Islamic State, Romanoff, and More: News Roundup for 9/8/14

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Here are some of the interesting stories and opinions of late:

Islamic State: According to the New York Times, Barack Obama’s plan against Islamic State (ISIS) likely will take three years (translation: an unknown number of years) and involve three main stages: bomb Islamic State in northern Iraq (already underway), “train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes” (doesn’t that involve American “boots on the ground”?), and then bomb Islamic State inside Syria. What could go wrong? Hat tip to Fox News.

Colorado Politics: “Dems throw millions behind Clinton ally” Andrew Romanoff, Fox News reports. My guess is that Coffman will win, although his positions on abortion and other issues are giving Romanoff a real shot.

Indian-Themed Mascots: A Colorado legislature (Joseph Salazar) wants to cut funding to government schools that use Native American mascots without permission from a tribe, CBS Denver reports (hat tip to Complete Colorado). (Which tribe is authorized to grant permission in a given case is unclear to me.)

Getting Rand Wrong: I was surprised by the ineptness with which Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan addressed Rand’s ideas in a recent video for PJ Media. Read my reply, published by the Objective Standard. (No, Rand did not advocate blowing up orphanages full of children! Sheesh!)

Endangered Species Act: I describe a recent action under the Endangered Species Act in another Objective Standard article, “Endangered Species Act Sacrifices People to Frogs.” For the facts of the case I rely on a report by Scott Blakeman for the Heritage Foundation.

Benghazi: “Fox News host Greta Van Susteren said the White House pressured her to get a colleague to back down on a Benghazi story,” reports the Daily Signal.

Terror Funding: “Three hundred U.S. nationals are suing Arab Bank, claiming it knowingly provided services to terrorists and their financiers,” the Daily Signal reports.

Alcohol: Conrad Hacket tweeted an interesting chart showing the fraction of a country’s population that regards drinking alcohol as moral. The United States join Germany, Australia, Britain, Canada, and Japan at the bottom of the list in terms of number of people who regard drinking as a moral problem.

Venezuela Shocker: Price Controls Cause Shortages

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

You mean that government cannot arbitrarily lower the prices on food and household items without disrupting the supply of those items? Who would have thought it? No one except every real economist who’s ever lived. But since when have socialists been concerned with such things as economic realities?

Not only has Venezuela imposed price controls, it now seeks to “cure” shortages by cracking down on shoppers. “Venezuela’s food shortage is so bad the country is mandating that people scan their fingerprints at grocery stores in order to keep people from buying too much of a single item,” Fox News reports.

The Guardian offers some background: “In 2008, when there was another serious wave of food scarcity, most people blamed shop owners for hoarding food as a mechanism to exert pressure on the government’s price controls, a measure that former president Hugo Chávez adopted as part of his self-styled socialist revolution.” (Nicolás Maduro is the current president.) Of course, price controls spawned a black market where common items go for exorbitant prices.

Today’s left continues to pretend that they can strip away people’s economic liberties without harming their civil liberties. The fact that Venezuela now wants to fingerprint grocery shoppers to counter the “hoarding” caused by price controls is merely the latest reminder that economic liberties are civil liberties.

TOS Blog Update: Obama, Art, Machines

Here I link to my recent blog entries for The Objective Standard. See my TOS category for a complete listing of my work for TOS.

February 4, 2013
To Curse Machines is to Curse the Mind

February 5, 2013
The Burgeoning Micro-Production Revolution

February 8, 2013
PJ Media’s Walter Hudson Previews Bernstein-D’Souza Debate on Christianity

February 10, 2013
Interview: Linda Cordair on the Importance of Art in the Workplace

February 12, 2013
The State of Obama

Fall Harvest

It has been snowing and raining today, so it feels like winter is upon us. Hidden on my camera, however, were some nice photos of the fall’s harvest.

This year’s garden was thrown together. We were in the middle of working on the house (which we’re still doing), and we planted late in mediocre soil. Still, we had a garden, and we did pretty well given our limitations. We got good produce from our 48 tomato plants, and we also had some summer and winter squash. Next year I plan to do considerably better.

By the way, the basil is from our wonderful indoor plant. Also by the way, today I turned a couple of butternut squash (one purchased, one from the garden) into a fabulous soup.

DSCN5989

DSCN5992

DSCN6004

Vampire Haiku

The Denver Post is running a weekly contest for writing haikus. This week the topic is vampires. The only rule is that the verse must follow the 5-7-5 syllable structure. Here’s my entry (which my wife, at least, thought was funny):

Vampires suck my blood?
No, they suck my wallet dry
at cheesy movies.

Here’s the rest of the entries, for those interested.

Ryan Frazier Appears Set to Switch Races

A few hours ago Ryan Frazier, candidate for U.S. Senate, commented on his Twitter feed: “Hi everyone, I’m going to be making a big announcement this week. Stay tuned for more details.”

Ben DeGrow writes: “My guess? Fundraising numbers for the third quarter were less than stellar, and higher-ups in the party finally had the leverage to persuade Frazier to take a stab at the 7th Congressional District instead.”

This is so obvious I’m stunned I didn’t think of it before. Last month I speculated that Frazier might jump races to lieutenant governor. But there’s one huge problem with that: Scott McInnis and Josh Penry are duking it out for the Republican nomination for governor. Plus, it’s sort of a lame position, especially for someone with Frazier’s political hunger.

Perhaps I didn’t think of congress because I think of the Seventh as Arvada, not Aurora. But look at the map. It is a strangely drawn district that goes right around Denver.

I personally like Brian Campbell, the guy currently in the race on the GOP side. But I never seriously thought Campbell had a chance to beat out Ed Perlmutter, who has walked over his opponents with ease.

A Frazier run against Perlmutter means that the Colorado GOP has a serious chance to pick off three big Democrats: Governor Bill Ritter (via Penry or McInnis), Senator Michael Bennet (via Jane Norton), and Perlmutter. Suddenly the best-case scenario for Republicans looks very good indeed.

Unfortunately, I know very little about Norton, except that she worked for Bill Owens, which means that she’s at least strongly associated with the tax-and-spend “Country Club” wing of the GOP. Apparently she’s against abortion.

I know a bit more about Frazier. He’s better than most Republicans on economic matters — which is sort of like saying he smells better than Roquefort. He supports domestic partnerships for gay couples. And he seems to personally oppose abortion without getting too excited about banning it.

Frazier’s socially moderate views will play much better in the metro ‘burbs than they would play in rural Weld County or in El Paso, home of Focus on the Family. And the House seems a much more plausible step up for a city councilor.

I suppose we will see very soon whether the official story matches the obvious scenario.

Frazier Favors Tax Cuts, ‘Stimulus,’ Public-Private Partnerships

Does Ryan Frazier support genuinely free markets or not? I had been under the vague impression that he does, but reports of a recent interview suggest that Frazier supports Keynesian “stimulus” spending and public-private partnerships, which violate economic liberty. So what is the straight scoop?

Ben DeGrow pointed out an article by David Thielen republished by the Huffington Post pointing out that Frazier favored “stimulus” spending for transportation and education in addition to public-private partnerships.

I was a little surprised by DeGrow’s kid-glove treatment of the candidate: “Solutions-oriented? Definitely. Committed to limited government principles? An opportunity for a clarifying follow-up discussion.”

If Frazier can’t clarify his basic views in an hour-long interview, I doubt a “follow-up discussion” will shed more light on the matter.

But is Thielen’s summary accurate? I was surprised that his “interview” contained not a single direct quote. Might “Liberal and Loving It” Thielen be skewing Frazier’s remarks? Thankfully, on his original post, Thielen offers a link to download the audio file of the interview.

After a discussion of food and personal background (and a telling remark from Thielen that he regards certain “libertarians” as to the right of Genghis Khan), Frazier at 17 minutes, 42 seconds into the recorded conversation discusses his general principles:

There were certain principles that attracted me to the Republican Party. … [Something] the free enterprise system. [There’s a lot of background noise with the recording, making parts of it difficult to understand.] … Fiscal responsibility. And protect the rights of the individual. And in doing so you protect the rights of the community.

Frazier discussed the “fiscal responsibility that I think will in the long term help create a better America for our children.”

At 19 minutes, 48 seconds, Frazier says:

For me, there are a couple things that are absolutely, I think critical to a stronger, better, safer America. Obviously it starts with the economy. At the end of the day, [if] a person can’t keep a roof over their head and lights on and provide clothes for their children’s back… Trust me, I know, I grew up in a difficult environment. And, for me, that ought to be the focus for all of us. That ought to be one of the primary things that any of us who seek to represent the people focus on. That is, how do we continue to enact policies, or restraining government, such that the economy, and the ability for it to flourish, is sustainable. …

I would look to leaders who have demonstrated the ability to do that. I think one of the Democrats’ very best… is JFK. … If you read some of his speeches, things he pushed for, I think a lot of those things are true today, as much as they were true then, in 1962. For instance… he gave an address to the economic club on New York in 1962. I thought it was one of the best addresses I’ve heard, period. And in effect what he says … [is] the single largest thing that the federal government can do to aid economic growth is to create an environment for private consumption and investment…

He goes on to say to cut the fetters of… [the] private sphere. And he goes on to make a case for the types of things, given the circumstances, given the environment — i.e., you have an economy that is trying to find it’s footing, that has a potential to grow much more — that can be done to assist in that effort. And he in this case advocates for tax relief for everyone, both personal and corporate income tax relief. …

If you want to truly, really stimulate your economy, one of the greatest ways is to reduce, even if it’s momentarily, reduce any barriers… to private consumption and investment. … So what does that look like? … You look at ways that you can reduce taxation on everyone. Not just one segment of society, but everyone, in order to stimulate private consumption, which ultimately leads to a growing economy. And you also incentivize… investment in additional equipment… and technology. …

Obviously I’m a Republican because I believe in a more limited government, which is not the same thing as no government. There is a role for government, and I’ll have that conversation with anybody who believes otherwise. … But the question is, what is that role, and what extent ought that role to be?

At this point, I was thinking to myself, Jesus, Thielen; you wandered into a gold mine and came out with a few shiny lumps of coal. But I give him credit for conducting an interesting interview. At 24 minutes, 30 seconds, Thielen asked Frazier what positive role he sees for government in the economy. Frazier replied:

A limited government is not no government. So I think you have to articulate what are those limited roles, and what is it that government can or properly should be doing. I happen to be an advocate for public-private partnerships. I think that is a great solution for a lot of the challenges we face in this country. Whether it’s FasTracks here locally, and looking at public-private partnerships there, or other projects where the private sector and the public sector can come together to help further the improvement of our community. It makes a lot of sense to me. … I think transportation is one of the perhaps single largest areas for public-private partnerships in this country and right here in Colorado.

At 29 minutes, 32 seconds, Thielen asks, “Well let me ask you about the present downturn… There were a lot of things that fed into it. But the thing that made this thing just horrendous is credit disappeared. … Cutting taxes doesn’t do squat for getting the credit unstuck. … Do you think what they did up to now was a reasonably good attempt to address it?”

Frazier replied:

I’m not sure that tax relief doesn’t do squat. Because one of the reasons that credit markets are so tight… is there continues to be a lack of confidence in where the economy will go. Will we start to produce, will we start to flourish, or will we continue to… either stagnate or perhaps move in the south direction? That’s a factor in credit markets that perhaps is less tangible but exists…

Tax relief… is a part of the solution ultimately in getting the economy going. But what we’re able to achieve, if we’re able to stimulate the economy, is confidence. … What I’m advocating for is looking ways in which government perhaps can reduce… taxation on business and to the individual in order to incentivize private consumption and investment in industry.

At minute marker 33, Frazier discusses federal “stimulus” spending:

The results have not quite been what has been expected or touted. … I believe that that stimulus package would have been better suited had it focused more on infrastructure and development in this country. … Six percent actually went towards transportation infrastructure. … I believe that that was insufficient. If you want to do a stimulus package and you’re seeking to build longer-lasting jobs, it seemed to me that, if you’re not going to look at investment tax credits or, somehow, tax relief for everyone, that you ought to invest in infrastructure, in transportation. … The state of transportation in this country… is bad. … And so it seemed to me that a larger portion, a much larger portion, of the stimulus package, should have been directed toward infrastructure, which would have created a lot of jobs that I believe would have been around longer, had a much larger impact on the economy…

In response to Thielen’s comments about the usefulness of “stimulus” spending for things like education and national parks as well, Frazier responds, “That’s true. I think, when you look at the cost-benefit… transportation infrastructure and education would have probably made the most sense.”

At 38 minutes, 7 seconds, Frazier offers an interesting qualifier:

I agree with you, that productivity ultimately ultimately will increase the economy… That said, the question is how best do you achieve that… I think that’s the debate in the country, is, do you believe that more government spending will result in that? It possibly could. I’m sure you could point to points in our history where that had worked. … There are more instances in history where you could point to how you, not necessarily reduce government, but you reduce the perceived burden of government on individuals and on business, which ultimately leads to… private consumption and investment…

The upshot is that the initial reports were accurate: Frazier explicitly advocated “private-public partnerships” and “stimulus” spending for transportation and education. That Frazier used TaxTracks as his lead example of an allegedly successful public-private partnership did surprise me. (I stopped listening at about the forty minute marker, when Thielen strangely asked about the difference between a scientific fact and theory, so somebody else might want to listen to the rest of the recording for additional insights.)

Obviously Frazier is more enthusiastic about lowering taxes, and less enthusiastic about “stimulus” spending, than many Democrats. His view of “stimulus” spending during a recession is not that it’s always necessary, but that it’s sometimes useful. He showed serious interest in limiting federal spending to particular, widely popular sorts of projects. So Frazier is not as bad as Barack Obama or George W. Bush when it comes to violating economic liberty on the alter of Keynesian economics.

But Frazier still has some deep problems. I’ll discuss two of his problems briefly, one of economics and one of political philosophy.

“Stimulus” spending is on net destructive to the economy despite its prejudicial title. It is more accurately called welfare spending, and often it is corporate welfare. Candidates are less inclined to admit they endorse corporate welfare than they are to claim they favor “stimulus” spending.

Forced wealth transfers deprive the voluntary economy of critically needed resources. Frazier is right that lack of confidence is a big problem: and the biggest contributer to this lack of confidence is a federal government intent on imposing capricious and ever-changing controls on the economy. The economy still suffers under the looming threats of cap-and-trade and a political health takeover, to mention just two examples. So the federal government should get the hell out of the way of economic recovery, then it should give people the freedom to invest their own resources as they see fit. Tragically named “stimulus” spending only interferes with the recovery process. At best it creates less-productive make-work that contributes little to long-term recovery while squandering resources.

Then there is the Constitutional problem. If there is an argument for spending federal tax dollars on transportation and education, as Frazier advocates, it has nothing to do with “stimulating” the economy, for again the wealth is forcibly transfered away from voluntary exchanges. But Article I, Section 8 doesn’t even mention education as an approved federal function, and it mentions only “post roads” regarding transportation “infrastructure.” Apparently Frazier is of the “fluid Constitution” school.

The more fundamental issue is the basic one of political philosophy. DeGrow talks about “limited government.” Thielen discusses a “role for government” — without bothering to define what that role should be. Frazier combines the two vague phrases, apparently on the theory that the solution to ambiguity is to compound it.

What conservatives and “liberals” hardly ever discuss is what they think government is fundamentally for. Saying we need “more” or “less” government, robust or “limited” government, evades the central issue. Invoking vague phrases such as “the common welfare” begs the question of what constitutes welfare and when welfare is properly common. Everyone (save nihilists and self-refuting anarchists) wants both a robust and a limited government: a government that does very well whatever it is it should be doing and that doesn’t do whatever it should leave alone. The critical question is, what purposes does a government properly serve?

My view, rooted in classical liberal theory and the more recent ideas of Ayn Rand, is that the proper role of government is to protect individual rights, including those of property and voluntary association. Thus, so-called “stimulus” spending is not only economic folly but moral depravity. I want government to robustly protect individual rights, and I want government limited to that function.

Perhaps in some future interview Frazier will offer his answer to this fundamental question, then explain how that answer relates to his particular policy prescriptions.

James Warner Shares Light of Liberty

The following article originally was published October 12, 2009, by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

James Warner shares light of liberty

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The Hanoi Hilton. That’s what we called the Prisoners of War camps in Vietnam. Thankfully, though your elder author Linn served in that war, he never got room service at the Hilton.

James Warner was not so lucky. When helping to set up a talk Warner gave in town last month, Linn learned that during the war Warner was imprisoned 650 miles to the north.

Several years ago, Linn met Captain Gerald M. Coffee, who spent over seven years in solitary confinement, the second longest imprisonment in northern Vietnam. Linn asked Warner whether he knew Coffee.

“Of course I knew of him, we spent several years together at the Hilton,” Warner said. “You don’t know someone when your only communication is tap tap, tap tap.” The prisoners had developed a code to communicate with each other.

During the conversation Linn was taken back to thoughts of the great friends that he got to know, such as Tracy and Redman. Yes, a band of brothers.

Warner, former legal council to the National Rifle Association, spoke at the annual Informed Gun Owners conference last month, an event hosted by the Pro Second Amendment Committee.

He titled his talk, “From the Hanoi Hilton to the White House: How I learned the Value of Freedom in a Communist Prison.”

Warner was held by force. He held his audience captive for ninety minutes with the power of his life’s story. Warner showed little personal bitterness toward the pilot who, Warner believes, made a mistake that cost him his freedom and gave comfort to the enemy camp.

Warner has written, “I was put in a cement box with a steel door, which sat out in the tropical summer sun. There, I was put in leg irons which were then wired to a small stool. In this position I could neither sit nor stand comfortably. Within 10 days, every muscle in my body was in pain (here began a shoulder injury which is now inoperable). The heat was almost beyond bearing. My feet had swollen, literally, to the size of footballs. I cannot describe the pain. When they took the leg irons off, they had to actually dig them out of the swollen flesh.”

Warner and his fellow prisoners would remember each other’s names, so that if one got out he could inform the families of those still held. This was the first time that many would learn whether their loved one was still alive.

Some of the POWs would remember great works of literature, surprised by how much of a reading or poem they could recall. Some thought of philosophy, remembering the historical importance that the Greeks played in saving the idea of the individual.

Warner wrote a text on math. He had to steal empty cigarette containers from the guards, soak the containers in water until the sheets of paper separated, and then compress the sheets under his straw mat until dry. Several times guards confiscated the pages, and Warner had to start again. But Warner completed the work and brought it back. It now resides at the Marine POW museum.

Warner, commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1966, volunteered for duty in Vietnam the next year. He flew more than 100 missions before enemy fire shot down his VMFA-323 just north of the Demilitarized Zone on October 13. He spent five and a half years as a prisoner. His chest full of metals, including a Sliver Star and two Purple Hearts, only begin to reveal the heart inside the chest.

Warner continued to unfold his life’s story. One could see and feel the spirit of the old warrior as he leaned on his cane.

Warner served as Domestic Policy Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, focusing on economic and health policy issues. You can thank Warner every time you drive down I-70, as he helped repeal the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit. Warner has also won the H. L. Mencken award defending the First Amendment and gone to the Supreme Court defending the Second Amendment.

Warner joined a long line of great speakers brought to our community by the Pro Second Amendment Committee. Past speakers include David Kopel, lead scholar for the Independence Institute; Suzanna Gratia-Hupp, who advocated concealed carry after witnessing her parents’ murder in Texas; John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime; and former Sheriff Riecke Claussen.

After listening to Warner talk about his experiences and answer questions, the audience seemed emotionally drained, horrified by the details of Warner’s imprisonment and inspired by his continued resolve.

Warner said he has dedicated his life to the never-ending battle for freedom. Warner went through years of living hell, then went back to work defending freedom in America. Most of us have only to read about the issues and articulate the case for liberty. May we, like Warner, show the fortitude to overcome adversity and fight for our principles.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Health and the Empowerment of Payment

The following article originally was published October 1 by Colorado Daily and October 2 by the Denver Daily News.

What was the total cost of your last doctor’s visit? If you’re like most Americans, you have no idea, because somebody else is paying most of the bill.

Patients directly pay only about 14 percent of medical bills. The rest comes from insurance or government. This is the fundamental reason why health costs have skyrocketed. Patients have little incentive to monitor costs and look for good value, and sending routine expenses through third parties adds paperwork and administrative costs.

When somebody else pays the bill, many doctors think of their client as the insurer, not the patient. Likewise, insurers cater to employers, not you. The patient often gets cut out of the medical loop.

While Barack Obama pretends that insurance companies are at fault, the reality is that federal tax distortions drove insurance into the expensive, non-portable, employer-paid system. This tax distortion explains why Americans tend to use insurance as pre-paid health care, rather than to cover unexpected, high-cost treatments.

Even as Obama demonizes the insurance companies that federal policies have coddled and favored, his policies expand political favoritism. Obama wants to force you to buy politically-controlled insurance, on penalty of huge fines.

If you want to control your health care, you should advocate free-market reforms that expand medical competition, not more political controls. The experiences my wife and I have had with a Health Savings Account (HSA) and high-deductible insurance illustrate the benefits.

We pay $148 per month for high-deductible insurance. We buy it directly, not through an employer. It’s not ideal insurance, but it’s as good as we could find in today’s politically stifled market. We save money for routine care through our pre-tax HSA.

I select my doctor based on who best serves my needs, not who my insurance company happens to like.

My doctor, who came highly recommended by friends, gives me a 20 percent discount for paying at the time of service. I payed $128 for my recent physical, an outstanding value for her high level of care.

Not only does my doctor knowledgeably answer all my questions, she’s also sensitive to my budget. For example, she wanted to see blood tests for my cholesterol readings and glucose levels. Rather than order up expensive tests, she looked at my cholesterol readings I got at no cost at King Soopers just weeks ago. She suggested that I get follow-up blood work in three months.

After my wife’s doctor’s office ordered expensive blood work for her and then, against my wife’s explicit directions, gave the lab our insurance information, I figured out how to get cheaper blood work directly. The King Soopers pharmacy normally charges $20 for a “finger prick” cholesterol test. Lab Corp draws blood for only $25.55 through PrePaidLab.com.

My doctor also recommended checking my fasting blood glucose levels a couple times with a home meter. I bought a meter at Walgreens on sale for $9.99, which was entirely discounted through a rebate. [Update: after submitting this article and neglecting to read the directions for the meter, I messed up the test and ended up spending another $9.99 for a new meter. I got the “no coding,” smaller meter from Walgreens that’s much easier to use.]

That is not to say that cheaper is always better. In 2006 I paid my Boulder dentist $925 for a gold onlay for a back molar. I could have paid somebody else less. But I love and trust my dentist, and his onlay is a work of art worth every penny.

In health care, as in much of life, you get what you pay for. If you advocate taxes and insurance premiums for politically-controlled medicine, don’t act surprised when politicians and their insurance stooges call the shots. If you want quality care from your doctor, then fight for your right to pay your doctor directly for the routine care you receive.

Ari Armstrong is a guest writer for the Independence Institute and the publisher of FreeColorado.com.

Fifty Ways to Leave Obama

The following article originally was published in the September 28, 2009, edition of Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Fifty Ways to Leave Obama

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

“I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free / There must be fifty ways to leave your lover.” — Paul Simon

If you’re a leftist Democrat, you may have started to question your love affair with Barack Obama.

Secularists of the left probably noticed that Obama has ramped up George W. Bush’s program of faith-based welfare, trampling the wall between church and state. Civil libertarians may scratch their heads at Obama’s fervor to extend the PATRIOT Act, and he has hardly been a friend to gay rights.

Pacifists can’t be happy that the military remains in Iraq while the war in Afghanistan flares. Anti-corporate Democrats may wonder why Obama advocates so many billions of dollars for corporate welfare and proposes that the federal government force citizens to buy (politically controlled) products from the insurance industry.

If you’re an honest leftie, Obama’s administration has got to seem in many ways like George W. Bush’s third term.

Obviously conservatives dislike Obama’s anti-energy policies and his plans to increase controls of medicine.

Thankfully, as Obama’s inaugural honeymoon comes to an end, there’s a new book out that offers fifty ways to leave Obama.

The book’s authors, however, are so codependent on the Chosen One that they write as though Obama walks on water — when he’s not changing it to wine. Thus, they titled their book, “50 Ways You Can Help Obama Change America.”

But if you get past the title, you will find that the book is mostly about civic participation. Thus, it might be moderately useful regardless of your political goals. Ironically, the book may prove most useful for those fighting Obama’s policies.

The book is written by Michael Huttner and Jason Salzman. Readers may recall that your younger author Ari and Huttner have had a couple of run-ins in the past. Last year, Huttner tried to go after the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara for saying “bitch slap” on the radio. Caldara was “demeaning women,” Huttner proclaimed. Unfortunately for Huttner, left-wing comments on his own web page used the same phrase, Ari pointed out.

Earlier this year, Huttner went after Michelle Malkin when some random yokel with a sign posed for a photo with Malkin at a rally. The sign inappropriately compared Obama with Nazis. Huttner also blasted gubernatorial hopeful Josh Penry for speaking at the rally, even though neither he nor Malkin had anything to do with the sign.

Again Ari pointed out that many leftists inappropriately compared Bush to Nazis, including posters to Huttner’s own web page.

The lesson in all of this is to adapt Huttner’s political advice with some common sense, lest, like Huttner, you end up looking like a mean-spirited hypocrite.

Though we often disagree with Salzman, we find him to be a more measured and thoughtful activist, and he graciously sent Ari a review copy of the book.

In its policy advice, the book is utterly worthless. For example, on medical policy, the book with apparently straight text cites union statistics on the uninsured and bankruptcy — figures that have been blown out of the water by serious analysts. So just skip the entire first part of the book.

We were initially fearful that you can “help Obama” if you “plant your own garden” or “quit smoking.” Neither of us smokes, and Ari and his wife planted 48 tomato plants this year.

But then we realized that Huttner and Salzman must be growing something special in their gardens if they take their own advice here seriously. “Eating food that’s grown nearby eliminates pollution,” these authors tell us. That’s nonsense: growing a garden requires production of soil, seeds, tools, etc.

Notably, production and distribution of the book also generates pollution, but strangely we found no advice for publishing only ebooks, not paper ones.

Huttner and Salzman also claim to endorse “supporting small farmers.” But doesn’t growing your own food mean you’re not supporting small farmers?

The key point the book misses is that, if you grow your own food, you don’t have to pay taxes on your labor or the produce, and that is surely not helping Obama’s (or Governor Ritter’s) tax-and-spend agenda.

So let’s move on to the serious advice. “Attend a leadership training.” We agree! Some of our friends attend Liberty Toastmasters, People’s Press Collective technology training, and the Leadership Program of the Rockies. Contact legislators and testify at hearings.

“Get news that’s truly fair and balanced.” For instance, read FreeColorado.com and PeoplesPressCollective.com, along with this column

“Stage or attend a rally, media event, or protest.” while the left obviously hates it when free-market advocates take to the streets, we fully endorse peaceful, civil protest.

We’ve followed a lot of the book’s advice in fighting Obama’s agenda of political controls. We urge you to do the same.

“Slip out the back, Jack / Make a new plan, Stan… Just drop off the key, Lee / And get yourself free.”

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.