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RIP L. Neil Smith: News Miner 19
Notes on libertarian sci-fi novelist Smith, Dolores Kopel, furries, crime, nipples in Parker, President Polis, and more.
Libertarian Sci-Fi Author L. Neil Smith Has Died
L. Neil Smith, author of the libertarian science-fiction novel The Probability Broach (1979) and numerous other works, died last summer (as I recently learned). Smith was born in Denver and lived in Fort Collins. See the obituary and the Wikipedia page.
Although Smith took a rightward turn toward the end of his life, I enjoyed a number of his novels. My favorite is Pallas, about a boy who escapes a socialist commune on the asteroid to discover a libertarian society. I also enjoyed his more-recent vampire novel, Sweeter than Wine. The Probability Broach, the novel that made Smith famous in libertarian circles, is about a parallel universe in which North America became an anarchistic free-market paradise.
At my invitation, Smith attended the 2002 Colorado Libertarian Party Convention in Leadville (this was back when I was in the LP); following is a photo of him with his family from that event.
Lawyer and Activist Dolores Kopel Has Died
Liberty lawyer Dave Kopel recently posted a memorial to his late mother Dolores, partner to Jerry. The entire piece about this remarkable woman is well worth reading; here I want to pull out a couple lines that struck me.
Dottie Lamm said:
At a time when CU Boulder did not admit female law students at their law school, [Dolores] got accepted at DU and graduated with top honors in 1954. But then, like the more-renowned Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor, her gender prevented her from getting hired by a law firm. No problem for Dolores. She just went into practice for herself.
For me, and for the rest of us, the best advice that she and Jerry gave was never expressed verbally. It was by example. Be yourself, think for yourself, and choose your own path forward based on your best judgment, and not on anyone else's notions of what they think you are supposed to do.
Far from trying to kill the “furries in schools” story, or at least let it die, Heidi Ganahl is actively keeping it going. I guess she’s operating on the premise that there’s no such thing as negative media, given everyone is spelling her name correctly.
The main reason this story does not turn off her fan base is that there is a grain of truth to Ganahl’s claims about kids dressing up as animals in schools. Which should surprise no one, given that children have pretended to be animals for as long as humans have existed.
The weak claim is that some children somewhere acted something like, or dressed something like, animals in Colorado schools. That’s a trivial claim that no sensible person cares about.
Ganahl’s strong claim is that “furries” are widespread in Colorado schools, that they disrupt learning, and that schools tolerate such disruption because of their “woke” ideology. Ganahl’s strong claim is bullshit.
As I discussed in my previous article, there is some evidence for the weak claim. Specifically, a Jefferson County middle school recently changed its dress code specifically to disallow costumes. Notice that this evidence for the weak claim also counts as evidence against the strong claim, because it indicates that schools are proactively curbing potentially disruptive behavior.
Now Seth Klamann of the Denver Post has reported additional evidence that further supports the weak claim:
Callie Berkson, spokeswoman for Mesa County Valley School District, said in a statement that educators there had seen some students wearing things like headbands with cat ears on them that are “indicative of a trend which has commonly been referred to as ‘furries.’” But she said it has been present in schools, and in Colorado, for years and is not an issue in the district.
“The District, as well as each individual school, has guidelines dealing with standards of decency, safety, and cleanliness,” she wrote in an email. “Should the behavior of this trend become disrupting to the school environment, we would take appropriate action in addressing the situation.”
So now Ganahl’s supporters can say, “SEE!? Ganahl was right all along! Kids are dressing up as animals at schools!” Go ahead, run your victory lap, over a few kids wearing cat ears. The problem is that there continues to be no real evidence for Ganahl’s strong claim.
There’s not even that much evidence for the weak claim. The Post adds:
Officials for Denver Public Schools, Cherry Creek Schools, Aurora Public Schools and Colorado Springs School District 11 all denied having any issues with students dressing up as cats or other animals.
But Ganahl is determined to give this story long legs. She told the Post:
As a candidate for governor, but more than anything as a parent, my concern is that distractions like children dressing up in costumes at school detract from the reality that 60% of our kids are not performing at grade level. It’s tragic that we are failing our children. We need to make them our priority.
Yes, kids dressing up like animals at schools is what accounts for students’ relatively poor academic performance, believes no serious person.
Does Ganahl not remember kids who dressed as “Goths” with dark clothing? I mean, kids showing a little rebellion and ingrouping through their dress hardly is a new thing.
It is plausible, as Ganahl claims, that teachers get distracted by “woke” bullshit, and that that interferes with real education. It is also plausible that teachers get distracted by conservative bullshit about about furries, “obscene” books in school libraries, the transgender “threat,” and so on, and that that also interferes with real education. As I constantly remark, it’s so strange how government-run schools become so political.
Here are a few more notes about the story.
Jared Polis Tweeted,
My opponent is focused on furries. I’m focused on empowering parents and helping kids get a great education in Colorado, starting with high-quality preschool and kindergarten, improving access to career skills in high school, and reducing the costs of higher education.
The most comprehensive look at the series of wacky unforced errors and groupthink victimhood that made up Heidi Ganahl’s no good furry bad week in #copolitics by @ariarmstrong. Well documented, well reasoned, well worth your time to read. #cogov
Susan Greene kindly called the article a “great read.”
I am also glad that someone appreciated my humorous (I hoped) conclusion.
Crime in Colorado
George Brauchler, Mitch Morrissey, and Steven Byers begin their new paper for the conservative Common Sense Institute:
Advocates for criminal justice reform have made significant inroads in the past few years. Measures have been enacted to decriminalize a range of crimes, reduce the punishments for committing crimes, and pursue decarceration through various means. The results of these actions have had a serious and lasting impact on Colorado communities, resulting in increased crime and a decrease in public safety.
I don’t think anyone doubts that legal reforms have at least loosely correlated with higher crime in Colorado. But proving a causal connection is a lot harder. Obviously a lot of other stuff also has been going on, including the Trumpist insanity, the George Floyd protests, and the pandemic. So, to prove causation, the writers would have to show that specific legal reforms let to specific problems, relative to other points in time and relative to other parts of the country. That’s not easy to do.
Importantly, the paper lumps all “criminal justice reforms” together, when probably (I believe) some of those reforms have been good, others bad.
Here’s some good news from the paper: “Several violent crimes such as murder, rape, and sexual assault are on pace to be lower than 2021 levels.”
At least the authors make clear their viewpoint upfront: “A rise in crime should catalyze a corresponding rise in arrests, convictions, and incarceration for the sake of public safety and justice for victims.” Of course that is not obvious at all. For example, better policing might result in fewer arrests, just because police are deterring attempted crimes. And it is plausible that a punishing criminal activity consistently is more important than imposing harsh punishments.
The paper’s best argument is that decreased penalties for auto theft have encouraged more auto theft. This seems straightforward. The left often describes theft and destruction of property as “nonviolent” and calls for reduced punishments for those crimes. That’s a big mistake.
The Parker Horror Statute Show
Citing the Denver Post, CPR claims (September 30 email), “In order for Parker to show the nearly 50-year-old ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ next month, it must change its indecency and lewdness statutes.” That’s not quite right. The statutes obviously violate the First Amendment. But to avoid legal entanglements and endorse freedom of speech, the city should repeal those statutes.
The Post’s John Aguilar claims that “because the Parker Arts, Culture & Events Center holds a liquor license, it cannot under town code show anything that is ‘lewd and indecent.’” “Town staff” (who obviously are ignorant buffoons) sent a memo “to Parker’s elected leaders” claiming that “the display of the female breast” is “lewd or indecent” under statute.
Federal courts already have thrown out Fort Collins’s ban on topless women in public. Aguilar even reports that the town of Parker already realized its statutes were unconstitutional. But, as Aguilar also reports, other courts have reached contrary opinions, so, nationally, the issue remains up in the air. The showing of a film in a closed venue would have a lot greater protection that a woman going topless “in public” anyway.
The only indecency here is Parker’s prudish attempts at censorship.
President Polis: My recent column for Complete Colorado discusses George Will’s case for President Polis. Drawing on my previous work, I point out that Polis has a long track record of imposing more taxes and regulations. I also note that Polis has done some good things, such as oppose state-wide restrictions on vaping.
Police Brutality: Boulder police officers treated a couple of restrained suspects really horribly. Watch the video if you don’t believe me. NBC reports, “The sergeant who deployed the stun gun, Christopher Mecca, resigned in the wake of the incident in lieu of termination and was arrested on misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault and official misconduct. A jury convicted him in December 2021 and he was sentenced to probation.” Lawsuits are under way (obviously). Again, I propose that Colorado start an independent office to investigate alleged crimes committed by law enforcement officers.
Hate Crimes: As CPR reports, a study by Hate Free Colorado “found that about 30 percent of adults in Colorado have experienced hate crimes, including verbal harassment, property damage or physical injury. That’s 28 percent of adults, based on the pool of survey participants. . . . The study found that most hate crimes go unreported to the police.” Very concerning. I would like to see the breakdowns, however. I suspect that many of the cases are low-level “verbal harassment” that, while serious, are not actual crimes, and often may not even be related to race.