Getting the Cling of Word Press

I’m thrilled that I switched to Word Press (installed on the server I use) to run my web page. It’s truly remarkable software. I would recommend it, and nothing else, to those starting a new blog. It is such a different online world from when I started “blogging” in 1998! (It wasn’t actually “blogging” back then, because the term hadn’t yet been invented, assuming Wikipedia correctly reviews the matter.)

Soon after switching to Word Press, I got deluged with spam comments. So I turned on moderation. (Others I know installed Disqus to handle comments, but I dislike adding anything that requires users to set up yet another account.)

So now I get “only” a handful of spam comments each day. Still, it’s a little odd, given that I moderate all comments and don’t find it remarkably difficult to weed out the spam.

I must wonder who it is presenting these comments for my moderation. Consider the following:

You actually make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be really one thing that I feel I would by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m having a look ahead to your subsequent publish, I will attempt to get the cling of it!

I’m afraid I don’t quite get the cling of what these spammers hope to accomplish. But perhaps I need merely look ahead to the spammers’ subsequent comment. Will it be submitted to this very post?

Coloradans Rally Against ObamaCare, SCOTUS Ruling

Today around two hundred Coloradans rallied at the state capitol in Denver to protest ObamaCare and the Supreme Court decision upholding the individual mandate under the Congressional taxing authority.

Read Tim Hoover’s article over at the Denver Post—then check back here for the most important information (which Hoover ignored). I refer to the talks by Dr. Jill Vecchio (shown in the photo) and constitutional scholar Rob Natelson, the video of which is embedded below.

Vecchio explained that ObamaCare forces doctors to violate the Hippocratic Oath:

Natelson, one of the leading experts on the original meaning of the Constitution, argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling constitutes sophistry:

Below are a few additional images from the rally; see my Picasa album for more. (You’ll notice that I posted the photos as Creative Commons.)

Bob Beauprez meets Vecchio:

Bill Faulkner and Jason Letman:

Felix Diawuoh, an immigrant from Ghana:

Jeff Crank, Colorado director for Americans for Prosperity (the group hosting the rally):

More soon!

Coloradans Lead the Fight for Liberty in Medicine

Yes, I’m disappointed by today’s ObamaCare ruling by the Supreme Court. (You can find my further remarks over at The Objective Standard blog.) I am not terribly surprised by the ruling; John Roberts was merely following today’s common conservative legal theory to the effect that the Supreme Court should do whatever backflips are necessary to jam congressional legislation into the framework of the Constitution. (I’ll have more to say about this later.)

Here, I wanted to first point out that this is hardly the end of the fight, and second thank those Coloradans who have played such an important part in the fight to establish liberty in healthy care.

This is not the time for defeatism, for disillusionment, for pessimism, or for sulking. This is the time to stoke one’s motivation and help rally the lovers of liberty to the cause of freedom in medicine.

I think the Supreme Court erred in its judgment today. But the Supreme Court defines the limits of Congressional action, not its ideal state. Just because the Court allows it, doesn’t mean Congress must enact it.

Now the battle must move to the cultural arena—where it has always been fought at the most fundamental level. In a way, today’s ruling brings a certain clarity to the issue, for who can deny that we face a basic choice between liberty in medicine and government-controlled medicine? Either the individual is in control of his own life, his own health, his own choices, his own body, or the government is.

The fight to bring about liberty and free markets in medicine is just beginning.

And the side of liberty already has tremendous momentum, thanks in large part to the work of scholars and activists here in Colorado. I want to take this opportunity to thank some of them and link to some of their work.

Dave Kopel and Rob Natelson

Legal scholars Kopel (shown in the photo) and Natelson did tremendous work explaining the limits of the “necessary and proper clause.” Notably, the Supreme Court ruled that ObamaCare is not permissible under that clause (but rather under Congress’s taxing authority).

Kopel has also written extensively about the implications of ObamaCare, as in an article for the Volokh Conspiracy.

Earlier this year I interviewed Kopel about the mandate.

Paul Hsieh

Radiologist Paul Hsieh cofounded Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine. He coauthored an article chronicling the history of government intervention in medicine, and he continually writes blog posts and articles on health policy.

Hsieh wrote an article for today’s PJ Media in which he argues:

Ultimately, the political fight against ObamaCare must be part of a broader fight for limited government that respects our freedoms. The proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as our rights to free speech, property, and contract. Only those who initiate physical force or fraud can violate our rights. A properly limited government protects us from criminals who steal, murder, etc., as well as from foreign aggressors. But it should otherwise leave honest people alone to live peacefully, not deprive us of our freedoms in the name of “universal health care.”

Jill Vecchio

Vecchio, another medical doctor, has delivered numerous talks on health policy. She recorded a multi-part video commentary on ObamaCare.

Linda Gorman

Gorman, an economist with the Independence Institute, has written about health policy for many years. I have benefited enormously from her detailed and technical understanding of health laws and their implications.

Brian Schwartz

Schwartz writes for the Institute’s Patient Power Now blog. He keeps abreast of the latest news related to health care, and he shares this news with the wider community.

Thanks to the amazing work of these scholars, doctors, and activists—and many other Coloradans who have made the case for liberty in medicine—much of the public is aware of the dangers posed by ObamaCare and open to serious discussions about replacing today’s government-controlled health care with a free market.

That is the cause for which we must continue to fight.

Contra Gasland Deception, Colorado Water Always Featured Natural Methane

A couple of years ago the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission debunked major claims of the Gasland anti-industrial propaganda film:

Gasland features three Weld County landowners, Mike Markham, Renee McClure, and Aimee Ellsworth, whose water wells were allegedly contaminated by oil and gas development. The COGCC investigated complaints from all three landowners in 2008 and 2009, and we issued written reports summarizing our findings on each. We concluded that Aimee Ellsworth’s well contained a mixture of biogenic and thermogenic methane that was in part attributable to oil and gas development, and Mrs. Ellsworth and an operator reached a settlement in that case.

However, using the same investigative techniques, we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand. . . .

Laboratory analysis confirmed that the Markham and McClure wells contained biogenic methane typical of gas that is naturally found in the coals of the Laramie–Fox Hills Aquifer. This determination was based on a stable isotope analysis, which effectively “finger-printed” the gas as biogenic, as well as a gas composition analysis, which indicated that heavier hydrocarbons associated with thermogenic gas were absent. In addition, water samples from the wells were analyzed for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), which are constituents of the hydrocarbons produced by oil and gas wells in the area. The absence of any BTEX compounds in these water samples provided additional evidence that oil and gas activity did not contaminate the Markham and McClure wells.

I have not researched what “part” of the contamination of the Ellsworth well was allegedly “attributable to oil and gas development,” nor what sort of development that was, nor what the settlement was. In general, if there is objective evidence of a tort, the government properly intervenes to protect property rights (in light of any contractual relationships) and ensure just compensation for damages.

To me what is most interesting about the document, though, is that it demonstrates that usually methane in water is attributable to natural causes, not industrial development.

Recently I was talking with my father Linn about this, and he shared some anecdotes buttressing this fact:

Your great-grandfather Glenn Linn owned land south of Collbran, Colorado, until around 1963. As a child I spent many summers on this ranch. Of course, I have many fond memories spent in the mountains and one of the exciting memories is when we crossed the small stream running in front of the cabin Glenn would throw a match into the stream. A loud roar would ensue from the surface gas exploding.

In the 1960s the surface gas near The DeBeque bridge was very useful to the ranchers. In the cold winter the ice would freeze on the river which would force the ranchers to chop ice in order for the livestock to drink. Those lucky ranchers who had access to the river near the surface gas simply had to light the gas which kept the water clear of ice. Ranchers and cattle were both happy.

Your grandfather Otto Armstrong related that the train would stop just past the town of DeBeque so that the passengers see a geyser raise several feet into the air caused by surface gas. This must have been a great spectacle with the train engines of the 1920s and 30s bellowing smoke and a geyser spouting water feet into the air.

But we all know what’s going on here. The anti-industrial environmentalists will damn any sort of energy development that alters the natural environment in any way, no matter how much energy production contributes to human life and flourishing. And they’re not about to let the facts get in the way.

Image: Creative Commons by Tim Hurst

Land-Use Restrictions Set Stage for Mortgage Crisis, O’Toole Argues

Randal O’Toole recently visited the Independence Institute to discuss his new book, American Nightmare: How Government Undermines The Dream of Homeownership.

In an interview, he argues:

I looked at the financial crisis [in the book] and showed that the crisis wasn’t caused by things that people often attribute it to, such as low interest rates, subprime mortgages, or other national features. They really were only housing bubbles in some states: California, Oregon, Washington, Florida. A few other states had housing bubbles, but the other states didn’t have bubbles. And all of the states that had bubbles had one thing in common. They had land-use restrictions that prevented homebuilders from meeting the demand for housing. And that caused housing prices to shoot way up.

My view is that these regional restrictions worked in conjunction with federal policies to create the bubble.

“Inviolate” Right to Jury Trials Undermined by High Plea Rate

Colorado’s Constitution states, “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate in criminal cases” (Article II, Section 23).

How does that square with the fact that 97.6 percent of all Colorado felony convictions result from plea bargains, not jury trials?

Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette features my article on the subject. My thesis is this: “By threatening the accused with drastically more severe potential penalties if they exercise their right to a trial by jury, prosecutors undermine that right and sometimes compel the innocent to plead guilty.”

The statistics on which my article was based come from a document requested by the Independence Institute under the Colorado Open Records Act. I’ve put the entire Excel document on my web page.

I summarize some of the major findings as follows:

Colorado criminal statistics for the years 2006 through 2011 show that Colorado prosecutors rely on plea bargains to reach convictions an overwhelming 97.6 percent of the time, according to documents obtained by the Independence Institute through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

According to those documents, only 4,241 felony convictions resulted from a jury trial, or 2.4 percent of the total of 175,015 felony convictions. A total of 6,101 felony cases went to trial, so the conviction rate at trial was 70 percent.

Drug cases accounted for 54,321 felony filings (23 percent) of 238,987 total filings. In terms of convictions, drug cases accounted for 43,034 (25 percent) of the total. Of the 790 drug cases that went to trial, 611 resulted in a conviction, meaning that only 1.4 percent of drug convictions resulted from a jury trial.

In the article, I cite an ABC News report as well as a New York Times article.

My hope is that the report will spur other journalists and researchers to examine the figures for previous years in Colorado as well as for other states, and then to dig deeper into long-term trends and modern practices.

Image: Creative Commons by Andrew Bardwell

Westminster Police Used Dog for “Drug Checkpoint”

My wife and I drove past signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” on the night of June 12 as we headed northwest on Highway 36; the signs were placed before the Church Ranch exit, which we use on our route home.

Here are the basic facts already established about the incident based on direct observation and news accounts (see also my first, second, and third reports):

  • The police pulled over 23 vehicles, arrested one man for felony marijuana possession, and issued three citations.
  • The police did not stop every passing vehicle; rather, they pulled over people for an alleged “identified violation” (and yet, again, they issued only three citations).
  • My wife witnessed the police in the process of searching six vehicles, two along Highway 36, and four more along Church Ranch. I do not know how many vehicles in total the police searched.
  • The Department of Homeland Security was involved in training the Westminster police to conduct these sorts of “drug checkpoints.”

The new information is that the Westminster police used at least one police dog in the course of the “drug checkpoint,” and Randy Corporon, a defense attorney and fill-in host for Grassroots Radio, had a conversation with Trevor Materasso of the Westminster Police.

There’s a humorous aside regarding the bit about the drug dogs. Complete Colorado features a headline, “Homeland Security trained police dogs for HWY 36 checkpoints?!?” Accompanying this headline is a photo of a police dog. However, the link goes to my article about Homeland Security; there is no mention of a dog. So yesterday Ken Clark invited me on to Grassroots Radio to discuss the police dogs, and I had nothing for him on that topic. (Clark is one of the show’s two regular hosts.)

But it turns out Westminster Police did use a police dog, though my wife and I didn’t see it.

In the June 22 North Jeffco Westsider (front page, “Police enforce drug checkpoint”), Ashley Reimers cites Materasso: “One of the biggest resources we use in these checkpoints is K-9 units. We have a dog on scene that alerts us as to whether or not . . . drugs are in the vehicle, and then we search the vehicle.”

But that must not be much a police dog, given the police searched six vehicles that we saw and made only one arrest for drugs.

Today I went back on Grassroots radio to discuss this detail and hear Corporon’s additional insights.

Mostly Corporon verified previously reported facts, including Materasso’s claim that police pulled people over for “identified violations.” One example Corporon gave of an alleged violation was an illegal u-turn.

However, it seemed to me that Corporon was overly credulous regarding Materasso’s claims. My wife and I witnessed no cars pulled over on the other side of Highway 36, as would have been the case for an illegal u-turn. Moreover, as previously noted, the police issued only three citations (and made one arrest) out of 23 stops. These alleged “violations” were evidently mere pretexts, for the most part.

Again, the issue is not whether such police activity passes muster in court, but whether these “drug checkpoints” inappropriately harass citizens “guilty” of nothing more than going about their business.

Image: City of Westminster

New Group Seeks Voter Integrity

At Monday’s Liberty On the Rocks Flatirons event, Jeff Kelly discussed his new group, “Colorado Voter Protection.”

Kelly said his group’s goals are three-fold: first, to clean up the voter rolls; second, to “recruit and deploy honest, trained poll watchers”; and, third, to prevent voter fraud.

Regarding that last point, Kelly said he’d like to see legislation requiring the verification of citizenship, minimizing mailed ballots, and requiring voter identification.