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Rich Hand: Colorado 2010 Candidate Survey

Rich Hand is an independent candidate for governor of Colorado.

SUMMARY

In a Twitter-length reply (140 characters maximum), please state why you are running for political office.

I am running to re-affirm our tenth amendment rights and keep Colorado money in Colorado supporting Colorado’s citizens. We must stop the federal spending and borrowing and the Governors are the last resort.

[This is 207 characters!]

ECONOMIC ISSUES

* Should the federal or state government spend money in an attempt to “stimulate” the economy? If so, on what sorts of projects?

No. We need to limit the flow of money by challenging the sixteenth amendment through a constitutional amendment of the Colorado Constitution to limit federal taxation to a maximum of 15% of income. The federal “stimulus” kills jobs by undermining free market principles.

* Should tax dollars be directed toward energy projects, tourism, or any other form of business subsidies?

Tax incentives should be used at the state level to drive behavior. In Colorado we need to diversify energy development to use all sources of energy. We should not pursue energy policy based on a political “green” agenda. We need a practical approach that focuses on energy development that works in Colorado based on our resources and 300 plus days of sunshine.

We need to minimize the cost of doing business and reduce regulatory burdens to attract business. We need to stop imposing more and more barriers to business. We need to make healthcare costs deductable for individuals so small business is not burdened with the cost of healthcare. I will review and reduce mandates on health insurance policies so that these companies compete with flexible plans that fit the consumer not some state bureaucrats vision of health insurance.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights be kept completely intact? If not, how should it be altered?

Absolutely! We need to hold government accountable and make the state communicate the value of programs and fight for funding if necessary. If the voters don’t want to pay for a service then we don’t provide it. I will look to separate funding so that Citizens understand what they are paying for in their taxes and determine if they believe it is worth supporting. We work for the taxpayer not special interests.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Amendment 23 be repealed, maintained, or modified?

Education is a key to success. We need to continue to encourage alternate education programs outside of public education. Amendment 23 represents the voters understanding of the importance of education and we need to continue to find the best ways to educate our kids. My plan to limit the amount of income taxes sent to Washington (challenging the sixteenth amendment) would help support additional funding for alternate education funding. We need to revisit the way we are currently funding education overall. We need to look at a stable funding mechanism that limits the fluctuation of the current tax program.

So I agree with the Amendment in principle but I have a problem with public education formulas for distribution, the amount of money leaving our state that could be used for education, and the inconsistency of the funding sources. We need to look at better ways and not be blinded by the current interests surrounding public education. It’s about educating our kids, not supporting union demands.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should any particular state taxes or fees (such as the state corporate income tax or the subjects of the tax-cutting initiatives) be repealed or reduced? Should any be added or increased?

I would eliminate the state corporate income tax for employers that have their operations based in Colorado. We need to create jobs and stop punishing business for being successful. The more money business can make, the more they will put back into their business and the economy.

* Should state or federal spending (depending on which office you seek) be higher or lower than it is currently?

Federal spending needs to be tied directly to the constitutional limits of the federal government. Colorado citizens and businesses should pay no more than 15% of their income maximum to the federal government. We need to reaffirm the tenth amendment and challenge the sixteenth and while we’re at it repeal the seventeenth amendment.

When people feel they have control of the process they are more likely to support the services needed. Government should not be growing at this point. We have too much already. We need to reduce or transfer funds to programs that have the people’s support. The reason ballot initiatives keep failing is that people are tired of the waste and fraud in government, especially at the federal level. We should not be sending our money to bail out GM, Chrysler, Financial institutions, while we lay off our police and firefighters. People are ticked off and are making that known where they have control; at the local level. We need to bring government closer to the people and start building trust again.

* Should the state or federal minimum wage (depending on which office you seek) be repealed, maintained, or increased?

Repealed. I am a small business man and let me tell you, you get what you pay for. Good business people know this and pay accordingly. Minimum wage kills jobs for our kids and entry level workers.

* Should college education be subsidized by tax dollars?

No. A college education should be earned and not an entitlement. We need to support students that are willing to invest in themselves with tax incentives to their parents and make loans available at fair interest rates. The current system encourages higher institutions to be less efficient because they know that government is under writing college educations. A college education is critical but that means every student needs to make the commitment of their own resources. We need to drive the prices down for college by introducing some market principles into the process. They operate in a bubble and have very inefficient business practices that is supported by the knowledge that government will keep subsidizing their institutions.
Colleges need to start looking at their courses and deciding if they keep a department of foolish studies. Too many college courses today would be better suited for some other venue and we need to increase true disciplines like mathematics, sciences, engineering, history, political science etc…

Education is a business with some unique drivers. I think we need to look at tax breaks and incentives for Colorado citizens to save for a college education. I would support helping individual students that deserve college rather than throwing tax dollars at the institutions themselves.

I expect a lot of push back here because there is an industry around colleges and they believe they should not have to “compete”. I would love to see every Colorado student graduate college, but every kid will want to go to college.

* Should antitrust law or its enforcement be changed?

No

* (Federal-level candidates:) Should Sarbanes-Oxley be repealed?

NA

SOCIAL AND CHURCH/STATE ISSUES

What do you believe is meant by the “separation of church and state,” and do you endorse it?

It is used improperly all the time. We are a Christian nation and I am proud to believe we are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights. As Governor or any politician for that matter can’t force people into any religion. The separation is simple; the state cannot infringe on people that want to worship God. The state can’t mandate a God. People need to read the founding documents and our history to reset their understanding of the first amendment. I am a man of God but I don’t endorse any particular church or religion.

You can’t have a free society without a moral foundation. God should be accepted and celebrated. If that offends people they need to get over it.

* Should religious institutions receive tax dollars for providing welfare or other faith-based services?

Definitely. Government has a horrible track record of helping people get off welfare. They actually have a self interest in perpetuating it. I trust private foundations to provide social services and I would want to insure auditing of the programs is in place but if we are looking for results to help people become productive we have to trust private organizations and churches to do the job government has shown it can’t.

* Should the teaching of creationism or Intelligent Design be subsidized by tax dollars?

I think all subjects that get kids thinking is good for students. I also believe there is no reason religion should not be discussed in the classroom. Are we afraid that knowing about God is going to ruin our kids? Insanity. No special tax dollars are needed we just need teachers that are willing to teach and get kids passionate about learning.

* Should tax-funded schools establish a period of permitted or required prayer?

Permitted prayer is fine. I believe with tax dollars tied to the student, parents can choose where to send their kids. That will eliminate the need for state bureaucrats to get involved. If the school prays everyday and parents don’t like it they move their kids. It is a local issue to be decided in school districts.

* Should government officials promote religiously oriented displays and comments on government property and at government events?

“Government official” is a loaded term. Is a teacher a “government official” just because they work for a public school? As Governor I would promote the Christian faith and Jewish religious symbols at Christmas and Passover. I would recognize the importance of these religions on our culture and history.

* Do you support gay marriage?

No but I do support individual rights. If two people want to enter into a contract with each other and share their resources that’s great. Marriage is an institution that creates the best environment to raise our kids. We need to respect that and also respect people’s individual rights to enter into contracts and call it what they wish. But not marriage.

* If you answered no to the question above, do you support domestic partnerships, civil unions, or comparable legal recognition of gay couples?

I will do nothing as Governor to promote the gay agenda. I will promote the rights of individuals protected under our constitution. The gay agenda is an agenda to promote acceptance of a lifestyle most people don’t agree or take part in. I do not have to accept their agenda but I will respect their right as individual citizens.

* Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children by the same standards as heterosexual couples?

This issue is more complicated for me. I believe and will support adoption of children by people with the right intentions for adopting children. First we want kids in traditional families, man and woman. But when any family is abusive and the choice is violence or no adoption I would support couples adopting these kids with the same vigorous background checks as heterosexual couples.

* Should government never, always, or sometimes mandate parental notification and consent before a minor may legally obtain an abortion, and, if sometimes, under what conditions?

Always notify parents.

* Should government mandate waiting periods or ultrasounds before a woman may legally obtain an abortion?

No

* Do you endorse the “personhood” measure that may appear on the 2010 ballot?

No

* Should abortion be legal in cases of fetal deformity?

See the one question on abortion for my stand on the issue

* Should abortion be legal in cases of rape or incest?

See the one question on abortion for my stand on the issue

* Should abortion be legal in cases of risk to the woman’s life, as determined by the health professional selected by that woman?

See the one question on abortion for my stand on the issue

* Should elective abortion be legal?

As Governor this is my position on abortion. I will produce and support an education program that factually describes the procedure of aborting a child. A fetus is a life with a beating heart and with today’s technology we understand more clearly than ever what happens when an abortion is conducted. We see that life struggle to get away; we see the baby’s features and formation. Education will reduce abortion more than any government policy ever could. I will support laws that limit abortion at the point of the baby’s ability to survive without the support of the mother. Before that point we are in very dangerous territory to hand over authority to government. I am consistently suspicious of government in our lives and when it comes to the monitoring of our woman for the purpose of applying law, I can never hand over that decision to a government bureaucrat.

Conservatives are always talking about getting government out of our lives except in the arena of abortion. I am consistent. We will all be judged by our maker and we can only do what we can to convince people of the ramifications of abortion. I will never support the tax funding of abortion under any circumstance.

This is a divisive issue and this is what I can live with as Governor. I will not apologize or pander to either side on this. This is what I believe my maker will accept at judgment time for me. Others will have a different opinion. That is their right.

* If you believe that abortion should be legally restricted, what criminal penalties do you advocate for a woman and her doctor for obtaining or facilitating an illegal abortion?

See the one question on abortion for my stand on the issue

* Would execution ever be an appropriate penalty for obtaining or facilitating illegal abortions?

No

* Should types of birth control be legal that may prevent a fertilized egg or zygote from implanting in the uterus?

yes

* Should fertility treatments be legal that may result in the freezing or destruction of a fertilized egg or zygote?

Yes not government funded

* Should research involving the use of embryonic stem cells be legal?

Yes not government funded

* Should abortions or embryonic stem cell research be subsidized by tax dollars?

No

IMMIGRATION

* (Federal-level candidates:) Should the U.S. expand a legal guest-worker program or legal immigration, and, if so, by how much?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Colorado government force employers to verify with the federal government the legal status of potential employees, and, if so, what penalties should apply for failure to do so?

Yes and I would impose severe penalties for businesses that hire illegal workers.

* Should federal or state tax-funded benefits (depending on which office you seek), including K-12 education, be extended only to U.S. citizens, to legal immigrants and guest workers, or to everyone in the U.S. including illegal immigrants?

We need to get the federal government to do their job of enforcing and closing our borders and as Governor we will not be supporting any illegal immigrant with any services. By creating a severe penalty for business to hire illegal workers we will see a exodus from our state. I support legal immigration and work visas. I have no tolerance for law breaking.

PROPERTY RIGHTS

* What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the use of eminent domain?

Eminent domain must pass the test outlined in the constitution. As Governor I will never use it unless the circumstances are so clear that everyone is supporting the land taking and I am the last one standing.

* Do you endorse the use of eminent domain in the case of the Pinon Canyon military expansion? Do you support the military expansion if it does not involve eminent domain?

I support the tenth amendment and state’s rights. I stand by the ranchers and land owners of Pinon Canyon. I could only support expansion if 100% of the land owners agree and there is a contract in place that protects Colorado from a future pullout of Army operations. That land is too precious from a state perspective regarding the economy and if the Army ever closes up and leaves the base, where are we? Overall I think the military has many options besides taking additional land.

* Should the Endangered Species Act be altered or differently enforced?

We need to have common sense here or we will end up like California, ruining human lives for a guppy. Unacceptable to me. As Governor our people will come first and we will be good stewards of our land. They can work together.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should the smoking ban be maintained, expanded, or repealed? Should it apply to on-stage performances?

This is a freedom issue for me. I don’t smoke but I don’t think government should decide how business is run. If the business wants to ban or allow smoking I am good with allowing the market to dictate. In open air we just need to respect each other.

BILL OF RIGHTS

* Should McCain-Feingold and state campaign finance restrictions be repealed, maintained, or expanded?

Repealed. I support free speech and that includes organizations and individuals.

* Should the federal government control what radio or television stations may broadcast?

If I am Governor they will control very little here in Colorado. They should only control what is important for emergency response and military frequencies to keep us safe.

* Should the FTC’s rules regarding blogger endorsements be rescinded?

I don’t like the FTC but I support people knowing where any information comes from and where the funding source is so they can make good judgments about the information.

* Should students with licenses be legally permitted to carry concealed handguns on the property of tax-subsidized colleges?

I support concealed, exposed, and the ability to carry a hand gun. Good citizens should be able to carry. At 18 I believe we all have adult rights and why limit that at college. I support the constitution of the United States and the second amendment is no exception.

* Should additional restrictions be added (or repealed) on gun ownership? Please specify.

No additional restrictions. I believe the more people that have guns in their homes the greater security we have.

* Do you believe that desecration of the U.S. flag should be outlawed by Constitutional amendment?

I hate the idea of our flag being desecrated because it represents the greatness of our country and veterans that have died for it. I believe the people that have died for our flag would be disgusted but would support the freedom to do so. So no I would not support an amendment although it would feel good to do so.

* Do you believe that pornography or obscene materials involving consenting adults should be legally restricted?

I think pornography is a cancer and needs to be eliminated. It undermines our woman and children and I would support throwing the bums in jail that produce it. The problem is that there are people that have come to accept this degradation of society and is not high on the minds of voters.

OTHER

* Should state or federal laws (depending on which office you seek) pertaining to marijuana be altered, and, if so, how?

I believe marijuana leads to more addictive drugs and undermines people’s motivation in life. I am not convinced it has medical purposes but if it does it should be in pharmacy outlets and not in separate places where we see criminals targeting them to steal the drug.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should rules pertaining to petitioners be altered, and, if so, how?

I love that citizens can petition their government. I believe in our representative republic but I think people generally get the issues right when the information is clear.

* If there is any important issue that you believe we have missed, please state what it is and state your position on it.

I just want to emphasize that I will ask the voters of Colorado to amend our state constitution to limit the amount of money our federal government can take from our income. It starts there. When we reduce the scope of the federal government we can focus on the things that are most important here in Colorado like a job creation environment, individual healthcare reform, and a focus on education.

We must reaffirm our tenth amendment rights, challenge the sixteenth amendment, and repeal the seventeenth amendment. It’s that simple…

Rich Hand
Unaffiliated Candidate Governor Colorado

Dan Maes: Colorado 2010 Candidate Survey

Following are the unedited answers of Curtis Harris to the Colorado 2010 Candidate Survey. Questions are in bold.

SUMMARY

In a Twitter-length reply (140 characters maximum), please state why you are running for political office.

Colorado is heading down the same path as Washington and it must be stopped and turned around. I have the skills and conservative values to do it.

ECONOMIC ISSUES

* Should the federal or state government spend money in an attempt to “stimulate” the economy? If so, on what sorts of projects?

No. It should cut spending, increase energy income, and taxes

[January 25 Update: Maes sent in the following clarification: "Please correct/modify delete 'and taxes' as it looks like I want to increase taxes. The message was to increase energy income and energy severance taxes to the state."]

* Should tax dollars be directed toward energy projects, tourism, or any other form of business subsidies?

Only if the voters approve doing it.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights be kept completely intact? If not, how should it be altered?

Yes.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Amendment 23 be repealed, maintained, or modified?

Repealed as first choice. Suspended in Ref. C fashion as a second.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should any particular state taxes or fees (such as the state corporate income tax or the subjects of the tax-cutting initiatives) be repealed or reduced? Should any be added or increased?

FASTER should be repealed.

* Should state or federal spending (depending on which office you seek) be higher or lower than it is currently?

State should be lower.

* Should the state or federal minimum wage (depending on which office you seek) be repealed, maintained, or increased?

Maintained and re-examined based on economic realities.

* Should college education be subsidized by tax dollars?

Yes.

* Should antitrust law or its enforcement be changed?

Need more clarification.

SOCIAL AND CHURCH/STATE ISSUES

* What do you believe is meant by the “separation of church and state,” and do you endorse it?

The federal government is not to create or endorse a national religion/church. I would enforce that.

* Should religious institutions receive tax dollars for providing welfare or other faith-based services?

NO

* Should the teaching of creationism or Intelligent Design be subsidized by tax dollars?

All public education is paid for by tax dollars. Thus, if the above were part of a school’s curriculum it would be.

* Should tax-funded schools establish a period of permitted or required prayer?

I support prayer in schools but no specific period of time should be required or encouraged. There is enough spare time in public school schedules already w/o crating more.

* Should government officials promote religiously oriented displays and comments on government property and at government events?

It already does as part of our historic architecture which reflects the reality that our country was founded not on the principles of men, but on those God given principles captured in our founding documents by men.

* Do you support gay marriage?

No.

* If you answered no to the question above, do you support domestic partnerships, civil unions, or comparable legal recognition of gay couples?

I would be willing to discuss civil remedies in areas that gays feel they are not equally protected.

* Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children by the same standards as heterosexual couples?

NO

* Should government never, always, or sometimes mandate parental notification and consent before a minor may legally obtain an abortion, and, if sometimes, under what conditions?

Always.

* Should government mandate waiting periods or ultrasounds before a woman may legally obtain an abortion?

Yes/no.

* Do you endorse the “personhood” measure that may appear on the 2010 ballot?

Yes.

* Should abortion be legal in cases of fetal deformity?

It already is.

* Should abortion be legal in cases of rape or incest?

It already is.

* Should abortion be legal in cases of risk to the woman’s life, as determined by the health professional selected by that woman?

It already is.

* Should elective abortion be legal?

It already is.

* If you believe that abortion should be legally restricted, what criminal penalties do you advocate for a woman and her doctor for obtaining or facilitating an illegal abortion?

No comment.

* Would execution ever be an appropriate penalty for obtaining or facilitating illegal abortions?

No.

* Should types of birth control be legal that may prevent a fertilized egg or zygote from implanting in the uterus?

I support the laws as they stand.

* Should fertility treatments be legal that may result in the freezing or destruction of a fertilized egg or zygote?

You ask way to many questions about an issue that is just not a priority at this time.

* Should research involving the use of embryonic stem cells be legal?

Not if there are other viable solutions.

* Should abortions or embryonic stem cell research be subsidized by tax dollars?

No and no.

IMMIGRATION

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Colorado government force employers to verify with the federal government the legal status of potential employees, and, if so, what penalties should apply for failure to do so?

Yes and 10,000.00 per incident.

* Should federal or state tax-funded benefits (depending on which office you seek), including K-12 education, be extended only to U.S. citizens, to legal immigrants and guest workers, or to everyone in the U.S. including illegal immigrants?

They already are per federal law. It should stop at all levels.

PROPERTY RIGHTS

* What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the use of eminent domain?

It should be limited to cases where exercising it is indisputably for public use only. I use the word “use” versus interest or benefit.

* Do you endorse the use of eminent domain in the case of the Pinon Canyon military expansion? Do you support the military expansion if it does not involve eminent domain?

I do not “endorse” the use of it anywhere. I would support it reluctantly only if the Army can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they have no other options but to do so. I support a mutual agreement between willing sellers and leasers, and the Army as a first option.

* Should the Endangered Species Act be altered or differently enforced?

No opinion.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should the smoking ban be maintained, expanded, or repealed? Should it apply to on-stage performances?

No opinion.

BILL OF RIGHTS

* Should McCain-Feingold and state campaign finance restrictions be repealed, maintained, or expanded?

Maintained. Moot now, isn’t it?

* Should the federal government control what radio or television stations may broadcast?

They already do via the FTC.

* Should the FTC’s rules regarding blogger endorsements be rescinded?

?

* Should students with licenses be legally permitted to carry concealed handguns on the property of tax-subsidized colleges?

Yes

* Should additional restrictions be added (or repealed) on gun ownership? Please specify.

No

* Do you believe that desecration of the U.S. flag should be outlawed by Constitutional amendment?

Yes

* Do you believe that pornography or obscene materials involving consenting adults should be legally restricted?

It already is.

OTHER

* Should state or federal laws (depending on which office you seek) pertaining to marijuana be altered, and, if so, how?

Yes. Med. mar. is a disaster and must be regulated like a pharmaceutical.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should rules pertaining to petitioners be altered, and, if so, how?

No.

* If there is any important issue that you believe we have missed, please state what it is and state your position on it.

Candidates Should Giddy Up and Answer Survey

Grand Junction’s Free Press published the following article on January 18, 2010.

Candidates should giddy up and answer our survey

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Shucks, mayor; you done warmed our Western hearts with your down-home talkin’ and dusty cowboy hat.

While announcing his candidacy for governor, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a.k.a. “Hickenritter” (if you listen to GOP Chair Dick Wadhams), a.k.a. “Hick,” said it’s “Giddy up time in Colorado.” Yippie ki-yay. Now all he needs is a running mate named Tonto.

What we want to know is whether Hickenlooper’s campaign is more Lone Ranger or more Woody from Toy Story. To help us out, the mayor can answer the survey we sent to him the day he announced. We’d be much obliged.

We sent the survey to all the major-party candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. All Colorado candidates are welcome to respond, and answers will be published unedited at FreeColorado.com. We hope voters and other journalists encourage candidates to answer the survey. Voters have a right to know where the candidates stand on the issues. You can find the survey at http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10.

Before we describe the survey, we offer an important elections announcement [that is now dated]. Tomorrow, January 19, is the final day to affiliate with a party if you wish to be involved in the caucus process. While Hickenlooper scared away his competition, many candidates face preliminary party votes.

To affiliate with a party, first you need to get a Colorado voter registration form, available at http://tinyurl.com/mesavote. You can scan in the form and email it to voter.info@mesacounty.us; deliver it in person to 544 Rood Avenue, Suite 301A; or mail it to P.O. Box 20,000, Grand Junction, 81502, postmarked by January 19. We thank the Mesa County Elections office for helping us with this information.

Now back to the survey. We have this crazy idea that elections should be about more than hair color, fancy slogans, and name-calling. We believe that elections should mostly be about the issues. Ideas matter. Where do the candidates stand? What do they believe?

Obviously any survey will reveal only so much about a candidate. For example, our survey doesn’t include questions about the Democratic health bill. Most candidates are already talking about this issue, and we hope they clearly articulate their views on their web pages and elsewhere.

Our survey was more intended to reveal positions that candidates aren’t talking about as much. We want to know whether candidates endorse corporate welfare. We want to know where they stand on key business controls, such as antitrust and Sarbanes-Oxley.

We also want candidates to quit obscuring their views. For example, while Scott McInnis used to be “pro-choice,” he now calls himself “100 percent pro-life.” But what does that mean? Does he want to ban absolutely all abortions? If not, what exceptions would he allow? The matter of abortion (and related issues such as birth control) will be particularly important this election, given a measure may again be on the ballot to define a fertilized egg as a person.

We want to know where candidates stand on immigration issues. Should a guest worker program be expanded? Should the Colorado legislature force businesses to verify with the federal government the legal status of potential employees? Should businesses be fined for failure to do so? Should tax-funded benefits ever be extended to non-citizen immigrants?

What about property rights? Do candidates endorse eminent domain, the forcible taking of private property? Under what circumstances? Do candidates endorse the smoking ban, even for on-stage performances?

Regarding the Bill of Rights, where do candidates stand with respect to free expression and the right to bear arms? For example, should adults with a concealed-carry permit be able to carry a handgun on tax-funded campuses?

Medical marijuana will be a huge issue this legislative session; where do candidates stand on that matter and on marijuana laws generally? What about rules governing petitioners? What about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights?

Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, unaffiliated, or other, you should care about candidates’ positions. We hope that, in 2010, voters make a stand and demand that candidates state their views clearly, openly, and for the record.

Here’s what you can do to help. Please contact your federal, state, and local candidates and encourage them to answer our survey and explain their views elsewhere. If you’re a Republican, you can find a list of federal and state-wide candidates at http://tinyurl.com/2010gop. We called the Colorado Democrats, and a representative said that hopefully a list of candidates will be made available at ColoradoDems.org. Otherwise you may need to poke around on the internet or call a party office.

Candidates have a responsibility to reveal their views, and voters have a responsibility to critically and fairly evaluate candidates’ positions. It won’t do to take comments out of context or otherwise misrepresent what a candidate is about.

We will get the government we deserve. It’s time for candidates to cowboy up. And it’s time for us voters to earn our spurs.

Update: As of January 24, we’ve received a reply from one candidate running for governor or U.S. Senate: Dan Maes.

The Perfect Ereader

I’ve been trying to keep tabs on the epublishing revolution. While I continue to believe that 2010 will be a breakthrough year for the industry, I also continue to be dismayed by the sorts of crappy ereaders I’ve been reading about. Following are the features I’d like to purchase (and refrain from purchasing) in an ereader, all nicely summarized (just in case an ereader manufacturer ever sees this). I imagine there are lots of consumers out there with similar preferences. Will 2010 be the year when the perfect ereader (for me) will become available on the market?

* I want a USB jack, and nothing more. I don’t want wi-fi or wireless. Just the cable, please. And the low price that goes with it.

* I want a small screen. I want portability, not the ability to view a large-scale map of Colorado all at once. (Obviously I’m talking about the eye-friendly, low-power screen such as the one on the Kindle.)

* Don’t give me an expensive and power-hungry touch screen. Just give me three or four simple buttons with an intuitive interface. I don’t want to touch the words, just read them.

* For God’s sake don’t give me a mouse-scale keypad. All a keypad does is cause the device to be larger and more expensive, and irritate me whenever I have to look at it due to the fact that it’s so completely worthless.

* The battery must be removable! Without specialized tools! When the battery dies — as it inevitably will — I just want to pop it out and replace it. Why anybody makes a device with locked-in batteries is utterly beyond me. Stupid, stupid design. (My criticism excludes very-small and inexpensive devices that aren’t big enough for good battery-release mechanisms.)

* Don’t give it locked-in internal memory. Just give it a slot for a standard flash card. That’s it.

* Don’t give it speakers! If I want to listen to something, I’ll put it on my iPod. I’m not looking for the Swiss Army Knife of ereaders.

* The device should be able to easily read at least the following formats: plain text, pdf, html, and epub. Ideally, Amazon would license its format for use on other ereaders, too, but that would be far too easy, and it would make Amazon far too much money, to actually take place. That does, of course, create a dilemma for me. Amazon has the most ebooks at the most reasonable prices. Many epub formatted books are insanely expensive. I sincerely hope that somebody like Apple steps into the epublishing business to make widely-recognized formats competitively priced. Book publishers are mostly hurting themselves by not making epub or pdf ebooks available at reasonable prices.

* A selling price of $150 or less would be great. If Amazon can sell its hopped-up Kindle for $259, surely a usefully stripped-down device such as I describe could profitably sell for considerably less than that. (Indeed, I wish Amazon would come out with a stripped-down version of the Kindle.)

I don’t know why ereader producers think that consumers want the fanciest, most expensive reader possible. Keep it simple and affordable. Build it, and I will read.

American Lung Association Earns "F" in Liberty

Dear American Lung Association,

I am sorry to learn that your organization deserves an “F” in its understanding of liberty.

I was shocked to read in today’s Denver Post that the ALA has endorsed the violation of property rights (via the smoking ban), higher taxes, and more state spending in Colorado.

While I approve of your organization’s work to persuade people to quit smoking, in this case you are substituting the force of the state for rational argument. The ends do not justify the means, and you are promoting unjust policies that violate people’s rights.

As harmful as smoking is, it is not nearly as harmful as a government that systematically violates property rights and economic liberty. By seeking to forcibly limit people’s choices, you are preventing them from acting on their own judgment. The freedom to act on one’s judgment, consistent with rights of property and person, is the bedrock of liberty and prosperity. If you take away people’s ability to make mistakes, you necessarily undercut their ability to take responsibility for their lives and reach the heights of human potential.

The ALA should mind its proper business of persuading people to improve their health, not promote state policies that violate rights. It should go without saying that I do not donate to organizations that promote the violation of property rights and economic liberty.

Sincerely,
Ari Armstrong

Curtis Harris: Colorado 2010 Candidate Survey

Following are the unedited answers of Curtis Harris to the Colorado 2010 Candidate Survey.

If nothing else, Harris, a third-party candidate for the the Second Congressional, gets points for speed. He was the first candidate to reply to the survey.

SUMMARY

In a Twitter-length reply (140 characters maximum), please state why you are running for political office.

The present US Government is driving America to socialism and economic disaster. Both major political parties and the Congress are at the heart of the problem. I want to return the Federal government to its Constitutional limits and restore individual liberty in this country.

ECONOMIC ISSUES

* Should the federal or state government spend money in an attempt to “stimulate” the economy? If so, on what sorts of projects?

No. Economies are stimulated by economic freedom.

* Should tax dollars be directed toward energy projects, tourism, or any other form of business subsidies?

No. Corporate welfare is the result of or leads to government corruption. There is no place for it in a free economy.

* Should state or federal spending (depending on which office you
seek) be higher or lower than it is currently?

Much lower.

* Should the state or federal minimum wage (depending on which office you seek) be repealed, maintained, or increased?

Repeal the Federal minimum wage. The States are free to chose their policy. Minimum wages are a proven killer of entry-level jobs.

* Should college education be subsidized by tax dollars?

Certainly not Federal dollars. I would not support state funding, either.

* Should antitrust law or its enforcement be changed?

Yes. Federal enforcement is often politically motivated and/or based on flawed economics.

* (Federal-level candidates:) Should Sarbanes-Oxley be repealed?

Yes.

SOCIAL AND CHURCH/STATE ISSUES

* What do you believe is meant by the “separation of church and state,” and do you endorse it?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
I endorse the First Amendment. That being said, this country is founded on the primacy of the rights of people as endowed by their Creator. The exclusion of general religious principles (morality) from government is a mistake.

* Should religious institutions receive tax dollars for providing welfare or other faith-based services?

Not from the Federal level.

* Should the teaching of creationism or Intelligent Design be subsidized by tax dollars?

Not from the Federal level.

* Should tax-funded schools establish a period of permitted or required prayer?

This should be up to local school districts and parents. A daily period of meditation would have done me a lot of good when I was in school.

* Should government officials promote religiously oriented displays and comments on government property and at government events?

Promote? No. Allow? Yes.

* Do you support gay marriage?

The Federal government has no role at all in marriage, gay or otherwise. I support loving, committed relationships. How the people of the States and local governments chose to define these is up to their people.

* If you answered no to the question above, do you support domestic partnerships, civil unions, or comparable legal recognition of gay couples?

These are different labels for marriage. The love and commitment in the relationship is all that matters.

* Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children by the same standards as heterosexual couples?

This is not a Federal matter. I do not have the knowledge or experience that would qualify me to have an opinion.

* Should government never, always, or sometimes mandate parental notification and consent before a minor may legally obtain an abortion, and, if sometimes, under what conditions?

Again, no Federal role. However, I support parental notification unless there is evidence of abuse within the family.

* Should government mandate waiting periods or ultrasounds before a woman may legally obtain an abortion?

Abortion is a State, not Federal matter. There are two questions here. Should abortion be legal? Should there be waiting periods?

As a practical matter, government should not interfere in family matters during the first trimester.

* Do you endorse the “personhood” measure that may appear on the 2010 ballot?

I am not familiar with this measure.

* Should abortion be legal in cases of fetal deformity?

Again, no Federal role. It is the family’s decision.

* Should abortion be legal in cases of rape or incest?

Again, no Federal role. Otherwise, yes.

* Should abortion be legal in cases of risk to the woman’s life, as determined by the health professional selected by that woman?

Again, no Federal role. There can be a big argument over what constitutes “risk of life”.

* Should elective abortion be legal?

Again, no Federal role. As a practical matter, government should not interfere in family matters during the first trimester.

* If you believe that abortion should be legally restricted, what criminal penalties do you advocate for a woman and her doctor for obtaining or facilitating an illegal abortion?

I believe the States can decide on abortion restrictions after the first trimester. I have no opinion on penalties, except the one below.

* Would execution ever be an appropriate penalty for obtaining or facilitating illegal abortions?

No.

* Should types of birth control be legal that may prevent a fertilized egg or zygote from implanting in the uterus?

States choice. My personal opinion – Yes.

* Should fertility treatments be legal that may result in the freezing or destruction of a fertilized egg or zygote?

States choice. My personal opinion – Yes.

* Should research involving the use of embryonic stem cells be legal?

States choice. My personal opinion – Yes. The research should not be Federally funded.

* Should abortions or embryonic stem cell research be subsidized by tax dollars?

Certainly not Federal dollars.

IMMIGRATION

* (Federal-level candidates:) Should the U.S. expand a legal guest- worker program or legal immigration, and, if so, by how much?

Yes. I don’t know how much, but there is unmet demand for skilled people in this country, so the additional visas or immigration would add value to our economy. People that love freedom and have the ability to add value to America should be welcomed.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Colorado government force employers to verify with the federal government the legal status of potential employees, and, if so, what penalties should apply for failure to do so?

The Federal government has a Constitutionally authorized role in immigration control.

* Should federal or state tax-funded benefits (depending on which office you seek), including K-12 education, be extended only to U.S. citizens, to legal immigrants and guest workers, or to everyone in the U.S. including illegal immigrants?

Not to illegal immigrants. In any case, most Federal benefits are not authorized by the Constitution.

PROPERTY RIGHTS

* What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the use of eminent domain?

Eminent domain is for legitimate public use only and the property owner must be fairly compensated.

* Do you endorse the use of eminent domain in the case of the Pinon Canyon military expansion? Do you support the military expansion if it does not involve eminent domain?

I am not familiar enough with the situation to have an opinion at this time.

* Should the Endangered Species Act be altered or differently enforced?

Yes. It has become a weapon against healthy growth in our economy and often violates private property rights.

BILL OF RIGHTS

* Should McCain-Feingold and state campaign finance restrictions be repealed, maintained, or expanded?

McCain-Feingold should be repealed. It is unconstitutional. In general, campaign finance is a free speech issue and should not be restricted. Voters should have complete access to information on candidates’ campaign funding.

* Should the federal government control what radio or television stations may broadcast?

Since these signals cross State lines and can have an effect on the welfare of the United States, there is a legitimate Federal role. Beyond protections against slander, libel, and content unsuitable for minors (violations of the rights of others), there should be no content control.

* Should the FTC’s rules regarding blogger endorsements be rescinded?

Yes.

* Should students with licenses be legally permitted to carry concealed handguns on the property of tax-subsidized colleges?

Yes.

* Should additional restrictions be added (or repealed) on gun ownership? Please specify.

No additional restrictions. I think Colorado’s laws in this area are a good model for the nation.

* Do you believe that desecration of the U.S. flag should be outlawed by Constitutional amendment?

No.

* Do you believe that pornography or obscene materials involving consenting adults should be legally restricted?

No.

OTHER

* Should state or federal laws (depending on which office you seek) pertaining to marijuana be altered, and, if so, how?

Again, no Federal role here. Repeal the federal laws and leave it to the States.

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should rules pertaining to petitioners be altered, and, if so, how?

* If there is any important issue that you believe we have missed, please state what it is and state your position on it.

Nothing is more important than getting the Federal government’s fiscal and monetary policies under control. Many functions of the Federal government are not authorized by our Constitution and must be phased out. Corresponding cuts in spending, taxes and regulation will allow our economy to grow and produce the tax revenue necessary to eliminate the deficit and reduce government debt.

Thank you.

Curtis Harris
www.HarrisAgainstCongress.com
http://itsthecongressstupid.blogspot.com

Colorado 2010 Candidate Survey

Created by Ari and Linn Armstrong

[January 24 Update: Links to candidates' replies and related material are posted following the survey.]

The following survey is open to all Colorado candidates running for the 2010 elections. Candidates should fill out the survey and return it via e-mail to ari(at)freecolorado(dotcom). The survey should be sent as text only within the body of an e-mail, not as an attachment. Answers will be published in full and without editing at FreeColorado.com. Candidates should include contact information for verification purposes.

We will personally send the survey to all major-party candidates running for governor and U.S. Senate. We may send the survey to other candidates as well. We do not have the resources to send the survey to — and track answers from — every single candidate in the state. However, all Colorado candidates are welcome to respond to the survey, and FreeColorado.com will publish every reply received.

Obviously we may choose to quote from a candidate’s answers in our own articles, as may other journalists.

Voters interested in the answers of a particular candidate are encouraged to ask that candidate to send us a reply. Moreover, we encourage other journalists to press candidates for their answers to these important questions.

We have heard from various candidates who decline to answer at least some surveys. We strongly encourage candidates to answer ours. We believe that Colorado voters deserve to know where candidates stand on the issues.

Our goal is to fairly elicit a candidate’s substantive views on a variety of critical issues. While many of the questions may be answered yes or no, we encourage candidates to offer whatever nuances they deem appropriate. If you think a question is loaded, tell us why. If you want to explain how your thinking has evolved or how your answer squares with your record, please do so. If you have not developed a position on some issue, say as much. We will reproduce your answers as given. We do ask that candidates not confuse nuance with evasiveness.

Note: Some questions are marked for state-level or federal-level candidates. While all candidates are welcome to answer all the questions, candidates for one level of government need not answer questions specific to another level.

We believe that candidates can be fair to voters only by revealing their views on the important issues of the day. We look forward to reading and publishing the replies.

SUMMARY

In a Twitter-length reply (140 characters maximum), please state why you are running for political office.

ECONOMIC ISSUES

* Should the federal or state government spend money in an attempt to “stimulate” the economy? If so, on what sorts of projects?

* Should tax dollars be directed toward energy projects, tourism, or any other form of business subsidies?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights be kept completely intact? If not, how should it be altered?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Amendment 23 be repealed, maintained, or modified?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should any particular state taxes or fees (such as the state corporate income tax or the subjects of the tax-cutting initiatives) be repealed or reduced? Should any be added or increased?

* Should state or federal spending (depending on which office you seek) be higher or lower than it is currently?

* Should the state or federal minimum wage (depending on which office you seek) be repealed, maintained, or increased?

* Should college education be subsidized by tax dollars?

* Should antitrust law or its enforcement be changed?

* (Federal-level candidates:) Should Sarbanes-Oxley be repealed?

SOCIAL AND CHURCH/STATE ISSUES

* What do you believe is meant by the “separation of church and state,” and do you endorse it?

* Should religious institutions receive tax dollars for providing welfare or other faith-based services?

* Should the teaching of creationism or Intelligent Design be subsidized by tax dollars?

* Should tax-funded schools establish a period of permitted or required prayer?

* Should government officials promote religiously oriented displays and comments on government property and at government events?

* Do you support gay marriage?

* If you answered no to the question above, do you support domestic partnerships, civil unions, or comparable legal recognition of gay couples?

* Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children by the same standards as heterosexual couples?

* Should government never, always, or sometimes mandate parental notification and consent before a minor may legally obtain an abortion, and, if sometimes, under what conditions?

* Should government mandate waiting periods or ultrasounds before a woman may legally obtain an abortion?

* Do you endorse the “personhood” measure that may appear on the 2010 ballot?

* Should abortion be legal in cases of fetal deformity?

* Should abortion be legal in cases of rape or incest?

* Should abortion be legal in cases of risk to the woman’s life, as determined by the health professional selected by that woman?

* Should elective abortion be legal?

* If you believe that abortion should be legally restricted, what criminal penalties do you advocate for a woman and her doctor for obtaining or facilitating an illegal abortion?

* Would execution ever be an appropriate penalty for obtaining or facilitating illegal abortions?

* Should types of birth control be legal that may prevent a fertilized egg or zygote from implanting in the uterus?

* Should fertility treatments be legal that may result in the freezing or destruction of a fertilized egg or zygote?

* Should research involving the use of embryonic stem cells be legal?

* Should abortions or embryonic stem cell research be subsidized by tax dollars?

IMMIGRATION

* (Federal-level candidates:) Should the U.S. expand a legal guest-worker program or legal immigration, and, if so, by how much?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should Colorado government force employers to verify with the federal government the legal status of potential employees, and, if so, what penalties should apply for failure to do so?

* Should federal or state tax-funded benefits (depending on which office you seek), including K-12 education, be extended only to U.S. citizens, to legal immigrants and guest workers, or to everyone in the U.S. including illegal immigrants?

PROPERTY RIGHTS

* What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the use of eminent domain?

* Do you endorse the use of eminent domain in the case of the Pinon Canyon military expansion? Do you support the military expansion if it does not involve eminent domain?

* Should the Endangered Species Act be altered or differently enforced?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should the smoking ban be maintained, expanded, or repealed? Should it apply to on-stage performances?

BILL OF RIGHTS

* Should McCain-Feingold and state campaign finance restrictions be repealed, maintained, or expanded?

* Should the federal government control what radio or television stations may broadcast?

* Should the FTC’s rules regarding blogger endorsements be rescinded?

* Should students with licenses be legally permitted to carry concealed handguns on the property of tax-subsidized colleges?

* Should additional restrictions be added (or repealed) on gun ownership? Please specify.

* Do you believe that desecration of the U.S. flag should be outlawed by Constitutional amendment?

* Do you believe that pornography or obscene materials involving consenting adults should be legally restricted?

OTHER

* Should state or federal laws (depending on which office you seek) pertaining to marijuana be altered, and, if so, how?

* (State-Level Candidates:) Should rules pertaining to petitioners be altered, and, if so, how?

* If there is any important issue that you believe we have missed, please state what it is and state your position on it.

Thank you.

Candidates Should Giddy Up and Answer Survey (Free Press column)

At Least Dan Maes Answered the Questions (Free Press column)

Curtis Harris Libertarian for Congress

Dan Maes Republican for Governor

Rich Hand Independent for Governor

John Finger Libertarian for U.S. Senate

Cleve Tidwell Republican for U.S. Senate

John Hargis Independent for Third Congressional

Avatar: Cinematic History, ‘Matrix for Hippies’

Avatar just set a new standard for blockbuster movies. Before, 3D was a fun frill. Some movies happened to be filmed in 3D. An animated film might throw a ball in your face. But Avatar is a 3D movie, fundamentally. From the numerous flight scenes to the battles to the crowd shots, 3D is built into the way the movie is made. Immersive” is a term I’ve heard, and it holds.

Moreover, the computer imagery is integrated with the live-action filming in a nearly seamless way. There might have been a couple brief scenes where I noticed the line between the “real” world and computer graphics. And this film creates a new race of humanoids in addition to putting people into all sorts of cool gadgets. Gone is the clunky, awkward, somewhat spooky imagery of movies like Polar Express. Robert Zemeckis looks like he belongs to the previous millennium. Avatar creates a beautiful, stunning world.

If you’re going to see Avatar, then, there’s no use waiting for the DVD. See it in all its glory, in 3D, preferably on an IMAX screen. Unlike most films, it’s actually worth the extra money.

Avatar also brings good news to theaters. With the expansion of large, high-definition televisions and blu-ray movie releases, the big screen needs something extra to keep up. Avatar offers that. (Will movie-disc releases start selling in 3D, and will families start collecting 3D glasses for all?)

Only days ago I swore I would never watch Avatar, after reading a summary of its story. But I started getting mostly-positive feedback from people I trust. Once I decided to see it, I saw it twice in a day.

The great irony of the movie, as others have noted, is that its cinematic technique, which epitomizes the union of humanity and technology, carries an anti-technology theme in its story.

What follows below reveals significant elements of the movie’s plot.

The basic story is that a human corporation sends a mission to Pandora to mine the substance unobtanium (or “unobtainiam”). (Corporate bad guy: there’s a new one for Hollywood.) The corporation funds a scientific venture to send human-controlled avatars — alien bodies linked to the minds of humans — to make-nice with the locals. When the miners, backed by hired military guns, want to relocate the locals, the scientists rebel and join the aliens to send the miners packing.

The movie actually offers three stories: a voyage of personal adventure and discovery, the struggle of the locals to protect their homes, and the environmentalist theme.

To me, the most compelling part of the movie is the personal adventure of the hero, Jake Sully, who had lost the use of his legs while on a military expedition earthside. His twin brother, a scientist for whom an avatar was created, dies, so the corporation funding the venture hires Sully to fill the role. (The avatars are keyed to the biology of a particular person, which is why the twin can step in.) Sully spends several years in a cryogenic state during travel, then wheels out onto an alien world, where he gets a new life (and new legs) in his avatar.

Sully explores this new world, naturally, with the beautiful daughter of the tribe’s first couple, and the love story is nicely done. (Zoe Saldana scored huge with the role following her stint aboard the Enterprise.)

James Cameron cleverly created a lower-gravity world inhabited by very-resilient aliens, making possible the amazing aerial scenes. It is a world in which the tall, fit aliens ride dragons and bound around treetops in a way that would make Tarzan envious. Apparently unobtanium keeps a range of gigantic islands floating; they look spectacular on screen.

Also a joy is Sully’s budding relationship with the hard-ass leader of the avatar program, Dr. Grace Augustine. The two actors, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver, create a sparkling relationship that’s great fun to watch. (Indeed, the entire cast is great.) The “adventure” story, then, is beautifully done.

The “home defense” story has aptly been compared to the Kelo case. Mean guys come to destroy your home; you kick their ass. Good, basic story, and it offers Sully a chance to play the hero and win back his girl (not to mention ride the baddest dragon in the skies).

I’ll need to shift into sarcasm mode to explain the environmentalist aspects of the story, which descend to the frankly ridiculous. It often feels like Cameron hired a starry-eyed, catch-phrasing eighth-grader to help him write the script.

Just by coincidence, this highly valuable substance, unobtanium — the uses for which are never mentioned in the film but which apparently is a superconductor — is located only on the only other world in the entire universe known to be inhabited. (Pandora is a moon.) I didn’t count the number of other moons and nearby celestial bodies, but apparently unobtanium is not located on any of those, either, just the single moon of Pandora. According to one script treatment, unobtanium is “unique to Pandora.” How the evil corporation discovered unobtanium and its uses in the first place, then, escapes me.

By another astounding coincidence, on the entire moon of Pandora, home of some fifteen clans, each of which apparently contains a few thousand members at most — so we’re talking about a miniscule total population — the highest concentration of unobtanium on the entire moon is found — you guessed it — right under the treehouse of our favorite clan.

Nevermind the fact that this clashes with the apparently large quantities of unobtanium found in the floating islands. According to the script treatment, the miners are supposed to be after the floating islands, which are sacred to the locals. Apparently Cameron didn’t think it would be dramatic enough to just make off with a floating island; the corporation had to destroy the giant treehouse instead.

So let’s recap. According to the movie:
* Unobtanium is found (in mineable quantities) only on Pandora, a single moon in the entire known universe.
* It is cheaper to send hundreds of people across space in cryogenic storage, complete with gigantic space ships and lots of military equipment, and to finance technology for the complete transference of human minds into test-tube-grown aliens, than it is to synthesize the substance.
* Even though we currently know of no moon in the entire universe that hosts life of any kind, this particular moon does.
* Not only does Pandora host life, but it hosts intelligent humanoids (who happen to look fantastic in jungle-wear).
* Even though there is an entire range of gigantic floating islands of unobtanium, in addition to the surface of a large and sparsely-populated moon, far and away the best place to mine the substance is directly under the village of the local clan.

So, in other words, the premise for the entire movie is completely unbelievable. Perhaps “unobtanium” more aptly describes the otherwise-unobtainable plot elements pulled from Cameron’s behind.

Let us move on to the the Noble Savage motif. Amazingly, the locals have managed to find a gigantic tree just perfect for housing an entire village. Moreover, despite no evidence of agricultural activity, the tribe has managed to settle in just one place. Unlike settled but primitive tribes of our planet, they have not exhausted the local firewood supply or the game animals. It is a veritable Garden of Eden, Pandora.

Another amazing thing about the tribe is that its youth grow up to be great warriors, even though, apparently, they never actually fight anybody (except the evil humans!), for the Pandorans are a peaceful lot. If there has been warfare among the fifteen (or so) tribes, there is no mention of it in the movie.

Another amazing fact: while initiation rites of tribes on our planet have often involved human sacrifice and bloody beatings, on Pandora when you get all grown up you get to climb up into the floating islands and pick out your very own pet dragon to ride. Granted, this process can be a little tricky, but, hey, pet dragon!

As Sully suggests, the evil humans have absolutely nothing, no form of technology whatsoever, that the locals might have any interest in. Anything beyond the simple life of eating wild fruit, hunting wild game with bows and arrows, and (don’t forget!) riding dragons would only detract from the idyllic Pandoran lifestyle. The Pandorans don’t want computers, telecommunications, surgical instruments, metal needles or cooking pots or arrowheads, energy production (for the Pandoran climate is always perfectly temperate), and so on.

It would be an interesting exercise to calculate the total amount of gasoline burned, coal burned, and materials mined in the production and distribution of Avatar. Include all the facilities, all the gear, all the trips, all the maintenance of stars and personnel, all the theaters and their heating, all the car trips taken to watch the movie, and so on. Compare that to the similarly-figured costs of an average American lifespan, and that will tell you about how seriously James Cameron takes his own environmentalist dogma.

The Gaia theme is actually more interesting as science-fiction. On our planet, the notion that the earth itself is a living or conscious entity is fanciful, pseudo-religious environmentalism. Avatar asks, what if the earth really were alive? Pandora is alive, or at least its network of interconnected tree roots form a vast organism that functions something like a brain.

Even more interesting: the local people can “jack in” to this super-tree-computer through specialized fibers coming out of their hair. It’s like the Matrix for hippies (as I’ve heard others note). In a real sense this network offers something like immortality, because part of one’s essence joins with the trees. (Not explained is how the plains clan taps into treenet.)

At one point Sully notes that Evil Humans have “killed their mother [earth],” and “nothing” on earth is green anymore. Of course that prediction is nonsense. Unlike the science-fiction moon of Pandora, on earth there is no conscious super-organism consisting of tree roots. Moreover, the rise of industry and technology is quite consistent with maintaining lots of greenery and a healthy environment. A space-faring civilization would also be able to bring in resources (including energy) from off-planet and set up production facilities elsewhere in the solar system.

Still, the science-fiction idea of a conscious tree network is interesting, and it poses a special dilemma in terms of developing resources. I imagine the biological barriers to the development of such a life form are insurmountable. If it were possible, such a unique biological entity would require new philosophical thinking. Presumably a mining operation could at least operate on parts of the moon without trees, such as the plains and oceans (or the conveniently floating islands).

The upshot is that Avatar offers some really interesting science-fiction mingled with some pretty silly fantasy-fiction. It’s core story is a compelling one, and it is told artfully and with innovative technology. Ultimately, what saves the film is that its method of production rebels against its affectations.

Microwaved Eggs

It occurred to me that often only the complicated dishes make it into published recipes. But I usually eat very simple meals that require no recipe. A standard dish for me is vegetables, meat, and spices sauteed in coconut, olive, or stock fat. I don’t mind cooking, but it is by no means a passion of mine, and usually I focus on quick and easy dishes.

Like fried or scrambled eggs.

Only now I usually make them in the microwave rather than in a skillet. This is faster and it generates fewer dishes. There are two basic ways to microwave eggs. You can microwave a single egg in a bowl for around 40 seconds. If you don’t break the yoke, the egg hardly sticks to the bowl.

DSCN6199

Or you can microwave more than one egg, with or without additions. For example, yesterday I microwaved two eggs, sausage, and two cubes of cauliflower puree. First I microwaved the puree for around a minute to dethaw it. Then I stirred in the eggs and sausage. The edges tend to cook faster, so you have to stir it about every half a minute for a few minutes. This sticks more than does a single egg with an unbroken yoke. But it’s still easy, fast, and good.

DSCN6198

What Are Conservatives Trying to Conserve?

The following article originally was published on January 4 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

What are conservatives trying to conserve?

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Conservatives are a strange bunch. They support free trade, except when they want to outlaw or restrict select medicinal plants or forcibly stop employers from hiring willing workers of their choice.

Conservatives support freedom of conscience, except when they want to censor what they declare to be obscene works, punish the mishandling of the flag, or force people to fund religious programs with which they disagree.

Conservatives advocate strong national defense, except when they support a war the president declares unwinnable, along with years of “nation building” at the expense of American lives.

Conservatives endorse federalism, except when they want the national government to tell states how to handle marriage.

Conservatives uphold independence, except when they call on politicians to imprison women for getting an abortion.

Conservatives tout the dignity of the individual, unless that individual happens to be gay or a brown-skinned laborer from Mexico.

Conservatives declare to stand for time-honored principles, except when they “compromise” to raise taxes, pass smoking bans in violation of property rights, expand health welfare, endorse corporate welfare, and use the invasive tax code to crack down on the “crime” of productive work.

We have to wonder just what it is that conservatives are trying to conserve. How can we make sense out of the hash of modern conservatism?

A common explanation is that conservatism is a “fusion” of faith-based tradition and libertarian free-market leanings. There’s something to that. The problem is that faith often clashes with tradition, while libertarian government-bashing often clashes with individual rights.

The libertarian anti-government strain is a minor part of the conservative movement. Many libertarians join their own party, avoid politics, or loudly distance themselves from conservatives. Down-with-government conservatism, illustrated by Grover Norquist’s infamous and unfortunate line about drowning government in a bathtub, alienates the general public and tends toward the reactionary, in the sense of reacting against anything to do with government rather than championing some positive value.

That leaves three major conservative traditions: tradition, faith, and liberty.

Tradition explains why so many conservatives oppose gay marriage and immigration. They want things to stay just the way they are. The problem is knowing which traditions to conserve and which to change. Slavery was a tradition for many centuries, overturned by liberal-minded abolitionists who wanted to fundamentally change society. Rule by king was a tradition.

For too many conservatives, tradition is just a rationalization for advocating policies and cultural trends without the bother of having to justify them on moral grounds. Tradition is the fall-back of the thoughtless.

Sensing the weakness of a strictly traditional approach, many conservatives turn to religious faith. Christians may lay aside Old Testament calls to murder people for homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery, and parent-cursing.

Christians cannot avoid the fact that the New Testament “contains scores of commandments demanding the redistribution of wealth and property from those who created it to those who did not,” as Craig Biddle points out in The Objective Standard. The Marxist injunction, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” finds its “origin in the Bible,” Biddle notes.

Many Christians openly apply Biblical principles to the welfare state; for example, the Colorado Catholic Conference advocated tax-funded “health care coverage for all people from conception until natural death.”

Conservative Christians do a lot of comical dancing trying to pass through the eye of a needle with their riches intact. Yet, in terms of Biblical principles, the best such conservatives can do is say that, yes, people have a moral duty to redistribute their wealth, only they should be free to do it or not. The fact remains that the Bible says precious little in defense of political and economic liberty, individual rights, or the value of economic prosperity.

As Sarah Palin writes in her biography, her brand of conservatism rests on the alleged truth “that man is fallen.” The presumption is that people just aren’t good enough to live in a socialist order. Instead, such conservatives argue, politics must cope with vicious humanity. Then faith-based conservatives who appeal to our “fallen” nature wonder why they can’t capture the moral high ground.

We are conservatives only in the final sense of the term: we want to conserve liberty and indeed radically expand it. We hold that liberty is not a gift from men or the gods, but a necessity for thriving human life. To live successfully, we need the freedom to act on our own judgment regarding ourselves and our property. Government must protect our rights, but it must be restrained by a written constitution that limits political power. Unlike the libertarians, we are not against government; we are for a government that robustly protects individual rights.

The interesting thing about this brand of conservatism is that it sounds a lot like what liberalism was always supposed to be, until its purported defenders twisted that movement to the opposite purpose. The best conservatives, it turns out, are also the only true liberals.

Skiff Promises "Multiple Formats" for Ebooks

In my quest to keep tabs on the eublishing industry, today I glanced at articles about Apple’s forthcoming Tablet (which will be much more than an ereader) and Skiff, a company that promises to produce an innovative ereader and sell digital content.

As cool as the Tablet looks, it also promises to be fairly expensive — more costly than low-end notebooks — and I’m not convinced that sort of screen can function well as an ereader, which should allow for hours of comfortable reading without undue eye strain.

Judging from the pictures and descriptions, the Skiff screen looks like it will be a good reader — and apparently you can even bend the device without ill effect. I’m a bit put off by the large size of the machine: 9 by 11 inches. I want an ereader that I can carry around more easily.

I sent Skiff some questions, and a representative sent me some answers, though they weren’t very specific. I asked:

Will Skiff sell works with multiple publishing options, including HTML, pdf, and Digital Editions, or will Skiff, like Amazon, sell only works converted to a proprietary format?

In other words, will purchasers of Skiff content need to download a Skiff reader (for non-Skiff devices), or will that content read on existing and popular software?

Also, will Skiff release a smaller version of its reader for those of us who would prefer something easier to carry around?

This should be an exciting year in the epublishing industry, and I look forward to seeing how Skiff competes.

Here’s the email I got back:

Ari,

Thanks for your interest in Skiff. I’ll answer as much as I can at this point in time.

The Skiff service will support multiple formats. More details to come.

One of the unique benefits of Skiff’s platform is the ability for content publishers to submit their curated content (i.e., branded newspapers, magazines, etc.) into the Skiff Platform, where it is then tailored to match the unique characteristics of different devices that utilize a variety of different screen technologies – from smartphones to eReaders.

The Skiff digital storefront will allow consumers to easily access and download a wide assortment of newspapers, magazines, books, blogs and other content from multiple publishers for use on dedicated Skiff e-reading devices, other e-readers and innovative devices, as well as multi-purpose devices such as smartphones, netbooks, tablets, notebooks and PCs – as well as via the Web. Items purchased from the Skiff storefront will be delivered to these devices via 3G, WiFi and other forms of connectivity.

We look forward to your following Skiff as we make additional announcements during 2010 in the lead up to our formal launch.

Chaim

Chaim Haas
Senior Vice President, Technology & Emerging Media

Of course, whether Skiff lives up to the company’s own hype remains to be seen.

January 6 Update: Popular Mechanics has an update. One detail is that “while the screen is flexible, the device itself is not.”

Review Questions for Daniels’s Essays on Antitrust

This set of review questions is part of the Liberty In the Books program, a monthly discussion group. These questions cover two works by Eric Daniels on antitrust that go well together for a single meeting. These essays are part of a cycle on antitrust. Previously I published questions for Alex Epstein’s essay, “Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company.” In the future Liberty In the Books will cover Dominick Armentano’s book, Antitrust: The Case for Repeal.

The first work covered here is Daniels’s essay, “Reversing Course: American Attitudes about Monopolies, 1607-1890.” It is contained in the book The Abolition of Antitrust, edited by Gary Hull.

Daniels’s second essay is “Antitrust with a Vengeance: The Obama Administration’s Anti-Business Cudgel,” published by The Objective Standard.

As noted previously, these review questions are intended to inspire discussion of the material, not establish a tight outline for discussion.

Reversing Course

1. What was the general change in federal economic policy from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s? (Pages 63, 65-66)

2. What was the most common understanding of “monopoly,” before and after 1890? (Page 64)

3. What were the English origins of monopolies? (Page 67)

4. What was the nature of the English revolt against monopolies? (Pages 67-68)

5. What was the significance of the English Case of Monopolies and subsequent Parliamentary action? (Pages 68-69)

6. What was the colonists’ view of monopolies? (Pages 69-70)

7. What was the fundamental ideological conflict that divided the English Parliament and the colonists? (Pages 70-71)

8. What was the position of state constitutions on monopolies? (Page 71)

9. According to Daniels, what is the difference between American patent law and the establishment of coercive monopolies? (Pages 71-72)

10. In what ways was the Constitutional Convention friendly toward monopolies? What were the concerns about monopolies raised in that debate? (Page 73)

11. In what ways, and on what grounds, did Congress empower monopolies? (Page 74)

12. How did Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Webster, and Joseph Story defend monopolies? How did their arguments lead from protecting coercive monopolies to breaking up large free-market businesses? (Pages 75-76)

13. How did free enterprise challenge coercive monopolies? (Page 76)

14. How did the fight over the steamship monopoly play out? What was the impact of the 1824 Supreme Court ruling in Gibbons v. Ogden? (Pages 77-78)

15. What were the arguments that continued to be made in favor of monopolies in the 1800s? (Pages 78-79)

16. What was the Charles River Bridge case, and what was the significance of the arguments made in that case? (Pages 79-83)

17. In what ways did Andrew Jackson restrict coercive monopolies? (Page 83)

18. How did judicial definitions of monopoly change after the Civil War? (Page 84)

19. What were the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873, how were they decided, and what was the impact of the ruling? (Pages 84-85)

20. What were the circumstances of the case of Munn v. Illinois, and what was the impact of the case’s legal resolution on property rights? (Pages 86-87)

21. What was the nature and impact of Henry Demarest Lloyd’s works on monopoly in the 1880s? (Pages 88-89)

22. What arguments were presented in favor of the Sherman Antitrust Act? (Page 89)

23. What is Daniels’s critique of the “public good” as a standard of law? (Page 90)

Antitrust with a Vengeance

24. Why did C. T. Dodd and John D. Rockefeller create a trust in the late 1800s? (Page 22)

25. What were the cultural and political conditions that led to the Sherman Antitrust Act? (Page 22)

26. In what ways are the antitrust laws nonobjective? (Page 23)

27. Why do producers need a stable legal environment, and how does antitrust legislation undercut this? (Pages 23-24)

28. How has antitrust legislation brought business under federal control? (Page 24)

29. How did antitrust enforcement change (and how did it remain the same) from the Bush to the Obama administrations? (Pages 21, 24-25)

30. How have other federal economic controls undermined free-market competition? (Page 25)

31. What is Daniels’s critique of Steve Forbes and L. Gordon Crovitz, who also oppose stepped-up antitrust enforcement? (Pages 26-27)

32. What does Daniels see as the proper role of government with respect to business organization and operation? Is he right? (Page 27)

No-Sugar Cheesecake

For New Year’s, Jennifer made a great cheese cake without sugar or any added sweetener. We topped it with blueberries or apples sauteed in butter and cinnamon, so of course that added the fruits’ sugar. The texture of the cake was fantastic.

We used a low-carb cheesecake recipe, except we didn’t put in the “artificial sweetener” (because, yuck). While I like it fine without any sweetener, we discussed putting somewhere between a quarter cup and a half cup of sugar in future attempts if we want a sweeter dessert.

One thing we got out of this recipe that will be useful for other things is the almond meal crust. We’ll probably make this for quiche and mousse pies.

To make the crust, mix a cup of almond meal and two tablespoons of melted butter (Jennifer just used a fork for the mixing). We thought we’d increase the quantities by half next time. Press the mixture into the bottom of a pie plate, then bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until slightly browned.

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To make the filling, mix in the following ingredients, one at a time in order, with a hand mixer, scraping the bowl with a spatula between each ingredient:

* 3 packages (1.5 pounds) cream cheese (room temperature)
* 4 eggs (preferably room temperature)
* 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
* 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
* sweetener (if desired)
* 0.25 cup sour cream

After you add the last ingredient, beat the mixture for an additional minute.

We used a water bath to bake the cake. Ours worked great for an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It puffed up a bit and then settled back down as it cooled.

Here’s the finished cake in the water bath:

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Cooled, sliced, and topped:

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Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Over Christmas Jennifer made two pumpkin pies, one regular and one paleo. Here’s a photo of the paleo pie, which is the regular pie minus the sugar and the crust:

DSCN6165

The key to a good pumpkin pie is to start with real pie pumpkins. Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds, and bake it, cut-side down in a bit of water, for around 45 minutes.

Jennifer bakes a great crust from a recipe in Baking With Julia.

Then, follow this recipe that we got from Jennifer’s mom:

Mix:
* 1.5 cups pumpkin
* 3 eggs
* 0.5 cup sugar
* 1.25 teaspoon cinnamon
* 0.5 teaspoon salt
* 0.5 teaspoon ginger
* 0.5 teaspoon nutmeg
* 0.25 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1.66 cups heavy cream

(Note: The original recipe calls for a full cup of sugar, but the pie is plenty sweet with only half of a cup. Obviously for the paleo pie skip the sugar entirely.)

Pour into a 9 inch, unbaked pie shell, or, for the paleo pie, into a pie dish.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until a poker (toothpick or cake tester) comes out clean. (Note: The pie usually puffs up during baking and then settles back down during cooling.)

Cool. Top with whipped cream. (We use pure cream whipped with vanilla, no sugar.) The original recipe calls for pecan topping, but we’ve never eaten it that way.

We really like both versions of this pie. We thought that, in the future, we’ll try increasing the spice load for the paleo pie, but that’s not necessary for a tasty pie.

Amazon Licenses Non-Transferable Ebooks

I wanted to find the answer to a very simple question: if I spend, say, $10,000 on an ebook library over a span of years, can I will that library to another party upon my death, as I can will my collection of printed books? For Amazon, the answer is no.

Here’s what the Amazon Kindle: License Agreement and Terms of Use has to say:

Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.

Restrictions. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content.

In other words, Amazon does not sell ebooks. It licenses them. That means if you spend $10,000 on a library of printed books, that collection becomes an asset that can be resold or willed. If you spend $10,000 on a Kindle library, the value of that expenditure is utterly destroyed upon your death, and the library cannot be transferred to any other party.

And that completely sucks.

Ebooks.com Offers Online Book Viewing

I’ve been looking into the ebook industry, and generally I don’t like what I see at present. The essential problem is that the major ebook sellers, notably Amazon and Barnes and Noble, sell ebooks that read only with proprietary readers. This raises two problems. First, I want to be able to integrate all my ebooks into a single library, much as I can integrate all my music into iTunes now (made possible with the standardized mp3 format). Second, I don’t want to invest money in a platform that’s going to end up failing in the market place. I don’t want a library’s worth of the ebook equivalent of Beta or HD DVD.

At the same time, I don’t want to buy ink-and-paper books anymore, because my shelf space is limited and I want the flexibility and portability that comes with ebooks. So, for right now, my solution is to simply stop buying books, except for used copies that save a bit of money, books unavailable in digital format, and books that I absolutely want to read right away. The book industry is a mess. When publishers and retailers decide to straighten it out, I will resume doing business with them.

Previously I’ve made a couple of interrelated suggestions: HTML seems like the natural standard for ebook publishing, and ebook sellers should make the ebooks readable online, via a standard web browser. Now I’ve found a bit more information about this.

As Jedi Saber points out,“The .epub is a standard for eBooks created by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It consists of basic XHTML for the book content, XML for descriptions, and a re-named zip file to hold it all in. Anyone can make these eBooks, and since they’re essentially just XHTML, anyone can read them.” (Adobe says basically the same thing.)

Indeed, Jedi Saber proceeds to explain how to generate the epub format. While Jedi complains about the high cost of Adobe’s InDesign, which apparently can generate the epub format, I am fortunate to be married to a graphic designer, so this may well be a viable option for me. (I am working on an upgraded ebook version of Values of Harry Potter; an earlier version had been straight HTML.)

I noticed another tidbit from Ebooks.com: some of the company’s ebooks “can also read books online, from any computer, anywhere, without downloading or installing anything.” Now THAT is sweet.

For instance, Ebooks.com offers the Twilight books “online in eb20.)” An explanatory note explains:

eBooks.com has just released eb20, a web-based ebook reader application. This means that, in addition to downloading an ebook to your computer or device, you can now read the book online from any computer with a supported web browser that’s connected to the internet. eb20 requires no software installation and enables you to just start reading a work, seconds after buying it.

In the coming months you’ll see more and more of our books available through this simple online reading interface. As books are converted to eb20 format, you’ll see a little Read Online link next to the book in your eBooks.com account. Just click on that link and start reading. When buying a book, if you see Available to read online in eb20, it means that, once you’ve paid for it, you’ll be able to download the ebook and read it online anywhere, anytime.

There’s just one teensie problem with Ebooks.com (aside from its limited selection): many of its ebooks are insanely expensive. Let’s take the example of Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, which I recently downloaded as a trial run from Barnes and Noble for $9.99. The Amazon Kindle price is also $9.99. The Amazon hardcover price is $18.45. Random House will sell you the ebook directly for $27.95, the price for which Ebooks.com also sells the book.

Memo to publishers: if you’re going to whine about Amazon’s ebook selling prices, you might think about not trying to jack customers with your own ebook prices. Publishers try to sell overpriced goods that are a hassle to use and then wonder why their industry is flailing.

Perhaps one of these years book publishers will catch up to the 21st Century.