Sunday, November 30, 2008

Government billboards.

Driving back to Tucson from the Phoenix Symphony tonight, I spotted a billboard in Phoenix's arts and entertainment district boasting that the University of Arizona is #1 in Astronomy.

A very true claim, yes, but just how many Astronomy, Astrophysics, or Planetary Science majors does the U of A expect to recruit with such a billboard? The likely "real" purpose of the advertisement falls outside of legitimate University expenditure; it is an attempt to convince affluent Phoenicians to "support" the U, not by making donations--that's done by direct mail to alumni--but rather by requesting that their legislators fund it and otherwise grant its wishes, a perhaps cheaper supplement to its outright lobbying. (The legislature has talked about forbidding the University and other organs of the government to lobby for years but never has had the sense to pass such a bill.)

In their excellent >100 Ideas for 100 Days the Goldwater Institute proposes forbidding all state-funded billboards or advertising that include a politician's name or face. That's a capital idea, but it can be made broader still: forbid the State government, any local government, or any organ of the state or local government to purchase any advertising whatsoever aside from that required by statute.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two new 'blogs added to blogroll.

I have added two more Arizona policy 'blogs to Goldwater State's blogroll:
  1. The Arizona Desert Lamp. Former Daily Wildcat columnist Evan Lisull's solo 'blog, this covers Arizona happenings and policy, with especial attention given to the University of Arizona.
  2. Brown and Little PLC. This is apparently a group 'blog, maintained by a Phoenix criminal defense law firm, although the names of post authors are not given. The perspective (like mine) appears to be broadly classical-liberal, and topics covered include the quirks of Arizona law and reports from the "field". This report about ethics violations in an unnamed prosecutor's office (which I suspect to be LaWall's) is but one of many posts that make the 'blog's archive worthwhile reading.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Proposition 101 is too close to call.

It's twenty minutes past midnight, and I find myself cursing AHCCCS chief and shameless fabricator Anthony Rodgers, gullible writers like those at the Daily Star who weren't critical enough of his creative "interpretation" of Prop 101 or the outrageous $2 billion price tag he put on it, and of course the court that let him slide.

Proposition 101, the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, is too close to call at the moment. With 92% of precincts reporting, the difference is a little over a thousand votes. Prospects don't look good, however; most of the missing precincts are in Pima County.

It's a nail-biter, yes, but I need sleep. More to follow. Semi-official, sporadically updated results may be found on the Secretary of State's website.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Something tells me I'd get along swimmingly with the East Valley Tribune editorial board.

Now that is an uncanny amount of overlap. Unlike Indie Rock Pete I'm happy to see that someone sees it my way, although it is a strange feeling.

Beyond fear of money-lenders.

A (rather paranoid) commenter on my post concerning Prop 200 thinks that Google ads for payday loans somehow diminish my credibility on the topic of Proposition 200. It's worth noting that Google places ads based on the presence of keywords, moreover, that it's a rather serious--libelous--accusation, that someone is somehow being paid to voice an opinion he wouldn't otherwise have.

The accusation of shilling for this business or that, so commonly heard from the Left, usually lacks plausibility and is a mark of immaturity. Without any evidence of payola one would have to rule out all legitimate reasons for holding an opinion, and the mind that cannot envision reasons other than payola that someone may support something that also may be in a money-lender's best interest is, at best, underdeveloped. As is the mind that reverts to the almost instinctual aversion to either self-interest--we don't live in a zero-sum world--or money lenders. I have argued that sunsetting the "payday loan" business would be bad for both the business owners and the business customers. That means passing Prop 200 is win-win. The mind suspicious of self-interest is one that doesn't understand the term "win-win". "Win-win" transactions between lender and borrower look a lot like "win-lose" transactions in hunter-gatherer society; override the caveman, please!

But back to those ads. Note that many of them are for offshore operations. If Proposition 200 fails and the legislature sunsets the "payday lenders'" enabling law, Arizonans will turn to these services, which are effectively beyond the reach of regulation and rather difficult for a person of modest means to sue.

Miscellaneous Endorsements: Maricopa County and Central Arizona

Four more endorsements, then sleep, work, and the polls, all the while anxious about the eventual disposition of Proposition 101:

  • Elect Dan Saban Maricopa County Sheriff.

    Joe Arpaio's PR men promote him as "America's Toughest Sheriff". What does having America's Toughest Sheriff get the people of Maricopa County? Publicity stunts, money wasted pursuing immigration paperwork offenders instead of criminals, civil liberties violations, extradition refusals, and quite a few sure-loser lawsuits. If they end up spending a night in his "Tent City" jail, it may even cost them their lives. The Wikipedia article on the man is a good place to start for those unfamiliar with his record, or just search for his name on Google.

    The County's authoritarian-leaning electorate has been predisposed to view Arpaio's detractors as "whiners", "supporters of criminals", and other such nonsense. Reflect for a moment on why our Constitution has e.g. the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and if that doesn't convince you he has to go, consider how much those lawsuits are costing the taxpayer. If you're still not convinced he has to go, let me remind you that he has been using his office to harass and intimidate< critical journalists, leading to a standoff with Phoenix police when his deputies threatened to arrest a New Times reporter for the offense of searching public records, and also to a lawsuit over the retaliatory arrest and false imprisonment of New Times executives. If you don't think that behavior crosses the line, you likely think that the First Amendment is for whiners and that mere mortals ought never question any behavior by any "authority figure". But if you believed that, you wouldn't be reading my endorsements.

    Dan Saban is running to restore the respectability of the Sheriff's office and department, to end the stream of lawsuits, the posturing, the gimmicks, and the publicity stunts--none of which have made Maricopa county a safer place to live--replacing them with modern practices that work. Joining with the Arizona Republic and most of the area's policemen's organizations--again, strange company!--I encourage you to give him your vote.

  • Elect Judah Nativio to the AZ Senate, district 18

    Russell Pearce, more than anyone else, "poisoned the waters" at the Capital, whipping up xenophobia, even declaring illegal immigrants to "have no rights", as if to incite the people to a Rwandan solution.

    Term-limited out of the State House of Representatives, he's running for the State Senate. Judah Nativio, a cardboard-cutout Democrat, is his opponent. Don't send Pearce back to the Capitol; vote Nativio. Better to elect a mediocre Democrat than the State's major instigator of anti-immigrant hysteria.

  • Vote Joe Cobb in Congressional District 4

    I haven't much to say about incumbent Ed Pastor. (This is why I need a co-blogger in Maricopa County.) As far as I've been able to discern, the long-serving Democrat has a voting record that's "middle of the road" given his Party affiliation.

    What I do know, however, is that in any given room it's likely that (Libertarian) Joe Cobb can think circles around 99% of the other people present. Unlike most of the Libertarian Party's candidates he demonstrates an understanding of subtlety and that public policy is a balancing act. He demonstrates a genuine intellectual curiosity, an even temper, a courteous modesty, and the humane liberal values that characterize the libertarian movement but are all too absent from the Libertarian Party. More importantly, although he has not served in elected office, his past experience in government makes him well-qualified to serve in Congress, perhaps more so than any other Congressional challenger in the State.

    When I recommend voting for a Libertarian or a Green, it's usually as a protest vote. Don't vote for Joe Cobb as a protest vote. Vote for Joe Cobb because he's the best man for the job and, in a just world, would be a shoo-in.

  • Re-elect Jeff Flake in Congressional District 6. If any incumbent Congressman, anywhere in the USA, deserves re-election, it is Jeff Flake. Since leaving the Goldwater Institute for Congress eight years ago, Flake has become the House's premier advocate of fiscal restraint and one of its foremost champions of civil liberties. The "Flake Hour" set off the fight against earmarks. Party leadership made him pay for it, but he's stood firm. Perhaps if they'd have listened to Flake, they wouldn't be set to lose the House to the Democrats, again, despite low overall Congressional approval ratings.

    Contrast this with Democratic challenger Rebecca Schneider, who gripes that "people are tired of Jeff Flake not helping them. Need I explain to you, Ms. Schneider, how disingenous it is to call B slipping an earmark at the end of a bill to spend A's taxes for the benefit of C "help"? Or perhaps she really thinks that the job of a Congressman is to drive around the Valley and assist people stuck on the highway in changing their tires, or coax cats down from trees. Schneider's website reads like a third party candidate's thoughtless rant (and full of greengrocers' apostrophes and similar errors, too!), and her statements to the press show her to be similarly out of her league. Give her a few years on a school board or water board to learn to think about policy, perhaps then she'll be worth considering. The only reason she even has a hair of a chance this year is because of general anger at the Republican Party.

    That a Libertarian newcomer (with a website creepily reminiscent of the LaRouchies), Rick Biondi, is running against Flake is startling. Flake is easily the most libertarian member of the House. He voted against Sarb-Ox, voted against Medicare Part D, supported comprehensive immigration reform, and while he may have initially supported the PATRIOT Act and the war in Iraq, came to oppose both, and vote accordingly, in little time. Perhaps Biondi's run is an exercise in vanity?; surely there was room for a Libertarian on the State Senate ballot! Libertarians: look up Flake's record--he's not the "lesser of two evils"--and pass on Biondi.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Miscellaneous Endorsements: Pima County and Southern Arizona

And now for the post sure to annoy my readers: candidate endorsements. Just remember, this is a nonpartisan 'blog, so regardless of your party affiliation you can expect that I endorse candidates who don't share it.

  • Elect Brad Roach Pima County Attorney. I never thought I'd endorse a candidate also given the endorsement of the policemen's union, but (Republican) Roach's intelligent and temperate approach has earned the support of people with many political affiliations and tendencies, including quite a few Libertarians and Democrats.

    It doesn't hurt, of course, that when it comes to election integrity, incumbent Barbara LaWall is part of the problem, or that she has run the office in a highly political fashion, engaging in outright misconduct concerning the Stidham murder. And it probably helps that Roach was one of the principal victims of that misconduct. But Roach has taken the race far beyond questions of professional propriety by focusing on issues of intelligent management of the office.

    LaWall likes to promote high trial statistics, but a high trial rate wastes time and resources. Roach would like to get the office focused on putting the truly bad eggs--the ten percent of criminals who commit eighty-five percent of the crime--to trial and off the streets, letting nonviolent drug offenders and the simply stupid plea bargain. LaWall is reluctant to hire defense attorneys and turns down anyone who's ever so much as interned in the Public Defender's office; Roach understands that former defense attorneys often make the best prosecutors (and vice versa.)

    He supports, to some extent, the death penalty, and gives this "victims first" nonsense--more worthy of the Arabian legal system than ours--more talk than it's worth, but his election will bring positive change to the office and to the political culture of Pima County. (And possibly also to the state: LaWall and Terry Goddard together are principals in the Napolitano machine's culture of illegal electioneering and impunity.) I won't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I must, however, note that I almost feel it a breach of loyalty to not endorse the accessible, open-minded, even-tempered Green Party idealist Claudia Ellquist, who is seeking this office for the second time. Like Roach, Ellquist has made sincere efforts to reach across party lines for votes and support. Like Roach, she promotes more intelligent management of the office, a higher standard of ethics (i.e. a responsibilty to justice, not just to winning cases), and enforcement of the electioneering laws LaWall and Goddard apply selectively at best. Unlike Roach, she also opposes the death penalty. I'd vote for both if I could, but our primitive voting system has it that if I vote for Ellquist over the much more broadly supported Roach, I might help to bring about the least desired outcome. I encourage a vote for Roach, but if you can't bring yourself to vote Republican, vote Ellquist.

  • Elect Barney Brenner Pima County Supervisor in District 3. Incumbent Sharon Bronson faced a challenger--me!--in 2004 who couldn't commit himself to the race. As a result she has amassed a substantial war-chest that has been spent on advertising and direct mail against Brenner, who came within 1500 votes of defeating her in 2000. Most of the direct mail and ads have been of the lowest sort we see in politics: "Look what I've done as Supervisor! What did Brenner do for you? He's not Supervisor and I am!"

    Bronson original sought the office because, like me, she was an environmentalist. It didn't take long, however, before she was running the county for the benefit of the development lobby. Shilling for business is a slander often hurled at free-marketeers, perhaps as misdirection: on the local level, it is the province of the left-winger. "If I let these guys have what they want, I'll have all sorts of funding for superfluous programs!" is the thinking that has carried the day on the Board of Supes and it seems in Bronson's office.

    We all knew that Pima County's boom couldn't last forever. As a candidate in 2004 I mentioned that water and open space together would rein in growth and that the County should plan more prudently for the future. Bronson did exactly the opposite. She tried to have her cake and eat it too, tremendously growing the County budget during the double-strength "boom" of new construction and rising valuations, and even claiming that she cut taxes. Yes, she voted for a decrease, but valuations were so high that it was a mere rate decrease.

    Party's over, new construction has come almost to a halt, valuations are down, and we're experiencing a budget shortfall. The county's voters couldn't bring themselves in 2004 to elect a candidate demanding fiscal responsibility, but that candidate was also 22 years old, new to the area, cast into the election at the 11th hour, working on a PhD, operating on a shoestring budget, and running at a time when the average voter thought the boom could last forever. Now that forever has come and gone, and that a more established candidate is in the race, I suspect that the voters will do what they should have done four and eight years ago.

    Brenner will be a good choice for the County. He believes that fiscal responsibility is the right thing to do and not merely something to do temporarily during lean times. Whereas Bronson merely has the support of the Democratic machine, Brenner has attracted endorsements from (maybe-Republican Supervisor) Ray Carroll and the Chamber of Commerce. He has no pretense to environmentalism but has substantially supported previous open-space measures. Moreover, his decidedly unBronsonlike position on the size and scope of governments means he need not act always in the interest of the development lobby. With Brenner on the Board of Supervisors, we can start talking seriously about out-of-control growth and ways to manage the water supply for the long term.

    Lower taxes, better policy, and fiscal restraint: what is there not to like? Sure, he's written for Human Events, but this is a local race, so who cares?

    In case you need a reminder, remember also that Bronson was a key architect of the Regional Transportation Plan and one of the chief election-integrity obstructionists, opposing her own party's records requests.

  • U.S. Congress, District 7

    Does anyone remember the old Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" wherein the Presidential candidates were human-eating "Space Mutants" Kang and Kodos or Reform Party candidate Ross Perot? That election didn't turn out so well, but my recommendation is that you not vote for a Space Mutant and instead cast your vote for Libertarian candidate Raymond Patrick Petrulsky.

    Who are the Space Mutants in this case? One is the incumbent, Raul Grijalva, a Democrat with a drinking problem who didn't distinguish himself on the school board, didn't distinguish himself on the Board of Supervisors, has done nothing in six years to distinguish himself in Congress but keeps getting elected because of a great skill at Chicago-style ethnic identity politics. When he does stand out it's for nuttery like a ban on scary-looking firearms or a national Cesar Chavez holiday. The other is perennial candidate Joe Sweeney, a clinically crazy man, on permanent disability, who operates an unaccredited "law school" and who is an avowed racist, one time calling Mexicans amateur Jews. He also introduced the term "genital drive" to the popular language. Watch and laugh.

    Petrulsky has been unimpressive, even for a Libertarian candidate. But when the major-party candidates are space creatures, vote for Perot.

  • U.S. Congress, District 8.

    "Tim Bee" is Spanish for "pendejo. This is the man who held up SB 1214 in the state Senate, who is a principal in putting Prop 102 on the ballot, and who cut Tucson in half, for hours, for a private fundraiser. Incumbent Gabrielle Giffords, on the other hand, has been lackluster even for a first-term Congresswoman, unwilling or unable to come across as though she believes in much of anything and thus campaigning on her (fairly good) constituent services record. I know that Giffords does, at least privately, stand for things; let's give her a "kick" and get her to stand for things in Washington by casting votes for someone in the race merely to take a stand: Sierra Vista area coffee-shop owner Paul Davis.

    Davis's campaign is also unimpressive, even for a Libertarian, but with a folksy manner and a contemplative, modest approach to the issues, he's been a better candidate than Petrulsky. I was impressed by him in person, even offering to give him his first campaign contribution, which he wasn't set up to take at the time. The chances of him winning are minuscule, but in politics, one gets nothing by voting for the winner. This time around it's better to induce Giffords to show some backbone, or the Republicans to not nominate a certifiable jerk, by not falling into the "Vote against X" trap and instead voting for the Nice Guy who is closest to our position.

    If you must vote only for the short term, however, do vote for civil-libertarian Giffords over culture-warrior Bee.

Just a number tonight.

Just a number will be posted tonight. Candidate endorsements will be up by Monday evening.

The number is 7, which is the lower bound on the number of Prescott-area real estate agents who have committed suicide in the last six months.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wall Street Journal editorial staff puts in good word for Proposition 101.

In part because they were scared by the tin-foil hat theory cooked up and promoted, perhaps illegally, by AHCCCS director Anthony Rodgers, Arizona's major newspapers have advised voting "no" on Proposition 101, the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act. The Wall Street Journal has entered the fray, recommending a quite sensible "yes". To quote:
Proposition 101's fate is up in the air because its opponents, led by the Governor, are spending about four times more than supporters. They are doing so in the belief that if health-care choice passes in Arizona, it will spread to other states. It is ironic the groups opposing the rights of Arizona citizens to choose their own health care purport to back a "patient bill of rights." In what way is the freedom to choose one's care not a fundamental patient right?

That there is such well-funded opposition, led by bureaucrats and the Governor, to a proposition that guarantees (1) "No law shall be passed that restricts a person's freedom of choice of private health care systems or private plans of any type.", (2) "No law shall interfere with a person's or entity's right to pay directly for lawful medical services," and (3) "Nor shall any law impose a penalty or fine, of any type, for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any particular health care system or plan", and nothing else, shows that some sinister imposition on your freedom to purchase medical services and insurance is in the works. Remember both this and the dishonest "$2 Billion" claim when Janet Napolitano comes up for re-election in 2010. More importantly, vote "Yes" on Proposition 101 this Tuesday, and consider making even a $5 contribution to Medical Choice AZ this weekend, to help pay for phone calls.

Welcome Laissez Faire Books to Arizona

News of the demise of Laissez Faire Books is outdated; the old specialty bookseller was taken over by the International Society for Individual Liberty.

As part of its restructuring and revival as an arm of a nonprofit, it has moved from expensive Benicia, CA to a larger and less expensive location near Phoenix. LFB joins the Institute for Justice, the Goldwater Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity and others as another of a growing number of pro-liberty organizations based in or with a presence in Arizona. Although still dismayed by their knee-jerk anti-environmentalism, I welcome them to the party.