Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Memory Walk 2008 A Success

The 2008 Alzheimer's Association East Central Iowa Chapter Cedar Rapids Regional Memory Walk was a success! Held Saturday September 20th at Harding Middle School and Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids, the Memory Walk campaign raised over $235,000. That is the chapter's most successful Memory Walk yet.

If you missed out on the walk, but would still like to help a worthy cause, you can donate online to the various Iowa chapters:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Only Bob Barr Will CUT Federal Spending

As I write this, the U.S. Treasury lists the total public debt at $9.8 trillion. The amount held by the public (which means money the government owes to any entity outside the United States Government, such as individuals, corporations, state or local governments, or foreign governments) is $5.7 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office projects that number to increase to $7.9 trillion by the year 2018. These projections cannot predict every future war, natural disaster or economic "bailout" that could add further to the debt.

In short, the federal government is chin-deep in debt and sinking. What is needed now is bold action, forward-thinking leadership and tough decisions. Thankfully, both of the "big box" party candidates, Obama and McCain, are promising "change."

How do these two crafty politicos plan on getting the government out of this quicksand bed of debt? By increasing spending of course! A recent analysis of the spending proposals of the presidential candidates by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) showed that McCain's proposals would boost federal spending by $92 billion per year. That IS a lot, but it's a paltry sum compared to Obama's planned $293 billion increase in annual spending.

Of the candidates researched by the NTU, only Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr would actually CUT federal spending. A Barr presidency would cut annual spending by about $201 billion. The biggest savings would come from restructuring the mission of the military from imperial maintenance duties to actual national defense, closing many foreign bases while maintaining a strong military. The next largest savings would be from eliminating the federal Dept. of Education, putting education back in the hands of the states, localities and the people (as the Constitution stipulates).

"Both the McCain and Obama campaigns have tried to keep pace with the political issues of the day -- largely by responding with proposals for new programs and regulations that could reach deeper and deeper into taxpayers' pockets," NTU Foundation policy analyst Demian Brady said. "On the other side of the spectrum, Bob Barr's Libertarian philosophy is strongly reflected in a platform that is built upon cutting programs and slashing spending."

If you believe that during this fiscal crisis the federal government should be tightening its belt, rather than bellying up to the table for seconds, you need to vote for Bob Barr for president. When the spending increases of the two big box candidates necessitate tax increases down the road, hold on to your wallet! To avoid getting your pocket picked later, get your wallet out now and donate to Barr's campaign to close the book on the era of big government.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Putting Lipstick on the Common Man

There are a lot of things I like about Sarah Palin. She’s pro-Second Amendment. Deservedly or not, she’s got a reputation for fighting wasteful government spending and corruption. Deservedly or not, she’s got a reputation as a tax-cutter. She’s pro-life. (By the way, I think the hypocrisy of the left is on full display on that issue. The liberals, who mindlessly “celebrate diversity” and pride themselves on being the defenders of the weak and downtrodden, stammer in stunned disbelief that Palin knowingly birthed a Down syndrome child who would be “different,” rather than killing him in the womb. O. compassionate liberals!) I like Palin‘s stance on many, but not all, issues.

Besides mere policy preferences, there seems to be other, elemental reasons why Palin is causing many disaffected voters, myself included, to take a second look at the GOP. Since she has a well-armed husband, I’ll stick with the political ones.

Steven F. Hayward hypothesizes in The Weekly Standard that the alternate elation and revulsion to Palin’s nomination is part of a larger civic debate going back to the very founding of the republic. “Lurking just below the surface of the second-guessing about Sarah Palin's fitness to be president,” he writes, “is the serious question of whether we still believe in the American people's capacity for self-government, what we mean when we affirm that all American citizens are equal, and whether we tacitly believe there are distinct classes of citizens and that American government at the highest levels is an elite occupation.” Essentially, the debate is: Should ours be a government “of the people, for the people, by the people,” or should it be an oligarchy ruled by an elite minority? Libertarians like myself obviously prefer the former.

This debate was on full display when the idea was floated to crown General Washington king after the revolution. The framers of the Constitution struck a balance between the two opposing viewpoints by giving us the “people‘s house” (the House of Representatives) and the Senate, supposedly populated by sage old gentlemen. The debate is still alive today. Sometimes it is ridiculously obvious, such as when the panting press refers to the Kennedys as “America’s Royal Family,” but usually it’s couched in rhetoric about “experience” or “qualification.” It is behind the visceral dislike of Sarah Palin, as well as the visceral fondness for her.

The three other principals in this race- Obama, Biden and McCain- have not experienced the same questioning of whether or not they’re “qualified” to be president as has Palin. (Although, with only two years in the Senate, Obama has had his “experience” questioned somewhat.) That’s probably because the three men rose through “proper” channels to attain their societal rank. Although our ideas about our ruling elite are somewhat more egalitarian than the royal houses of Europe, there are still rules and velvet ropes controlling entry into that class.

Barack Obama attained his stature in the ruling class through a common avenue: Ivy League education. Obama attended Harvard Law School and Columbia University. In Ivy League schools, students are not only instilled with a sense of elitism, they are given the social networking to back it up. A self-described underperforming student, Obama’s vice president nominee Joe Biden didn’t go to an Ivy League school but Syracuse University College of Law, still none too shabby.

Family tradition charted a much tougher route into elite circles for John McCain, via the U.S. military. Although the military is mostly comprised of working-class heroes, McCain served in the Navy not as a common sailor but as a third generation Naval officer with an admiral daddy and a legacy ticket into the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. (This is not to denigrate McCain’s military service. Even when you’re a legacy, wartime service is no walk in the park, as McCain’s four and a half years of torment at the hands of the enemy demonstrates.)

Despite their varied paths into the ruling class, all three men ended up in the ultimate repository of the cultural elite, the U.S. Senate. Only the Presidency itself is more coveted by the elitists, which explains why so many Senators chase that office like ravenous dogs every four years.

Sarah Palin’s resume stands in stark contrast with the princely pedigrees of the three “distinguished gentlemen” of the Senate. The daughter of a teacher and a secretary, Palin received her college education in small, financially manageable bites at places like North Idaho College and the University of Idaho, far from the ivory towers of the Ivy League. She has never been married to a U.S. President (unlike certain other lady members of the ruling elite) but is married to an oilfield roughneck and commercial fisherman. Being rolled-up sleeves jobs like small town mayor, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner, and Governor of Alaska, the political positions she’s held were important but are not highly regarded by the national elite.

Although I like Palin, there is no v.p. pick in the world who could make this libertarian vote for the authoritarian McCain. But I do find myself drawn to the idea of Sarah Palin, because the “common man” in this election is the woman.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Be Prepared. Be Armed.

After a year replete with blizzards, tornados, and epic floods, we Iowans now realize that disasters don’t just happen to those people on the coasts that we see on TV with their fancy earthquakes and hurricanes. So Iowans should sit up and take notice that September is “National Preparedness Month.”

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s (DHS) “Ready Campaign” recommends four things to prepare for disaster: 1.Get a Kit, 2.Make a Plan, 3.Be Informed, 4.Get Involved.

Since you can read the details at the National Preparedness Month 2008 website, I won’t rehash what each of these entails. (The “Be Ready Iowa!” website has a pretty similar list you can check out too. This is in the “Iowa Links” section to the right.) I will spend some time on one vital survival tool that usually doesn’t make the government’s list: a modern firearm.

I won’t try to sell you on owning a gun if you don’t want one. I fully support your right to NOT own a gun. However, I’m convinced now more than ever that a firearm is an important part of an American’s readiness kit.

During Hurricane Katrina we saw massive destruction that stripped the modern argument, that you can just call 9-1-1 in an emergency, of all credibility. When the phones don’t work and the police themselves are looting, who do you call and how?

During the 1992 Los Angeles riots the California National Guard arrived on the scene without any ammunition and missing their riot gear. When the local cops and state militia can’t impose order, who do you call? Local Korean shopkeepers were more prepared and defended their businesses with semi-automatic rifles until the Marines showed up to quell the riots.

Even in less extreme circumstances, Americans use firearms in self-defense over 1 million times each year. (Some research puts that number at 2.5 million times per year.) Usually the defender doesn’t even have to fire a shot before the attacker runs off to look for easier prey. A gun is a useful defensive tool.

I’ve been a lifelong shooter, but I don’t consider myself an expert. I’m someone who wants a functional weapon for protection and recreation, but who doesn’t have the time or money to make a religion out of it. I write the following pointers for people who are considering buying a defensive arm. It should not be considered technical nor legal advice, nor anything else that will get me sued. If at all possible, take a gun safety class and certainly check to make sure you are complying with all state, local and federal laws and regulations. Chat with shooters in your area.

Guns that shoot .22 rimfire ammo are good for target practice but are generally too underpowered for defensive purposes. Get the largest caliber that you can comfortably handle. Stick with common calibers so that ammunition will be relatively plentiful and cheap. If you live in close quarters with others, consider buying frangible ammo by MagSafe or Glaser. It breaks apart on impact rather than punching through the wall into your kids room or the neighbor’s sitting room. (Definitely not the way to get invited to the next apartment block-party.) Frangible ammo is costly so practice with cheap “ball” ammo and save the frangible stuff for defense.

The kind of gun you choose will depend on what you're trying to defend.

Level One-Defending Yourself: Being lightweight and concealable, the handgun is the ideal weapon for defending your person. Here in Iowa you’ll need a special permit to buy one and another special permit if you intend to carry your pistol in public. Both are available from your county sheriff.

Semi-automatic pistols are the most popular, but are generally more complicated than revolvers. Glock (brand) pistols have a reputation of ease of use and reliability, but they are costly. The .45 caliber M1911 has proven reliable enough to still be popular almost 100 years after it was invented. Avoid the very cheap “no-name” autos. Common calibers for auto pistols are: .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

Revolvers are rugged and reliable. There’s darned little that can go wrong with them. The down-side: They usually only hold six shots. Common calibers are: .38 Special, .357 Magnum (revolvers chambered for this can also shoot .38 Special Ammo), .44 Magnum and .45 Colt.

Level Two- Defending Your Home: Your pistol will make a fine home defense weapon, but since size and concealability won’t matter on your own property, you might want more gun. A shotgun or small-caliber carbine rifle would make a good home defense weapon. No special permit is required to buy long guns in Iowa, but the retailer will run a criminal background check on you at the point of purchase.

Shotguns fire a number of small metal balls rather than a single bullet. Contrary to popular belief, you still have to aim. “00 Buckshot” is the most powerful ammo but in close-quarters you may want 6 or 7-½ birdshot to avoid over-penetration. A pump-action shotgun should be reliable enough. Common calibers are: .410, 20-guage, and 12-guage.

There are numerous pistol-caliber carbines out there that work well if you need just a little extra “reach,” such as on a farm. The old M1 Carbine is also readily available. Again, consider frangible ammo if you have neighbors very close. Common calibers are the same as for auto-pistols and .30 carbine.

Level Three- Defending Freedom: If you live in open country or for the real doomsday scenarios involving extended anarchy, invading armies or the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, you’ll need a rifle. You might want one anyway, because they’re fun to shoot. If you don’t already have a bolt-action or lever-action that you’re comfortable with, get a reliable semi-automatic.

A .223 caliber rifle should be your bare-minimum for defense. Common semi-automatic weapons in this caliber include the AR-15 (from many manufacturers, by many names), Ruger Mini-14, and the Kel-Tec SU-16 to name just a few. There are also many semi-autos chambered for the 7.62 X 39mm Russian round. These include the AK-47, SKS, and Ruger Mini-30.

If you can handle the extra kick, the .308 Winchester round gives better range and take-down power than the two previous calibers. The most common semi-autos in this caliber are the Springfield M1A, AR-10 clones from several manufacturers, FAL clones, H&K 91 and the Israeli Galil (also available in .223).

You may want to configure your rifle as a “scout rifle.” With a small, low-powered telescopic sight mounted far ahead on the weapon, it becomes much easier to quickly acquire and engage targets at normal combat distances. [Shameless plug: To inexpensively configure your weapon read “Poor Man’s Scout Rifle” by my brother Bob Cashner, who, unlike me, is an expert.]

Besides the three mentioned above, two more common rifle calibers are the .30-30, which is common in lever-action rifles, and the .30-06, which is fired through the semi-auto M1 Garand rifle as well as many bolt-actions.

There you have it, firearms for any scenario. If you get one, learn to shoot, maintain and store it safely. (For gun safety classes try here and here.) Remember that your gun will do you no good if you don’t have any ammo or if its rusted shut. Whatever weapon you can afford is better than no weapon at all.

In honor of National Preparedness Month: Be prepared. Be armed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Walking Against Alzheimer's Disease In Iowa

About 5 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and fatal brain disease that most often affects people over 65, including my mom. Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain, causing loss of memory and the ability to perform day-to-day tasks. It is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in this country. As the baby-boomers age, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is sure to rise to epidemic proportions. There is no cure… yet.

That’s where the Alzheimer’s Association comes in. The Association bills itself as “the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research.” Their goal is to eliminate Alzheimer’s through research while also providing care and support for all affected individuals and families. Their primary fundraising activity is their yearly “Memory Walk.”

During the Memory Walk, supporters in over 600 communities participate in a 2-3 mile walk in exchange for donations to the Association. Participants may register online. Here’s a list of Memory Walk dates and locations here in Iowa:

Ames, IA 10/11/2008 Brookside Park
Bellevue, IA 9/27/2008 Cole Park
Burlington, IA 10/11/2008 Crapo Park
Carroll, IA 9/6/2008 Swan Lake State Park
Cedar Rapids, IA 9/20/2008 Harding Middle School/Noelridge Park (4801 Golf St. NE)
Clinton, IA 9/20/2008 Riverside Park
Coralville, IA 9/20/2008 Wickham Elementary School (601 Oakdale Blvd)
Council Bluffs, IA 9/13/2008 Mid-America Center
Creston, IA 9/13/2008 McKinley Park
Des Moines, IA 9/27/2008 Des Moines Water Works Park
Dubuque, IA 9/20/2008 Louis Murphy Park
Fort Dodge, IA 10/4/2008 Friendship Haven
Harlan, IA 9/6/2008 Pioneer Walking Park
Lamoni, IA 9/13/2008 Central Park
Manchester, IA 9/14/2008 Beckman Complex
Marshalltown, IA 9/20/2008 Cultural Center at the Y
Mason City, IA 10/25/2008 Southbridge Mall
Muscatine, IA 10/25/2008 Pearl City Station
Sioux City, IA 6/28/2008 Anderson Dance Pavilion
Spencer, IA 9/21/2008 East Leach Park
Waterloo, IA 9/20/2008 George Wyth State Park - Lodge & Josh Higgans Shelter (2659 Wyth Rd.)
West Union, IA 9/20/2008 North Fayette High School

I will be participating in the Cedar Rapids Memory Walk. If any of the millions of screaming fans of this blog want to sponsor me, just CLICK HERE. I hope many of you will join me in helping to defeat Alzheimer’s Disease.

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