The Daily Camera’s Fatuous, Failed Backpedal.

Yesterday, Monday, I took the Boulder Daily Camera to task for an indefensible letter it published last Wednesday, April 19 that unambiguously incited violence against oil and gas workers. A day later on the 20th, without retraction or apology, the Camera had modified the letter, but grossly inadequately. The letter still plainly supported violence against person and property.
 

A friend later alerted me that a day before I posted my criticism, on Sunday, April 23, four days after the original letter, the Camera’s editorial editor, Dave Krieger had penned a “full scale mea culpa.” Intrigued, I clicked to the Camera to see what this apology might say, and whether the paper had done the right thing and withdrawn the inflammatory letter. No. The letter is still there and Dave Krieger’s apologia does not make his indefensible position more defensible. He just piles on bad journalism and bad historical thinking.

 

 
In the brief “Editor’s note” the day after the letter first appeared, Kreiger explained he sanitized the phrase “blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers” into “take action to dissuade frackers from operating here” because the Camera does “not condone violence or property destruction of any kind.” But he still believed the letter presented “philosophical questions about civil disobedience” that were worthy of discussion in the community debate about fracking. In his longer apologia on Sunday, Krieger first explains that in long hours of editing, he just had a brain freeze and didn’t quite grasp the line about blowing up wells and eliminating workers. So, slap the forehead and delete. He goes on to reflect at length about historical cases of righteous civil disobedience to unjust laws and their possible guidance for public debate today.
Here’s the threefold problem with the Camera’s frivolous backpedal:
 
First, the edited letter still sitting on the Camera’s server absolutely advocates violence against person and property:

 

“[F]racking equals murder. Malcolm X said: ‘I don’t call it violence when it’s in self-defense; I call it intelligence.’ Coloradans must be intelligent and act in self-defense to protect their neighborhoods and children from the existential threat of fracking. Weibo Ludwig of Calgary, Canada fought back by pouring cement down wellheads and blew up wells.”

 
Talley up those clauses, Mr. Krieger: Coloradans are facing the equivalent of murder. Acts of self defense are not violence. We must act in self defense. One exemplary citizen did it by vandalizing and blowing up wells.
 
No one can honestly, reasonably say that is anything but urging violence against person and property.
 
Second, even with the benefit of the doubt, and assuming no threat to persons, it is still the case that after all legal and administrative avenues of opposition to fracking have been exhausted, direct destruction of property is probably the only effective means to halt drilling. Therefore, the Camera’s cheery assurance it does not condone destruction of property, but nevertheless wants to spur a community conversation about the validity of civil disobedience to block drilling is either rankly illogical or disingenuous.
 
Third, Krieger’s Sunday piece hijacks and cheapens the legacy of brave people who, at great personal risk, fought oppression and gross denial of human rights. It also blurs the critical distinction between action that is merely illegal, that he invokes, and action that is violent and destructive, that he flirts with. In broad daylight, Ghandi and followers, Martin Luther King and followers, even the suffragettes put themselves in the way of physical harm and death. They acted by passive resistance to fight foreign occupation of India, the systematic legal and cultural suppression of a race of people, and the denial of the basic human right to participate equally in voting in representative government.
 
The suffragettes and civil rights activists secured for everybody the right to vote and participate civically. Americans enjoy those rights today. But that’s not enough, some like Krieger suggest. Democratic participation is not the prize—winning and getting your way is the thing that matters. And the degree of claimed violation that justifies the violent resistance Krieger romanticizes is no longer denial of personal rights, but simply public policies and industrial activities that someone disagrees with.
 
So yeah, taking a brave stand against energy development by launching destructive, thief-in-the-night strikes is justified. Just like Ghandi and MLK. Pass the dynamite.

Snowflakes Get Faculty Backup: Censorship Equals Better Free Speech

The New York Times today publishes an extraordinary column, titled: What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech.  In it, Ulrich Baer, the vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity at New York University argues at length that what students who want to censor “offensive” ideas get right about free speech is, basically, everything. The gist of his argument is that some propositions are so dehumanizing to the affected people that they are impossible to rebut with equal humanity and legitimacy. He invokes such clashes Holocaust deniers, racists, or opponents of illegal immigration criticizing Holocaust survivors or their loved ones, minorities, or illegal immigrants, respectively.

In each case, he contends the attack holds its targets down, and prevents them from fairly responding . Got that? If Provost Ulrich had his way, the phrase “illegal immigration” would be prohibited hate speech at NYU because it prevents the fair debate that Ulrich would like to see.

Well, if there were any doubt, the censorious students don’t just have the sympathy of Leftist faculty. They have their vocal backing, from the commanding heights of the New York Times.

Green Extremist Suggests Death Threats for Drillers; Colorado Paper Carries His Water.

The East and West Coasts can’t hog all the excitement. While militant Antifa types attack Trump supporters in Berkeley, rowdy snowflakes hustle conservative speakers off campus, and masked hooligans occupy streets in New York, Colorado could be cultivating some Leftist violence of its own…in the cause of making energy less plentiful and more expensive.
 

Last week, the Boulder Daily Camera published a letter asking, whether, if oil and gas companies drill too close to homes, thus “threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers?” The next day, without apology or retraction, editors walked back the incitement to a blander formulation: “[D]on’t we have a moral responsibility to take action to dissuade frackers from operating here?” Editors intoned they “do not condone violence or property destruction of any kind” but they stand by the letter because it “presents a philosophical question the Camera believes is worthy of community conversation in the context of the ongoing discussion over fracking.”

 
The Camera’s reasoning is so lacking it’s hard to know where to start. First, the letter itself is an unscientific rant which simply strings together all of the environmental Left’s worst accusations and rumors about fracking. It baldly asserts fracking threatens lives, but omits the statistics and obituaries of the growing number of victims. It assures fracking pollutes our water, except, even the EPA admits it does not. And fracking causes climate change! Except that the natural gas produced by fracking is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and helps reduce carbon emissions. Fracking causes species extinction! Except energy producers, like all US industry operate under the Endangered Species Act, and if there were any evidence of species threat, EPA regulators would happily swoop in and slap down. (Unless the threat came from windmills, whence EPA necks would swivel like Linda Blair’s to look away.)
 
Surprisingly, the letter avoids the most recent hot button charge: Fracking drives a large increase in earthquakes. Except the United States Geological Survey prepared a Myths and Misconceptions chart that thoroughly debunks that claim.
 
Second, the Camera cannot say it opposes violence and destruction and still publish the letter. The letter is about violence. Even airbrushing the direct incitement, it blares out this unveiled call to action:
 
“The oil and gas companies are putting their profits ahead of the health of the people in Colorado; consequently, fracking equals murder. Malcolm X said: ‘I don’t call it violence when it’s in self-defense; I call it intelligence.’ Coloradans must be intelligent and act in self-defense to protect their neighborhoods and children from the existential threat of fracking. Weibo Ludwig of Calgary, Canada fought back by pouring cement down wellheads and blew up wells.”
 
The Camera isn’t even pretending to remove incitement to violence. If editors implausibly state they mean to foster discussion of legal means to oppose fracking, then they would have to acknowledge fracking already is probably the most examined, debated, opposed, governmentally supervised technology in the 21st century. Federal agencies like the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the BLM and others all have different roles and authorities that affect fracking. Similarly, Colorado state agencies like the Department of Health and Environment, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Air Quality Control Commission, as well as local governments all have roles in working to keep the environment clean and fracking practices reasonable. The CDPHE recently issued the results of a comprehensive study finding fracking generally safe and involving low levels of risk to health.
 
What philosophical question does the Camera think is worthy of conversation? If, after all the regulating, lawyering, planning, negotiating, hearings, and sometimes litigating, a project is approved and goes forward, there is only one possible question left: Are people who disagree with the outcome of the process justified in using violence to get their way? The writer says yes. The Camera says let’s discuss it. It’s outrageous. The lunatics not only occupy the asylum but the editorial board.
 
As a bit of an aside, it’s important to note the tired old head fake involved in demonizing “corporate profits” that come from providing the public something it wants. The rant is so ubiquitous it’s easy to become numb to its absurdity. Oil and gas companies produce energy because people want to use it for their quality of life. Most of us like good lighting, warm heaters, hot showers, cool air conditioners, and convenient appliances and electronic devices. Energy producers produce what the public wants in abundance.
 
Irrational griping about corporate profits suggest there’s some kind of pick pocketing or identity theft and account plunder involved. Actually, the opposite is true. Left to their own devices, consumers would use more energy. But the same green left that wants to limit the supply also wants to force limits on consumption—to regulate light bulbs, dishwashers, washers, dryers, car sizes and mileage. They also work with regulators and utilities to impose cumbersome “Demand Side” and shaming programs on consumers. (Final note: this observation about the economic contribution of producers does not apply to monopoly distributors, like Ecel Energy. Companies like Excel team up with green activists and cooperative regulators to force more expensive energy and higher costs onto consumers. Everyone pays more to pad Excel’s uncompetitive bottom line. They indeed are world class pick pockets.)

Leftist Delusion Spreading; You Can’t Have Freedom without Economic Liberty

The American left is becoming more brazen. It feels empowered and unashamed to censor conservative speech on campus and elsewhere. It frankly condemns property rights and the free enterprise system. Its champions like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren coldly mock prosperous entrepreneurs and even disparage abundant consumer choice on the shelves of grocery and department stores.
That worldview is obviously far from America’s cultural and constitutional roots. In choosing the blessings and risks of independence over the security and servitude of colonial dependence, the founders crafted a constitution carefully structured to protect property, contract, and economic rights.
 
The founders understood something we’re in danger of forgetting: fundamental to pursuing happiness is the right to choose our labors, keep their fruits, and make the arrangements we choose to perform those labors. The rights of property and contract are a necessary foundation to express and enjoy all other rights.
 
Some misguided voices dismiss economic liberty as merely business—less precious or important than civil rights like speech and privacy. But considered clearly, economic freedom is the backbone not just of our survival but our pursuit of happiness.
 
Commerce. Design. Production. Distribution. Sale. Purchase. Service. Enterprise touches so much of what makes life full. The ways we avoid hunger and enjoy plenty; the means we use to overcome bitter cold and wilting heat, to appreciate comfort. The fabrics we weave and stitch to cover our skin, so we can savor fashion and beauty.
 
Even the ideas we explore and words we speak depend on commerce to be shared. Almost everything we enjoy is enhanced by our freedom to exchange to pursue what we want. Economic activity and gainful pursuit are as much the blood and oxygen of freedom as are verse, art, and song.
Freedom is not confined to the steps of a dance, or the words of a poem. Freedom is exercised in building the concert hall, in printing books, in loading delivery trucks, in operating computer servers and fiber-optic cables spreading words and images, ideas and aspirations. There is hardly freedom to express without the freedom to produce, distribute, and exchange.
 
These truths aren’t just philosophical or moral. They’re practical. Freedom works. It succeeds. Those struggling colonies, clinging to the edge of a continent adopted this exceptional creed and produced exceptional results. In not many decades, they built the most prosperous, stable, powerful, idealistic nation in history. It didn’t happen according to a politicians promises or a bureaucrat’s 5-year plan. It wasn’t mandated by enlightened regulators. It was driven by the undirected actions of people free to pursue their happiness.
 
It’s a pattern we see all over the world. Freedom produces growth, jobs, opportunity, and prosperity. The economically freest countries have the highest standard of living, the cleanest air and water. The economically freest countries are the most generous when disaster, tragedy, or atrocity strikes abroad.
 
And we’ve seen the reverse lesson. The most controlled societies are the poorest, the most miserable, hungriest, coldest, and most choked by pollution. As an aside, if you hear anyone blame “business” or “capitalism” for ills like pollution, child labor, or exploitation, remind them that’s nonsense. Those evils have always been part of human experience. Free enterprise produced the growth and prosperity to push back and reduce those blights.
 
But there’s always a chorus of voices insisting there’s a better way, a more enlightened path, if only politicians and experts can plan it and carry it out by controlling our choices and our opportunities. Today, our exceptional American success is at risk.
 
Too many ignore history’s lessons. Some take our prosperity for granted, believing it’s immune to governmental malpractice. Others say the pie is limited anyway, they best they can do is game the system to grab the biggest piece, or spread it around, and reward friends and supporters.
 
The deniers of exceptionalism don’t understand our prosperity flows from an essential mix of vision, work, capital, and risk and perseverance through setbacks. Those happy elements spring from freedom, not from mandates, planning, or even majority vote.
 
Still, politicians and overreaching bureaucrats press on. With a thousand threads and obstacles and distortions, they misallocate resources, divert productive effort, bleed away prosperity, reward their friends and cronies, try to direct what gets produced, what gets consumed, how much, and by whom.
 
It’s not just “business” they’re choking. It’s our pursuit of happiness.

High Court Slaps Greedy Colorado Policy—Of Course Exonerated Defendants Should Get Their Money Back

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a firm rebuke to Colorado on Wednesday, ruling 7-1 that defendants who are convicted of crimes but later exonerated on appeal are entitled to automatic refunds of cost and fines they had been charged. A state law had required defendants who won reversals of their convictions to bring a separate civil lawsuit to prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence in order to be refunded fines and costs.
 
The court quickly dispatched the Alice in Wonderland logic of making an acquitted defendant sue the government. “Colorado may not retain funds taken from Nelson and Madden solely because of their now-invalidated convictions” Justice Ginsburg wrote for the majority. “[F]or Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions.” Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that though perhaps unfair, there was no automatic Constitutional right to a refund. Justice Gorsuch did not participate in the opinion because the case was argued before he joined the court.
 
Colorado appears to have been the only state that imposed such a requirement. The decision turns out to be mostly academic, because state lawmakers this session had passed, and Governor Hickenlooper had signed a bill to provide automatic refunds to exonerated defendants.It does not take effect until September, however, so until the court’s ruling on Wednesday, defendants could have fallen in a gap.
 
The case raises several questions. How could lawmakers have adopted such an unreasonable policy in the first place? Why did the state defend it and fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, only to back down and reverse course even before the Court ruled. And perhaps most interestingly, if the court take seriously its articulated rationale, it would have to call into question the practice of civil forfeiture, where law enforcement seizes money or property based on suspicion it is related to criminal activity. That action too creates a scenario in which a person is not convicted or usually even charged with a crime, yet suffers “monetary exactions.”
 
Reform minded defense attorneys should look be looking for the right case to make the argument.
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