harming us.

We have convinced ourselves that victory is neither attainable nor morally desirable. So long as that remains the case, we risk going down the same path as Rome.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Atlas Shrugged Video

I submitted a video for the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest. The deadline is December 8!

UPDATE: You can VOTE for my video every day until December 22!



While clearly the best video of the set is Lemonaid, my video is the most substantive in terms of discussing the themes of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Here is "Lemonaid:"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Plea for Book Publishers to Include Page Numbers in Digital Formats

Besides the major inconvenience of Digital Rights Management (DRM), the other big problem with digital editions of books these days is that there is no standardized pagination for citations.

Thankfully, there is a very simple solution to this problem, if only publishers would adopt it: insert page numbers into digital editions to match the print editions. That is what I've done with my own book, Values of Harry Potter. Inserting page numbers in every new book would be a trivially easy thing to do, and it would allow buyers of digital copies to use and reference the same citation schemes as the buyers of the old-technology ink-on-paper copies.

December 1 Update: I'm amazed by how much confusion this seemingly simple idea has generated. Therefore, I'm adding two images to illustrate what I'm talking about. I took a screen shot of my own book, Values of Harry Potter, as displayed by Kindle for Mac. For the Kindle edition, the text "[33]" was inserted where page 33 starts in the print edition. This has to be done by the publisher. Because the Kindle uses free-flowing text, obviously the added text might appear anywhere on the screen. The point of this is to inform the reader, "This is were page 33 begins in the printed edition."

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And here are pages 32 and 33 of my book as scanned from the printed edition.

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One of the comments suggests another important use for standardized pagination; in reading groups, where people might be reading copies of a book on different devices, it would be very useful if everybody had a common page system. (The original post now resumes; this ends the update.)

The only drawback to inserting the page numbers is that they are a minor distraction when reading. But this is a trivial inconvenience, as the reader can easily ignore the page numbers, while the benefits of standardized citations are substantial.

I briefly considered the alternative of simply dropping page numbers altogether, in digital and print editions, and going with something like numbered paragraphs. But then I decided that was a bad idea. I've tried to read a printed book that did not number each page, and the experience was frustrating. I like to get a sense of where I am in a book, and the page numbers help provide that. While lengths of paragraphs vary widely, the amount of text on a standard printed page is roughly comparable across books, though of course it tends to vary by type of book. (Academic books tend to use smaller font sizes relative to popular books.)

There is another reason to include page numbers, besides the fact that some readers will continue to prefer printed copies into the indefinite future. On some devices, pdf documents work better than the free-flowing text of other digital formats. And, with fixed pages, the designer has more control over the look of the text and the overall book. So pages are here to stay. The thing to do, then, is to simply mark the same page numbers in the digital editions. This offers another benefit to readers of free-flowing editions, besides the ease of citing material: they can more easily track their progress through a book. (By contrast, the Kindle tracking system tends to leave the reader feeling lost in an indeterminate void.)

A related problem is that of notes. In print editions, I very much prefer notes at the bottom of individual pages, for ease of reference. But of course that doesn't work for digital editions with free-flowing text. Moreover, I severely dislike the strategy of numbering endnotes by chapters, because the result is that you end up with a "Note 1" for each chapter, which can be confusing. ("Oh, you meant that the profound mysteries of the universe are answered in the OTHER Note 8!")

My proposed solution is to clearly tie each note to its page number. For example, let's say Page 25 of our book contains four notes. Rather than number them, we'll letter them "a" through "d." Then we end up with Note 25a, Note 25b, etc. (If there is only one note on a page, that can be marked with an asterisk, and then we'll just have "Note 25.") Under this scheme, it really doesn't matter whether the note is printed on the relevant page in a print edition or included at the end of a digital edition; the citation scheme will remain the same.

I already own an iPod Touch, and my wife and I just ordered a Kindle. While some publishers foolishly decline to make new books available in digital editions, more and more the standard is to release books in multiple formats simultaneously. The year 2010 will have marked the major transition to digital publishing. As this transition continues and accelerates, publishers can do us all a favor by simply making pagination standard across editions.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Themes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Yesterday the Colorado Springs Gazette published my op-ed about the major themes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I briefly discuss the heroes' fight against tyranny, the redemption stories of Dumbledore and Snape, and the lessons of the Horcruxes and Hallows for dealing with death. The article reveals some important elements of the novel's plot, as indicated.

So far illness has kept me away from the film, but I look forward to seeing how well the film carries out the themes of the novel.

I've published other essays about the Potter series at the web page for my book, Values of Harry Potter. For example, I've written more about "Tales of Beedle the Bard," the children's book that Hermione reads in the final novel, and the Hallows.

Read the whole Gazette essay!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Abortion Cost Ken Buck the U.S. Senate Race

Ken Buck's anti-abortion stance cost him the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.

True, Buck had other problems. He made a few gaffes, as when he jokingly said he should win because he he doesn't wear high heels (a response to his primary opponent's many references to gender), and when he likened homosexuality to alcoholism. The left unfairly attacked Buck for his prosecutorial work on a gun case and a rape case. Moreover, the Democrats did a good job getting out the vote for Michael Bennet.

But Buck's anti-abortion position made more difference than any of those other things, alienating many women and independent voters. And it was only in the context of Buck's perceived antagonism toward women's right to control their own bodies that the "high heels" comment and the claims about a mishandled rape case gained traction.

A couple of claims Buck simply could not rebut, because they were true: he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and he initially endorsed Amendment 62, the so-called "personhood" measure, even though he later backtracked and said he wasn't taking positions on state ballot measures.

The result? Bennet "led Buck with female voters, 56 percent to 40 percent, according to the [exit] polls, and... Bennet beat Buck among unaffiliated voters in the polls, 52 percent to 41 percent." Moreover, "Bennet also did better among Republicans than Buck did among Democrats in the polls." My guess is that the number of Republican women to voted for Bennet or at least declined to vote for Buck was substantial.

Buck whined after the election, "I wasn't going to derail my message to have an election decided on abortion, or any social issue, for that matter." But when you endorse a ballot measure that would totally ban abortion (along with various forms of birth control and fertility treatments), what you've done precisely is make the election largely about abortion.

Consider some of the other relevant news about the issue.

"Gov. Bill Ritter... agreed [with Republican Mike Rosen] that Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck’s hard-line stance on abortion helped cost him the election."

"Ken Buck Hit Hard On Birth Control, Abortion In New DSCC Ad."

Bennet ran partly on "protecting [women's] rights to safe, legal abortion."

"Rape, incest victims rally against Buck."

"Ken Buck: Opponents rally rape and incest survivors to decry his abortion policy."

"Dem ads on reproductive rights aim to sharpen Sen. Bennet's appeal to women."

Bennet "seems to be the only candidate that's not anti-abortion... I'm not really excited about him as a candidate -- he's kind of overspent in Washington."

Or consider a first and second ad hammering Buck on his anti-abortion stance and related issues.

Or consider a few of the flyers mailed to my wife, an unaffiliated voter. These mailers, paid for by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, take some unfair shots at Buck but effectively hammer him on abortion. And they clearly link Buck to Amendment 62 and note that Bennet opposed the measure.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Time for Real Choices at the Ballot Box

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published November 12 by Grand Junction Free Press.

If you think our Senate race was exciting -- and we were surprised that Ken Buck lost despite his series of gaffes and oddball positions -- just consider the drama in Alaska.

Lisa Murkowski held the Senate seat as a Republican, yet Joe Miller beat her in the primary. So Murkowski launched a write-in campaign, and the election remained under review as we submitted this column.

A November 3 AP story by Becky Bohrer explains the scope of the problem. Murkowski "was among 160 qualified candidates," and "write-ins held 41 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting," compared to Miller's 34 percent.

And consider this bizarre twist: Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell told the AP "that since Miller's name isn't on the official list of write-in candidates, any ballots with 'Joe Miller' written in won't be credited to" Miller. Campbell changed his tune the next day, and a follow-up AP story reported that write-ins for "Joe Miller" would count for Miller, after all.

The Alaska Senate election is a mess. But nobody ever promised that representative government would be easy. If we want tidy and easy then we should have a king or a dictator.

Even before the Seventeenth Amendment passed in 1913, changing election of Senators from state legislatures to the popular vote, the legislatures themselves were popularly elected. Members of the House always faced a popular vote.

Some years ago your senior author Linn lived in New Mexico and got involved in another important write-in campaign, this one for Joe Skeen.

Politics in New Mexico makes politics in Colorado and Alaska seem calm and peaceful. Many voters live on reservations, which largely retain sovereignty. Spanish culture remains strong in parts of New Mexico, and in the 1960s and 70s land grants protected by old U.S treaty fell under heated dispute.

Quite a few people from New York and New Jersey settled towns like Rio Rancho. Occasionally their friends and relatives from back home would ask if they used American money or had to exchange dollars for pesos. Those friends would have to be reminded that parts of New Mexico were culturally vibrant long before the British colonies took off.

Party lines often didn't mean as much in New Mexico. Republicans often worked with Democrats. A lot of people were what Coloradans might think of as "Texas Democrats" -- fiscal conservatives who would make some of the local Mesa County "conservatives" seem like flaming liberals.

Wikipedia offers a good summary of Skeen's write-in campaign for Congress: "Throughout the 1970s, five-term Democratic Congressman Harold Runnels had been so popular that the GOP didn't even put up a candidate against him in 1978 or 1980. Then, on August 5, 1980, Runnels died of cancer at the age of fifty-six. The state attorney general, a Democrat, announced that the Democrats could replace Runnels on the ballot but that it was too late for the Republicans to [add a candidate]. Republicans were outraged and rallied behind a write-in effort by Skeen, while the Democrats selected Governor Bruce King's nephew, David King, over Runnels' widow, Dorothy Runnels."

Those critical of Governor King called his political move "nephewism" rather than nepotism.

After Dorothy Runnels launched her own write-in campaign, Skeen won the split vote with 38 percent of the total. Wikipedia adds that Skeen, buoyed by the popularity of Ronald Reagan, "was only the third person in U.S. history to be elected to Congress as a write-in candidate." He served until announcing his retirement in 2002.

For those who fought for Skeen, this was a joyous and triumphant victory.

This year Colorado ballots offered the ability to write in candidates only for a few offices, and then only among officially recognized candidates. In many races voters could "choose" only a single candidate.

Statute 1-4-1102 specifies that an affidavit for a write-in candidate must be filed "by the close of business on the seventieth day before any other election" besides a primary. That's ridiculous. What if an illness, death, or major scandal occurs within that time? What if, for instance, the Republican candidate for governor had imploded closer to the election?

On November 3, Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported that Kathleen Curry, a write-in candidate for House District 61 who previously held the seat as a Democrat, challenged a preliminary finding that she came in second. She claimed that voters who wrote in her name but didn't check the nearby box would put her ahead if properly counted.

If we're serious about letting voters select the candidates of their choice, we will let people easily file as write-in candidates right up to the election. And we will ensure those votes are properly tallied, even if it takes longer. Do we want speed and convenience, or do we want to let people vote their conscience?

In Praise of Some Great Objectivists

In light of recent controversy regarding the resignation of John McCaskey from the board of the Ayn Rand Institute, I thought it was worth stepping back and remembering the strong virtues of the parties involved, and the value of these people to me personally. I also urge other observers of the dispute to tone down the fiery rhetoric and remember that judgment ought not be confused with bitter denunciations.

Leonard Peikoff has written the most comprehensive review of Ayn Rand's philosophy of all time, with Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. It was a great achievement to systematize Rand's ideas and integrate them into a single volume. Peikoff also wrote a philosophical analysis of the Nazi terror (The Ominous Parallels), and he is working on a book that I believe will be profoundly important: The DIM Hypothesis.

For me personally, however, Peikoff's most important work is his lecture series, "Understanding Objectivism." Frankly Objectivism was too dense -- written at too high a level of abstraction -- for me to understand well as a young adult. (A single volume on an entire system of philosophy is necessarily very condensed.) I understood the book superficially, but I thought I understood it so well that I knew all the points where it went wrong. "Understanding Objectivism," on the other hand, seemed to be recorded specifically for me: the errors of rationalism that Peikoff described fit me uncannily well. This lecture was a wake-up call for me, and I have been striving ever since to make sure my ideas are firmly grounded in reality, not in "floating" deductions.

Beyond his published works, Peikoff spent years working closely with Rand to learn her ideas, and he founded the Ayn Rand Institute, which has gone on to achieve many great works.

John McCaskey I do not know well. I've heard him speak, and I really appreciated his talks about historical misinterpretations of Aristotle and about the history of science. My impression of him was highly favorable; he was friendly and obviously passionate about his academic work. Moreover, from what I understand, he has done impressive work with the Anthem Foundation in terms of promoting Rand's ideas in academia.

Diana and Paul Hsieh I know very well, as we live in the same part of the country and frequently socialize. Paul, of course, is a co-founder (with Lin Zinser) of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, an organization devoted to restoring liberty in health care. Paul has written innumerable op-eds, and he blogs continuously about the issue. While the Democrats successfully rammed through ObamaCare, there remains a very real possibility of eventually overturning that legislation -- and mitigating its harm in the interim -- to a large degree because of Paul's work. Those who value their health and their liberty owe Paul a debt of gratitude for fighting relentlessly for free-market reform in medicine.

Diana and I, of course, co-authored a groundbreaking paper on abortion, "The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life
Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception."
I can call the paper "groundbreaking" without sounding conceited because the most interesting theoretical parts of the paper were written primarily by Diana. Any woman who values her right to control her own body -- and any man who values the legal security of women -- owes Diana a debt of gratitude.

Diana also blogs frequently and hosts a podcast. She wrote a remarkable thesis on "moral luck" (the summary of which I've read) to earn her doctorate in philosophy. She also recorded an amazing podcast on Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which constitutes an immensely helpful guide to the novel.

In addition, Diana has also poured many, many hours into helping to organize and promote Front Range Objectivism.

Craig Biddle wrote Loving Life, an accessible recounting of Rand's ethical theory. I reviewed his book a few years ago, and I look forward to re-reading it to see what more I can glean from its pages.

Of course Craig also founded The Objective Standard, a journal from which I have learned a great deal about foreign policy, health policy, science, and more. Indeed, perhaps ironically, Craig has published portions of David Harriman's book, the source of the controversy leading to McCaskey's resignation. It is not a stretch to claim that Craig played some minor role in the publication of that book, insofar as he played an editorial role in the text's publication in the journal.

I have written a first and second article as well as a book review for Craig's journal. I have to say that Craig as an editor sometimes drives me crazy. But I have learned an enormous amount from him, and he has made me a more disciplined writer (though I still have further to travel down that road). As an aside, I will note that Craig reads things in a hyper-literal way -- a virtue in an editor as he excises ambiguities from an article -- but perhaps a personal characteristic that allowed him to read more than intended into an off-the-cuff remark by Peikoff about McCaskey.

I should also note that Craig offered some useful editorial advice for my own book, Values of Harry Potter. Originally I had conceived the project as a series of articles for Craig's journal, and, while that plan didn't work out, it did allow me to get some excellent feedback from Craig on portions of the text.

Yaron Brook, president of ARI, is another man for whom I have profound respect. Yaron has played a large role in my rethinking of foreign policy, as I cast off the non-interventionism of libertarianism while avoiding the "nation building" of neo-conservatism. Yaron helped me understand that a proper foreign policy restricts itself to defending American lives and rights, but that it properly does so aggressively. Moreover, I have heard Yaron speak about a number of issues, and I have found him consistently impressive as a public speaker. I consider him a model for public intellectual advocacy.

Morever, ARI has helped send various speakers to Colorado, and I have learned a lot from them. And ARI organizes the "books for teachers" effort. In these ways, and many more, ARI has benefitted me and contributed to my values.

I am pained that these personal heroes of mine, along with various other acquaintances of theirs and mine, have fallen into a heated personal dispute. Those interested can read the comments of McCaskey, the Hsiehs, Biddle, Peikoff, and ARI.

For what they are worth, here are my brief comments on the matter.

1. I understand that McCaskey's criticisms of a major project of ARI -- Harriman's book -- created tension between McCaskey and the board.

2. I don't know the issues well enough (and, frankly, neither do many of the other people commenting on the matter) to know whether McCaskey's criticisms of the book are legitimate, and, if so, to what degree. Are there, in fact, some historical inaccuracies in the book? If there are, do these inaccuracies point to a need to tweak the theoretical conclusions in some way? These are questions of fact, and there are right and wrong answers to them, even though I don't personally know the answers at this point. But getting mad at people is no substitute for evaluating the facts, and I fear some people commenting on the issue are forgetting this basic point.

3. I fear that both sides of the dispute have at some points failed to understand the concerns of the other side. I also fear that both sides have at some points misattributed certain motives to the other side.

4. We should bear in mind that these sorts of disputes are hardly unique to the Objectivist movement. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to point to any organized movement, whether political, religious, philosophical, or other, in which these sorts of disputes never arise. Whenever you bring together independent-minded, strong-willed personalities, there are just going to be some disputes and fallings out. The rest of us shouldn't let such disputes hamper our own efforts to achieve positive values. Let us remember that we are in the middle of a profound cultural battle to restore liberty in America. I for one plan to stay the course, and I urge my friends to do likewise, even if we're not all holding hands along the way.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zaugg Pitches 'Ethics 101'

Colorado author John Zaugg describes his book, Ethics 101: Why Not Be the Best We Could Be?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Election Reflections from the Bailey and Beezley Party

This edition of Free Colorado News features comments from Republican candidates Stephey Bailey, who lost his congressional race against Jared Polis, and Don Beezley, who won in State House District 33. Various activists also share their thoughts on the election.



Bailey hopes Polis's constituents will help pry him away from the Obama machine, especially now that the Democrats are in the minority in the House.

Beezley notes that we need more capitalism and freedom to get us out of the economic mess caused by statism.

State Senator Shawn Mitchell explains that on election night voters pushed back against political controls over their lives. However, he cautioned, activists must take the fight to the state capitol if they wish to advance the cause of liberty.

Penn Pfiffner reviews a project he's working on with the Independence Institute on finding real solutions to the state's budget problems that involve targeted and substantial spending cuts.

Yvonne Iden talks about why she supported Bailey's congressional run, and notes his opposition to abortion controls enabled her to support him.

Though at a Republican election night party, Kelly Valenzuela said that, while she likes Bailey, she voted for John Hickenlooper for governor because she disagrees with Tom Tancredo and Dan Maes on immigration and abortion.

Check out what these and other activists have to say on the video!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Colorado Election Notes

Here are some trends and lessons from the Colorado elections, based on preliminary results available early Wednesday morning.

1. The majority of Colorado's Congressional delegation is now Republican. Whereas the Democrats previously held five of the seven seats, now Republicans hold four. The Republicans had a realistic chance of picking up three seats, and they picked up two. In the Third District, Scott Tipton beat John Salazar (brother of former Senator and current Secretary of the Interior Ken). In the Fourth District, Cory Gardner trounced Betsy Markey in a traditionally Republican district. The only Republican loss in a competitive Congressional race was for Ryan Frazier, who went down to incumbent Ed Perlmutter.

Republicans Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn held on to their seats, as expected, as Democrats Diana DeGette and Jared Polis held on to theirs. However, Stephen Bailey performed relatively well against Polis in the Boulder-centric district, passing the 40 percent mark in early returns.

2. Coloradans rejected the anti-abortion measure by a wide margin. In 2008, Amendment 48 got 27 percent of the vote. I figured this year's vote for Amendment 62, the follow-up measure, would be higher because of higher Republican turnout. Early returns indicate the percent in favor will be higher, but not by as much as I had imagined -- perhaps 30 percent.

Maybe in 2012 the idiots behind the measure will run it again, so as to again drive Democrats to the polls, tempt self-destructive Republican candidates to endorse it and thereby alienate unaffiliated voters, and ensure the elections will be largely about social issues rather than economics.

3. Ken Buck struggled because of social issues. With 85 percent of precincts reporting, 9News reported that Buck held less than a 4,000 vote lead. He should have easily walked away with this election. Senator Michael Bennet is not a good communicator. He was hand-picked by an unpopular governor so that Ken Salazar could go to work for a (now) unpopular president. (One of the many ironies of the race is that the Democrats beat up Buck for questioning the direct election of Senators, when Bennet himself was appointed.)

It is true that Buck suffered many unjust and misleading attacks. It is also true that Buck said some unfortunate things about high heels and alcoholism that made him look clumsy at best. But two lines of attack struck their mark. Buck endorsed Amendment 62 before backing away from it, and he said he would outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest. It was these positions that made Buck's "high heels" comment and his actions as a prosecutor regarding a rape case seem to add up to a very frightening picture especially for many women.

4. Coloradans reject Governor Crazy. The possible good news for Republicans is that Dan Maes may actually cross the ten percent mark, maintaining "major party" status for the state GOP. But John Hickenlooper still outperformed Maes and Tom Tancredo combined. (I reluctantly voted for Tancredo, but there are many reasons why I'm happy he lost, even if I'm not thrilled that Hickenlooper won.) As an aside, Sarah Palin endorsed Tancredo, which only adds to her loss record here.

But let's not forget the real story of the Colorado governor's race: after driving other candidates from the field, Scott McInnis saw his campaign train fall off the cliff of a plagiarism scandal. If McInnis hadn't entered the race, the Republicans would have chosen a competent candidate, and that candidate probably would have won. But it's probably a tossup whether Republicans should hate Maes or McInnis more.

5. Fiscal restraint is no excuse for badly written laws. Ballot measures 60, 61, and 101 went down by wide margins. They would have restrained taxes and spending. (I voted for only the last of the three.) The measures were poorly written. The campaign for them was ineffective, while the campaign against them was well-funded and very effective.

6. Health Care Choice got drowned out. The opponents of Amendment 63 ran a very effective campaign against it without having to trifle with debating its merits. They simply asked voters to vote no on the numbers, which was with this major exception a pretty good strategy. My wife and I also received a flyer claiming that, like the spending measures, Amendment 63 was simply too confusing, and voters should oppose things they don't understand. (If the Democrats were actually serious about that criticism they'd repeal the greater portion of the Colorado Revised Statutes.) Nevertheless, even though Amendment 63 had to fight uphill against the other ballot measures, and even though its proponents lacked major funding, it came close to winning. So the vote on Amendment 63 hardly reflects an endorsement of ObamaCare in Colorado. Interestingly, Oklahoma voters approved a similar measure.

7. Gridlock wins. The federal government is now blessedly gridlocked. I personally could use a break from all the far-left "change." At 11:55 p.m., Ben DeGrow wrote, "I’m feeling very confident that the GOP will win the state house."

2012 cannot come too slowly.

Stephen Bailey Concedes in CD2

Stephen Bailey conceded victory to his Democratic opponent, incumbent Jared Polis, in Colorado's Second Congressional District.



Check back for a partial transcript.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Open Letter to Tom Tancredo

Dear Mr. Tancredo,

While it still seems unlikely that you will overtake John Hickenlooper in the governor's race, especially given that Dan Maes likely will pick up a few percent of Republican voters, you've done surprisingly well in the polls and created at least the possibility that you could win. Therefore, I feel I need to evaluate my vote for governor more thoroughly and explain to you and any other Coloradan who might be interested the reasoning for my vote.

I reluctantly endorse Tom Tancredo for governor, and I plan to vote for you tomorrow.

I have nothing against Hickenlooper. In normal times, I think he would make a very adequate governor. He has good leanings on civil liberties, I like his business background, and he has offered some nice rhetoric about limiting taxes and environmental controls. But these are not normal times.

The primary reason I am voting for you, Tom, is that you recently stated, "When I'm governor I will launch a Tenth Amendment revolution." That Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Why is that important in today's world? The Democrats in Congress have undermined what remains of America's free market economy much more aggressively than I thought they would. They passed ObamaCare. They saw Bush's bailout and raised by a "stimulus." They appear to be preparing to aggressively inflate the money supply.

While you, Tom, shamefully and inexcusably voted for the Bush bailout, I believe you have the background, the fortitude, and the free-market leanings to fight the broader federal expansion of economic controls. Your experience in Congress and in state government makes you uniquely qualified to grasp the relevant issues and do something about them to the extent that a governor is able.

The secondary reason I am voting for you is that I think you will try to repeal the repugnant, unconstitutional tax measures the Democrats imposed on us, including the "Amazon tax." I frankly don't think Hickenlooper has the spine to buck his fellow Democrats on such matters.

There are many, many reasons why I will have a difficult time voting for you. Giving any additional attention to your newfound party sickens me. Recently you endorsed discriminatory taxation, even if you were "leery" about doing so; this is indicative of your frequent disregard for free-market principles. As Elliot Fladen has pointed out, your war against immigration has gone far beyond respectable conservative arguments about welfare funding and assimilation.

The main reason why I hesitate to vote for you, however, is that you have endorsed the absurd and monstrous Amendment 62. For my complete argument against the measure, I refer you to the paper by Diana Hsieh and me, The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.

Whereas Ken Buck has backed away from his endorsement of Amendment 62 -- thereby allowing me to vote for him -- you have emphasized your endorsement. For example, in an October 22 debate, you said about Amendment 62: "Yes, I signed the petition. Yes, I voted for it."

That is the main reason why I seriously considered voting for Hickenlooper -- and why I very much understand if others do so.

Yet I am so frightened by the Democratic expansion of political economic controls that I am even going to go back on my word. On March 18, I wrote: "I want to make something clear at the outset, just so no Republicans are surprised later on: I will vote against any candidate who endorses the monstrous 'personhood' measure. That is, I will not abstain from voting, I will vote for the Democrat, as my strongest available statement."

It was only a few days later that Obama signed the Democratic health bill into law.

So what can justify me going back on my word by voting for you, despite your endorsement of Amendment 62? First let me point out that making a unilateral statement of intent is not like a contract binding two parties. Second I will note that a statement of intent depends on one's predictions of the future. Plans must change as circumstances change. Voting in times like these, when no candidate save Stephen Bailey has actually earned my vote, can only be a matter of strategy.

While it appears likely that Amendment 62 will gather more votes than it did last time, it appears more likely that it will fail miserably, again. What concerns me is that we will likely see the measure yet again in 2012, and I very much do not want the governor of the state promoting the measure. I guess that's when we will meet the real Tom Tancredo (on the off chance that you actually win).

I want to state clearly here that I am voting for Tom Tancredo in spite of his endorsement of Amendment 62, not because of it. I think the same holds true for many people voting for Tancredo in this very unusual year.

I agree with the basic reasoning of Leonard Peikoff on the matter (though I disagree with a couple other positions Peikoff has taken lately):

The Democrats for decades have been mostly the typical, compromising pols of a welfare state, making things worse, but relatively slowly, thereby leaving us some time to fight the theocracy-in-waiting [of the Republicans]. But Obama, the first New Left President, has introduced a new factor into his Party: a crusading egalitarian nihilism that is subverting and destroying the U.S., at home and abroad, much faster than anyone could have imagined a year ago. .... [T]he country's loud rejection of the Democrats will certainly help to quell the Obama-ites for a while. And there is a more specific, albeit short-range benefit of a Republican win: two years of governmental paralysis -- gridlock! when it is most desperately needed. ... In short: vote for the Republicans in order to have the time to defeat them.


My appeal to you, Tom, is that, should you win, you govern soberly and reflectively by free-market principles. My appeal to John Hickenlooper, should he win, is that he think seriously about the erosion of economic liberty in our state and in our nation -- and govern to restore individual rights across the board.

Tomorrow I will smile twice while casting my ballot. Once when voting for Stephen Bailey, and again when voting for Amendment 63, "Health Care Choice."

When I vote for you, Tom, I will grimace. But I will do it all the same. I just hope you pay some attention to the reasons for my vote.

Sincerely,
Ari Armstrong