Friday, January 26, 2007

Yes, it's legal to beat photo radar!

As reported in Wednesday's Daily Star, the Senate Transportation Committee refused to approve a measure to ban license plate covers.

That means, that products such as the PhotoShield and Reflector covers will remain legal in Arizona, at least under state law.

Such a ban was not likely to affect spray-on products like PhotoBlocker, which do not in any way obscure the letters or numbers on a plate.

Yes, those are affiliate links. If you want to promote PhantomPlate's products on your website, you need only sign up at their website for their affiliate program. If you own an auto parts or simiar store, they are also looking for dealers.

Bush's healthcare merely a baby-step in the right direction.

This isn't an Arizona matter, so I'll keep it brief and just say that I've had yet another guest opinion get printed in the Citizen (albeit in the online edition for timeliness's sake).

Health care requires real fix, not socialism

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tucson City Council asks for the monkeywrench

Speed limits are the sort of law we only tolerate due to discretionary enforcement. Without enough police to catch every violator, the police--unless it's time to fill quotas--tend to go after more dangerous--and more profitable--offenders and let those of us going eight over on Speedway at eleven at night slide.

Tucson's City Council voted 7-0 tonight to undermine our grudging respect of traffic laws by installing red-light cameras and photo radar systems at intersections and purchase and staff a roving photo radar van at a cost of roughly $100,000/year. Although the threshhold speeds will be set--initially--to a tolerable eleven over, mechanistic enforcement does away with the illusion that speed and red-light enforcement are done primarily to protect the public safety.

Photo radar and red-light cameras are intended to be revenue generators, a way for the city to better fund its bloated budget without raising taxes. As such, as was noted by (outgoing Pima County LP vice-chairman) Rich McKnight, the only credible person who bothered to show up to tonight's meeting to speak against the program, they're a waste of the taxpayers' money.

It doesn't take much to monkeywrench a photo-radar system. Mail isn't proper service for a citation; ignoring a mailed ticket is probably the best response, as the city has 180 days after the supposed infraction to properly serve the ticket, which may be more expensive than it's worth. Distorting or reflective plate covers or highly reflective license plate spray may thwart the photo system.

And, of course, it's not unlikely that some local character will have one beer too many and use the cameras for pellet-gun practice. Moreover, a photo-radar van sounds like a blank canvas for a street art project, allowing the speedily creative to put three-foot, chartreuse smiley-face stickers or Mystery Machine style decorations all over it while its crew waits for Sanjay to stick the dozenth doughnut in the box. Not that I'd advocate anything illegal on this blog, of course. Hyperactive imaginations aren't banned, yet.

The best case for us is a victory for David Cain and removal of Tucson's system before it's even fully implemented. Otherwise a long fight to make this as fiscally and politically unprofitable as possible is ahead. Until then, if Maricopa County's experiences are representative, expect tens of hours--and thousands of dollars--of hassles.

The Pima County Libertarian Party hasn't found anyone to challenge City Council incumbents this year. Takers?

Honest and dishonest tax cheats.

"The drive to prove that no one owes income taxes is not a libertarian cause. It does nothing to show people that government programs hurt, rather than help, America. By trying to focus on legalisms, it does nothing to show that government shouldn't be taxing your income."
--Harry Browne, Jail Bait

I've been asked several times why, given that I generally support reducing tax rates, the number of taxes, and the government's power to tax, I show such antipathy to tax resisters and tax protesters individually and as a movement.

It would pay, first, to distinguish between the two. Tax resisters are those who honestly refuse to pay some or all of the taxes they admittedly owe the government. Tax protesters, on the other hand, devise and advance crackpot legal theories claiming that either they personally or nobody owes income tax.

The question of when civil disobedience is appropriate has always been one of shades of grey, and , I suspect, of taste. Rule of law is the foundation of free society; clearly we can't decide for ourselves all of the time which laws to obey and which obligations to meet. Yet clearly we should also not obey every law and meet every obligation no matter how unjust or burdensome. There are people, however wrongheaded, who believe in good faith that taxation is theft. (Not "like theft" or "sometimes theft", mind you, but always, exactly, categorically, theft.) And then there are those who refuse their taxes out of opposition to wars of aggression or the War on Drugs.

Both sorts strike me as hypochondriacs; I remain unconvinced that taxation itself is so great a burden or that the little bit spent on war is so great a portion to justify flouting not just law but rule of law itself, especially in light of tax resistance never making a significant difference. Nonetheless, I appreciate their position and understand its honesty.

Tax protesters, however, come in two flavors: charlatans and suckers. Since nobody likes admitting to being a sucker, the latter usually become the former when pressed about their beliefs. To top it off, they ordinarily become downright rude, namecalling, engaging in personal attacks, and insisting that, instead of referring them to sources, the person who bursts their bubble spell everything out, explicitly, themselves. Ordinarily decent people become outright jackasses when called on their tax protest theories. Maybe they feel like cornered cats. I don't know.

It's nearly impossible to scam an honest man. As with most con games those advancing tax protester theories prey on the greed of their mark, including a desire to be special and be exempt from an obligation the rest of us pleebs and pedestrians have to pay. Thus the tax protest advocates convince people of things no reasonable person in complete intellectual honesty could believe, from a Matrix-like demiurge fantasy about capital-letter, SSN-indexed straw men, redeemable for cash to a belief that the everyday meaning of the word "income" doesn't apply to the internal revenue code. They lead people to believe numerous twisty, unlikely arguments more suited to weasels than to men, and convince them of these things even though the IRS and many private individuals and groups have debunked nearly every bogus argument being advanced. They've lead people astray who've wanted to be led astray.

There's the sad part. People who recognize that taxes are too high and that we were once far freer than we are now are being led to ruin their reputations, discredit their causes, destroy their finances, and face prison time by those presenting the false hope of achieving freedom from taxation, at least for themselves, through word magic. The victims are greedy and dishonest, yes, but ruination is not a fair comeuppance.

Not only must liberty and a $0 tax bill never be confounded: one must also never get so foolish as to believe that there's a way to say "Open Sesame" and have an instant free society. The changes we are due will come slowly and through much struggle both at the polls and in the court of public opinion. By leading people with the right instincts about government astray and perpetuating myths about the natures of liberty and positive law, tax protesters undermine that effort.

A word of advice to the fringe Right.

No matter what your cause is or who you're up against, sending death threats or threats of sexual assault don't do anything to credit your side, and may draw undeserved sympathy to your opponent.

The Associated Press reports that Kyrsten Sinema (D-Far Left) has been receiving such threats ever since introducing HB 2286, which would make felony domestic terrorists out of anyone patrolling for criminals while armed. (HB 2286 is cosponsored by Ed Ableser, Steve Gallardo, Phil Lopes, David Lujan, Robert Meza, Tom Prezelski, and Albert Tom, for those keeping track of antiliberal loonies to dump in '08.)

Of course, this bill is aimed at Sinema's bogeyman, the Minutemen. The Minutemen may be motivated by a combination of evil and stupidity, but they're just a protest group with hero fantasies, sitting on lawnchairs, looking through binoculars, and calling in suspected illegal border crossers to the Border Patrol. And they have interesting fashion accessories--guns--which may also be used in the unlikely event they have to defend themselves. The ACLU's legal observers found that they had to be more concerned for the Miutemen's rights than over any mischief they'd cause. Nevertheless, those fashion accessories coupled with their association with even more unsavory characters like white supremacists gets them labeled "scary" terrorists by Sinema.

It's a good thing this bill doesn't have much chance of passing; I, too, would be a domestic terrorist. I don't know what kind of neighborhood Sinema lives in, but when I walk late at night, I'm usually armed, and when I hear someone prowling around the backyard or driveway area of my building I go out with either my baseball bat or revolver, depending on the circumstances and whether I'm not loaning out the latter. That's a patrol for suspected illegal activity, and I'm not affiliated with a "law enforcement entity."

Will the right-wing nutjobs out there kindly keep me out of trouble, then, by not giving this nonsense any more attention or sympathy than it deserves?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Andrew Thomas has to go!

Sane, civilized folk would already have rode both Sherrif Joe and Andrew Thomas out of town on a rail. Alas, Phoenix's 122 degree heat has many suffering under the delusion that suspects are the same thing as criminals and that tough talk, ruined lives, and a rulebook written by Kafka are good for society.

Let this one be the last straw. Thomas and his goon squad tried to put a young boy away for life because his computer got a virus. Read more about it on Arizona ex-pat and blogger extraordinaie "CLS"'s site, Classically Liberal.

Prosecutor tries to force teenage boy to register as sex offender for showing Playboy magazine to a friend.
You could be next! What was done to Matthew Bandy can happen to you.
Computer security expert confirms for us on Bandy case.
Bandy case was actually worse than first reported.
A message from Matt's mom.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Relief for home schoolers

By now it's well-understood, despite the best efforts by rent-seekers and left-wing ideologues (who've even duped the ACLU--more on this at a later date,) that education is not only not a public good in the proper sense of the term, but that government provision of education causes market failure. Simply put, not only is there no strong rationale for government provision of education, other than inertia, but the practice is harmful, preventing the development of more desirable alternatives.

To a large extent this is the fault of a double-payments problem. Parents who, all things being equal, would send their children to private school X, will instead, having already paid taxes that fund the local public school, decide to send them there, either because the perceived difference in quality isn't high enough to merit paying twice for education, or because they simply can't afford both the tax and tuition.

The solution--and the just thing to do--would be to provide dollar-for-dollar tax relief, up to the amount spent per pupil at the local public school or the payer's total tax burden (whichever is less), to parents, grandparents, godparents, neighbors, strangers, or whoever else will pay for all or some of the private education of an individual child. In one of its more bizzare moments, however, the legislature instead decided to offer a tax credit, with an arbitrary cap, for contributors to charitable scholarship-providing organizations.

While, for its day, it was a groundbreaking measure, the tax credit program didn't come anywhere near the heart of the issue; it didn't provide tax relief to actors in the education market removing the State's, and by extension the taxpayers' responsibility for the schooling of a particular child.

HB2218 provides direct tax relief to homeschoolers, whose role in the still-stunted education market wasn't even taken into account when the original tax credit bill was passed. Parents relieving the State of its burden by taking their children's education into their own hands will in turn be relieved of some of their tax burden. That's called justice, and it makes economic sense.

Call or write your representative and ask him to support HB2218. While you're at it, call the bill's sponsors and ask them to extend its scope to parents paying someone else to teach their children. With the legislature taking steps to at least partially fix the education market and the public now comfortable enough with choice that 62% support vouchers and 55% say all students deserve private-school scholarships, the time is right for Arizona to fix the double-payments failure for good and reclaim its position as a trailblazer for education reform.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The circus has come back to town.

The Legislature is back, and as we all know, that could make for hours of taxpayer-subsidized disgust and entertainment. As the session progresses, expect commentary here.

For now, in case you missed it, pasted below is the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers's wishlist:

Make Taxes, Spending Limit Priorities
By Chad Kirkpatrick and Tom Jenney

(A version of this op-ed appeared in the East
Valley Tribune on Sunday, December 31.)

The Arizona Federation of Taxpayers believes these
issues should be the Legislature's top priorities:

Income Tax Elimination

We propose replacing Arizona's personal and
corporate income taxes with a low, broad-based
retail sales tax (no higher than five percent). This
reform has been discussed in Arizona for at least
three years now (see the Goldwater-Roubik study (
for model projections), and was a gubernatorial
campaign issue. Elimination of the state's income
taxes (including the volatile, job-killing corporate
income tax) in favor of a consumption tax would be
single most effective measure Arizona could take in
an effort to encourage growth on a vibrant,
diversified economic base.

Update Arizona's Spending Limit

Since the last recession, Arizona's general fund has
seen average annual spending increases of 12
percent. If allowed to continue growing at that rate,
by 2009 the state budget will hit the state's current
spending limit, which is 7.41 percent of personal
income. The current spending trendline threatens
to return Arizona to the big-government days of the
1980s. A related problem with rapid budget increases
during a boom time is that they are inevitably
followed by painful budget cuts in the succeeding
recession-a cycle that turns the state budget into a
scary rollercoaster ride. Faced with making painful
budget cuts, many of our politicians will want to
cave in and raise taxes. Tax increases would
complete the return to the policies of the 1980s,
when Arizona was not a competitive state, taxwise.
To prevent those developments, AFT urges Arizona
legislators to update Arizona's current spending limit,
adjusting it down from 7.41 to no higher than 6.5
percent of personal income. 6.5 is a moderate limit--
every budget from FY2000 to FY2006 would have

At the same time, Arizona should continue to explore
the possibility of limiting state budget growth to the
rate of growth of population plus inflation. Combined
with the rainy day fund, this reform would help to
reduce the extreme highs and lows of the budget
cycle, while ensuring that the private economy grows
more quickly than the governmental sector.

Property Tax Limits

An explosive issue in 2006, property tax reform will
reignite in 2007, when tax levies are applied to the
2006 assessed values. Property tax reform is very
popular-especially Prop 13-style caps on assessed
value growth-but property tax reform is also very
complicated (due to educational equalization and the
nature of the formulae), and often involves shifting
tax burdens between different property classes and
from property taxpayers to income and sales
taxpayers. AFT urges legislators to look at all factors
in the property tax equation: 1) capping assessed
value growth; 2) reducing rates; and, 3) tightening
levy limits for all categories of taxation.

School Choice

Because education is the state's largest budget item,
school choice is a key fiscal policy initiative. Further,
school choice is the only proven means of improving
student performance and creating the human capital
necessary for the future of the Arizona economy.
Four decades of evidence shows the utter failure of
increased government expenditures in improving
student performance. To expand the menu of choices
available to students and parents, AFT urges
legislators to create a universal voucher system,
expand the state's scholarship tax credits, and
create a tax credit for parents who home-school
their children.

Health Care

Rather than continuing to tinker in a piecemeal way
with health insurance reforms, and rather than roping
yet more Arizonans into the semi-socialist
Medicaid/AHCCCS system, Arizona should open itself
unilaterally to the interstate private health insurance
market. Arizona health insurance consumers should
be allowed to buy into any private health plan
certified by any government in the 50 states. By
increasing competition fiftyfold, we will greatly
increase the ability of the uninsured to find
economical and portable insurance plans that meet
their specific needs. U.S. Rep. John Shadegg has
recommended implementing a similar reform at the
congressional level, but that is unlikely to make any
progress in the current Congress, so Arizona should
lead the way.

--Chad Kirkpatrick is chairman, and Tom Jenney is
executive director, of the Arizona Federation of
Taxpayers, a state chapter of Americans for

(The note continues:)

And for starters...
Incremental Tax Cuts

How about eliminating Arizona's income taxes
and not replacing them with any new
revenue sources? AFT projections show that Arizona
could easily phase out its income taxes by five
percent per year over the next 18 years. The catch?
The Legislature and Governor would have to reduce
General Fund spending growth to the rate of growth
of population plus inflation--a generous rate of
growth for government. For starters, we should
continue the good work begun last year with the
Taxpayer Appreciation and Investment Act, which is
cutting the state's personal income taxes by ten
percent over two years.


No Taxpayer Money for Lobbyists

Arizona's government agencies not only get to spend
your hard-earned money: they also get to use some
of that money to pay lobbyists to pressure the
Legislature for more money! The solution is
to prohibit public funds from going to lobbyists. Even
without taxpayer-funded lobbying, legislative
hearings on spending bills are tilted heavily in favor of
the proponents of increased spending. For a given
program, dozens of recipients of government funding
may show up to testify in favor of increased
spending, while taxpayers are lucky to have a single
lobbyist (such as one from AFT or the Arizona Free
Enterprise Club) testifying against the program.