Monday, October 23, 2006

Munsil Hates Fags: Proposition 107

Len Munsil hates fags.

And unmarried couples, and quite possibly the University of Arizona and the city of Tucson.

Why else would he have led the effort to put the downright spiteful Proposition 107 on the ballot?

Even the usual bonehead reason for supporting this sort of bill doesn't apply here. Many religious people, especially Protestants of the vulgar, "fundamentalist" sort, believe that state law recognizing same-sex marriage somehow changes the definition of marriage used for the purposes of their religion. They never put it that way, of course, as they're thoroughly confused. But Arizona's an easy state to handle for the mouthbreathers as its

Arizona statutesalready declare same-sex marriage void.

Childrearing, too, has nothing to do with Proposition 107, contrary to the hype.

Proposition 107 forbids the state's political subdivisions from creating or recognizingany state similar to marriage. Thus it would eliminate domestic-partner benefits programs in Tucson and elsewhere and greatly restrict the rights of unmarried or homosexual couples pertaining to hospital visitation, next of kin status, and the like. All of the responsibilities of marriage may still be assumed through private contract but, at least at state universities and hospitals and before the courts, and for government employees, none of the rights shall apply.

The only conceivable effect this will have is to make life more difficult for homosexuals and cohabitants employed by municipalities or the State and cause them to seek employment elsewhere. Join with me, Arizona Together, and myriad others in opposing pointless spite such as this.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Society for Economic Anachronism: Proposition 202

Something to chew on before we begin, an appetizer of sorts: A minimum wage is a law forbidding one from selling one's labor below a given price and thus forbidding somebody whose labor may not be worth the minimum from selling it at all.

Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb knocked this one out of the park:

There is no greater economic superstition held by the American people than that government can suspend the laws of supply and demand when it comes to wages...the minimum-wage argument has become largely irrelevant. The American labor market has passed it by.


Robb is right: With fewer than 1% of full-time and 6% of part-time workers being paid minimum wage, it's clear that market mechanisms are in fact at work in the labor market. The AFL-CIO, aka the Society for Economic Anachronism, however, feels that somehow these market wages aren't honest. Just how an honest wage can be calculated other than by bargaining and agreement between labor seller and buyer they don't explain. The old canard about being able to support a family has been brought out, but, again, just why one ought to be able to support a family of some arbitrary size no matter what one's employment situation is isn't explained, either.

Usually when the terms of an economic exchange are coerced by a third party, we call it "extortion". How the minimum wage doesn't fall into this category is lost on me. Perhaps, however, I should have more faith in the AFL-CIO in this matter as they are the nation's experts on worker exploitation, collecting mandatory dues from workers in agency-shop states and then using them to feed the lumpen ideologues in its leadership and lobby against its members' individual interests. They ought know it when they see it!

That it is a hike in the minimum wage is alone enough reason to oppose Proposition 202. If you need any more, consider that it's a trojan horse giving government agents and even complete strangers--including labor unions--sweeping access to private empolyment records and raising paperwork requirements for small businesses, making it even harder for them to compete with big-box stores having the advantage of economy of scale.

This is going to hurt consumers and small business owners and it isn't even going to help the poor. As the minimum wage increases it'll become more economical for businesses to computerize, mechanize, or hire fewer but more experienced and productive workers. Teenagers, those coming off the welfare rolls, and those in transition between occupationss--none of whom are represented in the AFL/CIO--will be hurt most of all, albeit in a manner invisible to all but the professional economist.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Variations on a theme: Proposition 206

Proposition 206: Nonsmoker Protection act

More has been said about the major sources of funding of the effort to pass Proposition 206 than about the substantiative differences between it and 201. Yes on 206 has received a lot of funding from tobacco companies and the vulgar Left, as is their tendency on every issue (just look at what they've been saying about developers and Prop. 207!), has been trying to spin this as a reason to vote against it.

Ours is a free society in which the interests of tobacco companies' shareholders are no less valid than yours and mine. It takes a certain degree of antiliberal audacity, self-interest not being equal to malice, to see malevolence in their fight for the right of consenting adults to use their product in limited settings where others consent by their presence.

In this case their interest happens to overlap with that of bar owners afraid that an outright ban on smoking in their establishments, completely bypassing their property rights, will cause them to lose business.

Proposition 206 isn't the smoking ban we're looking for. It doesn't address sidewalk smoking at all, shifts smoking to patios, and like 201, maintains a presumption that smoking is permitted in the absence of a "no smoking" sign, although it does mandate "smoking permitted" signs for bars allowing such behavior. But in several ways it's an improvement over 201. It preserves the right of bar owners to decide to allow or forbid smoking in their establishments, and doesn't include a gratuitious tax.

Its one drawback is its preemption clause forbidding local governments to further restrict smoking in bars or tobacco shops. Yes, the city of Tempe harmed quite a few of its small businesses by banning smoking, driving bar customers to neighboring cities. Nonetheless, since there are always contingencies, the option to modify the law ought remain open to local governments and abuses fought at that level.

206 is only slightly superior to 201. Given their similarity, it makes sense to vote for both, to avoid seeing each getting, say, 40% of the vote and neither passing.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Breathe easier: Proposition 201

Smokers don't understand how much the byproducts of their habit are an imposition on the rest of us. Secondhand smoke makes the eyes water and itch, the nose run, causing a scratchy throat and shortness of breath. And it also kills.

Unless I enter an establishment that has a warning posted on the door that says "Tobacco smoking permitted inside", there's no way I consent to exposure, least of all by walking on the public sidewalk, any more than I consent to being sprayed with chlorinated hydrocarbons or dusted with cocaine. Whether or not it's a byproduct of someone else's pleasure doesn't change that.

What would the ideal smoking law do? It would prohibit smoking in public, including on the sidewalk and on outdoor patios, except in places--enclosed rooms and courtyards--where one receives warning before exposure. And it would do something for those poor children, who couldn't possibly have consented, who are exposed to smoke in the home and go to school reeking like old ladies. Our laws are backwards; we can't legally encourage healthy alcohol consumption by giving teens a glass of wine with dinner, but we can fill childrens' lungs with tar and ash.

Not wanting to make the perfect the enemy of the good, I'm taking a stand for the right to stop a proverbial swinging fist where my nose begins and voting for Proposition 201. This despite it being put on the ballot by a group of busybodies including the American Lung Association which shouldn't be involving itself in legislation and politics, despite it raising the tobacco tax by two pennies per cigarette pack, despite it requiring, ridiculously, nearly every place where smoking is prohibited to post "No Smoking" signs, despite it exempting the outdoors, and despite it not providing private property owners to opt out.

Proposition 201 prohibits smoking inside all enclosed public places and places of employment, explicitly excepting outdoor patios, tobacco shops, private vetarans' and fraternal clubs, and hotel rooms.

A lot of my Libertarian comrades will find my position hard to swallow, some because in their quest for a grand unified theory of politics and ethics they have come, bizzarely, to the conclusion that what they call "property rights" (bearing only coarse resemblence to the actual institution) are somehow the most fundamental, and some due to difficulty separating the concepts of public and private space and public and private property. I'll offer my apologies now to those who've been pointing people here as though I've been presenting the definitive LP position on the issues (Sorry, Dave!) but I stand by my positions as not only correct, but liberal (libertarian), too.

Where negative externalities are involved, the law always has to balance rights. Prop. 201 is a minor and equal imposition on the rights of business owners, and the tax it establishes is flat-out gratuitous, but the current laws favor too much the right of smokers to indulge their habit over the right of the rest of us to not have noxious, carcinogenic irritants forced on us without our consent. Let's take a step in the right direction now; a sidewalk smoking ban and an opt-out for property owners can be added later.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Build our pyramids with their toil: Proposition 300

Proposition 300: Public Program Eligibility

That Proposition 300, the most mean-spirited of the anti-immigrant bills submitted by the legislature, is likely to pass is testament to just how hysterical Arizonans have become over visa status.

Since such obsession over a government permit is absurd, take it as a measure of the degree to which bigotry and xenophobia have become mainstream. Ernesto Portillo sees this as a mere expression of anger over Congress's refusal to seriously reform immigration policy. I'm not willing to be so charitable. We don't, after all, deny the elderly equal protection at the state level over Congress's refusal to reform Social Security.

Prop. 300 would tie eligibility for State childcare subsidies, and in-state tuition, and adult education programs to one's Federal visa status. Have the right papers, and you're eligible. Have the wrong ones, and you're not.

How long one has lived in Arizona and whether or not one is a taxpayer is inconsequential. The purpose here is not to cut back on free riders but instead to stick it to the mojados. Students who may have immigrated as toddlers will find themselves ineligible for in-state tuition over something their parents did sixteen years ago, over which they had no choice, regardless of whether or not their parents have paid taxes.

I'm no supporter of state-subsidized higher education--despite being employed by one of the state universities (ask me about that by email)--or of childcare subsidies. But while such things exist, those who pay their fair share ought to have equal access, and people oughtn't be penalized over matters in which they had no choice. That's called justice. Prove that someone has evaded taxes and we have a different matter on our hands.

Vote "no" on 300 and question the character of anyone who doesn't.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Turn pill-poppers into hardened criminals: Proposition 301

Proposition 301: Mandatory prison time for methamphetamine users

Hysteria about the recreational use of methamphetamine--known to the rabble as "meth" or "crystal meth" and to your local pharmacist or psychiatrist as Desoxyn--has swept Arizona. So far its affect has been limited to distorting police priorities and moving cold medicine behind the counter, but it now threatens to undo the gains brought about by 1996's Proposition 200.

Under that law, those convicted for the first time of simple possession of drugs are entitled, if they want it, to probation and treatment. Proposition 301, proposed by the legislature, would override the 1996 citizens' intitiative when the drug in question is methamphetamine.

Why methamphetamine and not amphetamines in general? From a purely scientific or medical perspective, singling it out makes no sense. The public has been made to think that "meth" is scary; they largely don't know what amphetamines are. Prop. 301 is a cynical means for legislators to score points with an ignorant and fearful public.

The main opposition to Prop. 301 has been the empty heads at Meth Free AZ. To quote:

The physical effects of the addiction are irreversible. It disfigures your teeth, increases the possibilities of stroke, liver damage, and an increased possibility of HIV, or hepatitis. It affects your brain through the destruction of tissue that is responsible for memory and emotion. It has a psychotic toll that includes paranoia and hallucinations. Repeated use destroys the brain cell receptors for dopamine, causing the brain to be unable to process the natural chemical, thus making the drug user feel less natural enjoyment when not using drugs.
That addiction per se is a behavioral symptom and doesn't cause "physical effects" aside, to hear it you wouldn't think that this is a legitimate and potentially safe prescription medication--the best known treatment for ADHD--that only damages the liver, disfigures the teeth, or causes hallucinations when taken in improper form and dosage.

Amphetamines are so socially harmful largely because they're illegal. 1996's Prop. 200, establishing treatment as the standard response to use, was the next best thing to legalization; treatment mitigates social harm. And it's been shown to work; Arizona's program has been considered a model nationwide.

Mandatory prison time, on the other hand, amplifies it, tearing pill-poppers away from their jobs, disrupting their families, and providing them the prison experience known to harden criminals. Vengeance and spite--the roots of the punitive mentality--have no place in the justice system of a free society. Conviction of behavior that at most is self-harm cannot justify imprisonment, and such imprisonment cannot be beneficial to society. It costs more than treatment and returns its victim to the streets more damaged than when they went in.

Vote "no" on Proposition 301.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Give them incentive to go home!: Proposition 302

Proposition 302: Legislative Pay Raise

Not much has been said about Proposition 302 and, to the best of my knowledge, no PACs have been formed to support or oppose it.

Nonetheless, this 50% increase in the legislative salary--leaving per diem pay untouched--raises some interesting questions about the nature of Arizona's legislature.

The Arizona Republic puts forth a few cogent arguments in favor, but its thinking is so far inside the box that I needed a flashlight to find it!

The question oughtn't be whether the time spent on the job merits full time pay, and I don't subscribe to the argument that legislators' nondesert of a raise stems from their political views.

Rather, I recommend voting down Proposition 302 as a step towards legislative reform. As Peter Schmerl and former legislator John Kromoko argued separately in 2000, there isn't enough real work for the legislature to do to merit a hundred-day session. If they have time to put symbolic English-only legislation on the ballot they have too much time for mischief on their hands. Keep their pay low--don't even adjust it for inflation--until their session becomes shorter and more focused.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Proposition 205: An inivtation to mischief.

I was initially in favor of Proposition 205, thinking it to increase the likelihood of informed voting by affording the voter time to, at his leisure, sit down with the ballot and study candidates, ballot questions, and issues.

Having seen how poorly Maricopa County handled paper ballots and how much mail theft goes on in Arizona, and having given further thought to the potential for tampering or vote-buying, I've concluded that the potential for mishaps and shenanigans outweighs the hypothetical benefit of a slightly more educated electorate.

Furthermore, this measure doesn't afford the voter any more options than he already has; request for a mail ballot is a simple procedure. Whether or not this increases the cost of conducting an election is something to which I cannot speak, although if I had to guess I'd say it's more expensive. It's certainly more wasteful, to send millions of pieces of mail, over half of which will not be used. It may also serve to corrupt or compound corruption of the electoral process by making it easier for those who wouldn't give enough of a damn about the issues to either request a mail ballot or go to the polls to nonetheless cast votes, or to be paid for their vote by unscrupulous activists. However, unlike Osterloh's Lottery, it doesn't provide an outright incentive for voting for voting's sake.

I'm voting against Proposition 205. Simultaneous to addressing a nonexistent problem, it
opens the door to mischief.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Proposition 200: Undermining the electoral process.

Proposition 200: The Arizona Voter Rewards Act

Speaking of harebrained schemes, Proposition 200 is one that, despite the decidedly leftist motives of its primary backer, even the Tucson Weekly could spot.

Mark Osterloh wants socialized healthcare funding imposed on Arizona. To that end, he spent a considerable portion of his personal fortune on this measure to encourage the uninformed and apathetic to vote by establishing a million-dollar lottery for which voting gets one a ticket.

What confidence he must have in his ideas--this is almost like admitting that socialized medicine is something that the ignorant are more likely to support than the well-informed! Almost, but not quite; Osterloh actually believes that those voting to win a million bucks will find themselves motivated to study the candidates' positions. (He also defends against ethical challenges by saying "Incentives are good enough for God." Eccentric, or insane? You decide.)

That aside, Proposition 200 may violate Federal law. Moreover it simply undermines the integrity of the electoral process. As was argued by Farrell Quinlan of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Proposition 200 "serves to undermine the opinions of conscientious citizens who learn about the issues and take their civil rights seriously enough to vote. With the effective bribery of the Voter Rewards Act, uninformed and uninterested voters will cancel out the political power of informed voters."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Proposition 203: Smoke! It's good for the children!

Proposition 203: Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Initiative

A group composed of various Democrat and Republican politicians from around the state calling themselves "First Things First for Arizona's Children" has put forth this initiative which would establish a new bureaucracy, the "Early Childhood Development and Health Board", a vast Lyndon Johnsonesque expansion of the Welfare State, and a tobacco tax coming to eighty cents per cigarette pack to pay for it all.

Predictably, the measure's authors argue in its text that early-childhood education and well-baby care is a public good and that it must therefore be paid with taxes. This is patent nonsense, of course, to anyone with a 101-level understanding of economics who can distinguish between true public goods and private goods with positive externalities.

If this was a mere residual-welfare measure, subsidizing that less than 1% of parents so irresponsible or so hard-up as to not be able to provide their children with education and health-care, it could be called folly. This, however, is a universal program, designed to make all Arizonan children government dependents--making someone a government dependent being one of the most insidious harms possible--and get them into government schools early-on.

If that isn't enough, its funding source is so poorly thought-out that it almost has to be a deliberate scam. Would you fund universal and permanent entitlements through a tax on an unhealthy and socially unacceptable product the consumption of which you expect to only decrease as years go by? A few years from now when cigarettes aren't popular enough to pay for this, it's more likely that politicians will raise taxes to fund it than that they'll eliminate the program.

Friday, October 13, 2006

That'll do, pig?: Proposition 204

Proposition 204: The Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act

Proposition 204, the shortest and simplest of this year's ballot questions, has also generated some of the most vapid arguments pro and con. Proponents are all arguing the same two things: Factory farming is bad, and "We ought be kind to food animals therefore this proposal ought to pass". To quote the three-year-old philosopher, "but why?"

The measure's most vocal opponents are, on the other hand, trying to tie the effort to a radical vegan agenda. Congressman Jeff Flake and others have put forth cogent arguments about this measure driving pork production south of the border, but they've largely been drowned out. "Proposition 204 is hogwash!" has gotten at least ten times more exposure than anything reasonably intelligent.

The issue aside, why Arizonans for Humane Farms--a less Arizonan group than Arizona HOPE--spent the roughly million dollars necessary to put an initiative on the ballot here instead of trying to effect change someplace like Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois where factory farms cause actual environmental damage is a mystery to me. Proposition 204 would require pigs and veal calves to be kept in pens large enough for them to turn around without touching the sides and restricts the use of gestation crates to the last seven days of a sow's pregnancy. Arizona doesn't even have a veal industry, and nearly 100% of the state's roughly twelve thousand sows are owned by a single producer, Pigs for Farmer John, in Snowflake.

A lot of people say categorically, based on arguments ranging from nonexistent to sophomoric, that animals don't have ethical rights. Leaving direct rebuttal of Machan's necessary-but-insufficient argumnet for some other time, I'll merely offer that it's not at all clear that there aren't categorical imperatives that apply to other sentient beings, however, that such imperatives in the absence of something compelling must also reflect that we are predators and they are prey.

Although, the rights of animals being marginal at best, this measure ought to be opposed for its effect on this state's pig farmers, ethics have little to do with why I've made up my mind to vote against Proposition 204. However minor its effect will be in Arizona, I'm reluctant to give ridiculous people any say in our laws or act as though they have a place at the table, or to give assent to ridiculous laws. Given the context--a state with no veal industry and one major pig farm--204 is about as silly as the English-only amendment; it does a bit of harm while preventing the state's biggest strictly theoretical problem since undocumented immigrants weren't voting.

Send the idelogues packing and keep silly laws off the books. Vote "no" on 204.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Costly new bureaucracy: Proposition 106

Proposition 106: Conserving Arizona's Future

While the Legislature submitted Prop. 105, an outside PAC is responsible for this one, but they cover much of the same ground; this sets up a collaboration between local and state governments to plan future use of trust land, allows land to be sold without auction for creation of public right-of-way, and sets aside over 600 M acres for conservation.

Additionally, it establishes a new bureaucracy, a board of Trustees, to oversee trust land, which should be funded by five to eight per cent of trust land revenue. It also provides a means by which the Trustees can sell land with the restriction that a portion of revenue from lease or subsequent sale will go to the State.

While I can almost get behind the royalty proposal, the expense of the new bureaucracy, in addition to the reasons I oppose Prop. 105, makes this measure unsupportable. It's worse in other ways, as well. 105 at least compensates the trust for the conservation set-aside. 106 doesn't bother.

The main opposition at saveourtrust.org provides a more in-depth look at the problems with 106.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jesters and tyrants at the gubernatorial debate.

A few hours ago I attended, as part of the Barry Hess camp, a debate between the candidates for governor.

Len Munsil was the clear winner, having cogent answers for every question and issuing attack after attack on sitting governor Janet Napolitano's track record, to which she couldn't respond. Although he meandered a bit, and although he's on the border-is-the-solution-to-whatever-it-is bandwagon, his polish meant he outclassed the backpedaling, avoidant Napolitano and the wild, somewhat shallow Hess.

Hess, although he came off more like a court jester than a serious politician, still has my vote; Munsil's stances on gay rights (equal rights=special rights), border issues (enforcement only), and health care (limit access to the courts) are intolerable although he has a noted libertarian drift on others.

Barry Hess, if he runs again, is in serious need of a brain trust. Libertarian answers--answers, not dodges, mock "principles", or sophisticated flourishes--to everyday questions of policy exist and are often simple, but Hess only showed an understanding thereof about half of the time. The rest was spent in a sort of handwaving about getting government out of the way--then what?-- and either sloganizing or making wisecracks. I don't know what sick twist of fate brought the libertarian brawn to Phoenix and the brains to Tucson. I do know that to be taken seriously Hess either needs to discuss and be coached on the issues in advance or the Libertarians need to run someone more able or less afraid to be on-topic and cogent.

Ah well; jesters still beat tyrants, as far as I'm concerned.

Lease without auction?: Proposition 105

Proposition 105: State Trust Land

Buried in this heap of minor changes to the language of Article 10 of the AZ Constitution is a benign provision for posting of auction notices on the state Web site and provisions which would, among other things allow trust lands to be leased without auction, convey land to counties for rights-of-way without advertisement or auction, and set aside 400,000 acres for conservation.

Although a conservationist at heart, I cannot see the wisdom of restricting the use of further trust land given that its sale or lease is supposed to take some of the burden off of the taxpayers of the state in funding, e.g. the public schools. 105 compensates the trust, but it's at the expense of the taxpayer.

Additionally, the lease-without-auction clause undermines--but unlike 106, doesn't overturn completely--the requirement in the state constitution that the full value be sought for trust land, and is an invitation for cronyism and abuse.

I would support a bill setting aside land for sale--at full value--to private conservation trusts like the Nature Conservancy; I oppose this amendment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Punishment before conviction: Proposition 100

Proposition 100: Bailable Offenses

Not content with leaving immigration policy to the Federal government and perhaps relishing the opportunity to oppress the powerless, hated Other, the mouth-breathing bigots and xenophobes in the Legislature have sent two amendments to the State Constitution to the ballot the goal of which is to erode the protections undocumented immigrants--so-called "illegals"--are guaranteed by State and Federal law.

This amendment to Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution of Arizona will deny bail to persons who have "entered or remained in the United States illegally" if they are suspected of "serious felony offenses as prescribed by the legislature."

Never mind that the state courts do not have jurisdiction over immigration matters, or that bail and immigration hearings are so different as to render this measure absurdly impractical. Bail law, as is proper in the country of a free people, is supposed to allow the accused, innocent until proven guilty, to remain free until conviction (at least in non-capital cases) unless there is pronounced risk of flight or danger to the community.

Immigration status is quite separate from flight risk, and being merely suspected of not having the proper visa, a minor civil offense and a victimless crime, is no evidence that one is likely to jump bail, despite the wrongheaded arguments going around that argue that not having a government permission slip is evidence for a tendency towards any imaginable mischief.

Furthermore, since, presumably, the suspected felons in question wouldn't have been previously found in a hearing to be in the country illegally, this measure would deprive individuals of their rights before they are proven guilty of anything. Presumption of innocence is one of the foundations of free society; this smells an awful lot like it conflicts with the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Although it may have the upside of letting us put bigot bureaucrats away for explicitly violating 18 U.S.C. § 242, I'm voting "no" on Prop. 100.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hats off to Barry

Barry Hess and I have gone through the dozens quite a few times, but I'm taking my hat off to him for taking, so persistently, a bold yet reasonable stand on the state income tax, that such a position has been adopted by his Republican opponent, as reported in the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Republic.

Article on Rational Review today

A quick visionary piece I wrote about welfare in the free market was published today on Rational Review.

Overdue relief: Proposition 101

Proposition 101: Local Property Tax Levies

Article IX, section 19 of the Arizona Constitution currently limits increases per year to property tax levies to 2%, but contains clauses exempting assessments levied to pay government debts, to pay for special-purpose districts, and taxes levied to support "common, high, and unified" school districts.

Billed as the "2006 Taxpayer Protection Act", this measure puzzlingly strikes the words "common, high, and unified". It also sets 2005, and not the previous year, as the base levy. In other words, it's a property-tax freeze, of the sort Bill Heuisler advocated in his unsucessful campaign for the Pima County Assessorship.

I'm leery about Prop. 101 due to the elimination of the words "common, high, and unified", given that here in AZ "school" can be taken to mean "college" or "university", at least in the context of firearms law. However, given that this prevents government from using a booming real-estate market as excuse to soak the taxpayer, I give it my support.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A matter of simple justice: Proposition 207

Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act is perhaps the most poorly understood measure on the November ballot.

The Tucson Weekly, for example, gets it dead wrong. It isn't about getting rid of zoning laws or the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and wouldn't even have that effect.

Capitalizing on the pro-liberty backlash against the -Kelo decision, Americans for Limited Government, a national, non-partisan, action-oriented group, financed a drive to put measures on the ballot in several states to limit eminent domain abuse and related misuses of power.

Prop. 207 addresses the central issues of Kelo by ensuring that public use is a judicial, not legislative or regulatory, question in Arizona and defining it to be:

  1. The possession, occupation and enjoyment of the land by the public or by public agencies.
  2. The use of land for the creation or functioning of public utilities.
  3. The acquisition of property to cure a direct and immediate threat caused by the current use of the land (such as removing structures that are beyond repair or that are unfit for human habitation or use).
  4. The acquisition of abandoned property.


Were it to stop there, it'd already be worthy of support, but it gets even better. For starters, Prop. 207 redefines "just compensation" for homeowners to mean a comparable safe, sanitary, and habitable dwelling or enough money to buy one. In other words, if 207 passes, the government can't take your home and just give you its cash value if it wouldn't be enough to buy another home. Eminent domain takings will no longer turn homeowners in poor neighborhoods into renters.

The most exciting--and the most controversial--benefit of 207's passage would be its partial-takings clause which requires the government to compensate property owners for regulations such as downzoning (do a search for Emmett McLoughlin to find out why that's a big deal) that take away from the value of their property by directly restricting its use. A list of exceptions can be found at the AZ HOPE website; the obvious ones such as public safety are covered, and unlike the Oregon measure which pioneered the concept of partial-takings, Prop. 207 is not retroactive and won't threaten to bankrupt municipalities all over the state.

Those who say that the partial-takings clause "goes too far" can be divided into three groups: Those who don't know what the measure does, those who haven't thought it through, and those who'd hate to see the government's power checked. For the last there is no remedy but ridicule--call a whip a whip! The first are usually concerned that the government will have to pay for anything it does anywhere that negatively influences property values; the text of the measure makes it quite clear that only laws directly regulating an owner's land would require compensation. I'll try to do something for the middle group here.

The modern conception of property is that it is a "bundle of rights", and that having title to land gives the right of exclusion and to various forms of use, the limits of which are, in urban areas, often determined by zoning and the municipal code. If you take away some of those rights, it's not "just like" taking some of the property; it is taking some of the property. The owner may still own the land but he is poorer because some of his right to it is gone; ownership, pop libertarians be damned, is not an all-or-nothing affair. Since the passage of the Bill of Rights and before, we have operated under the principle that the government, servant of the people, must provide compensation when it takes their property. Passage of Proposition 207 updates the Fifth Amendment's protections so that they take into account the creative swindles of modern municipal governments, ensuring that the government must pay if it takes some property rights just as it would pay if it took all property rights.

Make no mistake of thinking that Proposition 207 only concerns megadevelopers. Property is savings and livelihood; the partial takings clause protects homeowners, small businesspeople, farmers, landlords, and developers alike. Proposition 207 would force politicians to consider the human cost of regulation and to take responsibility for harm done to individuals. It's a matter of simple justice. Vote "yes" on 7 November and encourage your friends to do the same.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

If you can afford aspirin, you can beat immigrants: Proposition 102

Proposition 102: Standing in Civil Actions

Neo-Nazi associate and general never-do-well Casey Nethercott became a martyr for the Radical Right when he lost his Douglas-area ranch, "Camp Thunderbird" in a civil matter last year.

As heard from the xenophobic set, all Nethercott and Ranch Rescue did was escort two Salvadoran trespassers off of Joseph Sutton's Texas ranch and give them cookies and blankets in the process, and for their trouble the government took Nethercott's ranch and gave it to the "illegals," I mean, the "ILLEGALS", proof that the liberal pinko commie conspiracy is here.

What's left out of that picture is that Ranch Rescue terrorized these two immigrants and held them captive, shooting bullets past them and siccing a Rottweiler on them in the process. Nethercott allegedly pistol-whipped Edwin Alfredo Mancia Gonzales during the assault. A jury deadlocked on that particular criminal charge, but Nethercott, along with Ranch Rescue leader Jack Foote, neither of whom bothered to defend themselves in court, were found liable for $850 M and $500 M, respectively, in damages. Sutton settled out of court for $100 M.

Nethercott had in the meantime secretly deeded his $120 M ranch to his sister in order to hide his assets; she transferred it to the immigrants in question without court compulsion.

Arizona's use-of-force laws allow you to defend yourself and others, but under no circumstances can you detain, pistol-whip, or assault trespassers. Punitive damages are just and protect our freedom; that you cannot maliciously violate somebody's rights and merely pay for the band-aids or the hospital bill is a longstanding principle of our law preventing those who wish us ill from reducing the question of whether or not to violate our fundamental individual liberty to a cost-benefit analysis. If you beat an immigrant, be prepared to pay for the wrong you committed and not just the ice pack and ibuprofen.

In order to immunize the likes of Nethercott, Foote, and Roger Barnett from justice--to give the multiplying swarms of racists and xenophobes in the state free reign to abuse people as long as they pay for the band-aids--arch-bigot legislator Russell Pearce and others hijacked a great home-defense bill (striking it in the process) to propose an amendment adding a section to the Arizona Constitution denying undocumented migrants punitive damages.

Support for this is ironic, given that it's the right wing, refusing to make the conceptual distinction between ethical and legal rights, that usually says people have certain rights irrespective of what the law says. It's as though the ethical imperatives which underlie the concept of punitive damages go away if one doesn't have the right visa.

Also worth noting is that this would put undocumented immigrants even more at the mercy of their employers, since punitive damages for negligence will be out of the question.

What kind of State would we be, if we amended our Constitution to, instead of protecting every individual on every inch of Arizona land, protect only US Citizens or folks with the right visas? And what kind of mess would we be in if the scum of society start wronging folks who seem too Mexican because they think they can get away with it? Given Prop. 200's success in 2004 and the rise in xenophobia since, I have a feeling that this embarassment to the state will pass. Fortunately, the same 5th Amendment and Federal criminal protections which might stop Prop. 100 from being enforced are even more likely to be a check on this one.

As a libertarian, which is just a $10 word for free-market liberal, and someone who believes in human rights, I can't support anything that further subjugates undocumented immigrants to their employers or gives Roger Barnett types free reign to harm them, just because they don't have a government permission slip.

Aside: I challenge anyone who thinks they have a solid, bona fide libertarian argument in favor of this measure to an exchange of articles, one constructive piece and one rebuttal each. If I find it intellectually satisfying, three tacos al pastor are yours.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Proposition 103: No need to read the fine print, Se├▒or

Proposition 103: English as the Official Language

Why? To stick it to them filthy welfare-sapping spicks and latinos mojados? And why aren't we seeing these measures proposed in areas where they speak a lot of Vietnamese or Polish?

But seriously--there's no reason for the government of a free society to not put out official forms in the language of the people it serves, whether that's English, Spanish, Farsi, or Klingon. Having applications for drivers' licenses, voter registration forms, and the like available in the native tongue of a group of people present in this state in substantial number is a matter wholly separate from English's social status as our common language, which is the pretended purpose to this Constitutional amendment.

Fortunately, this is almost mere symbolism, as it has so many exceptions--foreign language instruction, commerce, tourism, law-enforcement, public safety, criminal defence, international trade--that it's difficult to think of a situation in which it applies. Of the several ballot-measure manifestations of Arizona's newfound whitebread xenophobia, this is the silliest. Nonetheless I oppose it due to its spirit and intent and on a desire to keep superfluous articles and evidence of ephemeral hysterias out of the State Constitution.

In case your stomach was churning at the thought, the foreign-borrowings clause means that even if this passes, students in public schools can still be served burritos instead of "wraps."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Proposition 104: Raising the limit on the drunkards' tab.

This is the first of a series of nineteen daily posts regarding the ballot measures we'll be voting up or down on November 7th



Proposition 104: Municipal Debt

Article IX section 8 of the AZ Constitution provides higher debt accumulation limits for sewers, water lines, streetlights, parks, and open-space preserves than for everything else. This measure would add to that list "public safety, law enforcement, fire and emergency services facilities, and streets and transportation factilities", in other words, everything else.

Our local governments already spend like drunken sailors and sell tax futures to pay for it; why raise the limit on the alcoholics' tab? That's our money they'll be spending down the line to pay for these bonds; encourage some fiscal responsibility by voting this measure down.