Arizona Ballot Prop 109 – Hunting as a Right

It is a certainty that any government agency changes over time. The mission expands, changes, and sometimes is commandeered by a different constituency – often at odds with the original mission.

These ideas were probably in the minds of the authors of Prop 109 – the measure that, is passed by the people, would establish hunting as a constitutional right in the State of Arizona. The Arizona Department of Game and Fish was formed in 1929 to, well, manage game and fish. It was funded by the sale of licenses. Today, it manages “wildlife”, and in addition to license fees receives Heritage Fund money (until recently) from the state lottery.

A few years ago, Arizona Game and Fish was caught flatfooted when anti-hunting groups, through a ballot prop, banned trapping on public land – effectively ending trapping in Arizona. Whether or not one approves of trapping is irrelevant in regards to the point at hand. Hunting in Arizona now faced the subtle threat of Game and Fish receiving funding outside the hunting community, and the overt threat of the initiative process.

It should then be no surprise that people who wish to preserve hunting are responding in kind to the ballot prop threat – specifically, Prop 109. This, of course, has sent the anti-hunting crowd into a hissy fit. They are about to seen their weapon rendered much weaker, unless they defeat Prop 109.

The defeat of 109 is a problem. Most people are not all that concerned with hunting, nor do they have an aversion to it. They are certainly not going to get excited over defeating a referendum that will have no affect on them. The hunters, on the other hand, who feel under the gun (so to speak) will come out in droves to pass it. What to do?

Well, as luck would have it, there is a standard approach to getting disinterested people to go along. First, change the issue. Make it about “your voting rights”, a “power grab by politicians”, the “voting rights of citizens” – anything broad, scary, and different than the actual issue. the crowd these phrases in a pamphlet – I picked one up at a local vegetarian restaurant. By changing the subject to one with a broader appeal, they have a chance at defeating the measure.

Having broken the bonds of facts and truth regarding the nature of the measure, it is now easy to lie about the specifics. It has been said that “the best lie is the half-lie”. Here’s an example, “Management of wildlife practices would no longer be based on scientific expertise, but on partisan politics.” The implication is that Game and Fish will be subject to oversight by the legislature – which is true, and that this is a fundamental change – which is false, the legislature always exercised oversight of Game and Fish.

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are two:

Don’t Forget the Ballot Props!

On election day, we Arizonans will not only be choosing among the many candidates for office, but voting up or down on as many as ten ballot measures. While some may be as boring as determining for whom to vote for Mining Inspector, many are profoundly important and will affect our lives directly for years to come.

Here are my picks for most important. Vote “YES” on these.

Prop 106, Arizona Health Insurance Reform Amendment. A “yes” vote would bar any Arizonan from being forced into any healthcare plan, and it would secure the right of any Arizonan to purchase medical care on a fee for service basis. The addition of this amendment to the Arizona Constitution will present a challenge to recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which would force people to purchase approved insurance products – the “individual mandate”. So, now the “commerce clause” not only allows the federal government to control everything we do, but it will control us absolutely – whether we are doing anything or not. Even if you like the federal legislation, a vote for this ballot prop will allow the legal issues to be resolved in court.

Prop 107, Arizona Civil Rights Amendment. A “yes” vote would end discrimination based on race, sex, and ethnicity in government at all levels. It is important to understand that “affirmative action” programs, which will be eliminated under the law, are not “equal opportunity programs”. In fact, they are quite contradictory. The ugly underlying assumption is that some people, by virtue of their race, are inferior to others and are not capable of competing on an equal footing. If you believe that to be true, go ahead and create all the programs you want – just do not ask the government to be involved.

Prop 113, Arizona Save Our Secret Ballot Amendment. A “yes” vote would require secret ballots for public offices and referenda, and designations of employee representation. This is a nationwide movement inspired by the looming federal legislation known as “card check” which would allow employees to fill out a card to be collected, instead of a secret ballot. The purpose of “card check” is to make it easier for unions to organize workers. I am certain that it will make it easier – particularly with employees who do not want their representation. Clearly, the idea is to enable intimidation and cheating by labor unions. Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute makes the point: “‘We feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose.’ So wrote Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and 15 colleagues in a 2001 letter to the Mexican government. Why then is Miller sponsoring legislation, now the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act, that would eliminate the secret ballot for authorizing union representation in this country?” Even George McGovern (no right-winger here) is against this assault on the will of employees.

Prop 203, Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. A “yes” vote would allow Arizonans suffering from certain diseases to use small amount of marijuana medicinally without fear of arrest and prosecution. It is ironic that the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule One drug (morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine are Schedule Two), virtually preventing medical research, then justifies the classification by saying that there is no medical application. So, we are left with measures such as Prop 203 to allow medical use in the raw form. The bottom line, of course, is whether your mind and body belongs to you or to the government.

Prop 302, Arizona First Things First Program Repeal. A “yes” vote would repeal the First Things First program, which is an early childhood services program, and put it’s $324 million into the general fund. The money would then be used for “health and human services for children”. I will not bother with the argument that parents, not the government, should be raising children. This program did pass as a referendum, so the people do not agree with me. It is strange, however, that this middle class benefit is funded primarily by taxing lower income working people through a tobacco tax. This is part two of the plan to balance the budget, the first being the one cent sales tax increase. If Prop 302 fails, the legislature will cut other child services, some of which might actually help poor children.

Liberty Activists Celebrate a New Day

On July 29, some bills that passed the state Legislature and were signed by the governor became law. Included in these was SB 1070. Of course, there was a SB 1070-related protest, and counter-protest, downtown.

I like a good protest as much as anyone, but I had a celebration—of other laws going into effect—to attend elsewhere.

As I walked through Himmel Park, I ran into a friend. We chatted briefly, and I continued on my way. If my friend noticed the Glock model 21 pistol worn openly on my belt, he made no mention.

I soon came to a grove of trees near Treat Avenue, where 40 or so men and women were enjoying an all-American cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs—the works! Most were similarly armed.

I knew I had found the “Take Your Pistol for a Walk in the Park” party that I sought.

I saw the host of the party, liberty activist Ken Rineer, refilling the grills with dogs and burgers to keep up with the demand. It was in October 1996 that he met with Libertarian lawyer Ed Kahn and Tucson Police Department officers to have himself arrested. The purpose of the arrest was to create a case to challenge a recently enacted city ordinance that prohibited firearms in city parks—thus making the parks all the more attractive to robbers, rapists and the like.

Ken was recruited by Brassroots, a civil-rights organization that specializes in firearms issues, to risk heavy fines and jail time to take the city to court. The law was clearly on Ken’s side. The state of Arizona has a pre-emption statute that limits certain authority to the state government, including laws regarding firearms. Alas, courts being as they are in these modern times, Ken lost after the city appealed his initial victory, and the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

OK, I know that many of you are thinking, “What the heck is it with these gun nuts? Is it so important that they have their guns in the park?” First, let me point out that many of my fellow party guests are not, in fact, “gun nuts,” or even enthusiasts. In fact, were you to ask Ken why there are as many as three different twist rates in AR-15 rifles, I doubt he could tell you.

The firearms issue lends focus to the greater issue of liberty, which is the issue we all hold in common. It is true that you could say that possessing a gun in the park is not in itself all that important, just as you could say that where you sit on the bus is not all that important—but only if you were ignorant of the greater issue at hand.

Activism goes on. When it became fashionable to post “no firearms” signs in the windows of businesses, Brassroots was there to point out that while it is certainly the right of a business to ban guns from the premises, in doing so, those businesses would lose a large block of customers. Most, realizing that customers are more important than fashion, came around pretty quickly. Phil Murphy, a past president of Brassroots, recalled addressing the issue with a specialty retailer that sold erotic paraphernalia and clothing. Exotic dancers, who shop there for clothing, were made particularly vulnerable during their late-night shopping and were ready to make noise about it. This situation was presented to the store’s manager, who contacted the home office, and within 40 hours, the signs came down.

Charles Heller—a radio personality, the secretary of Arizona Citizens Defense League (AZCDL) and an all-round good guy—spoke of the accomplishments in which the AZCDL ( played a crucial role. Though it was an impressive list, the most relevant to today’s celebration was the state legislation that strengthened the pre-emption statute regarding guns and knives, and legislation authorizing “constitutional carry,” meaning that you could carry your weapon discreetly or otherwise without a permission slip from the government, as the United States Constitution and Arizona Constitution guarantee.

It is not often that liberty activists have cause to celebrate, or that Ken, Phil, Charles and others actually see positive outcomes resulting from their efforts. Yet on July 29, while political theater raged downtown, men and women peacefully celebrated in the park, and remembered a 14-year-long struggle.

Arizona “Clean elections” Law Challenge Goes to the Supreme Court

One philosophy holds that the best we can do for this imperfect world is set a few rules against force and fraud, and work to make it better as individuals. In practice, the world remains imperfect, but the aggregate of individual efforts creates a collection of benefits that is inconceivable by any one individual or committee.

Another philosophy holds that the world is imperfect, but with enough force and rules, the world can be ridded of most imperfections. In practice, the world remains imperfect—and many unforeseen and unintended consequences are created, most of which are bad.

A good example of the latter philosophy is Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, passed in 1998 by referendum. Many people thought that state elections were rife with imperfections, most of which centered around financing. It was thought that by controlling the money, the influence of “special interests” would be eliminated; voter participation would be increased; the field of candidates would be made larger; and that third-party participation would increase. These were the promises of the legislation.

In practice, of course, it turned out much differently. Voter participation has not changed, nor are there more candidates. The participation of third parties has remained the same. In the words of Sarah Fenske of the Phoenix New Times, “If the system’s not getting any cleaner, and the candidates aren’t getting any better, what’s the point?”

Yet it is not the failure (the “world remains imperfect”) that should give one pause; rather, it is the “unforeseen and unintended consequences” that assault some of our basic liberties, like the right to free speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that political contributions are a form of speech. So what happens to that right when it collides with “Clean Elections”? Well, let’s say that you wanted to express your support of Rano Singh Sidhu in his 2006 race against Dean Martin for state treasurer. You may consider cutting him a check, but wait—he signed up for “Clean Elections” (candidate welfare), and cannot accept your support. Instead, he’s getting $121,253 from the government; that’s not a lot of speech when you’re looking at 2.5 million voters.

So, next time, you say, “I will only support a traditional candidate, not a welfare candidate.” You cut a check to your favorite traditional candidate—and he returns it, explaining that he is already at the level of the welfare candidate’s funding, and any more money he receives will be “matched” by the state and given to his opponent.

It’s actually worse. The “matching” of funds not only applies to the traditional campaign, but to independent groups who speak in favor of the traditional candidate.

My favorite example is the traditional candidate who is in a race with two welfare candidates: Every contribution over the base amount goes to both candidates. So if you send your candidate $100, a total of $200 ($100 each) goes to your candidate’s opponents.

Is this nuts or what? Fortunately, the Institute for Justice just got a break from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding their suit against the matching-funds provision (McComish v. Bennett). After a favorable decision from the U.S. District Court, it was reversed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; then the U.S. Supreme Court not only agreed to hear the case, but reinstated an injunction against any matching-funds payments. As one of the lead attorneys in the case, Bill Maurer, said, “The purpose of this law was to limit individuals’ speech by limiting their spending. But the First Amendment does not permit the government to restrain Americans from robustly exercising the right of free speech.” Amen.

It’s often said that there is too much money in electoral politics. What does that mean—too much speech? Too much information? Too much engagement? How much is too much? As George Will pointed out when referring to the 2008 presidential election, “Americans volunteering to fund the dissemination of speech about candidates for the nation’s most consequential office will contribute $1 billion, which is about half the sum they spend annually on Easter candy.”

The whole notion of controlling speech, or that too much speech is bad, offends both our Constitution and our culture. “Clean Elections” should be sent to the ash bin of history.

Arizona Education, Is It All Just About the Money?

Arizona is part of a group of about eight states that are 49th out of 50 in education spending. Others include Florida, Illinois, Idaho, Louisiana, Utah, and Pennsylvania. How can that happen? It’s all in how you combine the data sets. Anyway, the point is that states are competing to be at the bottom. Why is being at the bottom better than being at the top? There are few better arguments for increasing spending than being at the bottom. It’s all about the money. The stated goal of increased spending is to improve the quality of education, but does quality vary concomitantly with spending?

Here is what the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) says in its Nation’s Report Card about 4th grade reading achievement, “In 2009, the average score of fourth-grade students in Arizona was 210. This was lower than the average score of 220 for public school students in the nation. The average score for students in Arizona in 2009 (210) was not significantly different from their average score in 2007 (210) and was not significantly different from their average score in 1992 (209).” 4th grade reading is critical because when the skill is substandard, students tend not to catch up, they can’t read their textbooks in middle and high school, they become frustrated, act out, and drop out.

Now let’s compare Arizona’s spending to our rather flat level of achievement. According to Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, public school per student spending went from $6,497 in 2000 to $9,698 in 2009. After adjusting for inflation, the net increase is slightly over 20 per cent. Again, the increase is the per student rate – the total increase is much more. There is a bright side to this situation. Achievement levels are, after all, not going down; and we are not alone, California has also increased per student expenditures with virtually no change in outcomes. So, what is the money doing? Who knows. The important lesson is that something is stuck, and money is not shaking it loose.

If money does not have the desired affect, what will? Florida, which has many of the same demographic challenges as Arizona and California, has made some dramatic strides in education. NAEP scoring placed Florida comparable to Arizona in that critical area of 4th grade reading during most of the 1990’s. In 1998, Florida took off and is now scoring well above Arizona. The success has been disproportionally enjoyed by Hispanic and Afro-American students. Hispanic students went from a score of 192 in 1994 to 218 in 1996 while Arizona’s total students hovered around 205-210 during the same period. Florida’s Afro-American students went from 181 in 1994 to 208 in 2007, matching Arizona’s total students.

Yikes! What did Florida do? Florida took a two pronged approach. It instituted programs that allowed parental choice, and rated individual schools based on performance through a program of high-stakes testing. A synergy developed between the principles of choice and accountability. The performance data available to the parents helped them to make good choices which led to the better schools expanding, and the failing schools contracting. This improved the quality of education across the state, which is reflected in student performance.

Meanwhile, Arizona has made some modest gains in the area of choice. It has one of the best charter school laws in the country. Charter schools, along with magnet schools, fill the choice bill. They tend to be diverse, are over-represented in schools that excel, and are under-represented in schools that are failing. Parents tend to be much happier with charter schools since they can choose the one that matches their educational vision.

Alas, accountability is another story. Arizona developed the AIMS test to ensure that graduating students were educated to a high school level, and to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind program. The test was “dumbed-down” over time, primarily by continuously lowering the cut-score. The “cut-score” is the minimum score required to pass. In 2003, the cut-score for 8th grade reading was 73% for “proficient”, in 2004 it was lowered to 59%. In this way, the state was able to show improvement without actually having to achieve it.

Speaking of choices, Arizonans have a big one to make: do we want to continue spending more and more money for the same level of mediocrity, or do we want to fight the status quo, and those who appear willing to do anything to maintain it?

Prop 100 Sales Tax Increase

I forget exactly when it was. I think it may have been 1999, the last time the state sales tax was increased for education. There were a number of news stories reporting that teachers had to purchase pens and paper for their students with their own cash because the school districts were so starved for money. Such a cynical ploy cured me of any misplaced trust I may have had in the local school districts.

Now it is 2010, and state revenues have plummeted in excess of thirty per cent, taxes must be raised – in other words, it’s time to pimp the school children again. This time the legislature, at the request of the governor, put a proposition to add a “temporary” increase of eighteen per cent to the state sales tax – an additional penny on the dollar. It is called Prop 100, and will be on the May 18, 2010 special ballot. Here’s the official descriptive title:

Temporarily increases the state transaction privilege (sales) and use tax by one cent per dollar from June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2013 for the purpose of funding primary and secondary education, health and human services and public safety.

The amount of the increase is perfect because one can throw the terms “penny”, and “one cent increase” around a lot and it sounds very small indeed. Actually, it is estimated that around $900,000,000.00 will be drained from the job creating private sector in fiscal 2011.
What will this mean for schools? Perhaps nothing, there is nothing in Prop 100 that says the education budget must be increased, only that funds from the tax will be applied to education. They may very well be applied to education, which would free-up money that went to education from other sources, which can then be spent elsewhere. Prop 100 does not make the budget, the legislature does. Tom Jenney of Americans for Prosperity Arizona Chapter was one of the first people to notice this. He ran the idea past a lawyer who confirmed the possibility. This fact is tacitly admitted by proponents who warn that the university system will loose $100,000,000.00 in state contributions if Prop 100 does not pass. Note that the university system is not part of “primary and secondary education, health and human services and public safety.” The $100 mil would be part of that freed-up money I mentioned. So really, it is a general fund tax that is being promoted with imagined threats to children.

Proponents also claim that Arizona per pupil spending is near the bottom of state rankings. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona is 48th in per pupil state government expenditures at $6,472.00 as of 2006. That is a fact; it is also a deception. The number and rank refer to state government contributions only, not total expenditures. When you add in other sources of funds, like the federal government, you discover that the total expenditures are over $9,000,000.00 per pupil, and close to the middle of the national pack.

Speaking of rankings, here’s an interesting fact that appeared in a Goldwater Institute press release dated January 27, 2010, “Arizona has an unusually large share of non-teaching public school employees. Teachers make up slightly less than half of on-site staff in public schools, placing Arizona fourth worst among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in teachers as a share of on-site public school staff.” Maybe now is not such a bad time to make some staff reductions while keeping the teachers. Steve Voeller of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club reports, “According to the Department of Education, total state aid to education increased 40 percent from $3.2 billion in 2004 to $4.5 billion in 2008. Student population plus inflation increased 25 percent during that same time.”

Prop 100 is a general fund tax increase which will not balance the budget. It will not save schools from some imagined financial disaster. Propagandists waving signs that say “My Child is Worth a Penny”, and “One Cent Will Save a Teacher”, should be ashamed. Maybe the education establishment should try to deal with the recession like the rest of the adults.

The economy will recover, though that recovery may be delayed by increasing taxes now.

Individuals and States Gear Up to Fight Obamacare

America took a big lurch to the left in March with the passage of the U.S. Senate health care reform bill. The president and congressional leaders overcame broad bipartisan opposition, and overwhelming opposition by the people (a CNN poll showed 59% opposed, with 39% in favor), to get it on the books. Our country now looks less like America, and more like the countries of Europe.

Within minutes of the signing ceremony, no fewer than thirteen states filed suit in federal court challenging the new law on constitutional grounds. Most of these challenges involve the individual mandate, which requires everyone to purchase a government approved insurance plan.

There are two prongs to this challenge. One is to assert a limit on the tortured interpretation of the commerce clause – any individual has standing here. The other asserts the authority of existing state laws that protect the rights of individuals to make their own arrangements for medical treatment – in this case, the several states have stepped into the arena adding a claim of state jurisdiction. Good times!

The seeds of the state level resistance actually germinated right here in Arizona! Concerned over the expansion of government run medical programs, a Phoenician orthopedic surgeon named Eric Novack, and his colleague Dr. Stephen Singer, drafted an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee two things, and two things only: 1, that all Arizonans have the right to spend their own money to obtain legal health care services; 2, that all Arizonans have the right to not participate in any health care system, of any type.

They drafted a referendum that appeared on the 2008 ballot. The effort was well outspent by special interests, and was defeated by a mere one half of one per cent of the vote. Now here is the interesting part. The same concern existed in other states, and the language of the Arizona referendum was used in thirty-six of them for similar laws. Some were constitutional amendments, as in Arizona; others were statute laws passed by state legislatures, as in Virginia.

Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Dr. Novack and his persistent team presented their idea to the Arizona legislature in 2009, which referred it to the 2010 ballot as an initiative. Some of the wording was modified to allay concerns held by objecting special interests, including the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid agency, which claimed that the referendum would somehow interfere with its ability to provide benefits.

The passage of the Senate health care bill, commonly known as “Obamacare”, will surely generate much enthusiasm for the initiative, known as the “Arizona Health Care Freedom Act.” In fact, If the Arizona constitution outlaws the forcing of citizens into unwanted contracts or purchases, it will pose a direct challenge to one of the more odious aspects of Obamacare. The issue will be resolved in court, probably in the Supreme Court of the United States since there may be as many thirty seven states challenging the mandate. When the federal circuit courts of appeal arrive at disparate opinions, the Supreme Court usually steps in to resolve the issue.

These cases could inspire court challenges to other aspects of Obamacare.

The next congress will no doubt address Obamacare. Though president Obama would veto a total repeal, as more of it comes to light, lawmakers could repeal the pieces that will be found particularly unpopular. This huge push-back, inspired by the huge overreach of the legislation, may turn the tide of increasing government size and control.

If president Obama and congressional leaders wanted a fuzzy-bunny bipartisan bill, they could have had one. There are many Republicans who would have gone along with anything short of handing over the industry, but they were shut out. Ironically, Democrat’s problem was not the Republicans, there were not enough of them to matter. Their problem was fellow Democrats who knew that a vote for the wildly unpopular bill would threaten their re-election chances, even in many of the “safe” districts. Eventually, through bribes, threats of primary challenges and ethics complaints, they got it done, and Nancy Pelosi giggled through media interviews.

Japanese military officers were giddy after the successful attack on Pearl Harbor. The great Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who saw the big picture, said the following after the attack, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Yep, the Americans are now awake. It’s not over.

University of Arizona Clings to an Archaic Understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Though the University of Arizona is an institution of higher learning, it appears that the students and faculty are decades behind in regards to the cultural and legal progress of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA).

It was back in 1987 that the state of Florida took the lead in passing a new type of concealed carry law. Concealed carry permitting laws that existed prior to that time were actually remnants from the Jim Crow era; permit applications had to be approved by either the local sheriff, judge, or magistrate with no provision for appeal – good luck if you were a man or woman of color. The new permit laws were written so that anyone who met the criteria, “shall” be issued a permit. When the word “shall” is used in the law, it means it must happen, no discretion here, no denying people of color, political adversaries, mother’s-in-law, etc.

Opponents of such laws warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, they never happened. The idea caught on, and Arizona passed a similar bill in 1994. Opponents of the law warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, you know the rest. The phenomenon swept the country, and now 45 of the 50 states have “shall issue” laws of some type.

Intrigued by this wave of new laws, research scientist John Lott (University of Maryland, College Park, University of Chicago, Yale University, and the Wharton School studied crime statistics from vitually all the counties in the United States. He published the results of this work in the book More Guns, Less Crime. According to Lott, enactment of such laws leads to a significant reduction in violent crime, with a slight increase in property crime. Oddly, Lott’s research received no serious challenged by opponents; rather, they generally chose to attack him personally. Ad hominem attacks are like shooting heroine, it feels really good when you’re doing it, but regular use makes you dull, frustrated, and hollow.

The next milestone was the 2008 United States Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v Heller. The court ruled that outright bans on firearms are unconstitutional because the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an individual right. The case was followed by a wave of challenges to onerous restrictions on gun ownership.

It is interesting to note that the Obama administration, and the Democrat controlled congress, have made no attempt – to my knowledge, not even a mention – of any “gun control” initiatives or goals. Actions not taken are as telling as those that are.

So, both the people, and current legal thought, have evoled into a much more liberal (in the classic sense) view of the right ot keep and bear arms. Consistent with this new enlightenment, the Arizona Senate introduced SB 1011. According to the fact sheet, the bill, “Allows a faculty member with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW permit) to possess a concealed firearm on university or college grounds.” This seems like a rather mild adjustment in these enlightened times, particularly in light of the fact that the universities would still have a more oppressive environment that the state as a whole.

Alas, the University of Arizona is a couple of decades behind the progressive (in the literal sense) thought of today. It became a hot topic with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA). At a regular meeting, one day after the bill’s introduction, members showed up ready to pass a resolution against the bill. The Arizona Daily Wildcat reported Senator Daniel Wallace saying, “The overwhelming majority of students I’ve talked to are against having guns on campus,” and, “The faculty shares that opinion.”

Really? From where did this archaic mindset come? I think that there is a clue in Wallace’s statement, “The faculty shares that opinion.” Could it be that, for many faculty members, time stopped somewhere back in the late 60’s or 70’s when they entered academia as a career? Are students learning to pay attention, apply thought and reason, or are they being indoctrinated in politically correct thought that has been long abandoned by everyone from the courts, to the politicians, to the people?

We are well into the 21st century. For the benefit of the students, I hope the universities will decide to join us.

True Charitable Giving

The devastation that is now Haiti has revealed the character of both people and nations. In particular, it reveals the economic and cultural superiority of America.

The Haitian situation is special in that there is no single problem that when cured will allow the country to move forward. There is no country left to move forward. The government has collapsed both figuratively and physically – most of the government buildings lie in rubble. President Obama got it right when he sent in the United States military to establish enough order for the relief services to function. He should be praised for acting unilaterally, without concern for the sensitivities of the United Nations, or anyone else for that matter. The world is not doing it. We are doing it, and the world is helping.

For the most part, members of the European Union are cutting checks. Cutting checks is helpful, but somebody has to go in and get it done. America is doing that collectively with hospital ships, cargo planes, and soldiers. America is also doing that privately with retired soldiers, some medical supplies, and private donations – I’m talking about Team Rubicon ( Team Rubicon is a group of retired soldiers, doctors, nurses, and others who organized themselves, flew to the Domincan Republic, crossed the border into Haiti, and is providing emergency medical treatment to people. Private citizens, privately funded, getting it done. It’s an American thing. Who else does this?

While I have none of the qualifications for Team Rubicon, I wanted to at least make my own monetary donation. I saw that the White House set up a site for donations to the federal government effort. That struck me as extremely odd. How will our donations make a difference in the government’s operation? Anyway, I picked Food for the Poor (, a Catholic charity that has been feeding people in the Caribbean for decades, and has a special Haitian donation stream. I prefer religious charities since they rarely receive government support, and often see their work as a calling. The problem with government support is that it almost always come with strings that have little to do with the mission, and everything to do with control.

I know that anti-Christian bigotry is fashionable these days, so if you can’t bring yourself to donate to a religious group, and you understand the futility of giving to the government, I have a solution! Richard Dawkins, an atheists’ champion, has started an online charity called Non-Believers Giving Aid ( All the relief money will go to organizations with no religious affiliation.

While I believe government has a role in catastrophic emergency response, I think that ongoing charity should been in private hands. Locally, I apply the same guidelines as I did for Haiti. I picked the Gospel Rescue Mission (no government support) for helping the homeless, and I’m looking at the affiliated Crisis Pregnancy Center for pregnant women who need help. Don’t worry, if you are a secular humanist, there are a number of organizations that are not religious and receive city government money.

The problem with having the government handle our charitable giving for us is the same as having the government handle any of our adult responsibilities. It destroys our character, makes us weak, and removes meaning from our lives. If a government picks a charity to support on our behalf, the charity benefits from the money, but you do not benefit from an act of giving, you do not participated in life. If, on the other hand, you voluntarily take the money your were about to spend on those Green Day concert tickets and give it instead to a local charity, you would benefit from making that choice. It would be a demonstration of your character through your actions, and an indication of your evolving taste in music.

The fertility rate in European social democracies varies from 1.6 to 1.8. In America, it is 2.1, about replacement rate. What does that mean? It means that Europeans have given up on the future, given up on life. Raising children is one more of life’s burdens that they can avoid. Why work hard, take risks, and sacrifice when you can sit in an outdoor cafe on the Left bank, drink coffee, smoke Gauloise cigarettes, and complain about those greedy, unsophisticated Americans?

Am I suggesting that you cancel your iPad order and give the money to charity? Heck no! Work hard, buy stuff, and give money away! This is America!

Tucson City Council moves meeting to Civic Center, bracing for big crowd

On Tuesday, January 5, the regular session of the Tucson City Council was move to the Civic Center in anticipation of large protest crowds. The agenda that day included the discussion of budget options, including cuts to public safety and a new “Landlord’s Tax”.

Many people from groups representing police, fire, and renters were there. Volunteers from Tucson Tea Party were selling T-shirts. Trent Humphries, of Tucson Tea Party, was there chatting with people. He said that during the study session earlier that day, Ward VI councilman Steve Kozachic, with budget book in hand, offered a number of specific items in the one to two million dollar category that could be cut from the budget immediately. Humphries also reported that both public safety cuts and the “Landlord’s Tax” were now “off the table.”

The abandonment of the public safety cuts and the new tax appeared to take much of the energy out of the crowd. While many people milled around outside the hall, there were few signs and little excitement among the protestors.

In related news, a committee was formed to recall mayor Bob Walkup and councilmen Regina Romero and Karin Uhlich. The committee includes Umberto Lopez, local developer and investor, and the Tucson Tea Party. Papers are to be filed January 6, 2010.