Archive for December, 2010

Victory for firearms preemption in New York

Posted by on Dec 31 2010 | guns

(David Kopel)

Nassau County, on Long Island, New York, enacted an ordinance which bans handguns in non-traditional colors, such as pink. The ordinance declares such firearms to be “deceptively colored.”

On December 28, the Appellate Division, Second Department (the intermediate court of appeals) ruled 4–0 that the Nassau ban is preempted by New York State’s handgun licensing law. While the state law, Penal Law § 400.00, is not explicitly preemptive, the Appellate Division found implicit field preemption because: 1. The licensing law is detailed, and describes what kinds of handguns may not be licensed. 2. The state statute declares that a license shall be valid in every county of the state, but Nassau County’s law prohibited licensed persons from other counties from entering Nassau County with their licensed colored handguns. “In effect, the amended ordinance places a restriction on all licenses granted throughout the state, and deprives all licenses that were lawfully granted to owners of “deceptively colored” firearms of their stated benefits. If each of New York’s 62 counties enacted ordinances that placed additional restrictions on licenses, as the amended ordinance effectively does, the uniformity in firearm licensing that the Legislature intended would be destroyed.”

Congratulations to longtime Nassau activist Alan Chwick for his victory in Chwick v. Mulvey.

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How Many Bureaucrats Does It Take To Make A Bottle Of Booze In Colorado?

Posted by on Dec 30 2010 | Economics, Economy, Politics, PPC

Colorado Public Radio this morning aired a story on craft distilleries popping up around Colorado.  What really stands out is the astonishing number of bureaucratic hoops these risk-taking entrepreneurs have to jump through.  As CPR’s Megan Verlee reports, owners of a craft vodka distillery in Greeley, Colorado “spent two years filing applications before they ever tasted their first batch of vodka.”

Two years worth of appeasing government bureaucracy to launch a small start-up?  It gets worse, as Verlee continues:

Distilling without a federal permit is a felony.  Remember moonshine?  They’ve been keeping count of all the various federal, state and local agencies they’ve had to register with; to date, thirteen.

Give a listen here.  An interesting and inspiring story of the American entrepreneurial spirit mixed with a maddening example of the contemporary over-regulated, free-market stifling American nanny-state.

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Take THAT NYT Editor!

Posted by on Dec 30 2010 | Health Care, PPC, U.S. Constitution

Our newest senior fellow Professor Rob Natelson had to tell it like it is to the New York Times in this letter to the editor published December 20th:

To the Editor:

I’d like make a few observations about your article about the proposed “repeal amendment.”

First, constitutional doubts about the health care law have always been widespread and mainstream, not “fringe.”

Second, the repeal amendment, allowing state veto of Congressional laws, is only one of several curative constitutional amendments being promoted to return Congress to fiscal sanity and constitutional limits. These include balanced budget requirements, single-subject rules and debt limits.

Third, it is not necessary for Congress to approve proposed amendments. Amendments may be proposed by a “convention for proposing amendments” at the behest of two-thirds of the states, on topics specified by them. Convention proposals, like Congressional proposals, require ratification by three-quarters of the states.

The convention method was included specifically for use when Congress becomes dysfunctional or abusive. Accordingly, most promoters of curative amendments now advocate employing that method rather than trying to persuade Congress to reform itself.

Robert G. Natelson
Lakewood, Colo., Dec. 20, 2010

Ohhhhh burn.

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Allow Me to Reflect on the Last 4 Years

Posted by on Dec 29 2010 | Citizens' Budget, PPC, supreme court, TABOR, Taxes, Transparency

In case you hadn’t noticed, Governor-for-not-too-much-longer Bill Ritter has been making the rounds with the media in order to “reflect” on his 4 years in office. I figured since he gets to do it, why not me? So let’s take a trip down memory lane as I reflect on Governor Ritter’s 4 years in office…

First I have to say that Bill Ritter is a good person who truly loves Colorado and did what he thought was in Colorado’s best interest.  He is one of the very few politicians I would trust to babysit my kids.  I’m just not happy about the energy bills he is going to make my kids pay.

TABOR: Where do we start with this one. To put it lightly, during the Ritter administration, TABOR was re-worded. The interpretation of our constitutionally protected TABOR amendment by our Supreme Court was a simple piece of advice: don’t say “tax,” just say “fee.” And that’s exactly what the Governor did. He increased our car registration “fees” to the tune of about $250 million a year. He also poked a hole in TABOR allowing fees to slide through via the hidden hospital tax fee. He then raised our mil levy “fees,” soda “fees,” “fees” on paper products, “fees” on Internet sales, “fees’ and “fees’ and “fees.” Why all this “fee” stuff? Simple. By raising our “fees,” he side-stepped the voter approval required of all tax increases. Brilliant!

The “New Energy Economy:” The left correctly despises corporate welfare, but somehow manages to overlook it when it comes to subsidizing “green” energy. How many taxpayer dollars have been confiscated and used to prop up solar and wind companies here? Not to mention all the goodies our state government extends in order to bribe green energy companies to locate in Colorado from out of town. And how can we forget the green energy mandates? Ritter helped push through legislation that upped the renewable energy standard from 20% to 30% by the year 2020. That means a whole 30% of our state’s energy production MUST be from feel-good sources by 2020.  And “renewable”doesn’t include hydro or nuke, go figure. Of course Ritter will be long gone by the time 2020 rolls around and the cost of our energy has skyrocketed.

Oil and Gas: Along with awful solar and wind energy subsidization programs, the Ritter administration helped push through rules that made drilling for oil and gas much more difficult. That was Ritter’s energy policy in a nutshell: punish the cheap and reliable energy sources while subsidizing the inefficient and expensive forms of energy. That way, everyone except green energy special interests lose.

Transparency Hater: When State Rep. BJ Nikkel introduced transparency legislation that would shine a much needed light on government spending, Governor Ritter worked his tail off to try to bury it. He attempted to kill the legislation before it saw the light of day. When that didn’t work, he created a horribly ineffective and user-unfriendly website that the Chinese government wouldn’t even pretend was transparent.

Hollywood Ritter: Let’s not forget that the good Guv spent more than $200,000 of our money on TV, photographs and videos of himself doing things. What things? I dunno, things that governors typically do. Perhaps Carly Simon might have something to say about that…

Enemy of Petitioning Your Government: The Ritter administration was no friend to the citizen initiative process. He signed into law House Bill 1326 which makes the petition process accessible only to the wealthy. In fact, even though our Health Care Choice Amendment lost on election day, I am still being sued over it by the lawyer minions of the left. You gotta love a law that lets the loser of a ballot measure get sued personally for exercising his Constitutional right to petition his government.  Thanks Bill!

Expanding Health Care Welfare State: The Denver Post seems to believe that Ritter’s legacy won’t be his massive green energy initiatives that has resulted in the “new energy economy,” but rather, it will be his expansion of the health care welfare state. The Post writes, “Health care advocates credit the Ritter administration with doing more to expand public insurance rolls than any other governor.” While other states are trying to get out of federal Medicaid arrangements because they are fast-track to bankruptcy, our governor pushes hundreds of thousands of new people into it! Don’t believe that the Medicaid rolls are a state budget buster, take a look at the health care section of our Citizens’ Budget.

That’s about all the reminiscing I can handle for one day. It’s time to look forward to 2011 and the brand new Hickenlooper administration. Good luck John. Remember, if you need any help with balancing the budget, we’ve got the perfect resource for you.

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What’s In Store for Politics in 2011?

Posted by on Dec 29 2010 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Quick, hide your wallet and your liberties, the new year is just around the corner and that means a new legislature and governor in Colorado. Tune in to Devil’s Advocate this Friday, Dec. 31st as I am joined by Denver Post political reporter Jessica Fender and Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen for a look forward at what’s in store for Colorado in the 2011 political year. That’s this Friday, 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12. Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30 PM.

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Another “economic development” fiasco

Posted by on Dec 28 2010 | Economic LIberties, Economics, Economy, Government Largess, Politics, PPC

A story in today’s Denver Post illustrates the waste in many, if not most, of government’s so-called “economic development” handouts.

In 2008, the City of Aurora, Colorado gave a theater company a $250,000, fully-forgivable urban-renewal loan. The company promised to bring 12,000 people a year into what the city, in its planning wisdom, had decreed would be an arts district. The company further promised to offer public performances at least 40 weekends a year for seven years. Naturally, the theater company also rented space – probably too much space or at least at too much rent, because the tab was $7500 a month in the East Colfax Avenue district.

Fast forward to now: The company hasn’t paid its rent since April, 2009. The landlord cut the rent in half, but the company didn’t pay that either. It also hasn’t paid the actors or the royalties for the plays it has produced – not that it has produced so many: The Post tells us that this year the company put on fewer than half of the plays promised.

The tragedy here is not merely that the company is folding. There is much more to it than that. Because people tend to be more careful with their own money than with other people’s money, if the $250,000 had been left with its real owners in the private sector, chances are it would have been used in more productive ways. Instead, the true owners of the money have lost $250,000 and the opportunities it would have brought. The actors, landlord, and others have largely wasted their time and funds on a failed enterprise, when they might otherwise have won more success for themselves and those they serve. And there has been a very human, non-financial toll as well – as readers of the story can see.

And what about all those politicians who show up for “economic development” ribbon-cutting ceremonies? They almost always are curiously absent when the subsidized enterprises go belly-up.

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Freeze, World Drug Police!

Posted by on Dec 28 2010 | Drug Policy, Government Largess, PPC

The New York Times has a disturbing story on mission creep by the DEA in the disastrous war on drugs. From the Times:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

The dramatic growth in the size and scope of the American drug war bureaucracy is actually a solid example of how big, intrusive government is both perpetuated and expanded.

In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act, which consolidated and updated all previous federal drug laws. Part of this legislation was the Controlled Substances Act, which remains the legal framework for the contemporary war on drugs.

In 1973, Congress created the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, consolidating the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; the new agency also included agents from the U.S. Customs Service and the Central Intelligence Agency. The 1973 DEA had fewer than 1,500 special agents and a budget of around $75 million.

In 2009, the DEA had over 5,200 special agents and its budget was over $2.6 billion. Moreover, as the Times article continues, “The D.E.A. now has 87 offices in 63 countries and close partnerships with governments that keep the Central Intelligence Agency at arm’s length.”

In other words, American taxpayers are now the proud owners of the world’s drug police force, and then some.

But the DEA is just one part of a vast, and ever-expanding American drug war bureaucracy. As Independence Institute research director Dave Kopel and I describe in a 2005 monograph for the Liberal Institute of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Potsdam, Germany):

In 1989, President George W. Bush created the cabinet level Office of National
Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to oversee and coordinate U.S. drug policy. In charge
of the new agency is a „Drug Czar.“ In the United States – a constitutional republic
– a high level government official in charge of a powerful internal law enforcement
agency is referred to by the same term as an absolute Russian tyrant…The U.S. Justice Department operates its own drug intelligence agency.

The new Department of Homeland security, created in response to the Sept.
11th terrorist attacks, devotes considerable resources to fighting drugs rather than
fighting terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Border Patrol,
all of which are heavily involved in narcotics interdiction and enforcement.
The U.S. Department of State has a Bureau of International Law Enforcement
and Narcotics Affairs.

For fiscal year 2005, the ONDCP is scheduled to distribute over $12,000,000,000
to a variety of federal agencies-above and beyond the agencies’ own budgets-for
the drug war, including the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, both the
Justice and State Departments.

In addition, the ONDCP conducts a public relations advertising campaigns
against drug users, and against citizen efforts to change American drug policies.
One television commercial claims that Americans who smoke marijuana are helping

The federal government organizes and leads multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency
narcotics task forces combining local and state police agencies throughout the
United States. Just in Colorado (a state with less than 2% of the U.S. population),
there are at least 20 such task forces operating. Thus, the federal government
takes a lead role in directing state and local law enforcement of state and local
drug laws. Such federal control is contrary to the American Constitution, which,
as James Madison explained, includes the principle that state and local law enforcement
would be independent of the federal government.

The domestic federal drug war budget is over $20,000,000,000 dollars today;
add in state and local spending and the total exceeds $40,000,000,000.
To put this in perspective, the average monthly Social Security retirement
check in the U.S. in 1972 was $177. Presently, the payment averages slightly more
than $900 a month. If, however, Social Security benefits had increased at the
same rate as drug war spending, today’s check would be around $30,000 a month.

For an in-depth look at the consequences (both to American taxpayers and citizens of other countries) of being the world drug police, check out the chapter “A Foreign Policy Disaster” in the book, “The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War” (Accurate Press, 2004). Also co-authored by myself and Dave Kopel.

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Legislators: Embrace Us Please

Posted by on Dec 27 2010 | Citizens' Budget, Economics, PPC

Like a beautiful girl who just got a mani, pedi, and a new haircut, our Citizens’ Budget is getting noticed. Take for example the Colorado Springs Gazette editorial a few weeks ago. The Gazette encouraged “all legislators, mayors, city leaders and county commissioners throughout Colorado to study the Citizens’ Budget.”

The newest media outlet to show the Citizens’ Budget some love is the Grand Junction Sentinel. In an article about the GOP aiming to trim the state budget, the Sentinel cites our Citizens’ Budget as a source of inspiration for the state’s GOP:

Several Republicans are embracing a new report released by the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank. Called “Citizen’s Budget: Road Map for Sustainable Government in Colorado,” it contains several proposals GOP lawmakers expect to introduce next session, including rolling back Medicaid eligibility requirements and repealing spending mandates for K-12 education.

Indeed, our Citizens’ Budget outlines a pathway to a sustainable state budget that does not need to rely on accounting tricks or tax hikes to balance out at the end of each fiscal year. Of course when you make bold suggestions about the budget and about fiscal policy in general, you will inevitably get detractors and naysayers. State rep Mark Ferrandino plays that role beautifully. He says,

There were so many factual errors in that report that it was hard to take serious. A lot of the ideas in that report didn’t actually save the general fund any money, and there were other options that forwarded their ideology but didn’t solve the budget problem, either.

In case you didn’t know where Rep. Ferrandino was coming from, take a peek at what term he uses for our budget deficit in the article: a “revenue shortfall.” In other words, the state is not receiving enough of our money. No, it’s obviously not spending too much. It’s simply not taking enough. Wow. If that doesn’t speak volumes about his ideology, I don’t know what will.

Meanwhile, we are loving the media attention our Citizens’ Budget project has generated so far. Keep it coming. I can’t wait until the next time I get to read about our “factual errors.” If Rep. Ferrandino, or anyone else for that matter, can point out what we got wrong in the Citizens’ Budget, we’d love to hear about it – over drinks of course.

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HSBC provides propaganda and banking services for the Iranian tyrants

Posted by on Dec 27 2010 | Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post article, “A bank that proudly does business in Iran,” explains it all. As a result, I just called HSBC to cancel my credit card.

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Merry Christmas!

Posted by on Dec 25 2010 | PPC, Purely Personal

It’s tough working at a free market think tank, especially when it comes to the holidays. Here at the Independence Institute, we wanted to put on our own version of the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. One problem though. Everyone wanted to play Ebenezer Scrooge.

Merry Christmas from all of us at the Independence Institute!

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