Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lu Busse Charts New Course for 9.12 Group

I caught up with Lu Busse, chair of the 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition, at a recent event sponsored by Liberty On the Rocks.

Here are a few of her comments; see the video for the complete remarks!

"We're working on what we call the Colorado Legislative Defense Team, "COLD," because we want to throw cold water on certain pieces of legislation. And we're also doing a Liberty Watch for what's going on with the legislation at the state house. So we're getting volunteers from across Colorado to help track the legislation that is going through, and then help get the word out to the grassroots to email, call, come testify at hearings."

"We figure [legislators] ought to hear from the people."

"The learning curve was steep, and we have a ways to go. I also think if you look at [the elections] overall in Colorado, what happened in some of the other races besides the top two, and some of the changes at local levels, that there were some big changes that will make a difference to those local communities. We were successful, it just didn't get the notoriety or publicity of the main two races."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

James Discusses New Mars Novel

Thomas James, coauthor of a new novel about Mars, "In the Shadow of Ares," discussed the book at a December 20 event hosted by Liberty On the Rocks.

I also added the following comments to Amazon:

I have been fascinated with Mars as the next frontier since reading Robert Zubrin. "In the Shadow of Ares" lets us imagine actually living on the red planet. This novel is driven by its strongly drawn and charming characters. The science of the book is extrapolated from real-world technology -- both of the book's authors are engineers and one works in the space industry -- yet the story revolves around the interactions of characters and avoids bogging down in technical detail (as sometimes happens with hard science fiction). It's refreshing to read a compelling story that does not require a suspension of disbelief.

While the novel is aimed at younger readers -- the main character Amber Jacobsen is fourteen -- it should appeal to all science fiction fans. Amber is the first true Martian -- the first person born on that planet. She is spirited, independent minded, and comfortable with science and technology, as any successful frontier settler must be. When Amber's family must move from their homestead to a larger settlement, Amber has trouble convincing the locals that she's competent to pull her weight. She decides to work on solving a mystery -- the disappearance of the crew and ship of an earlier mission -- and she thereby unwittingly enters the into the conflict between the independent settlers and the control-seeking bureaucrats.

Only in one segment did I feel the level of technical detail (about collating geological data) started to slow the story. And, while I loved Amber and her parents as characters, not all of the villains were drawn out as compellingly (though the portrayal of the bureaucrats is quite vivid and convincing). On the whole I loved this novel.

I should note here that I've known one of the authors, Thomas James, for for a couple of years, and I contribute (without compensation) to a political web page he helps to run (

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Could Be Challenging for Colorado's Old Timers

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published December 24, 2010, by Grand Junction Free Press.

These days at Christmas most of us enjoy the opulence of the season. We might drive our shiny automobiles past sparkling lights on our way to the movies, the mall, or a restaurant. Under the tree many of us will find video disks and games, iPods, Kindles, or maybe even a new flat-screen television.

We owe our wealth and comfort today largely to the hard work of Colorado's pioneers. This Christmas, it is worth remembering the challenges and struggles our forebears overcame and the more modest holiday celebrations they enjoyed.

We found several Christmas stories in a two-volume work from 1982, "Long Horns and Short Tales: A History of the Crawford Country," by Mamie Ferrier and George Sibley. It covers the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"At a typical one room schoolhouse there was one teacher for all eight grades," Ferrier and Sibley tell us. Apparently it is not the case that today's students cause more trouble. At Maher (near Crawford) the school board hired John Stafford, who brought a bull whip to class to keep the unruly older boys in line.

"In the days before the automobile, movies, TV, and the like," Ferrier and Sibley write, the school houses were used not only for class but for church, elections, and business meetings. Twice a month the local residents held a "literary" where people would sing, debate, and perform skits. To raise funds for the school, women would auction off boxed dinners and their company, and the "young ladies brought... as much as $25."

Christmas brought a "gift exchange, singing of Christmas carols, and a program that included every child in the school." Despite the modesty of the celebration, "a good time was enjoyed by all," our authors assure us, and we do not doubt it.

Ferrier and Sibley nicely summarize the spirit of Christmas in those ground-breaking times. "In the homes Christmas was celebrated with a big dinner and lots of company. Gifts were much different from those of today. Most children received only one gift and the hand knitted mittens and stocking caps.

"There might be a few oranges which was a real treat as they were not purchased during the rest of the year. Home-made rag dolls were common. Older boys might be given a single shot .22 rifle; older girls got things for their hope chest, hair ribbons, and handkerchiefs. The men were sure to get neckties or socks. Today children are given so many toys that they don't appreciate any of them. In pioneer days the few things were treasured."

The book about Crawford contains the brief autobiography of Laura Piburn Pace, who arrived in Colorado as a girl in 1884. She describes her home after her marriage: "The house was a two-room log cabin. The kitchen had a dirt floor and one small window. My furniture was wooden boxes nailed to the wall and stacked on top of each other... I made curtains out of flour sacks, embroidered them and crocheted edges on them and they were quite clever."

One May Laura's house burned down. "By August, 1911, the new house was near enough finished so we could move into it," and "by Christmas Day we had a lovely farm home."

Of course, some people today are struggling this season, hit by unemployment or the housing crunch; the Denver Post reports a rise in poverty. But today's economic troubles pale in comparison to those of the Great Depression. Yet even in those dark days Coloradans found a way to enjoy and celebrate Christmas.

Writing for the Winter 1986 edition of "The Journal of the Western Slope," Mesa State professor Paul Reddin describes how Grand Junction women coped with the Depression. He bases much of the article on interviews he conducted.

"During the Depression, the residents of Grand Junction worked hard, but they also found time to enjoy life. Much about their entertainment reflected the rural aspects of the region and a conviction that good times centered around family and friends," Reddin writes. He adds that people then had the attitude that you should "make your own fun."

The professor's comments on Christmas are especially poignant: "Holidays, especially Christmas, brought family together. All enjoyed the fellowship of such occasions. If funds for gifts were short, grown-ups did not exchange them, using the available cash for presents for the children. Parents could practically always afford gifts for youngsters because a small toy car might cost as little as 15 cents, and a dollar would buy a nice present. For adults, the chance to visit with inlaws was more important than gifts."

Earlier Coloradans, rugged of spirit, maintained a good outlook even in rough times, and generally they appreciated the things they had and made do with them. As you enjoy your glorious feast and the amenities of modern life, spend a moment to reflect on what has been made possible by Colorado's hearty pioneers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reggie Rivers Turns to Social Satire

Reggie Rivers, former football star and now sports commentator and author, summarized his two most recent books, The Colony and My Wife's Boyfriend, during an interview at the Liberty On the Rocks holiday party. Briefly, The Colony uses a story of warring colonies of ants to criticize war generally and (so I understand) U.S. foreign policy in particular. (I wonder whether Rivers takes into account the history of who actually developed oil as a useful commodity in the Middle East.) My Wife's Boyfriend involves some of the tensions and absurdities of disputes within Home Owners' Associations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tancredo Celebrates 65th Birthday, Reflects on Governor's Race

On December 20 Tom Tancredo celebrated his 65th birthday at a Liberty On the Rocks holiday celebration in Denver. He graciously agreed to an interview, in which he discussed entitlements, his run for governor, John Hickenlooper and the left's plan for tax hikes, and the legal disparity between major and minor parties.

I disagree with Tancredo's take on why he lost. He blames the wealthy leftists who have effectively spent their money to influence elections. I agree they have had a big influence, but that's only because their money reminds voters that many Colorado Republicans -- including Tancredo and Ken Buck -- scare the hell out of most people with their out-of-touch social agenda.

In this photo, Jeff Sacco, a leader of Liberty On the Rocks, Red Rocks, catches up with author and sports commentator Reggie Rivers.

Jeff Sacco and Reggie Rivers

Tancredo poses with one of his supporters.

Tom Tancredo

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time for a Free Market in the Alcohol Industry

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published December 10 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Has Colorado's liquor enforcement finally become so absurd that legislators will reform the laws to allow free markets? The point of Prohibition was to stop people from drinking. Now laws stemming from Prohibition will force people to buy higher-alcohol beer in restaurants and taverns.

Jessica Fender wrote up the sad story for the Denver Post. While grocery stores can sell only low-strength beer, new rules will prohibit restaurants and taverns from selling anything less than "4 percent alcohol by volume or 3.2 percent by weight." Fender adds, "Beermakers will have to test their suds and submit an affidavit stating their alcohol content to authorities."

Apparently, in this time of economic trouble and budget cuts, it is a pressing state priority that people get as drunk as possible at bars and that small business owners spend more resources fighting through red tape.

Unfortunately, the state does far more than control the potency of beer. Politicians ban liquor stores from opening franchises. They ban liquor stores from selling food, except for "liquor-filled candy" and "cocktail garnish in containers up to sixteen ounces." They ban nearly all grocery stores from selling wine, liquor, and regular-strength beer; only one store in a chain can sell those products.

The state's liquor laws make a mockery of justice and the law. They benefit some special interests at the expense of consumers, and they ensure that liquor lobbyists perpetually kiss the backsides of legislators.

Perhaps a glance at history will help put the matter in perspective. When Ari lived east of downtown Palisade back in the 1970s, that area was called "Vineland," though it was covered in fruit trees. Where did the name come from?

In his book "The Story of Colorado Wines," Abbot Fay writes, "By the spring of 1882 settlers were bringing fruit and grapevine stock" to the Western Slope. adds, "Governor George A. Crawford, who founded Grand Junction in 1881, plant[ed] sixty acres of grapes and other fruit on Rapid Creek above Palisade."

But anti-liberty activists and politicians soon destroyed the wine industry. "The Women's Christian Temperance Union became very active in Colorado at the beginning of the twentieth century," Fay continues. Mesa County "went dry in 1909," and "by 1916 the State of Colorado as a whole had adopted Prohibition."

Fay writes, "As a result of Prohibition, many grapevines in the Grand Valley were uprooted, and the Palisade area was re-planted -- mostly in peaches." And "it took almost half a century before" farmers started growing grapes again. So that explains why, for several decades, Vineland featured practically no vines.

We are heartened that Colorado, once an early adopter of Prohibition, now blossoms with wineries and brew pubs. The Colorado Department of Agriculture reports that the number of wineries in the state has reached 100. As of 2008, the wine industry generated over $17 million in revenues and sold around 100,000 liters. Vineland is back!

For beer, the Colorado Brewers Guild reports that Colorado is home to 130 breweries, giving the state high rankings in terms of numbers of breweries and volume of beer produced.

Unfortunately, some of those producers have forgotten the history of oppression in their own industry and have turned to oppressing others. For example, earlier this year the Brewers Guild opposed a law to allow grocers to sell regular-strength beer to willing customers.

To get back to the basics, the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights to produce and interact voluntarily with others. Colorado's liquor laws instead violate people's rights by restricting production and people's ability to trade.

The government does play a legitimate role in alcohol and other industries: to ban the use of force and protect the right of consenting adults to contract freely.

The government may properly restrict the sale of certain potentially dangerous items to minors, on the grounds that minors are not mature enough to reasonably consent to the exchange. (However, we would add, once a person turns 18 and can vote, go to war, and sign contracts, that person is no longer a minor.) And, so long as the government controls the roads, part of its role must be to keep people safe from drunk drivers.

All the statutes beyond those basic functions should be repealed. The liquor enforcers should be released and allowed to seek useful employment at a real job. Working at a meaningless, socially destructive job at taxpayers' expense must take a mental toll on those enforcers. The tax money currently wasted enforcing stupid liquor laws should be returned to those who earned it.

Colorado made a bit of progress toward free markets in allowing Sunday liquor sales. It is time to finish the job and establish consistently free markets for wine, beer, and liquor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Brad Beck Pitches Liberty Toastmasters

Toastmasters is a well-known speaking club. Liberty Toastmasters is a themed Denver club that emphasizes America's founding ideals of liberty and free-markets. Brad Beck, a founder of Liberty Toastmasters, explains some of the goals of Toastmasters and the bent of the liberty group. If you've never been to Toastmasters, why not join? If you're already familiar with Toastmasters and live outside of Denver, why not start your own liberty-themed group?

Teresi: Civic Virtue Precedes Liberty

Amanda Teresi, founder of Liberty On the Rocks, delivered a speech December 4 at Liberty Toastmasters. Her basic theme was that liberty depends on a virtuous and knowledgeable citizenry.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kelly Maher Reviews

I interviewed Kelly Maher, cofounder of, on the organization's first birthday.

Maher said that her video-based web page seeks the "revelatory moments" of politicians addressing the issues. She said her organization's goal is to educate the public about the views of political figures, so she avoids out-of-context clips. Maher covers various political issues as well; for example, Maher showed it's easier to vote without I.D. than it is to obtain a library card.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roads, Not Walls

I delivered the following speech December 4 at Liberty Toastmasters.

The theme is similar to that of a a recent article I coauthored, "Assault the Enemy, Not the Citizenry." The basic idea for the talk comes from John David Lewis's recent book, Nothing Less Than Victory, in which Lewis discusses the walls of Rome as a sign of the city's weakness and internal decay.

We too have started putting up walls. With TSA, the U.S. government has turned to monitoring and oppressing the citizenry, rather than taking the fight to the enemy. Calls for trade restrictions and tighter immigration controls also mark a country that has to a large degree become frightened, inward-looking, and even paranoid, rather than confident, strong, and outward-looking.

It is time to return to the ideals of liberty and the open road, and start tearing down our walls.